Learnings from my sabbatical: the need to let go

A year in sabbatical taught me many things, about life, family and culture, and also about work. We went through different steps, just like during an innovation project. For me, remaining a beaming Liiper goes hand in hand with a beaming private and family life. This resulted in following our family dream, leaving everything else behind. For a while.

When I joined Liip in 2010, as one of the first “Romand”, I had the task to expand Liip’s activities to west (french speaking) Switzerland, with the great challenge of opening a new office and creating a new team there. New horizons, new persons, an avidity for advancing towards the unknown… the perfect challenge for the entrepreneur-type-of-me :)

After a challenge, follows another

Fast forward a few years later – mid 2015 – the Lausanne office counts 20 Liipers and runs well – mostly without my help anymore. This is surely due to our efforts to bring the company into self-management, added to the fantastic team of Lausanne Liipers that joined me in our everlasting commitment to build the best products for our clients.

Once this challenge was achieved, it felt to me (personally) like the end of a chapter. Moreover, with the arrival of Holacracy as our new governance framework, I was, as a Partner (then “Liip manager”) forced to adapt in that changing organization. I felt something very odd: for the first time since I joined Liip, my motivation diminished.

At the same time, a family dream had come up : getting out of the daily routine, leaving everything else behind to “slow down” and travel the world, just the four of us (our 2 boys, my wife and myself).

At first, realizing such a dream felt totally incompatible with the traditional work-school-life of the typical swiss family that we are… and then we started to think outside that box. And what if… after all?

The need for faith in the unknown

The preparation of our project took about a year, elaborating solutions as we saw the problems pop up, one after another. Finding renters for our apartment, selling our stuff, buying a motorhome, and also… I had to leave Liip, the best company in the world!!

We were confronted by many uncertainties during that path : What countries are we going to visit? Is it sufficiently safe to travel with small children in less developed countries, and for such a long time? Is our planned budget gonna be enough?

No chance to process all our fears at once… we simply had to LET GO. Follow our vision, and analyse and adapt along the way.

Camping car and family

Our campervan was our home during one year.

Wait… doesn’t that sound like Agile projects?

Those of you familiar to Agile project management will notice some similarities with the initial phases of a typical innovation project :

  1. Very early excitement (usually during initial UX Strategy workshops) : putting a vision on paper, thinking big without restrictions
  2. Coming back to reality : breaking that all down to actual user stories and tasks and noticing that we will never manage to realize all that we want to do with the planned budget and time our disposal

Yet those are hard truths : budget (usually) remains fixed, as well as the project calendar. So it was for our worldtour travel.

Finally, here we go! On the 1st of April 2016, we left Switzerland. A big leap of faith… towards something that we prepared carefully but can’t know in advance all details… just as in a agile project! ;-)

This blog post is the first one of a series on my experience in sabbatical leave. Stay tuned for more!

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Why did I change my mind about open data?

Knowledge against fear and suspicion – open data is beneficial

Generally disagreeing about any kind of data sharing, I realized my behavior was mostly based on fear. Fear is a major impediment to anything innovative and to any kind of change. Why did I change my mind about open data? It is about differentiating between public and private data, and about the fact that data made public are first of all edited.

New work – new ideas

In November 2015, I started working at Liip and I had a lot of new projects and inputs. The core of my work is the same, I completely changed field though. I stand now in the middle of a flow of innovative ideas and energy, which is very motivating and helps me be constantly open-minded.
One of my projects, last spring, was the coordination of Liip’s involvement at the annual opendata.ch conference. No, I cannot communicate about anything if I don’t understand it! Otherwise I would write complete bulls**t, people would notice it and Liip would lose all credibility on the subject. In other words, I had to know what I was talking about in order to be able to talk about it.

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The DrupalDay 2017 in Rome

This year was the 6th edition of the DrupalDay Italy, the main event to attend for Italian-speaking drupalists.

Previous editions took place in other main Italian cities like Milan, Bologna and Naples.
This time Rome had the privilege to host such a challenging event, ideally located in the Sapienza University Campus.

The non-profit event, was free of charge.

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No nginx basic auth with either network or cookie set

For an internal tool, we’d like to allow access if you either coming from one of our office networks or you have a certain cookie set. If both are not satisfied, just show the usual basic auth dialog. And set that cookie, once you were allowed to access the page.

We wanted to do that in nginx and not the tool itself, as it looked like easier to do, especially since the tool didn’t have any authentication at all yet. Unfortunately it wasn’t that straight forward, but we found a working solution and wanted to share that.

Hope it helps anyone and saves them some time.

Web developer is a dream job? One week to discover

We welcomed Baptiste, 14 years, in our Lausanne Office. One week of “trial internship” to understand what it is to be a dev. What could I teach him in such a short time? Read this post to discover what I organised for him and how it went.

Dev step by step

Baptiste was visiting us to discover the different facets of our job, in view to better know what he wants to do later. This week was a professional orientation internship. Taking this issue very seriously, I have given much thoughts on how to prepare a broad, dense and accessible program.

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Accessibility: make your website barrier-free with a11ym!

Accessibility is not only about people with disabilities but also about making your website accessible to search engines robots. This blog post shares our experience with making the website of a famous luxury watchmaker more accessible, an important e-commerce application. We have built a custom tool, called The A11y Machine to help us crawl and test each URL against accessibility and HTML conformances. Less than 100 hours were required to fix a thousand of strict errors.

Issues with unaccessible application

Accessibility is not just a matter of helping people with disabilities. Of course, it is very important that an application can be used by everyone. But, have you ever considered that robots are visitors with numerous disabilities? What kind of robots you may ask, well: Search engine robots for instance, like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Baidu… They are totally blind, they don’t have a mouse, they don’t have a keyboard, they must understand your content only with the source code.

Whilst it is easy to consider a man or a woman with a pushchair having a bad time in public transport, someone color-blind, a widespread disability, could also have issues browsing the web.

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Self-Organization – Nothing But Talk?

qdifxri4doo-barn-images

It’s incredible how the topic of self-organization emerged over the past few years. In 2016 we reached an amount of attention we had never seen before. We were invited so many times to talk at conferences, in schools, for communities and many big corporations on all levels up to the top management. And the media covered the topic widely. Some in the industry even thought this was a marketing campaign above all. But far from it.

Time to reflect how we got here, why we gained this attention and where we are heading to.

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Swissquote: How to become a leader in banking in 26 years?

Swissmarketing Vaud invited Jan De Schepper, Head of Marketing at Swissquote. I expected a guide to be a leader in a few simple steps. Highly interesting, this conference actually felt like one of my masterclass.
Report of the conference

SWISSQUOTE, EN 26 ANS, DEVENIR LEADER PAR L’INNOVATION ET LE MARKETING DE CONTENU
Jan de Schepper

At this conference, what I wanted to know was how to become a leader. I expected De Schepper to hand me over the strategic marketing keys to success. The secret recipe for me to make Liip, my entreprise, an absolute leader in web development.
What kind of advice did I get?

Swissquote, a content brand

According to De Schepper, the foundation of a company leaves a significant mark. The founders, Marc Bürki et Paolo Buzzi owned Marvel Communication SA, a company specialized in financial information softwares. Once they figured out that they could provide the services they were talking about, Swissquote became a bank and IPO’d as such on the 29th of May 2000. The focus of Swissquote was on content creation right from the beginning.

A basic brand structure

At Swissquote, they believe that the brand defines who they are and how they act. Their brand structure is actually not original, as it involves a vision and six values.
In De Schepper’s words, a vision is like an Evening Star (Etoile du Berger in French). It is what leads your way.

To be the world’s most pioneering and intuitive online bank.

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How to reduce your development and maintenance costs with APIs?

An API-based solution has many advantages. The biggest one is the significant spare on development and maintenance costs, thanks to a modular infrastructure. With the example of a recent work for a watch manufacturer, this blog post explains you in 4 points what added value an API can bring to your IT environment.

Context: a manufacturer’s production line without a central server

We were recently involved in the digital transformation of a manufacturer’s production line. The main issue of this manufacturer was control-desktops that were not centrally managed. In consequence, for each code change, an update was required on each control-desktop. It was an expensive and time-consuming process.

Production line - A

This image represents a production line with standalone control-desktops, and their costly maintenance routines.

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TEDxCERN: Don’t be afraid of technology

Technology is just a tool! In one of the most prestigious place for researches, brilliant scientists shared their inspiration during a whole afternoon. Ripples of curiosity was the theme. This is my report of the conference.

Some people travel to visit the CERN, whereas I had never been there. It is not an impressive building lost in the middle of a green field in the countryside of Geneva like I pictured it. It is lost in a suburban area and the building is not high. Rather, it has long, never-ending corridors filled with doors leading to little offices. It’s very quiet, people whispers there. It looks nothing like the big open space that I am used to. However the people I listened too, have the same conviction about their projects.

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