Growing at high-speed while keeping our culture

March 2016, two years ago there were 38 of us in the IT development department of Coolblue. As a company we grew very fast and our backlogs were long and expanding. We had to do something about that and we decided that we wanted to hire 100 more developers. And we did!

The IT development team and the IT recruitment team have worked closely together and at the moment we are a team of 130 coders, growing with 5-10 every month.
What kind of people? Well, with PHP skills, C#, Node.js and Delphi. People with UX skills, but also system engineers, since we manage our own hardware. Business analists and data scientists who analyse our data and many others.

People often ask us , how do you manage to grow this fast as an IT team? Great that you are able to find all these people, but once they are on the team how do you manage to work well together? Good question and for us this question has a list of answers. Let’s discuss a few.

Picture of scrum session


One of the answers lies in the recruitment itself. And it’s not just about hiring the greatest engineers. As every company, we try to find the best people, medior or senior people who have been working in their specific profession for a while. But besides the fact that you need to be skilled to work in our team, we also want you to fit our team, our culture. Why? It’s like selecting a soccer team, to get great results we need great teams. Not a bunch of individuals that like to show off. A great team passes the ball to one another, so that someone in a good position can score a goal. For that we need team players, people that know when to score themselves and when to help others to score.


Another answer I can give is our development process. We use scrum, like almost every successful IT team. I know, that’s not original at all! But for us it’s really a root cause why we can work efficiently together. Why is scrum so useful for us? Everyone knows it and in the rare cases when this isn’t true, you can buy a book or go on a course and learn it quickly. The more we do it, the more we get experience with it.

Picture of scrum board


We manage our growth through the way we deal with things that go wrong. We use this phrase “every day a little bit better”, very often. What does it mean exactly in Coolblue? Well, we fail every day, when making code, when releasing code, when configuring a server or when making changes in the way we organise ourselves.

But we really focus on making small steps. We do continuous deployment, releasing daily several times with small adaptations to our software. So yes, our site and our internal systems go down once in awhile. But when it happens we make small mistakes, when the site fails because of a release, it is only for a few minutes because we have scripts to roll-back very quickly. When we release functionality that doesn’t make the lives of our users easier, it is probably in an A/B test so we notice it before the functionality is all over the site. Or when we try to work in a different way together as a team, we normally start with a pilot. Our new feedback system (replacing appraisals) is being trialed with a few teams before everyone uses it. When things go wrong, we don’t react by blaming each other or with other nasty reactions. We evaluate what went wrong and we try to learn, to do a little better the next time. This ensures we are not afraid of failing and since we are not afraid, we dare to change fast and therefore learn fast.

There are more answers to the question on how we manage to grow so fast as an IT team without falling apart, but these are some of the major ones. I hope it is clear that we’re not perfect, nor are we magicians. But we are a talented team, not afraid to talk about the mistakes we make. We’re open to each other and try to work together as well as we can. Our plans for the future? We’ll find another 100 people to join our team. So if you happen to be a great engineer, please take a look at our website and who knows, in a few weeks you might be part of one of the greatest IT teams in the Netherlands!

Anneke Keller

Picture of Anneke Keller