January 13, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Software Application Craftsmanship
We write beautiful web applications that are durable and free of defects in
Angelique has worked for 8th Light since its inception and has been actively involved in the growth of the Software Craftsmanship community.
She has helped organize several conferences including:
received her M.B.A. from Bloomsberg University (1999), her Diplome de Grande
Ecole in Finance from ICN France (2000) and her Mathematics Secondary
Teaching Certification from the University of Illinois (2009).
Libertyville, IL 60048
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor,
CEOCFO: Ms. Martin, what is the basic concept for 8th Light?
Ms. Martin: 8th Light is a software consulting company based out of Chicago, Illinois. We are also present in Tampa, and the basic concept is to offer software craftsmanship to our clients.
CEOCFO: How would you describe software craftsmanship?
Ms. Martin: Software craftsmanship is the idea that we write beautiful software applications that we care about the products that we put out as well as the customers that we work with and the employees that we have. One of the unique implementation of craftsmanship in our company is the way we hire. At 8th Light, everybody is hired as an apprentice, just like apprentices of craftsmen in other industries. After a period of two months to a year during which the apprentice is non-billable to a client, there is a curriculum that needs to be taught. The apprentice’s mission is really just to learn a set of practices, techniques and methodologies to write beautiful software applications. It is a pretty costly hiring process as you can probably figure.
CEOCFO: Why did you make the decision to use this method?
Ms. Martin: The idea is to bring a higher level of quality to the industry in general. It is not something that we do just internally. It is the idea of hiring people who are always willing to learn. As you know, software is a very fast changing industry, and we are more interested in whether or not people are eager to learn and passionate about their craft rather than expert in one particular technology.
CEOCFO: Do your clients understand the difference? Is there an aha moment when they know they are working with a company that is exceptional?
Ms. Martin: I believe they do, and I believe it is really a core of 8th Light’s success. Some clients even are so fond of that model of apprenticeship that we are definitely moving toward offering it as a service as well. They realize the quality of the output and the quality of the people that produce the output. I think that they can observe for themselves that it is a very viable and reliable model.
CEOCFO: What makes software beautiful?
Ms. Martin: That is a good question because I am a non-software person as well. I can tell you my humble understanding for it. I have been in the industry for 13 to 14 years, always as a non-software engineer. However, I have seen things that were pioneered in the industry become mainstream such as Agile methodologies and then the software craftsmanship movement. What makes it different and beautiful are the set of practices that the craftsmen adopt in the way that they produce the software. They really solicit a lot of feedback and contact the customer daily. They write tests frequently before they even write the code. They integrate continuously with the system. They refactor their code. They work in pairs, and I am sure the list could go in. There are sets of practices that we have implemented to bring a higher degree of professionalism in the company.
CEOCFO: What has changed since the original concept? What have you found that you do differently now than when the company started?
Ms. Martin: I would say that the original vision of the company, which the founders had, was very much what started the business and what is still valid today – writing beautiful software applications and having people who care writing them, teaching them and learning more. One thing that has changed as the company has grown is the type of clientele that we serve. I think that the practices have gained success not only for the smaller type of clients but really the bigger companies nowadays.
CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?
Ms. Martin: We are still mostly reached by our potential customers. We do not do much outreach. I would say it is mostly word of mouth. I think that our founders and craftsman do a very good job at keeping up to date and keeping their claws sharp while publishing blogs and articles and speaking at conferences. That would be for the public relations part, but we really do not do any outreach to customers. The problem that we mostly face is to be able to serve the demand for the software.
CEOCFO: How do you keep up with all of the changing technologies? What is the key to evaluating them?
Ms. Martin: I believe that would be a good question for the engineers themselves. There is a continuous search for perfecting that craft. I have watched them go from one language to the next, to the next. However, I cannot really speak for the technicalities of it.
CEOCFO: You mentioned that you have an office now in Tampa as well as in the Midwest. Why did you choose Tampa?
Ms. Martin: Tampa was a circumstance of occurrence. We decided to go to Tampa because we had somebody interested and started an office in Tampa. The idea about growing 8th Light, which is also one of the founder’s visions, is that you have to have small teams to keep that level of communication and training within the group high. The idea is to grow the company by creating small offices in different areas. We are actually just launching a team in London, UK.
CEOCFO: There is a lot on the horizon for 8th Light?
Ms. Martin: The software craftsmanship idea is definitely a growing one.
CEOCFO: You said it is hard to keep up with demand, and I know that the company was on the Inc. 5000 this year, so clearly, business is good. What is the plan for the next year or two? How do you continue in the same mode?
Ms. Martin: I would say that for the next year or two, the plan is to offer some growth to all types of stakeholders, but in particular offer some growth geographically. We want to meet the demand in the new geographical areas where we need to be as well as offer opportunities for the people internally to start new teams. I would say that one key to our growth has been to hold to our principles and our vision. It has a tendency to make the growth a slow path because it is important for us to stay true to our values.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to 8th Light?
I think 8th
Light is a great company to look at for hiring people in the technology area
and how to retain people in the technology area, which can be a challenge to
some companies. The software industry is booming, and the idea that anything
has software nowadays is definitely prevalent. What 8th Light
offers is a model to meet that demand in a reliable, sustainable and
scalable way for the customers that we serve.
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