{Between brackets with… Roberto Nygaard, CTO Snap.hr}

Welcome to the first instalment of our new series of interviews. In the coming weeks, we’ll be speaking to leading tech figures in London and find out how they work effectively, how they manage their teams and reach new heights with the companies they lead.

What better way to kick off this new series than with an interview with our very own CTO Roberto Nygaard. Let’s find out how Roberto started Snap.hr, how he scaled it and what his plans are for our start-up in the coming years.

Roberto started his tech journey back in Tenerife, Spain, where he got his degree in Computer Science. With a desire to help his dad’s business by building him a website, Roberto took evening workshops in PHP to complement his studies. After working briefly as a consultant for Spanish businesses, he felt that his career could reach new heights and decided to make London his permanent home.

“Tech is a realm where whatever lies in your head can be achieved”

Roberto, together with Raoul Tawadey, founded Snap.hr in 2014. Having experienced the tech recruitment process first hand, they mutually agreed that, in its current state, the process was broken. They knew they could build a company that could benefit both the developers and tech companies alike and, in its initial state, Snap.hr was a job board where developers could easily find tech jobs based on their experience.

From its humble beginnings as a job board built by Roberto in PHP, the team decided to build a platform that would truly solve a candidate’s problems and a hiring company’s needs.

Roberto and his team synched with their partners – then iterated based on a feedback cycle they received: candidates wanted more features to showcase their experience and make them stand out to a hiring manager whereas companies wanted a profile which showcased their tech stack but also highlighted their culture to potential candidates. Following this process and also relying on his entrepreneurial spirit, Roberto was able to build a customer-centric platform, the version of Snap.hr that we have today. On Snap.hr candidates can quickly get access to stack and salary, can easily update their experience and can remain anonymous through the recruitment process. Companies can easily message candidates to arrange interviews and provide feedback to candidates.

Snap.hr’s stack, in its current state, is built in PHP and uses Ansible for server management and deployment, MySQL where Snap.hr has all its relational data; Redis for cache and ElasticSearch for, you guessed it… search! Deeper in the stack, we can find RabbitMQ as message broker (helps with the background tasks) and Neo4j for some of the more complex AI matching. Vagrant is used to enable developing in local, but a movement towards Docker has already started. Snap.hr front-end dev team currently codes in Vue.js.

Nowadays Roberto likes to code in PHPStorm – as it provides a really neat language/framework integration out-of-the-box as opposed to Atom or VS Code.  

“The key to a successful business is communication”

“Communication is important – don’t wait to use it until it’s too late.” As a CTO in a landscape filled with lone-wolf developers, Roberto made it his mission to be open with his team as he believes that all problems can be solved through good communication.

“I encourage everyone in my team to express their challenges as soon as they occur and as openly as possible. You can fix many issues before they escalate, but you need to be open to do so. As a manager of my dev team, I try to identify pain points in a process and offer advice – that way I feel that I strengthen the trust in my team.”

“Fail fast, fail smart is our motto for a reason”

Working on building new features takes project management, team meetings, goal settings and coordination. How does Roberto asses his team at the end of a project?

“With a successful project the conversation with your team is easier”, says Roberto. “You can define clear accountability – which team member was responsible for what – and give recognition where it’s due.”

“Failure is a good exercise for evaluation and I try to understand my team’s rationale in making the decisions that led to those unsatisfactory outcomes.”

It’s usual practice for Roberto to sit down and discuss with his team the path they took in a specific project, and what decisions they took along the way.

Where a project failed, the team narrows down each step to identify at which point something went wrong. “I feel that the lessons are bigger in failure, and the recovery is faster. My team members won’t learn if I tell them what to do so I encourage them to experiment and fail and they’re not afraid to do so. This way, I ensure their growth as developers.”

“I want the members of my team to keep growing as professionals”

Speaking about his influence on his team of developers, Roberto explains: “I have a direct impact on every member of my team, and I want them all to succeed in everything they do here at Snap.hr. I want to provide them with every single tool they need – I encourage them to attend conferences, schedule pair programming sessions, buy books or arrange intros to members of the tech community.

As a startup, we allocate resources for self-development, and substitute low-value tasks with those which have high impact in skill development, or fun new tech experiments that our devs can work on. This way Snap.hr will grow and my team will become better developers.”

Roberto also keeps 1-2-1’s on a weekly basis with each team member and has a weekly team feedback session.

“My life as the CTO of Snap.hr is all about making an impact”

“As a developer, I understand the landscape that our candidates live in and how difficult it is to find the right job based on personal and professional expectations. That’s why our mission is to make an impact in the tech industry and provide developers with the best recruitment experience.

We are helping candidates who sign up on our platform to progress in their profession – we’re working with their best interest in mind.

On the company side, we offer London’s best tech companies the chance to meet the most talented tech candidates which suit their mission and their culture.”

Speaking about the culture at Snap.hr, he feels that “the culture here is relaxed, yet professional; inclusive, respectful and entrepreneurial. I’m proud that we have built a team of people committed to personal development and we encourage them to learn new technologies every day.”

“You shouldn’t struggle with the things you love doing”

“I haven’t felt like I’ve been working in the last 7 years – it’s true what they say, that if you love what you do then it doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do and I’m proud of what we’ve built here at Snap.hr.”

“Never settle – keep pushing, keep achieving your goals”

Roberto describes himself as a pragmatic perfectionist. As a developer and a CTO, he embraces tough challenges and loves to set high expectations. “If it doesn’t feel hard, it’s probably not worth it”.

He sees Snap.hr becoming the leading tech recruitment platform, not only in London but also further afield. Most of all, he wants Snap.hr to be known as a transparent platform that respects both a candidate’s interests and a company’s hiring needs.

“I admire the people who create a way of life out of their passions”

Asked about the people he admires, Roberto says that Elon Musk is one of the figures he’s inspired by. He sees Elon Musk as a complex thinker and he admires his entrepreneurial side. Roberto is also inspired by Casey Neistat, the American Youtube personality. “I admire Casey as he’s the master of articulating ideas – he truly has a gift for communicating his thoughts to the public.”

Roberto’s recommended tech reading list

https://www.percona.com/blog/  

https://engineering.tumblr.com/

https://blog.discordapp.com/tagged/engineering

A recycling hero

When he’s away from his computer or from our Snap.hr office, Roberto’s a vocal advocate for recycling. As an islander, he started scuba diving daily. It was when he saw all the rubbish settled on the seabed that he became more concerned with recycling.

“I started to educate myself about which materials are biodegradable and which ones aren’t and I only use the less harmful ones. People need to understand that some plastic items can take hundreds of years to decompose – and even then, they’re actually just transforming into micro-plastics which are still extremely harmful, so why would someone leave that on the bottom of the sea?”. He is happy that this generation is becoming more and more conscious about this matter and thinks we are still on time to fix the issue.

Roberto’s currently training for the New York marathon in November by running a few half marathons a week. He also has a passion for photography, uploads daily to his Insta and he normally shoots with a manual focus 14mm lens. Follow him on Instagram at @topikito.

Who would you like us to interview next?

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