On November 24, 2014, I got the train up from Winchester to London for the very first day of the IBM Cloud Garage London (it was then actually called IBM Bluemix Garage).
Back then, we didn't even have an office; we were squatting in a meeting room in the Algorithmics building at Canary Wharf. I hadn't moved to London or transferred from my previous team yet. Nobody knew whether the Garage would still be around in six months—it was an MVP and we were prepared to fail fast.
It was a fantastic experience to start something brand new. We were able to decide our working hours (including a 10am start, which we still follow) and the tools that we use. I remember debating at the end of 2014 whether we should set up HipChat or Slack for communications. We picked Slack and were one of the first teams at IBM using it. Five years later, it is ubiquitous throughout the company.
One of the great things about working at the Garage is the incredible variety of projects that we get involved in. From stealth mode startups with just a couple of employees to huge multi-national corporations; from banking and retail to conservation, rehabilitation hospitals, and even a blind marathon runner.
Three key things to help scale a startup
Scaling a startup like the Garage can be difficult. The values of the organisation that are vivid for the original team can get diluted as it grows. Despite growing to 15 Garages worldwide, I am very happy that we have managed to overcome this. I think there are three key things that have helped:
- We have codified our methodology. Importantly, this includes culture as well as design and engineering practices.
- We have worked hard to maintain open communication and to build a community. We are big on colocation within individual Garages and tools like Slack. Regular video calls with our colleagues around the world help us scale this. We bring new hires together for bootcamps, where they learn the method and get to know each other.
- We are very fussy about who we hire. Our hiring process focuses much more on the ability to innovate, learn, and collaborate than on specific technical skills. We have built a team who believe in our mission.
From that first day in the London Garage through to today, I see that same ability to experiment and dissatisfaction with the status quo. It's what keeps us at the cutting edge and will ensure that we thrive for the next five years.
This blog is a part of a series celebrating the fifth anniversary of the IBM Cloud Garage.
To learn more about the IBM Cloud Garage, find our story, resources, and method here. If you would like to see how the IBM Cloud Garage can help your business, schedule a cost-free, four-hour virtual visit with us. We’d love to help you turn that idea into a reality.