Reflecting on one year with Zalando

3 minute read

Today, February 17th, marks my one year anniversary with Zalando, and aptly, is a nice time to reflect on that year.


Why Zalando

I joined Zalando for a number of reasons, but they can be distilled down to two. People & Projects.
I wanted to work with people who would inspire, challenge, drive, and enable me. I wanted to work on exciting projects that add value to business and disrupt industries.
Our Platform Strategy offered such opportunities. A growing and exciting part of the business, powered by a talented workforce.

Our goal is to empower and support our brand partners to grow their businesses atop Zalando, and to further delight customers. Take a peek at how PUMA achieved 100% YoY growth during CyberWeek 2020.

Such an ambitious and bold strategy needs an equally ambitious group of drivers. Ambition and drive are in abundance here.

This Year

Over the last twelve months, I have had the opportunity to build and lead a high performing engineering team.
Typically, when forming a new group, you will progress through the four defined stages of forming, storming, norming, performing. Jargon aside, you can think of this as the lifecycle that begins with the birth of a new team, unsure of its purpose and raison d’etre, and culminates in a powerful self-sustaining team that knows exactly what needs to be delivered, and consistently performs.

In our case, this process was accelerated by a shared drive for continuous learning and improvement. More than twenty-odd sprints and retrospectives over the course of the year have fostered an incredibly productive and safe environment of shipping 🚀 , learning 💭 , and improving 💪 .

Our ways of working are continuously evolving and we’re always striving to be a little better today than we were yesterday. As with everything, sometimes things don’t work or go to plan, but as the saying goes, “Fail Early, Fail Often, but always Fail Forward”.
We’re constantly trying new things. Some of them work. Some of them don’t. Either way, we learn and move on.

Autonomous teams of talented and intelligent people will produce great results. Surrounding yourself with such individuals will make you better by proxy.
As jazz guitarist Pat Metheny said (though popularised by Chad Fowler in The Passionate Programmer), “Always be the worst guy in every band you’re in… so you can learn. The people around you affect your performance. Choose your crowd wisely.”.

Another contributing catalyst for success, is the readily available tooling and support.
This allows teams to quickly bootstrap features and applications, and hone in on adding value to the business, rather than reinventing the wheel. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a very good chance that there is a service or library for it.

As a stream-aligned team, our engineering effort is best spent focusing on our domain, and not laying the foundations on which to build that domain. This has been an incredibly powerful asset to harness.

Moreover, support and collaboration is ever present. Regardless of nature, there’s always somebody willing and able to move any roadblocks. And similarly, if we can support somebody else, then we should.

Speaking of support,.. one of our founding mindsets is “Live high challenge and high support”. This OFM principle promotes empowering one another to be our best by encouraging continuous and open feedback. Continuous feedback equates to continuous coaching, and a more frequent feedback loop helps each of us to improve how we work. Giving and receiving open and honest feedback can often feel easier said than done, but by baking the notion into the core, it somehow feels more natural and welcome.


Overall, it’s been an incredibly rewarding year, both personally and professionally.
New challenges, new peers, new opportunities, and more to come. I am looking forward to writing a similar post in another twelve months.

Oh, and of course, we’re always hiring. If you would like to learn more about what we can offer, then please reach out.