At Devbridge, the Team Matters
How does a startup earn the Inc. 5000 title of one of the fastest-growing privately held companies since 2013?
According to the team at Devbridge, it takes diving into complexity, surrounding themselves with the best in the industry, and taking ownership of outcomes for clients. In other words: They reject mediocrity.
Devbridge, which builds elegant and intuitive custom software for clients in industries like agribusiness, aviation, financial services, and more, does so four times faster than the industry average while providing a best-in-class company culture. The digital product and technology consultancy is headquartered in Chicago with additional offices throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Poland.
With a large, globally distributed team of nearly 600 employees worldwide, the company culture grows with purpose and intent, teammates said.
Rooted in multiculturalism and transparency, the Devbridge team rejects mediocrity at every turn. Core values like “seek mastery” and “take ownership” are just a couple of reasons why Devbridge ships when other companies might fail — and why Devbridge routinely wins awards like a spot on Crain’s “Fast 50” list and is recognized as one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” in Chicago and the nation. Creating a work environment where employees actually have fun while building world-class products is what makes Devbridge, Devbridge.
And it’s what excites Devbridge employees about coming to work each day.
Just ask May Cheng, a senior product designer. Since joining less than a year ago, Cheng said she’s honed her design expertise in ways that will impact the rest of her career. Thanks to Devbridge’s lean, cross-functional team structure, designers like Cheng get to collaborate on major projects with developers and product managers from around the world. Across time zones, she said teammates knowledge-share and act as client-facing consultants to solve complex challenges throughout the product life cycle.
“Everyone here is very growth-minded and has an endless appetite for mastery,” Cheng said. “We’re all innately motivated, and I think that’s what collectively drives us.”
Max Acevedo, a senior product designer, agreed, noting how at Devbridge, employees perform far more than their job title might suggest.
“In addition to our roles, we’re also consultants that get to be in front of clients before, during, and after the production process,” Acevedo said.
As a designer, Acevedo gets to learn about and strategize what he’s going to build, talk to users and stakeholders to better understand their needs, and then execute. Throughout, he’s able to examine the product while running usability testing and learn firsthand how his contributions to the project impact both clients and the business. The experience he’s gained is unparalleled, and the level of autonomy he’s been given makes Acevedo feel comfortable voicing his opinions.
“It makes me feel powerful to be in an organization where I can feel heard,” Acevedo said.
And while they’re large enough to handle digital transformations, the Devbridge team says they’re also small enough to provide top-notch customer service. We spoke with Cheng, Acevedo, and Product Manager Carlos Kubler about their experience and their part in the mission to build great things. Though their roles might be different, and some of their peers are across the Atlantic Ocean, they all work together to create meaningful impact through technology — and that’s something, they said, that’s made them better versions of themselves.
What they do:
What is life like working on international production teams?
May Cheng, senior product designer: I really enjoy being on a globally distributed team. I work with teammates in Toronto, Canada, and Kaunas, Lithuania, and I love hearing diverse perspectives and learning from different cultures. Just communicating virtually can definitely be challenging, but we work in such a close-knit agile process that sometimes, I can be more in-sync with my colleagues abroad than those that I see in person at our Chicago office.
There’s also a strong virtual community here, and we have Slack channels for everything from manicures to plants to personal finances. Even though we’re globally distributed, geography is taken out of the equation and all of the teams find ways to connect over non-work-related topics.
Even though we’re globally distributed, geography is taken out of the equation and all of the teams find ways to connect.”
Max Acevedo, a senior product designer: I do a coffee chat every couple of weeks with a different coworker across the business to get to know them. I might get paired with someone in Lithuania, Poland, or England, and even though we are not working on the same projects or in the same time zone, I get to know them in a personal manner.
Those connections help us learn new things about different cultures, like words in different languages and other facts.
Carlos Kubler, product manager: We also have to learn from each other’s specialties given the nature of our cross-divisional teams, and there are a ton of activities outside our day-to-day work to facilitate that.
For example, we let employees present to the company around their area of expertise on something they’re passionate about. That’s really cool because it gives people opportunities to learn about what everyone is doing. Developers in Lithuania might share their activities and it makes me more empathetic to the things they’re creating.
Describe your company culture.
Kubler: One of the great things about Devbridge is that we all push each other to excellence by sharing our experiences from our very diverse backgrounds. We share our wins and our losses. Learning from and pushing each other drives better results.
Acevedo: Combining different skill sets from our diverse backgrounds helps us focus on making great things while learning from each other. And if someone doesn’t have certain skills at any given time, they can learn them from a coworker inside or outside of their discipline.
Cheng: I personally came here to immerse myself in the forefront of digital product work and strengthen my expertise as a design practitioner. I’ve really been able to pursue that at Devbridge because of everything I’ve learned working across our complex, client-facing environments and the variety of industries I’ve been exposed to.
I work with talented people who bring a lot of expertise from their backgrounds and previous experiences. I’m learning from colleagues in product, technology, and even from clients.
“Seek mastery” is one of our values, and I see that in everything we do.
Speaking of values, which is your favorite?
Acevedo: Embrace transparency. It’s a value that’s present both inside the company and in regards to what we deliver to the client. Here, what you see is when you get.
Kubler: We truly have fun. We work really hard to deliver on time and make our clients very happy with our work. But we also have fun. When we perform as expected, we get to do even cooler things. For example, we go to Lithuania during the summer to meet our development team, cowork, and take part in fun activities.
How does Devbridge foster a sense of individual empowerment across such a large team?
Cheng: Outside of our client work, Devbridge as a whole is open to feedback and really encourages taking ownership. I felt empowered to contribute my expertise and ideas on a recent discovery engagement.
I saw an opportunity to operationalize some of the kickoff approaches we took on a client project beyond that specific engagement. I had the full support of my people leader, who encouraged me to run with the idea. Now, I’m testing the methodology, and if it works, it will get incorporated into the overall resource toolkit for our design organization. I can contribute to process optimization for the design team because I had an idea, and I was encouraged to take ownership and see it through.
The Secret Source
What’s the most fulfilling part of working at Devbridge?
Kubler: The culture. Since I started, there hasn’t been a single meeting where I thought, “Oh god, this is so boring.” In fact, it’s been the opposite. Every meeting has been a learning experience for me, which is something I was looking for from an employer.
Cheng: I feel free to be myself. Instead of having a “work” and “home” version of myself, I can blend those worlds and focus on doing what I love, being challenged by the work, and contributing to the company’s success. And most importantly, I’m having fun at the same time. I don’t have to wait until the workday is over or the weekends to enjoy life because I’m driven by the work that we do and the people I get to work with.
Speaking of people, there’s genuinely a desire from everyone to get to know each other personally. It’s not uncommon during a team meeting to get house-hunting updates, a dog appearance, or a team vote for the best fast food chain.
It’s rewarding to have the freedom to build your own path to success.”
Acevedo: What gets me out of bed is knowing that I’m working with really talented people while I’m growing in my career and building really cool stuff. Also, the company isn’t about micromanagement. Everyone owns their work so it’s rewarding to have the freedom to build your own path to success and achieve goals for clients. We have leaders that will help us along the way, but there’s no one telling us what to do because we own our projects.