March 30, 2017 Lars Kruse   Praqma

Turning 40

Praqma is turning a sharp corner in high speed

Praqma is turning 40 - at the age of nine. Looking back it seems like it has been a relative slow start, but at this point we’re moving at the speed of 2+ employees per month.

Praqma started out 9 years ago - and now we’ve just turned 40 - employees. In a way it’s been a long journey here - and in another sense it has been really short.

The company was founded in November 2007, a few months later, the finance crisis was announced in Denmark.

Crisis? what crisis?

We grew to six people within the first year - and then; From one day to the next, no one was buying services from no one. Even companies who were relatively unaffected by the crisis ceased all activity. As one of our customers at the time (and still) stated it:

We’re not a company in crisis, we’re a company in a crisis

What they meant was, They weren’t really feeling the crisis themselves, but since everyone else was in panic mode, they’d just go into panic mode as well.

Everyone was in a crisis.

We grew to eight people and stayed there for the next 4-5 years until 2012. During that period we were suffering. We basically had work for 6 people but we believed that we could ride it off, and we didn’t fire anybody.

Since we didn’t have any investors behind us with a pile of money, everything was financed by the two partner and owners; Leif and Lars. Some months we would bring our saved up money to work, to pay out salaries to our employees, and at the same time we didn’t even take out wages for ourselves.

Why the world needs Praqma

Both Leif and Lars had previously worked as consultants and run consultancy businesses before, and we knew the business pretty well. But none of us were really impressed with the way many consultancy bureaus herded consultants like cattle. Essentially delivering hired help rather than experts.

We wanted to build a company, where the consultants should be colleagues with each other, not their customers, we wanted to build a work place and an office where our employees should sit an work together, and then access customers remotely.

We wanted to build a company where we would like to work ourselves,

We would be experts and Do The Right Thing, building reusable software, sharing it as open source and we would facilitate the customers. But we would not become a body shop - never. We would deliver services not people, we would work with our customer’s own resources, not replace them.

And everything we did, should be about making software better and software development processes more efficient - by utilizing tools in the process.

That’s still our vision, but back then, the world wasn’t really ready for that approach. DevOps wasn’t even a word and agile was all about training scrum masters and shaping organizations. Not a lot of companies had seen that automation, testing and anything as code was the way forward. So we struggled some more, carrying the weight of our ideals and a few too many employees we couldn’t find work to.

First achievements

Despite the slow progress we were gradually finding ourselves.

Early in our endeavor we built a pretty amazing pipeline at a large medical company, building embedded software using a tool called “Hudson” at a time where most people still doubted that it would ever catch fire. Everyone advised us to go with the de facto standard at the time; “CruiseControl”.

We managed to convince this customer to follow our recommendation and invest in building their process on top of this new Open Source tool, despite the fact that it required several man months of work, in their own QA department to get their new process documented and FDA approved.

On that account, we also managed to build a reputation for ourselves in the Hudson community, and we built our first plugin for Hudson; the “ClearCase UCM plugin” which automated the entire integration process - if you were on ClearCase.

During this development project, the Hudson community had their beef with Oracle and Jenkins was forked off from Hudson, we blindly followed the original creator and our benevolent dictator Kosuke Kawaguchi. We contributed more than 12 plugins to Jenkins in the following years and we started hosting the Jenkins community in Scandinavia with the Jenkins User Events.

We had found ourselves: We were making money on developing Open Source tools, we were giving advice and facilitation to prestigious industry leaders, we we’re mostly working from our own offices, and we were engaging and building the community where the cool kids hung out.

Building the Continuous Delivery Community

2012 was a turning point for us. For five years we had struggled to explain the work-smarter-not-harder paradigm of automating development processes, then, to our aid, buzz words like DevOps, Continuous Integration and later Continuous Delivery started to be adopted. It started to look like we had managed to put our bets on a technology, that actually managed to cross the chasm. And we were the cool techie innovators.

So after having been around for five years - our company turned into a startup. The world was ready, and we were charged.

The community grew bigger, but it wasn’t just CI servers any more.

In 2014 we had been running Jenkins User Events for a couple of years, and now we organized our first Continuous Delivery Conference in Copenhagen. The year after we expanded the conference to Oslo and Stockholm, where we had opened offices with enthusiastic entrepreneurs running local Praqma cells. We had even put boots on the ground in Aarhus.

I made the first draft for this blog post in October 2016 - My thought was that I wanted to release it for our 9th birthday on November 1st - the working title was “Turning 30”. We were only 28 when I started the draft, but we have had some really good interviews with applicants and we thought that we just might make it: turn 30 on our 9th birthday.

At the day, we were actually 32 and we have been hiring at the speed of 2+ per month since then. Today we’re more than 40.

Growing pains? Who are we?

Recently we have started a series of what we call cultural interviews, where we spend an hour with each employee, asking “Who are we?”, “What is Praqma to you?”, “Why are you here?” and that kind of questions, and we’re so proud when what we here is mostly statements like: “Praqma is like a family”, “The colleagues are fantastic”, “We’re really helping our customers” and “I’ve never learned so much in such a short amount of time, as my time here in Praqma”.

For more than 8 years we haven’t lost a single employee to the market. Not one has left us and we’re receiving job applications almost daily. Applications from highly experienced and skilled long time professionals as well as fresh graduates - all with a desire to work specifically in the area of Continuous Delivery. Some of them has sought us out from Poland, UK, New Zealand, relocating just to come an work with us.

Today we’re present in Copenhagen Stockholm, Oslo, Aarhus, Gothenburg, Odense and next month we’re putting boots on the ground in Malmoe.

This is happening while most other companies are struggling for months - even years - to occupy their vacant positions in this field.

We have always believed that, who you are, is more important than how you became who you are. We pay little attention to peoples CVs when they apply. The most important factor is the radiation we feel from the coders - the continuous deliverers.

People really shine in Praqma.

We’re so damn proud.