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Episode #79 with Sandy Agafonoff

12 Oct 2022 | 35 mins 28 secs

On this episode of the NTP podcast we chat with Sandy Agafonoff, Squad Lead at Hello Fresh. We talk about his role within Hello Fresh, the rise of the company globally, his experience working in technology and his transition from freelancing to working with a rapidly growing company.
Hope you enjoy the episode!

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Show Notes

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In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • (00:27)

    Can you tell us about your career to date and your role at Hello Fresh?

  • (02:40)

    What attracted you to the role at Hello Fresh?

  • (05:20)

    What is the role of your team in the company?

  • (06:08)

    What has been your experience starting out in your career?

  • (07:30)

    Can you tell us about the future plans for growth at Hello Fresh?

  • (16:00)

    Advice for new grads starting a career in tech.

  • (19:00)

    What is one of the funniest mistakes you’ve made in your career?

  • (27:00)

    What productivity tools do you use?

  • (28:00)

    Can you tell us about the culture at Hello Fresh?

  • (33:00)

    What productivity tools do you use?

Transcription:

00:00:19:17 – 00:00:21:11
Linda
It’s great to have you. Thanks for coming in.

00:00:21:13 – 00:00:22:19
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, thank you. It’s good to be here.

00:00:22:20 – 00:00:31:08
Linda
Welcome. So I thought we could start by telling the audience we have an overview of your career to date and your role at L.A. Fresh.

00:00:31:13 – 00:00:35:01
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, sure. So, I mean, how far back do you want to go?

00:00:36:00 – 00:00:41:11
Linda
So in terms of your software careers, so when you first started in software engineering.

00:00:41:19 – 00:00:55:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, well, I had a very kind of, I guess, traditional path. So I graduated uni in sort of 2005. 2006. Yep. And I started at a company called Unisys. Mm hmm. So a big sort of global consulting. Consulting company.

00:00:55:22 – 00:00:56:23
Linda
Yeah, I insist.

00:00:56:24 – 00:01:23:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So I worked with them for a couple of years, and following that, I started working for a company called Scenic Tours in Newcastle, which was nice because I was travelling to and from Sydney and then it was nice to come to Newcastle, the company for a little while. Yeah. And then yeah. From, from there I kind of had a little bit of I guess time off working in companies and I, I kind of had a little bit of time off tech in general.

00:01:23:16 – 00:01:28:15
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And then after maybe a year or so, I started my own kind of freelancing.

00:01:29:02 – 00:01:34:09
Linda
That’s right. I remember that you were freelancing and doing your own. Yeah, sort of web development and software development.

00:01:34:10 – 00:01:35:02
Sandy
Yeah. Yeah.

00:01:35:03 – 00:01:36:02
Linda
Private clients.

00:01:36:02 – 00:01:45:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, that’s right. And I did that for about six or seven years. Mm hmm. And then after having a couple of kids, I decided to get back into working and.

00:01:46:01 – 00:01:48:06
Linda
I think that’s when I first met you. Wasn’t it?

00:01:48:06 – 00:01:54:03
Sandy
When some I think we’d met before, but yeah. That was when you started helping me.

00:01:54:03 – 00:01:55:09
Linda
Working. Yeah, yeah.

00:01:55:09 – 00:02:05:19
Sandy
With you and yeah, I got a job in company in Sydney and work there. So I’ve kind of worked in a whole bunch of different sized companies.

00:02:06:00 – 00:02:10:00
Linda
From big corporates to start ups and scale ups and yeah.

00:02:10:03 – 00:02:15:11
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah. And then 2008 and I had a gig with a start up in Newcastle with.

00:02:15:11 – 00:02:16:14
Linda
Tango, with Tango.

00:02:17:12 – 00:02:23:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And then worked with Pegasus for a bit as well. So yeah, I had a pretty, pretty vast array of experience.

00:02:23:08 – 00:02:48:15
Linda
Yeah. And now, now you’re with Hellofresh and they’re obviously I didn’t realise when I first started speaking with them how big they are globally. Yeah. I obviously tried their products I had during the last lockdown. I get visions of teaching my children how to cook, so I ordered some hellofresh and it’s a great product. Yeah, so what attracted you to the role there when you first sort of joined?

00:02:48:15 – 00:03:03:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, well it’s it’s also it’s kind of similar to when I finished it saying it too is I had a little bit of time off. I almost was, you know, in a similar spot where they’d been pandemic. I’d had some issues, there was a whole lot of things going on and I was actually looking to take a little bit of a break.

00:03:03:23 – 00:03:25:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And so I did that for a couple of months. But then a person I’d worked with before reached out and said, Oh, hey, we’ve got some roles in Hellofresh. And I initially was like, you know, I’m just I’m just kind of relaxing at the moment, trying to kind of regroup a little bit. Yeah, but then they kind of presented a little bit more about what they were doing, about the product, about what?

00:03:25:11 – 00:03:54:06
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I mean, I do think we tried Hellofresh before as well, but I didn’t really grasp similarly how large scale it is yet. And foods always. I like food and all do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So when I kind of looked at it and I was like, wow, this is, you know, this company’s kind of delivering food to people. Like the idea that you can kind of work somewhere and and help build things that’s going to allow people to order food and have those kind of family experiences.

00:03:55:05 – 00:03:57:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
That was really kind of attractive to me.

00:03:57:10 – 00:04:17:08
Linda
Yeah. So and I like the whole ethos around Hellofresh. It actually saves a lot of food wastage. Yeah. So I think that when I was having a chat to some of your team around, particularly your internal talent team around, sort of how much food waste you can actually save by ordering through Hellofresh is pretty impressive.

00:04:17:16 – 00:04:34:04
Sandy
Yeah. Yeah, a lot of, a lot of the times when you buy things, if you if you even if you have a recipe book and it tells you what to buy, it’ll have like, oh, you have to buy this bottle of sauce. So you have to have a particular sauce and then you go and buy that bottle of sauce and then you might eat the thing and you’re like, Actually, that’s my favourite.

00:04:34:14 – 00:04:59:07
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But if without fresh you’ll get everything pre-portioned and you’ll get little packets. Packages. Oh yeah. So you can try something, you don’t waste anything. There’s obviously some basics that you’re probably going to have, like olive oil, vinegar. I like we standard stuff. Yeah, but yeah, all those little kind of unique things they’ll give you in pre-portioned things, so you end up wasting way less than you would would otherwise.

00:04:59:07 – 00:05:01:11
Linda
Yeah, it’s amazing to think of it that way.

00:05:01:20 – 00:05:14:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Because obviously we’re always trying to reduce packaging as well. So it’s like it’s like a trade off between not wanting the full packaging to be there. Yes. But then also not wanting the food wastage. Yeah. It’s a it’s a hard trade-off to make.

00:05:14:06 – 00:05:39:08
Linda
Yeah. Cool. And so there’s 22,000 people approximately globally, which I didn’t know though I didn’t even some reason I thought the company was Australian. I didn’t realise it was headquartered in Berlin. That’s where it started. Yeah, and that’s where a lot of the core engineering team are. So the team that you work with in Australia, the engineering team to this H 900 engineers.

00:05:39:08 – 00:05:40:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah I think so. Yeah.

00:05:40:08 – 00:05:49:22
Linda
Yeah. Globally, yeah. Yeah. And your team in Australia is more the sort of I guess the back end engineering team. What, what, what do you what internally.

00:05:49:22 – 00:06:16:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So the Hellofresh Australia actually kicked off about a year or two after Hello Fresh globally. So we’re actually one of the longer running markets. Right. We had very few people in the tech team. So maybe like three years ago there might have been six people. They were just referred to as the ops tech team, like they just helped out the operation for supply chain, just building bits and pieces here or there.

00:06:16:20 – 00:06:40:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And then a year or two ago, the Hellofresh Global Group marked a couple of different locations. One was Australia and one was North America as global tech hubs. So they would be in contribute to some of the larger projects that were ongoing and, you know, kind of join in the sort of global engineering efforts.

00:06:40:09 – 00:06:54:24
Linda
Yeah, okay. And I know that Australia is one of those test markets. So when your particularly if you’re designing the system that’s going to be used across all of the operations globally, you roll it out potentially in Australia first. Is that the case?

00:06:55:14 – 00:07:21:12
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Don, not quite. So we will we were building things specifically for Australia for a while, but with this sort of switch, some of our team are kind of working on local tools, local products as well. But some of our other teams are actually looking at rolling products out into global markets first. So it’s not necessarily going to be always Australia or any particular market.

00:07:21:12 – 00:07:32:06
Sandy – Hello Fresh
There’s just usually like some sort of readiness check. Yeah, where some system will require certain things to be present. And if those markets have those things present and we’re going to target that mark out market for the rollouts.

00:07:32:07 – 00:07:41:20
Linda
Yeah, cool. And what can you talk to in terms of the growth of Hellofresh and the plans that you’ve had share any of the sorry or exciting?

00:07:42:24 – 00:08:09:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I mean, I can share that we’re kept quite well informed as a group. So now top level people will give us a lot of information. I’m not actually sure how much of it is probably just are on the safe side. Yeah, but I mean, I guess as a proxy like the the AEW tag team has grown from about 6 to 35 in the last two years.

00:08:09:18 – 00:08:31:01
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So in terms of the trajectory, there’s quite a lot going on. And I mean as you said, hollyfrontier’s a bit of a winner in the pandemic. That being said, a lot of hard work had to be done to capture that opportunity. Yeah. And it could have kind of gone either way and a lot of companies had the same opportunity and it necessarily grasped onto it.

00:08:31:01 – 00:08:41:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But Hellofresh was able to sort of keep up with demand and maintain a really good customer focussed product. Yeah. And that kind of kept people coming back.

00:08:41:13 – 00:08:48:02
Linda
Yeah, cool. And they’ve made a recent acquisition as well in the ready made meal market haven’t they.

00:08:48:11 – 00:09:24:19
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. Well they really kind of achieved their first mission, which was to become the number one meal kit group globally. So Hellofresh is kind of there. And so the new shift is to kind of look at overall food solutions to some extent. Yeah. So rather than just the dinner, what can we do for lunches or breakfast? So yeah, yeah, really kind of take on some of those new opportunities and a lot of the feedback that we have is Hellofresh is amazing, but sometimes it would be nice to have something simple, pre-made, pre-made, yeah.

00:09:24:19 – 00:09:36:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But also of high quality. So yeah, the acquisitions that Hello Fresh has made of you foods and factor in the U.S., those companies are also at the top of their respective uses.

00:09:36:23 – 00:09:38:06
Linda
Yep, yep, yep, yep.

00:09:38:06 – 00:09:57:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So if you if you were to try your foods product, it’s almost, it’s hard to tell that it’s pre-made like. Well, yeah, I wouldn’t, I, I’ve tried a few now because I get them and sometimes it’s easier to warm up for the kids. Yeah. Yeah. Well and I’ve tried them. Yeah. Yeah. My, my son is a big fan.

00:09:58:02 – 00:10:08:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
My daughter’s picky on everything. She actually one the other day I was like, well, what is what are they doing that I can’t this is amazing. But yeah, no, they’re really, really good. And so.

00:10:09:00 – 00:10:17:02
Linda
And it’s really still very fresh and it’s, you know, they I know that they pay attention to, you know, it’s the nutrient quality of the children. Yeah, yeah.

00:10:17:02 – 00:10:20:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah. So there’s a warm in there between the two between the two brands. Yeah.

00:10:21:09 – 00:10:38:17
Linda
Okay. So we’ve covered the exciting things that are going on with the company and, and Hello Fresh. So I’d like to talk about your career and why you chose a career in technology, particularly software development. Now, what was that first thing that got you interested? So you’re leaving school?

00:10:39:00 – 00:10:39:14
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah.

00:10:39:15 – 00:10:40:16
Linda
Why? You made that choice?

00:10:41:04 – 00:11:14:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, I guess it’s really interesting. Like, I never actually made a choice to some extent. I was just a kid who had a computer in the house, and I like playing computer games and it’s a pretty kind of common story. I then was lucky enough to have Internet access in the sort of mid nineties. Mm hmm. And I could visit websites and then a lot of really interesting things were there where you could kind of create your own websites and just kind of want how to look at the code behind the web pages and web pages.

00:11:14:11 – 00:11:18:18
Sandy
Yeah. And then want a little bit about JavaScript and how that works and then yeah.

00:11:18:18 – 00:11:19:02
Linda
Wow.

00:11:19:02 – 00:11:21:00
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So I kind of just started.

00:11:21:15 – 00:11:22:00
Linda
Doing.

00:11:22:01 – 00:11:39:05
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Tech things. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so when, when I finished school, it was a question of, you know, what I want to do. And I mean, I didn’t try and get into sort of any kind of computer science degree or anything like that. I studied in commerce.

00:11:39:12 – 00:11:40:21
Linda
Okay. Well.

00:11:41:07 – 00:11:49:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, because I, I mean, I didn’t really think of it as a career, so. Yeah, yeah. Like it wasn’t, it wasn’t really laid out like that, but.

00:11:49:06 – 00:11:49:15
Linda
Yeah.

00:11:49:21 – 00:12:07:17
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, it wasn’t a super just common pathway. But then after being at uni for a year, I switched over into like an IT degree. Yeah. And then just took a software engineering focus. Yeah. Because that interested me and I sort of pursued that through and then yeah, graduated in 2006.

00:12:07:23 – 00:12:18:00
Linda
So in terms of the advice that you would give to students, so you know, leaving school and young grads in terms of starting a career in technology, what would that be?

00:12:18:05 – 00:12:40:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I mean, I, I want to say I do what I did, but I mean, after having kind of experience working with lots of different people as well, I would say the the people who seem to most enjoy working in tech for a long period of time are the ones who are just generally interested in how stuff works. Yeah, it’s like I think most people are capable of programming and figuring out how to write programs.

00:12:40:16 – 00:12:49:05
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But if you’re one of those people who are super interesting, like not just how something works, but why it works, yeah, you’re probably going to spend quite a long way.

00:12:49:06 – 00:12:50:02
Linda
Yeah, yeah.

00:12:50:22 – 00:12:59:13
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And so yeah, I think I said to our whole group a couple of weeks ago they were asking a similar question and I just said, Would you just be curious about things?

00:13:00:11 – 00:13:08:01
Linda
And as you mentioned, I saw that on LinkedIn. The update you mentioned one of the you’ve learned the most important attribute to have is curiosity.

00:13:08:01 – 00:13:08:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah.

00:13:08:22 – 00:13:09:05
Linda
Yeah.

00:13:09:21 – 00:13:31:24
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. And it’s kind of like distinct from learning because like learning you can go and read a textbook, but you just kind of learn what’s in that textbook and then you can kind of regurgitate it back. But if you’re curious, you read something in a textbook and then you go, Well, I don’t understand that. And then you’ll have to look that up, and then you go and read that, and then, you know, you can kind of like go off in different sort of threads of, of learning and then come back and have a much more well-rounded understanding of something.

00:13:32:07 – 00:13:42:06
Linda
And I guess for a software engineer who having that problem solving mindset, you need to have a genuine level of curiosity to understand how businesses work.

00:13:42:14 – 00:13:42:24
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah.

00:13:43:10 – 00:13:57:14
Linda
You know, how systems work and how they’re going to solve problems or create new products and new growth markets for a company or to solve day to day business business process problems.

00:13:57:18 – 00:14:06:11
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, that’s right. And if you if you ask why often a lot of people don’t want to ask why they feel like they’re being kind of like, Oh, that.

00:14:06:12 – 00:14:06:18
Linda
Sounds.

00:14:07:01 – 00:14:07:19
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Good or something else.

00:14:07:19 – 00:14:10:06
Linda
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

00:14:10:06 – 00:14:33:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But most people are super happy to tell you why something is the way it is. Yeah. And like, they put a lot of effort into what they’ve, what they’re doing. And so when you say, Oh yeah, why is that? Yeah, I’ve often got really, really good reasons. And even in just tech, if you’re a senior and you want to be participating, mentoring, it’s fine to be able to say like, Oh yeah, well, this is the way we should do something.

00:14:33:18 – 00:14:39:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But if, if, if a junior engineer asks why, you have to be able to kind of articulate that.

00:14:39:02 – 00:14:59:10
Linda
Do you think that’s like a confidence thing when people are starting out as well and it starts in school? I think because you don’t want to ask questions in front of your peers in case it sounds silly. Yeah, something that I’ve had to talk to my kids that over and over again, they don’t understand something. They come home frustrated and they’re like, Well, just ask a teacher now why?

00:14:59:10 – 00:15:13:11
Linda
Yeah, because I don’t want to ask questions in front of my friends. So it’s that whole fear. And then yeah, translate comes into the workforce. And then you’re a junior engineer and who are you to question or ask why it’s the same you software engineer. Yeah.

00:15:13:11 – 00:15:36:00
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And it’s even, it’s even to the point where if you’re told that it’s okay to ask why most people don’t believe you still. But yeah, it’s really, it’s really interesting. I mean, I kind of counter that by saying, well, you either ask why now? Or you go away for three days pretending that you know what you’re doing. And then you have to come back in three days and say like, Oh, okay, I just need to know why this is happening.

00:15:36:00 – 00:15:44:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And then you’re actually kind of, you know, done something that you could have probably done better because the other person’s going to say, why didn’t you just ask me three days ago?

00:15:44:07 – 00:15:54:15
Linda
Yes, exactly. So that’s probably a really good one for for young students and grads to, you know, be comfortable asking questions and doing it. Why?

00:15:54:15 – 00:16:14:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And also, if you start a new role, you know, it’s just spend a lot of time sort of asking questions because everybody wants to be productive. Everybody wants to contribute. Yeah. And the quicker you can just ask all of the questions and get to some sort of level of being the, you know, whatever have a productive you want to be, the better you’re going to feel.

00:16:14:07 – 00:16:24:00
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. The better your team’s going to feel. Because I mean, it’s obvious, like when somebody new starts in a new team, there’s going to be a downward slope on productivity. Well, they come.

00:16:24:00 – 00:16:24:24
Linda
Off their faces. Yep.

00:16:24:24 – 00:16:29:17
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And the quicker you can lift yourself up, the quicker you can help your team.

00:16:29:21 – 00:16:31:09
Linda
Don’t wait to be fed information.

00:16:31:09 – 00:16:48:21
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah. Especially when your team is already sitting there knowing that you knew and you’ve just started. If you don’t do it in that point in time, it’s like after a while it’s like, okay, why are we still having this conversation? So it’s just much, much easier to just go in and be curious, go through, ask all the questions, and then just keep learning as you go.

00:16:48:24 – 00:17:11:04
Linda
And what about is there any other advice you give to young software engineers starting their first software engineering role? That’s really good advice in terms of taking accountability and responsibility for their learning and understanding journey. Other advice that you would give them in terms of developing their business facing skills or their technical skills?

00:17:12:02 – 00:17:35:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, just just really read a lot. Like read a lot of different ideas, read a lot of different things. Like don’t try and specialise too quickly. Ask for specific tasks. Yeah. If you’re, if you’re a front end developer, maybe ask for some small back end task as well just to kind of get some idea of what the other people are working with and how they do their role.

00:17:36:00 – 00:17:47:13
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, because it kind of lets you have sort of empathy. Yes. And when you’re kind of thinking, oh, why can’t this person just do this? You know, and I can’t be that hard to do X, Y, Z. It’s like, Well, have you ever done that?

00:17:47:24 – 00:17:48:16
Linda
You know?

00:17:49:02 – 00:17:54:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Okay, so just go and try this, do one and see how it goes. Yeah, but yeah, try a lot of different things.

00:17:54:02 – 00:18:14:19
Linda
Yeah, sure. That’s a good one. Empathy. Having empathy for the people in your team that are doing quite different work than you in terms and not specialising in a particular area is a good one, particularly in technologies, trying new different technologies, having side projects and how would you recommend.

00:18:15:03 – 00:18:38:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah, that’s one thing. So I have a side project, but I have a side project that you come back to every three months and you either redo it or try and add a new thing to it. Okay. Because the thing that we do is we’ll go and learn something and we’ll, we’ll build the the demo app. Yeah, but building a new demo app for every new thing is always going to be easy.

00:18:38:05 – 00:18:58:11
Sandy
It’s really tricky when you come back to something you’ve been building six months after you built it, it’s like you’ll look at that and you’ll think, Wow, who wrote this with me? I can’t believe I did that. That’s, you know, not know how I do it now and then try and change it to how you would do it now.

00:18:58:16 – 00:19:15:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Because it’s, it’s, it’s those bits and pieces that get really hard during new things. It’s quite simple, keeping something running for a long period of time. That’s, that’s really where you can kind of learn a lot about some of the more kind of subtle things to do with software development tool.

00:19:16:05 – 00:19:22:03
Linda
And what is what do you think is the one of the funniest or biggest mistakes you made in you?

00:19:22:03 – 00:19:41:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Cory Okay. I mean, I have to think about that because it’s so many. I’ve made all of them. Like, I mean, I made the mistake of not asking questions. I made the mistake of not asking why. I made the mistake of thinking that I knew everything and didn’t need to learn any more. Yeah, there’s lots of yeah, there’s lots of different.

00:19:41:03 – 00:19:41:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So that’s.

00:19:41:14 – 00:19:44:13
Linda
Really cool. That unconscious confidence where you think, you know.

00:19:44:22 – 00:20:06:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
You’re done in Krueger. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Know, I was both Dunning and Krueger in there and it was just great and it really was just going away and looking at it and thinking, Oh, I know, I know how to do this. And then trying to do it and realising way actually this is quite difficult and going back and learning from the ground up again.

00:20:06:03 – 00:20:18:06
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, probably one of the biggest mistakes I made there was, was, was kind of looking for a really good team and not trying to build a really good team or grow a really good team.

00:20:18:09 – 00:20:18:21
Linda
Okay.

00:20:18:22 – 00:20:40:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
It always assuming that, oh, there’s some team out there that’s doing such amazing things and you know, you can just join these teams and then all of the performance comes with it. But that’s not how teams work at all. And so that’s probably one of the things I would do differently. I would I would stay in some places and try and grow into certain teams.

00:20:40:23 – 00:20:44:16
Linda
To try and influence better out. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Well done that.

00:20:44:20 – 00:20:50:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think most people have made all of their own stakes, so.

00:20:50:10 – 00:21:02:17
Linda
Yeah. Good. So you’ve been successful at growing a team and Hellofresh and you’ve recently been promoted yourself. Was that of the while ago to engineering manager that.

00:21:02:17 – 00:21:06:05
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, that was probably after like three months I started as like a tech lead.

00:21:06:12 – 00:21:08:02
Linda
Right. Started to take up.

00:21:08:04 – 00:21:20:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
The project that I was on, had a couple of engineers on it and it was easy enough for me to just take them on. Yep. Yes. Switch it up to an engineer manager at that point. Yeah, great. You know, retained most of the sort of tech lead.

00:21:20:24 – 00:21:27:06
Linda
Yeah. So in terms of your current team that you laid, what projects are you working on? Yeah.

00:21:27:06 – 00:21:50:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So we’ve got six I got six engineers at the moment and we’re working on a Getty court order processing. So converting the orders that are coming from the customer side and sort of feeding them into the supply chain across sort of various different domains. So, you know, kind of managing the managing the data of customer orders through to procurement, through to forecasting and through to fulfilment.

00:21:50:05 – 00:21:55:10
Linda
Yeah, yeah. Great. You got six engineers and and growing, so yeah.

00:21:55:10 – 00:22:10:12
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So we had nine but we split teams and we brought on another engineering manager and so he’s managing three of them, but they’re also got another one starting soon. I’m going to another couple of engineers starting I think in the end of September.

00:22:11:01 – 00:22:13:11
Linda
So what can you tell us about the technology that you work with?

00:22:14:01 – 00:22:34:11
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yep. So we have a awesome platform team and they’ve built out a lot of things that, you know, basically make it easy for us to develop and deploy and build applications. So we’re very heavily invested in Kubernetes and also now into Kafka.

00:22:34:18 – 00:22:35:03
Linda
Okay.

00:22:35:13 – 00:23:04:20
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So there’s a somewhat of a push or an idea of teams sort of owning their own data and then integrating the applications through Kafka rather than sort of direct API calls. But there’s still a mixture of both. Like some services have API, some are pushing out on the Kafka. But yeah, well long term plan is to sort of have teams building sort of discrete data products and sharing that across the organisation in a distributed fashion.

00:23:04:20 – 00:23:05:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah, great.

00:23:06:06 – 00:23:12:22
Linda
And so they’re the cool projects that you’re working on at the moment. Is there anything exciting coming up in the horizon down the pipeline?

00:23:12:24 – 00:23:29:07
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, so there’s new priorities for the senior team, there’s new projects in procurement and new projects and forecasting. And then we’ve just launched a really interesting one to sort of have customers able to order their boxes later and get them sooner.

00:23:29:15 – 00:23:34:16
Linda
And so there’s multiple times you can order a week or two from it rather than one.

00:23:34:22 – 00:23:38:01
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And then we’re going to bring on more of those days over the rest of this year.

00:23:38:18 – 00:23:48:01
Linda
So. Oh, that’s great. Yeah, yeah. So they can order at multiple points during the week. So I think it’s. Yes, you didn’t order in before Tuesday. You had to get them for the next week. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.

00:23:48:07 – 00:24:13:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. We’ve got internal customers mainly. Yeah. The warehouses and internal planners and things like that. So they’re our primary customer, but all the projects that we do are still geared towards the end customer as well. Yeah. And so a lot of the optimisations we’re doing through the internal customers that we’re serving is in order to sort of improve the customer experience.

00:24:13:08 – 00:24:19:23
Linda
Yeah, great. And so in terms of building your team, what do you look for in new hires?

00:24:20:08 – 00:24:49:03
Sandy – Hello Fresh
The the key thing that I would say to be successful in a role, however fresh, is sort of self motivation. There’s a huge opportunity and huge respect for anybody to come in and sort of highlight areas for improvement, use data to show your case and then you’ll be given support to kind of advocate and push for that. Oh, that’s kind of what we’re looking for.

00:24:49:08 – 00:24:58:13
Linda
Yeah, yeah. Right. So someone that’s people that have that accountability and yeah, a self motivated to achieve and help lift the team.

00:24:58:21 – 00:25:18:12
Sandy – Hello Fresh
At the same time, we hire across the whole range of sort of developers. So we’ve got graduates with juniors, seniors, and so obviously not everyone’s going to have that experience and skills straight up, but you have the ability and people around you to grow that skill. That’s something that you want to do. Yeah.

00:25:18:12 – 00:25:25:14
Linda
Good. Yeah. So what sort of training and development opportunities are opened to people that join Hellofresh?

00:25:26:24 – 00:25:56:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
We have a standard for anybody who’s been working with public fresh food. I think it’s six months now, 6 to 12 months. We’ve got 2001 in development budget, go towards courses, subscriptions to two places or other learnings that you might want to undertake. We have weekly engineering meetings where we’re sharing information, we have like book club sharing stuff that we have one of that, one of our key DNA attributes is continued learning.

00:25:57:02 – 00:25:57:08
Linda
Yeah.

00:25:57:16 – 00:26:16:06
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And so it’s almost anything that you really want to do. You can talk to your manager about saying, Hey, this is coming up. I want to look at this. We also have like management course seats that people can take into town just to get some experience and just sort of understand things. Yeah, there’s a very, very high focus around learning and development.

00:26:16:24 – 00:26:22:05
Linda
And you mentioned DNA attributes. Is that is that like a framework? AT Yeah.

00:26:22:05 – 00:26:42:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
HELLOFRESH Yeah. I mean, like a lot of them really using in the common sense, like we know people when people focus on the customer, people take like long term focus on some things. But it’s really nice to have those things made explicit and promoted from the very top all the way through the organisation. Yeah, that’s probably something that I would say.

00:26:42:18 – 00:26:53:15
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I’ve seen more hellofresh than other companies. Yeah. It’s not like it’s not just a kind of poster on the wall. Yeah. It’s, it’s actively used and spoken about and.

00:26:54:04 – 00:26:55:18
Linda
It’s in terms of the values of the company.

00:26:55:18 – 00:27:07:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. So it’s always are we doing this. Does the is what we’re doing meeting our values. Yep. And that’s a question that people often actually ask.

00:27:07:23 – 00:27:10:14
Linda
Yeah. And is it, is it serving the customer.

00:27:10:14 – 00:27:11:07
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, that’s right.

00:27:11:11 – 00:27:21:00
Linda
Yeah. At the end of the day. Right. So in terms of the core productivity tools and things that you use, can you talk about those in Slack?

00:27:21:08 – 00:27:21:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, yeah.

00:27:21:24 – 00:27:23:22
Linda
Just yeah, yeah.

00:27:23:22 – 00:27:46:13
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Well, what’s the slack? I mean, like we we have an internal tech techradar which covers a broad array of things. I mean, a company that size has to kind of settle on some tools, though. I mean, we use standard gear and bits and pieces, but also within teams you’re kind of free to choose whatever best suits the work you’re doing.

00:27:46:17 – 00:28:06:17
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So you can pick your process, you can pick your tools. Like you just have to be able to communicate the information that’s required at some level in some of the standard tools. Like you put some stuff in Confluence, you put some stuff in, in, in JIRA. But if you day to day, if your team wants to manage the work inside with some other tool on, you can do that.

00:28:06:21 – 00:28:17:07
Linda
Yeah. Good. Yeah. And so can we talk about the culture and what it’s like to working at Hellofresh and what, what I mean, what do you personally love about the organisation?

00:28:18:03 – 00:28:43:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, the thing the thing I most enjoy is the amount of effort and time consideration that every single person seems to put into their work. There’s really no one who’s, you know, not, not driving towards the same goal. Yeah. And even though a lot of the things that we want to achieve, we’re not necessarily in there, everyone kind of has the same end state in mind.

00:28:44:04 – 00:28:52:08
Linda
So the organisation obviously does a really good job of communicating what, what the pathways and and how, how you need to execute.

00:28:52:08 – 00:28:52:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
That’s right.

00:28:52:23 – 00:29:07:06
Linda
Contribute to that. Yeah. So some of the benefits of working for Hellofresh you mentioned there’s a one day or so training budget to individuals that work there. What are some of the other benefits that Hellofresh provide their employees?

00:29:07:06 – 00:29:23:00
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yes. I mean, obviously, we want our employees to experience the product because that makes your life so much easier when you’re kind of running your software to understand the customers point of view. Yeah. So everyone gets a 70% discount.

00:29:23:00 – 00:29:31:05
Linda
Wow. That would be a huge significant saving on your bills, especially groceries. Yeah, just going through the roof. That would be.

00:29:31:05 – 00:29:37:20
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So I think see I think I get like five meals for our family of four for about $35.

00:29:38:05 – 00:29:39:17
Linda
That is just. Yeah.

00:29:40:11 – 00:29:40:20
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Pretty good.

00:29:40:23 – 00:29:43:16
Linda
That’s pretty good isn’t it. Like how much money with that saved.

00:29:43:17 – 00:29:45:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yes it’s, it’s huge.

00:29:45:04 – 00:29:47:00
Linda
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fantastic.

00:29:47:00 – 00:29:58:24
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So there’s that aspect then as well. Yeah, we have, we have like cultural days where you have different events and things like that. We just have one. Recently it was a winter ski party.

00:29:58:24 – 00:30:00:16
Linda
I think it was into ski part again.

00:30:01:05 – 00:30:03:14
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So people done the outfits and gone to Nice.

00:30:03:16 – 00:30:06:08
Linda
I think I saw those on LinkedIn. Yeah. Mean it’s fun.

00:30:06:09 – 00:30:24:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah yeah and yeah there’s also one of the other ones is Hellofresh days. So on top of your annual leave every year for the first five years you’ll get an extra two days of leave. Yeah. Right. So at the end of five years you have 30 days annual leave. Oh yeah. So.

00:30:24:22 – 00:30:33:03
Linda
Oh wow. That’s hugely significant. That’s great for yeah. Everyone, people have got families and kids in school and yeah. Fantastic.

00:30:33:03 – 00:30:46:14
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So they’re really kind of like the focus is we want people to come and have a career. It’s not we want people to stay and learn the business. It’s a complex business. And so to lose people is a high cost.

00:30:46:20 – 00:30:47:04
Linda
Yeah.

00:30:47:04 – 00:31:06:12
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And so the more people are kind of encouraged to stay, the better it is for everybody. And then it’s easier for new people to start. And I think we’ve got three people the other day who’ve actually been on the tech team for the last three years. Yeah. And the amount of information they have about Hellofresh is just quite impressive.

00:31:07:15 – 00:31:14:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And so pairing up one of them with somebody who’s newly joined in tech, the knowledge sharing that they have is it’s.

00:31:15:01 – 00:31:26:04
Linda
So they get buddied up. Yeah. Yeah. That’s really great for a young person joining. Yeah yeah. And it’s and it’s so you got offices in I know in Sydney one of the office slots.

00:31:27:03 – 00:31:52:18
Sandy – Hello Fresh
And it’s nice like it’s a small sort of campus in Chippendale, a few different buildings, they’ve got like three levels of one building and then they’ve got a new kitchen area and they’ve got test kitchens. Thanks for cooking. So I guess another benefit is every day. So the people who are cooking in the test kitchen lunches that they have made into the fridge, if you quick you get one that is fantastic.

00:31:52:20 – 00:32:03:13
Linda
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very good. So thanks for sharing information about what it’s like to work at Hellofresh. How about you and what you like to do in your spare time? What do you get up to?

00:32:04:01 – 00:32:07:24
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, spare time for me to spend as much of it with my family as possible.

00:32:08:14 – 00:32:10:15
Linda
And I got a young family in school.

00:32:11:00 – 00:32:13:05
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I have my kids doing fun stuff with them.

00:32:13:05 – 00:32:21:19
Linda
And you live sort of. Is that South Lake Macquarie area? Yeah, yeah. So you head down to the Sydney office and you can. Yeah.

00:32:21:19 – 00:32:26:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
So I go in like one or two days a week. Yeah. Depending on sort of train schedules and things like that.

00:32:26:19 – 00:32:27:03
Linda
Yeah.

00:32:27:03 – 00:32:39:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah. So they’ve got a pretty flexible policy and we try and have a team in the office one day a week together. Yeah. Um, just so that like you can get that face to face time, which is nice.

00:32:39:10 – 00:32:44:10
Linda
Do you do any tinkering and building stuff in your spare time? What do you get into?

00:32:44:23 – 00:32:49:04
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, I mean, I read a lot. Yeah, a lot of books. I listen to podcasts.

00:32:49:04 – 00:32:50:14
Linda
What podcast do you listen to?

00:32:51:12 – 00:32:53:08
Sandy – Hello Fresh
One. One of the Lex Freedman.

00:32:53:09 – 00:32:55:03
Linda
The Lex Freedman, yeah.

00:32:55:05 – 00:33:05:10
Sandy – Hello Fresh
He’s he’s like a former researcher and he’s done a lot of things like that. But yeah, he interviews really a wide variety of people. But yeah, he has that kind of.

00:33:06:03 – 00:33:07:11
Linda
He got an interest in I.

00:33:08:04 – 00:33:13:09
Sandy – Hello Fresh
You mean. Yes. Very high level. Yeah. I mean I find it all interesting. Yeah.

00:33:13:14 – 00:33:18:24
Linda
Yeah, right. Good. And what books do you rate.

00:33:18:24 – 00:33:26:17
Sandy – Hello Fresh
The tech books I read. And so a lot of a lot of them but also. Yeah, I mean, philosophy books. Yeah, things like that.

00:33:26:20 – 00:33:45:00
Linda
Yeah. Cool. Yeah. Be good to also understand, is there any sort of mentors that you’ve had during your career that you’ve really stay in touch with, or are you sort of keen on doing that so more junior people coming through the ranks? Yeah, yeah. It was your biggest influence during your career, do you think?

00:33:45:05 – 00:34:13:22
Sandy – Hello Fresh
I probably haven’t had one specific person. I’ve kind of been able to take something from sort of everyone I’ve worked with, even sort of senior and junior people. And even now I find I learn a lot mentoring. So actually, given that I was working on my own for seven years as a freelancer, yeah, it was something that I thought kind of got lost when a lot of the agile processes came in.

00:34:14:02 – 00:34:36:16
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, before that it was very heavy. Focus on mentoring. You start, you get mentored, you grow, you had someone there, but we flattened out a lot of structures. Yeah, and well, that’s super positive. I think we lost a lot of that sort of mentoring aspect of it. Um, Hellofresh has a mentoring program and I’ve participated in that both as a mentor and a mentor, and that’s been really, really fun.

00:34:36:23 – 00:34:52:02
Sandy – Hello Fresh
But yeah, there’s no no one specific person. Yeah. I mean, I’ve watched a lot of a lot of YouTube videos of talks given by certain people, you know, variety of people there. So yeah, just trying to take as much as I can from, from different people across the board.

00:34:52:04 – 00:35:18:24
Linda
Yeah. Blossom Well, it’s been very interesting having a chat about your career journey and hellofresh and it sounds like such a great company to work for and I’ve had really good experiences with your internal team as well. They’ve got really high energy and really nice people and really passionate about brand, which is great, so it’s good to catch up with you again, as always, to have flawless and yeah, thank you.

00:35:18:24 – 00:35:19:23
Sandy – Hello Fresh
Yeah, thanks for having me on.

00:35:20:03 – 00:35:22:16
Linda
No worries.

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