André, what does working as an iOS Engineer in Product Development at Urban Sports Club look like?
I’m part of the OneFit team, so our app is separate from and designed differently to the Urban Sports Club app. My main responsibilities are developing the app for Apple devices and managing releases to the App Store. Our team also uses agile methodology, meaning that everything I work on is organized and delivered in 2 week intervals, whether it’s new features for our members or app performance improvements.
Writing code is just one part of my job. Our app development is time-sensitive, so we try to be as proactive as possible. What use is a smooth check-in process if it doesn’t work when our members need it, right? So analytics, logs and usage data are a big part of my role too, as they highlight the nitty gritty details of what’s happening in the app while it’s being used. This enables me to determine the best way to solve a problem or improve a function, and this data helps me prioritize what to work on first, which is often a joint effort with our product managers.
Needless to say, collaboration is fundamental in this role. The product has a lot of moving parts that are overseen by different people in our cross-functional team. I’ll often brainstorm with design, align on policy with our product manager, finalize data formats with a backend engineer and discuss edge cases with the QA analyst — all in one day
How do you and your team ensure smooth collaboration when working remotely?
My team is remote-first by design since we’re all based in different locations. I’m in The Netherlands, some are in Germany and one colleague lives in India. So a productive remote-work experience is in the best interests of all of us and we achieve this by communicating often and honestly, sharing progress in team meetings, asking for help or support when needed and sharing availability and upcoming time off.
We try to keep the number of meetings as efficient as possible and to a minimum – so throw in a daily dose of banter and it works pretty well, I’d say. I cycle to the Amsterdam office twice a week to see my colleagues in person and have some laughs over lunch.
What achievement are you most proud of?
In a previous company I stepped out of my comfort zone and wore two hats at the same time, which was a huge professional achievement for me. I took on the role of iOS engineer and UX designer simultaneously to create and publish a new app for very specific markets (Brazil and Ukraine agribusiness). I designed a tool that collected information from farming equipment sensors in areas with no internet connection using a mix of Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
I interviewed stakeholders in person at a number of farms in Brazil to really shape the app in alignment with their realities and needs. It was a very humbling experience to have my assumptions as an engineer challenged. In the end, I got to test the final product in a moving tractor while it was harvesting a huge, endless wheat field — how cool is that? The app is still live in selected markets and some of the work is featured in Apple’s Higher Education website, which really makes me smile.
How do you stay motivated and focussed even in challenging times?
My number one hack for better focus is unloading my mind and pending tasks (and I mean all of them, not just work) into a to-do list before my first cup of coffee. I need to open up that mental space in order to channel my energy, get things done and generally avoid being scatterbrained and overwhelmed — which is quite a win in itself given the past couple of years.
Another trick is creating and committing to “decompressing routines” and treating them the same way as important meetings that can’t be skipped. It’s not just our laptops that need recharging, right? My favorite routine is cycling with no specific destination while listening to pop music. Getting the blood pumping to feel-good music for a couple of hours just does it for me, and extra points if it’s disco!
What’s your personal interpretation of our value “challenge yourself and others”?
To me, it’s about defying the status quo and trying new things to get better results. “The bar is there to be raised, not to draw a line,” a dear former director of mine used to say. It can be intimidating to push for change when everything is so intertwined and many people and departments will be affected, but every time I propose something new to my team, I’m always met with encouragement and offers to help. It just shows how open-minded and progressive our work culture is at Urban Sports Club. Sometimes all it takes is a spark!