The principles that keep us together

– a manifesto at our 20 year anniversary –

20 years ago, I and my business partner Dorin decided to leave the company where we were working as software engineers and start our own software development company.

For me, personally, what matters about a company’s legacy – more than the brilliant product idea, the carefully drafted business plan, or simply the intuition to make the most of a good market opportunity – is the true motivation that lays behind the shiny slogans and polished facade.

The simple truth is that we weren’t business owners back then. We weren’t entrepreneurs. We started by being employees, back in the days when software developers in Iasi had a harder life than people today imagine.

As maybe some of you remember, 2001 was the year after the dot-com bubble burst and inevitably, its waves hit our part of the world, too. In Iasi, job opportunities in IT were fewer than ever and developer work was poorly paid. Although we were pinned on the regional map as a vibrant “university town”, young IT&C graduates who weren’t set on finding a job in western European countries or even overseas, had only two or three local IT companies to choose from.

With such few options, and an employment legislation still in its infancy, it happened more than often for salary payments to be delayed, or for employees to be treated poorly.

This situation led us to see how the company we were working at was slowly drained out of its best people, exceptionally good professionals, who were choosing to leave. It was heart-breaking to see all that talent go.

You know how the business jargon is full of bombastic words sometimes, and phrases like “people are the greatest asset that a company has” certainly sound like that. But I swear it was the moment I realized that this one was, actually, very true. For me, that was the turning point.

A promise that may sound cliché…

So, together with my business partner, we made the decision to start our own company, where developers would be treated like human beings, and we convinced a core team of great people to join us in this new venture.

In the end, I can honestly say, as commonplace as it may sound, that we started RomSoft with this promise: we will continuously invest in people.

We started encouraging people to develop their skills, and at the same time we allocated funds for courses and trainings. We motivated people to get together and exchange knowledge and ideas, and also granted paid days off when they had important upcoming professional exams. As much as possible, we tried to inspire a continuous learning attitude among our team members.

At the same time, we knew that with learning and experimenting may come certain mistakes that anybody can make. We tried to encourage a constructive attitude towards failure, and support people when that happened, as long as lessons were learned and progress was noticeable on medium-long term.

Later on, came a second promise: to keep communication channels open at all times.

We’ve always been this flat hierarchy company where ideas and initiative are encouraged, but along the way I realized that people need tangible instruments that they can interpret as a “safe place” in order to open up.

To give just one example, a few years ago we initiated a program called MOOOD (management one-on-one day) – a day every month when I clear up my schedule for anybody who wants to come in and have an honest talk about anything career, work environment, or profession related.

A third promise that we made in those “wild-wild west” like days, was to pursue excellence in everything we do.

Looking back, none of our titles or certifications were obtained in order to show off, or to check an item on a list. The idea was to use them as much as we could, to improve the development process and to raise the technical level of our team.

We wanted to help our people grow their skills set, so that they could have information at their fingertips. We wanted to be able to deliver the most elegant, optimal solutions to our customers’ challenges.

Today we are proud of our 10+ years of Microsoft Partnership that come to validate our continued individual and team efforts that serve both the company and each of its members.

Anyway, it is clear to me that from these honest, gut felt promises that we’ve made in those early days, we derived our RomSoft values, and the core of our business philosophy.

Our core values

Here’s a quick overview of our company values, which you can explore in more detail on our website:

Continuous learning

At RomSoft, we always did and always will encourage continuous learning, and give people the best tools to keep on learning throughout their entire RomSoft career.

Knowledge sharing

We encourage knowledge sharing as an alternate form of continuous learning, as we believe that the best ideas come in collaboration, from people who are not afraid to share their vision and inspire others.

Cultivating quality

I know that quality is a term that can easily become overused, especially in the IT industry. That’s why we prefer to measure it through sound reference systems, like our ISO-9001 certified Quality Management System; or our long-term Microsoft partnership. Either way, we care deeply about quality in everything we do.

Engaged people = productive team = happy customers

Finally, I would add a fourth item on the list. Maybe principle is too much said, but it is something that I believe sets us apart. We encourage developer autonomy as much as possible, giving people enough safe space to be creative, to learn, and to find the optimum solutions to challenges ahead.

Following this idea, when we define our development process we take into account the team characteristics, the project requirements and our customer’s business culture. We don’t blindly apply methodologies and frameworks just because they are popular. In our development process, all elements must come together in a functional ecosystem, where creativity meets performance and professionalism.

To sum it all, we honestly believe that engaged people lead to a productive team and a happy customer.

That’s why we prefer to build long term partnerships with our customers. These partnerships are a special breed of business agreements, where risks and benefits are shared equally among the partners. It is the type of collaboration that allowed us to make the shift from being just another outsourcing provider to being a product development company and a research center for our customers.

As a final thought, I don’t want to put out there a misleading message. No matter the principles or the business culture, some people will leave the company. And some people did leave RomSoft, in search of a different career, a particular job or experience that we just couldn’t offer, or simply to start their own business venture.

But we did our best to stay true to our initial promises and to the principles that emerged from them.

There were quite a few times when those principles were tested, like the 2008 financial crisis, the 2018 fiscal system change, or the more recent 2020 Coronavirus crisis. As bad as these moments were, we always put people first and got to the other end together. And I hope that my teammates can confirm that nobody was ever left behind.