If there is something I’m proud of is the people that work with me at Adapttech. I don’t mean to brag, but absolutely nothing can compare to that. You might even be thinking about a lot of good things that have happened to you, and how “having a great team” could never be one of them. But just like winning a race, you would never know what it really feels until you actually win one.
It has been one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced. I mean, all the sudden in the middle of 2016 Fred and I found ourselves with money for the first time... and a shitload of things to do. So much, there was simply no way we could do it alone.
Putting your team together is one of those critical things you need to get done when you are starting your company. After all, what do you do when you need to get things done and you are not the best person for the job? You hire someone smart. Smarter than you. You hire someone with the right mindset and with the heart in the right place. You hire the best. We got the best.
1. Our first co-workers
Many people open their eyes wide open when they hear that the first person we hired was a designer. To our knowledge, we didn’t know any startup —apart from a design startup, obviously— who had hired a designer as part of their core team. This was one of the first things that sent a clear message: Adapttech is special.
You can imagine that when having a medical device company that deals with amputees, getting a branding that takes into account the seriousness and credibility of a medical company, the compassion of dealing with trauma and the impetuosity of a startup is no easy task. But... we have the best working with us, and Diogo was able to find a real solution.
The second thing that was imminent to deal with was the whole software architecture. We got ourselves an incredibly pragmatic and straightforward engineer to help us get where we wanted to go. We needed a beacon of light, an orchestra master, and someone who was able to put all the other teams’ ideas together in an unstoppable train. Enter Pedro, our software lead.
We actually joke with him that he is in fact a construction worker that happens to know how to code... but in all true, he kind of is: he works his ass off and always keeps in mind the big picture, building from the ground up making sure nothing is missed.
2. Our second wave
After getting our first co-workers, getting the rest was somewhat easier. Either because the network of contacts we worked so hard in building during our entire life, or because of the network of the first members that allowed us to reach out to the new ones.
That’s how we got Inês. She was recommended to us as an extremely motivated and intelligent woman. We interviewed her and we loved how she could become a pivot for the software and design teams. She was to become our front end developer —and the best there has ever been. How good? She dominated Apple’s brand new coding language Swift in less than two months of its release.
The biomedical engineers were fairly easy to find because Fred had recently graduated from college and still had contact with the professors. After some rigorous looking, we came up with a candidate short-list. That’s how we reached Tiago. We were extremely excited with the prospect of having a biomedical engineer that was able to deal with computer vision, and that his true passion was something we were dying to implement in our system: machine learning. There is nothing like having a real-life hacker in your team. The possibilities are endless.
Tiago then introduced us to Sofia. She is 1.52 meters of pure energy. She had worked with inertial motion units during her thesis, and her knowledge of computer vision was exactly what we needed: someone capable of giving support for Tiago’s work and someone who would be able to deliver all the kinematics of motion to our platform. Plus, she had already worked with him during their student times and we knew they got along.
André was the biggest surprise of all. Believe it or not, we found him on Linkedin. For some reason I cannot explain, the engineering schools around here only work with Microchip. We wanted to develop with Atmel. We looked over for someone who was able to deal with embedded systems and that knew Atmel micro-controllers. We interviewed him with some skepticism... and what a surprise it was. I have written before about how important it is to hire people that are smarter than you. André is no exception. I’m completely convinced there is no one in Portugal that knows more about —or wiser in— embedded systems than André.
3. Our interns
One of the things that works best at Adapttech is our internship program. We started our first summer internship program in 2016 —just after receiving funding from Hovione Capital. The first batch of summer interns was the greatest help we had gotten until then. By that time, only Fred and I were working on the company, and any help we could received was more than welcome.
As opposed to most internship programs we knew about, we didn’t simply accept anyone that applied thinking we were going to get free labor. We specifically draw a job and task description and then went looking for talent that might be able (and wanted) to fill that position. We only got people whose dream job was to do what we needed to get done.
It was an amazing milestone for us to receive people from other parts of the world, as with the case of Christoph (Nuremberg, Germany) —who liked Portugal so much that he is currently doing his thesis with us; and Marion (Tours, France) who came to reinforce our art department and help it becoming truly eclectic and international —and sensibly more beautiful.
The best surprise of our first internship program was that we got to know Sara and Humberto. It’s been only one year now, but it feels like ten have passed by. Back then they were students who just wanted to try to do something different during their summer, but their talent was simply amazing. Their enthusiasm, their dedication, their technical knowledge... we just couldn’t let them go. And yes, they are still students, but as I mentioned before, I’m more interested in the right attitude than knowledge: You can always learn new things, but your attitude towards challenges is something that burns in your heart since always.
This summer we are having Soraia, Cátia, Catarina F., Catarina B., Francisco, Filipe and João with us. They have been selected after a very rigorous and exclusive process —the acceptance rate is less than 5%. They are here with us because we saw something in them that we didn’t see in the other applicants. Now is the opportunity for them to shine, and for us to be dazed. We are excited about what the future might bring us.
4. What does all of it mean?
My final advises are these:
Take a long look at what your company needs, and what the human talent that you are able to capture is capable of doing. You’d be amazed.
Your team means everything. Do not let them down.
Only hire people smarter than you. Smarter and better at doing the task at hand.
Create an internship program. It got us hands when we most needed them, and you might even find raw diamonds. It happened to us.
Use your own network and your new co-workers’ network to grow further.
Learn to recognize potential. Don’t let talent get away.
Learn how to conduct interviews —it clears the gold from the dirt.
Keep your co-workers happy, motivated and intellectually challenged. Easier said than done, but figure it out: it’s your job!