What on earth do I know about delivering groceries?

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It was Monday, 1st of July, 2019. I’d recently traveled from the Portuguese island of Madeira to the sweltering inland heat of Verona in the north of Italy.

The objective of my trip was to join Supermercato24: a relatively new, small startup with big ambitions.

I was feeling conflicted.

On the one hand, the interview process had been extensive, and I could feel the startup, go-getter, “move fast” energy I so desperately needed at the time. There were no red flags during the initial approach, and I felt like I had struck gold.

On the other, I had recently sunsetted an ambitiously doomed-from-the-start pet project, which sought to unlock real-time financial insights for busy SaaS owners. Long story short, I’d bitten off more than I could chew and underestimated how much non-Tech work was necessary to bootstrap a new project as a sole founder.

I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give up on my passion project, yet I didn’t want to let the opportunity to work with a young, exciting team pass me by. I had never worked with a delivery platform before, yet it appealed to me: the industry was booming, and there were a lot of challenging problems to solve.

Fast-forward to today, and I am saying goodbye to a completely different company — also in name — after having led countless projects, three teams, and worked with dozens upon dozens of fantastic professionals. I can say, without a doubt, that Supermercato24 (or Everli, as it’s known now) has been the best professional experience in my life. In a way, I’m somewhat glad that passion project didn’t bear any fruit.

In this article, I will discuss my journey so far, along with some small ramblings of knowledge I’ve gained during the experience.

✈️ The Journey

Along the way, I’ve worn many hats.

Starting as a backend-oriented full-stack engineer, I eventually fulfilled the roles of tech lead, engineering manager, pseudo-product manager, and general point-of-contact for many different aspects of our platform. I felt the most productive when having the freedom to theorize initiatives from start to finish, helping guide other engineers towards being the best possible version of themselves, and solving problems along the way.

I’ve managed and integrated one-shot and recurring payment solutions, customer data platforms, caching systems, customer relationship management, among many other initiatives. The list could go on and on, but I won’t bore you further with the specifics.

Everli provided me with what I desired the most: knowledge. I’m unsure whether a similar position at a large company would allow me to delve into such a diverse array of initiatives. Due to this, I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to the dizzying growth we’ve experienced in the past three years.

📈 Growth Mindset

With dizzying growth comes new tools, techniques, and paradigms.

It’s challenging yet incredibly rewarding to learn, scope, and integrate new parts into an existing pipeline, while simultaneously shifting your mindset to accommodate new ways of thinking. Depending on your growth, you may find yourself in this position frequently. Each situation is an excellent opportunity to enrich yourself and your co-workers through stellar documentation, pinpoint planning, and realistic timelines.

As with any startup, the pace was often frantic. The constant desire to stay ahead of competitors and deliver iteration upon iteration leads you to continuously improve yourself while learning how to handle each situation as a unit.

🧑🏻‍💻 Remote Working

At Everli, working fully remote was the norm even in the “before times” pre-COVID, and I found a clear, structured framework for remote working when I arrived. This robust structure allowed me to incorporate myself seamlessly, and I genuinely believe Everli was a pioneer in this aspect.

Although there are clear advantages to remote working, there are also downsides:

  • Communication via video decreases the amount of crucial body language that may be transmitted, leading to possible miscommunication.
  • Internet connection reliability varies entirely on location, decreasing the amount of trust deposited in video meets.
  • Dependency on asynchronous communication may decrease highly valuable face-time.
  • Higher usage of text communication may increase the probability of misunderstandings (especially between professionals whose mother tongue is not English).

Having said this, a calm and collected approach to each situation may allow you to mitigate the abovementioned points. Based on each person’s experience, their response to pressure/shortcomings may differ, and senior employees are responsible for setting an example by steadying the ship. This behavior is precisely what I found at Everli, which allowed me to concoct an efficient model for remote working for my team and me.

All in all, remote working is still a substantial net positive regarding day-to-day efficiency and employee retention.

📃 Efficient Documentation

Everybody at a remote-first company writes, and Everli is no exception to this rule; clear written communication is crucial to its success. To keep content consistent and easy to scan when in a hurry, specific guidelines help in producing the best documentation possible.

To help myself and others make the most out of their documentation, I created a style guide for conceiving new internal articles. Style guides are by no means a strict set of rules and should instead be used to help keep documentation consistent. By design, it should be departed from when deemed necessary.

The style guide in question is quite extensive, so I’ll leave you with just a sample:

  • ☀️ Avoid unnecessary jargon, acronyms, buzzwords, or vagueness
  • 👩🏻‍💻 Keep your readers in mind
  • 🗣 Speak as you talk
  • ❌ Don’t stray too far from the title
  • 📑 Avoid duplication (or Be a source of truth)

Implementing an ambiguous style guide was one of my proudest achievements at Everli and helped me question my own documentation style. To create the actual style guide, I collected feedback internally and externally to reach a solid baseline for future improvement.

As of now, the style guide is a living, breathing guidebook for engineers at Everli.

✖️Cumulative versus Additive Contributions

Throughout my career, I’ve cycled between manager & maker positions, and Everli was no exception.

As a maker at Everli, I was thrilled to find a culture of support & constant improvement. Several colleagues would make themselves available to help when blockers appeared, fueled by the company’s evangelization of explicit operating principles. This mentality of “going far together” creates mutual gratitude between engineers, which allows you to move fast. Makers are encouraged to continue personal development through multiple internal learning initiatives, which breed a culture of best practices and knowledge sharing.

After around a year as a full-stack engineer, the company invited me to become the tech lead of a squad containing frontend, backend, and mobile engineers. I felt my knowledge of Everli’s internal domain to be strong enough to make a difference as a lead, so I took the opportunity.

When moving from a maker to a manager, it’s essential to understand how your perception of contributing value will change.

As a maker, you may be able to focus on a particular task in isolation, whereas you do not always have that privilege as a manager. You may feel the need to juggle multiple problems at once or be in various places at the same time. Unfortunately, this feeling may eventually contribute to burnout, which begs the question: as a manager, am I using my time and resources correctly?

An efficient manager should not seek to solve every problem that falls on their lap. Efficient leadership lies in understanding your reports via frequent, direct one-on-ones and delegating to said reports based on their skill set. A relationship of trust is essential to creating a well-oiled team, and you can only build trust by getting to know the person you’re working with. In other words, a good leader must also be a good listener.

You can shelter your engineers and protect them from context switching by getting your hands dirty from time to time, but know that your contribution in these aspects will be additive instead of cumulative. As a manager, you should attempt to guide your reports towards efficiently performing these tasks.

🔮 The Future

By now, you may be asking the obvious question: “Why are you leaving Everli?”.

The decision to leave was not easy, and it took a lot of time for me to conclude that a change was necessary. I’d be happy to continue working with this fantastic team for much longer, as it’s genuinely been the highlight of my career — having said that, there comes a time when a person needs to take the next step toward reaching their professional goals. The time has come to continue the cycle and become a maker again.

I now feel the need to throw myself into the unknown in a completely different industry, just as I did on that day in 2019. Everli has helped me become the professional I am today, and I am forever grateful for that.

Ciao, and thanks for reading! 🙂

Author: @agoncalvesnerd

One Reply to “What on earth do I know about delivering groceries?”

  1. It is indeed a really awesome joruney and it has been a real please to have worked with you.

    It is still not one full year for me since I joined and I can say that the amoun of knowledge I have gained from you and from everyone around me was exceptional.

    Best of luck on your future experiences and hope you enjoy your new adventures.

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