Welcome to our monthly series that features interviews with the people behind Matmatch. In October, we had a conversation with Melissa Albeck to know more about the Matmatch brand. This time we interviewed Christian Uhl, Head of Engineering, to get insights into the process of product development. Chris specialises in software development, the agile approach, cloud computing and search optimisation. We spoke to Chris about his background, his work at Matmatch, and the platform itself. Read on to find out more.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background.
I’ve always liked devices and computers. When I was a kid, I played with old computers and experimented with them. At 18 years old I trained to become a systems administrator, but during this time I started writing software too. That made me realise that software development was really the direction I wanted to go in.
After graduating from Hochschule Augsburg with a degree in Computer Science, I took a Junior Developer role at MOBIWORX Telematik. But after three years I felt ready to move on and joined codecentric AG, a software consultancy based in Munich.
I worked on many different projects but was focused on the aspect of search – especially in the travel and banking sectors. Search is such a well-understood feature that has been executed so well by Google and other big players that you can’t get away with bad search experience. Search is also a fun problem to try and solve.
How did you get to know about Matmatch?
Well, it all started with one phone call. I knew Cornelius, Chief Product Officer at Matmatch, from a previous project on which I was a consultant. He told me about Matmatch and their ambitious vision. It sounded interesting, and he asked if I would consider joining the team. It took me less than a week to decide that I wanted to be the part of the company.
What specifically attracted you to join Matmatch?
There were three things – firstly, the opportunity to shape things. Secondly, the chance to join a company with great values. And third, the fact that the leadership team had a clear business plan.
For me, the personality of the company is important. Values and people shape everything, so it’s vital to set clear values and build the right team from the start. Hey, we spend 8 hours a day here, so we want to foster a great working climate.
You’ve hired a full engineering team now. When interviewing, what qualities did you look for in potential candidates?
I looked for people with strong sense of curiosity, distinct values around quality, and a desire for personal improvement. I also value diversity. Not only in terms of culture or ethnicity, but diversity of thoughts and experiences. So, we have a common set of values garnished by different sets of experiences.
What is your management style?
I like to bring people together and help them to succeed. I learned how to do it in my consulting job, where I benefited from having great managers. The key is enabling them to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and showing them clear paths and goals. Show them what is expected and let them achieve it.
I also learned a little bit about conflict resolution in my last role. When people are passionate, they sometime clash. So you have to remember that they’re not trying to be difficult – they’re just showing that they care deeply about the issue.
What is your approach to software development?
Our project management approach is agile – in fact, the company as a whole is based on agile values. And that’s a key point – the agile framework is a set of values, not a method. Agile values promote the ideas of collaboration, adapting the plan, and embracing changes. You see, the nature of software is unpredictable. You never know how it will perform or how users will interact with it. In many cases, assumptions are wrong. To find out what works for users, what interests them most is a matter of time. That is why you have to stay flexible and open to changes.
And in your opinion, what are the main benefits of the agile approach?
The agile approach makes people collaborate, discuss and find the ways how to produce the best version of the product. It is all about rounds of refining. In the end we can deliver a truly high-quality product.
How do you see this working at Matmatch?
Well, we know the overall direction for the product – we want to build the world’s first online materials platform that connects engineers, product designers and procurement teams with the best materials and suppliers for their projects. We are keeping the big picture static while being ready to adapt to the new things that might come up along the way.
Not a single piece of code we produce goes live without at least a second person reviewing it, which ensures quality. It also enables knowledge sharing, so all members of our team can learn from each other. Every engineer in our team is capable of working on all aspects of our platform.
What is your favorite feature of the Matmatch platform?
Well, while it’s not a particular feature, the thing I’m most happy about is that the system is running like a well-oiled machine. I’ve not received any automated alerts about production issues or downtime so far!
I also like to fact that we’re building something that adds value for so many people. If you manufacture a car, you’re designing it to be used by one or two people at the same time. But if you build a software platform, hundreds and thousands of people will be using it at the same time. Day or night – there is always someone using the platform. That’s how I make an impact.
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