A Glimpse into the Operations of an Israeli Software Engineering Team

Don Tennant
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When I learned recently that a software engineering team in Israel has developed remote virtual workspace technology that’s addressing security concerns around the enterprise BYOD issue, I thought it would be interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of a team that has tackled such a high-profile issue. So who better to talk to than the individual who leads the team?

That individual is Israel Lifshitz, founder and CEO of Nubo Software, who also founded SysAid Technologies, an Israeli provider of IT service management software that I wrote about last September. In a recent email interview, I engaged Lifshitz not so much on Nubo’s technology—a visit to the company’s website serves that purpose—but rather on the operations of his software engineering team. That team, Lifshitz said, is responsible for designing, developing and implementing all aspects of the Nubo platform.

“We've structured our team in a traditional way of front end and back end,” Lifshitz said. “Our front-end team is responsible for developing the actual Nubo player for iOS, Android, and HTML5.” Those engineers handle all of the protocols to the Nubo infrastructure, he said, as well as any additional APKs (Android app execution files) for email, calendar, browser, control panel, and so forth.

“Our back-end team is responsible for all other components of the Nubo architecture, such as the Android platform that runs the virtual devices, and the gateway that works as a reverse proxy to connect clients to relevant platforms, handling all the security layers,” Lifshitz said. Also on the team, he said, are QA engineers and system operation specialists to manage Nubo’s cloud and internal infrastructure.

Lifshitz said the idea behind putting the team together was to think big in terms of vision, while keeping the advantages that come with being a “compact” team.

“In Nubo, we're always planting the seeds for future growth with customers and employees, without compromising on speed and quality of development and service,” he said. “If your processes, structure, and solution are planned and built this way, when growth actually happens you're ready to handle it.” He said choosing the right people to lead the teams, based on experience, knowledge, seniority, and social and management skills, led all the other developers to champion the structure.

Lifshitz said that as a startup company that’s experiencing rapid growth, they realized that maintaining the flat structure they started with limited their ability to control, guide, mentor and review the software engineers' performance outcomes. “Moving to a team structure where our team leaders are still hands-on has improved our efficiency and ability to provide a better product,” he said. Lifshitz added that all of the engineers are co-located, “which definitely makes it much easier to manage and collaborate on a daily basis.”

I asked Lifshitz what he has found to be the most effective incentives for recruiting and retaining software engineering talent. He said the real key lies in the product itself.

“I'd have to say first and foremost that having an interesting product that provides our engineers the most innovative development environment, and is based on cutting-edge technologies, is a main factor that has attracted highly talented engineers to Nubo,” he said. “Also, being able to explore new solutions with a no-fear mentality and having the forum to express themselves during all aspects of software development, from the product phase right on through to final implementation, is a part of the culture here, which helps to retain talented team members. As well, we've fostered and maintained a fun, family atmosphere, and of course provide a compensation opportunity.”

Lifshitz said maintaining  a close-knit and enjoyable environment is a key factor for success as a startup. He said at Nubo they have a weekly update on Sundays to keep everyone in the loop on all the business and technical matters, play tennis after work on Tuesdays, and have “Thursday happy hours.”

“Our management style is not a top-down approach,” Lifshitz said, noting that he and the managers at every level share the same workspace and are just as hands-on as the rest of the team. “This helps us at Nubo to provide an environment where all people share the same dream and work as one unit to achieve our targets and goals.”

A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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