Techfolio: Effective Inside and Out

by Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea
06 Apr 2017

Guided by business sustainability, software excellence, and social and economic justice, ThoughtWorks has brought amazing positive changes in the communities where they have set up business

ThoughtWorks has a truly flat culture, Anshul Garg, head of professional services at ThoughtWorks’ Singapore office, explains. So every ThoughtWorker – that’s how the members of the company are called – is empowered to drive initiatives based on his or her personal interest and passion, and encouraged to share, learn and innovate together, he elaborates.

This has organically grown into a number of initiatives, such as ‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions, organised by ThoughtWorkers to share and learn on topics that can range from new technologies to interesting hobbies.

Another initiative is the Makers Night group, where consultants get together to brainstorm things they want to build or create. This group has created a robot cocktail machine, ‘hacked’ the office door to make it easier to welcome guests, and is currently planning to voice enable their new office.

A robot that makes cocktails? Where do we sign up?

ThoughtWorks provides tech-drive services in finance, global health, government and retail. It is focused on working with companies that are looking to take a bold approach through technology to differentiate themselves in the market.

“We work with business executives and technology leaders to build solutions that change customer experiences, reduce time to market, and improve operational efficiency,” says Garg.

“ThoughtWorks’ diverse client portfolio spans most global industries and those listed above are just a few. Some projects that we’ve implemented for clients include building digital banking platforms, developing natural language programming solutions, transforming an organizations’ approach to technology and implementing the agile approach.

ThoughtWorks has 4,000 employees working in 40 offices in 14 countries around the world. “Our client portfolio is diverse with no single industry contributing the bulk of our revenue. In Singapore, we have more than 85 employees, and we work closely with clients from a wide range of industries, including finance, public sector, consumer goods and services, tech and manufacturing to name a few.”

As the head of professional services at ThoughtWorks Singapore, Garg manages the professional services team, which today comprises about 60 consultants, and is growing fast.

“My role spans two main areas,” explains Garg. “Firstly, I define and manage the project teams for client engagements. I ensure the right people are on each client project, and the team is well supported and delivering to the highest standard.

“Secondly, we are heavily focused on capability and skills development through role rotation on projects. Giving consultants the opportunity to expand their skillsets and gain exposure by taking on varying roles is critical. We also send our consultants to training courses, workshops, events, conferences and global assignments. This is an investment in our people to grow them holistically, and is part of the reason why ThoughtWorks has been so successful, as we create the best tech teams by championing a diverse and inclusive culture.”

ThoughtWorks encourages its people to focus on goal of the project that they work on, rather on their specific role, and to find ways how they can contribute towards meeting those goals. This results in team’s best work, value for clients and exceptional project delivery, Garg elaborates.

Formally, ThoughtWorks is built on three pillars – first on business sustainability, second on software excellence, and, finally, on social and economic justice. “The social and economic justice pillar is a key focus for us globally, and every region has conversations and activities that drive towards supporting this pillar.”

The founding principle around economic and social justice is very relevant to the workplace, where it sparks debates and conversations about issues that everyone faces as individuals in the community, and in the world at large, he adds.

In Singapore, for example, ThoughtWorks has worked with the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) to reduce the huge manual workload of fundraising during flag days. “Using technology, we built a solution to automate many of the process and ease management of volunteers during flag days.” The solution has since been used by multiple associations.

ThoughtWorks is also giving back to the broader IT community in Singapore by engaging with local tertiary institutions to bridge the gap between academic learning and real world skills through joint curriculum development that brings students on-site to work on client projects and holding seminars to share learnings.

“This is an inherent part of our culture, where ThoughtWorkers are encouraged not only to share and learn for personal or organizational benefit, but also to help build the broader IT community in Singapore and better the world we live in.

What makes ThoughtWorks stand out from peer companies? “From a technology perspective, ThoughtWorks strives for technical excellence. Many of our senior technologists are known in the industry for the books they author, their part in creating the agile manifesto, and their thought leadership across industries.

Championing diversity and inclusion has always been a key value at ThoughtWorks, adds Garg. “Diversity brings significant benefits to an organisation, as individual experiences, backgrounds, and values can contribute to differing views to create the best results.”