Carerix is a Netherlands-based SaaS company that produces fully web-based software for recruiters. Their software features searching, matching, and invoicing functionalities, allowing users to keep all their recruitment and staffing activities on a single platform.
Carerix currently serves roughly 700 customers and employs around 55 people. The company has worked with Daxx since 2012, and its team now includes eight employees in Ukraine — five software developers, a DevOps engineer, a UX designer, and a QA engineer.
We recently had the chance to chat with Jurgen Delfos, the CTO at Carerix, who shared his experience working with a distributed team, explained why outsourcing fuels innovation, and told us how Dutch companies view outsourcing to Ukraine.
Q: Jurgen, what has your experience with Daxx been like?
Jurgen: When I joined Carerix three and a half years ago, the company had already been working with Daxx for a few years. I wasn’t especially happy with the model that Daxx was providing at the time — I called it the “tomato” model. We wanted a software engineer, so Daxx hired them, gave them a PC, and that was it. But I needed something different — what I would call the “cucumber” model. I wanted Daxx to take responsibility for the growth of the Ukrainian team, to help them become more efficient, work better, and to see to their needs.
I told Jeroen (Jeroen Rijnen, a Managing Partner at Daxx) that we needed Daxx to manage and support our team, not just deliver talent when we needed it. We’re currently going through the transition from tomatoes to cucumbers, from just delivering engineers to a team as a service approach.
Q: How do you encourage innovative thinking in your team?
Jurgen: I believe that you need people around you to change and improve, and to be inspired and motivated to create new things. For Carerix, outsourcing software development is a strategic step. Daxx has about 100 other developers working alongside my Ukrainian team in Kyiv, and they all inspire and motivate each other. If they were in-house, they would be the only developers in our company, and there just wouldn’t be enough to and fro going on to sustain innovation.
Three years ago, Daxx was a massive supporter of the “tomato” approach, in which the customer is king and the developers do as they’re told instead of helping the customer perform better. This wasn’t for me — we’re looking for the innovation that comes from the developers themselves. It’s crucial for our existence.
I don’t appreciate the type of approach in which the developer says: “You’re the customer, so I’m going to do everything you say. It’s all stupid, by the way, but I’m still going to do it because you’re the one paying the bills.” If I have a stupid idea, I want the developer to say so. I want to hear that I’m a stupid guy that doesn’t know anything about software engineering.
The first thing I felt I needed to do when I started working with my Ukrainian team was to get rid of the blame culture. In environments like these, people always try to take the safe road, which doesn’t help the development of new innovative products at all.
When someone makes a mistake, I don’t even want to know who’s made it. Developers should have the freedom to make all the mistakes in the world, but make sure they make the same mistake only once. I also encourage people to take risks. You’ll be wrong a lot, and that’s fine, because if you’re always right, you’re not really innovating.
Q: What tools do you use to manage your remote team?
Jurgen: We started out with Skype, but I absolutely hated it. We then switched to Hangouts, and onto Appear after that. Nowadays, we use Zoom for video conferencing, Slack for messaging, Jira for sprints, and Confluence for knowledge sharing.
Ultimately, the tools depend on what works best for the team. I just want them to be able to explain their choice. Not because I need to approve it, but because I’m genuinely interested. If the team find a new tool that works better than the current one, we’ll start using it tomorrow morning.
Q: Have there been any significant achievements Carerix has attained since starting its partnership with Daxx?
Jurgen: Since 2012, our monthly recurring revenue has more than doubled, likewise the number of subscribers to our service. When we started, our annual growth was 5 percent, but now we’re looking at a 30 percent growth every year.
Q: How do Dutch companies see outsourcing? What are their top concerns?
Jurgen: For a typical Dutchman, Ukraine is a strange country. I’m guessing that half of the Dutch population wouldn’t even know the difference between Russia and Ukraine.
In Holland, many people are afraid that Ukraine is going to join the EU, that all the Ukrainian people will move here, take all of our jobs, and all hell will break loose.
We don’t meet Ukrainians on a daily basis, so we just tend to think the worst about them. If you say the words “outsourcing to Ukraine,” you’ll usually get a grunt and a rant about how trusting business processes to corrupt Ukrainians is a terrible idea.
Indians have it even worse. When outsourcing to India comes up in a conversation, people often say that all Indians are unreliable and can’t be trusted. This, of course, is a brutal generalisation. The problem is, the further a country is from the Netherlands, the more confused and even xenophobic people get about it.
But when you try outsourcing to Eastern Europe, you quickly realize that Eastern Europeans are very strong technically, there are a lot of great software engineers among them. Moreover, nearshoring to Ukraine is much easier than outsourcing to India or Vietnam, not least due to the comparatively minor time differences and cultural proximity.
The problem is actually more of an internal one — can you trust people outside of your company, living in a mostly unfamiliar country, to the extent that they’ll do something as important as software development?
As a small or medium-sized business, you should and must outsource. You simply don’t have enough people to shake things up and innovate. See outsourcing as an advantage not in terms of money, but in terms of flexibility and manpower.
Q: What differences do you see between and Ukrainians and the Dutch?
Jurgen: One thing I’ve noticed is that on a personal level, Ukrainians don’t know enough about each other. That said, I can’t really say whether this would be true for all Ukrainians, because I’ve only met twenty or so.
Another thing — again, based on the twenty people I’ve met — is that saying “no” can still be a challenge. I want to hear more of it. In Holland, if someone disagrees with you, they’ll always say so. I hate it sometimes, but at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. You’ll know far more reasons why your idea might not work.
Q: Are there any misconceptions you may have had about working with Ukrainians that turned out to be untrue?
The levels of commitment among my Ukrainian coworkers took me by surprise. For instance, a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon, a problem was mentioned in our Slack chat. One of my colleagues at Daxx immediately replied: “Sorry, I can’t look at it right now because I’m at a supermarket, but I’ll be near my PC in 20 minutes and I’ll see what I can do.” This commitment is something I’m very pleased with. They feel like the problems we have with our platform are their problems too.
I believe that when you put trust in people, you get it in return. I definitely see it in our Daxx team.
Q: What advice would you give to Dutch companies considering working with an offshore or nearshore team?
Jurgen: I’d suggest that everyone who’s thinking of outsourcing works away from the rest of their team for a while. From home, for example. This will give them the idea of what working with a remote team is like. I’d also recommend getting used to communicating in English within the in-house team first — you’ll have a very hard time finding Ukrainian developers who speak Dutch (laughs).
I’m a strong believer in references, so I’d also suggest asking peers who have experience with outsourcing to recommend good providers to you.
Personally, I’d always prefer to work through a Dutch-owned company like Daxx because this way, you have fewer problems with legal contracts, and there’s more opportunity for face-to-face interaction. This is especially important if you’re planning to outsource for the first time.
I’d recommend you start with Distributed Scrum as your product development methodology. I also think that the product owner should be at the client’s side mainly because they know the market better.
Q: What is the most important advantage outsourcing gives to product companies?
Jurgen: The ability to scale fast and find the right people. The number one reason for me to outsource is that competent talent that isn’t available on the Dutch market is available in Ukraine.