May 23, 2023

IONA Stories: Rene, Director of Technology, sees everything as a creative endeavour

IONA Stories: Rene, Director of Technology, sees everything as a creative endeavour

Rene joined IONA as a Lead Developer and quickly progressed to Director of Technology. How did he do it? Rene says creativity, technical expertise and trust enable him to do his best work.

What set you on the path to becoming what you are today?

I’m passionate about many things that are not necessarily related to programming or software. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher, painter, writer or artist. I enjoy the arts, but I also enjoy the logical side of things. My father, one of the first software developers in the Philippines, influenced my journey. Math is heavily linked to programming, but a love of the arts and openness to creativity made me realise how everything is a creative endeavour - even physics. People think programming is technical and procedural, but it’s a space where you can be creative. Combining creativity and technicality allowed me to be a generalist, pulling from a broad range of experiences in a way a specialist couldn’t do.

What’s the best thing about your work?

I’ve been at IONA for almost a year, and in that time, I’ve witnessed a bunch of passionate and receptive people. I get energy when I see my colleagues’ eyes light up because they’re doing something they love or I’ve been able to inspire them somehow. 

One of the best things about my role is identifying issues that affect my team and finding ways to resolve them. One-to-ones can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it. It allows me to see patterns and roll out solutions that improve work for people across the company. For example, I’ve been improving our DevOps culture by identifying challenges, analysing them and presenting them to the broader company using my power of storytelling. It gives me energy when I use every tool to advocate for my team; I can be as analytical or creative as necessary to drive at a certain goal.


What inspires you outside of work?

You’ll find me at the cinema if it’s a high-stress month. It helps me reset. Sometimes if I get too in my head, like when there’s a big challenge at work, I like to give my mind a break by watching a film. There are other things too - like reading and making art - because I like doing different things and experiencing different things.

What’s the best thing about working at IONA?

Besides getting to help people, the best thing about working at IONA is having the freedom to do my job. I feel trusted and have the authority to improve people’s work lives - and that’s the foundation of it. In my time here, I’ve observed a trust-based culture where we are willing to invest in our people and don’t put profit before company culture. Of course, we are a business and need to be profitable, but we try to get the balance right. It’s like, “Let’s achieve, and let’s give people what they need to do so”. While we may not always have the answers, when an idea comes along, we’re willing to try it. 

As the leader of the tech team, it’s important to identify barriers to innovation and break them. I do that by encouraging people to ask questions. My goal is to help my team be the best they want to be. That doesn’t mean pushing someone who doesn’t want to be pushed. It means igniting their passion so they can push themselves. 


What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on improving practices and procedures within technology. I do that by modelling ways of working and infusing them within specific projects before rolling them out across all projects. I’m currently focusing on creating a stellar testing culture. Many people don’t understand the value of testing; it’s a back-end thing, so it seems like a cost to anyone that’s not a developer. But having a framework that allows you to run tests 24-7 gives your people the freedom to focus on creating value elsewhere. You don’t need to worry whether something is broken; the system will tell you. Removing that burden means you can move forward faster than ever before. It’s a mindset shift. It’s not easy for people to prioritise testing before a shiny new feature, but people really do need it. Valuing testing means valuing your time. And for developers, it enables them to do more in the long run. 

IONA has offices in Finland, the Philippines and the UK. What are your tips for working with colleagues remotely?

If you think about the separation between being remote and being physically in the room - there’s a barrier. How do you ease that? It’s about communication. Of course, remote work is more challenging because you can’t see their body language and gestures. Turning your camera helps. It’s vital to continually work on removing those barriers, whether that’s with someone on a video call or the person sitting next to you. As a company, it requires constant effort, and you must keep at it.

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