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Growing Experts

It's hard to teach core values. You can explain them, you can reinforce them, and you can repeat them—but if they don't resonate with a job candidate, it's unlikely you've found a good fit.

The hiring pool of people who are capable of learning OSP design and how to use our software to serve customers is huge. We have incredible teammates who studied art, biology, poetry, and history. A lot of our rockstars are exceptional gamers. We once had an intern calling make ready in six weeks while he was on a break from college.

However, the hiring pool of people who are attracted to and exemplify our core values is much, much smaller.

So we don't tend to hire industry experts. We try to grow them instead. 

There's an increasing demand for OSP design and make ready work. With funding flooding the market for broadband deployment, our industry needs great people who do great work, and we need them yesterday. 

For those who didn't start planting those seeds years ago, we're working on a project to help train and equip new staff to get up to speed and contribute massive value in as few weeks as possible.

One way to measure the success of such a program is by charting typical run rates for beginner, experienced, and all-star staff. It means plotting out the time it takes to design a route, collect data, upload photos, and process those photos—all the way through annotation, make ready, and pole loading analysis

I couldn't track those numbers down easily, but we'll publish them soon. While the teams are digging them up, I think it may be worth highlighting some of the other things we tend to focus on to grow experts at Katapult:

  1. Hiring the right people. Have you ever been on a team that shared your values? Do you trust and admire your co-workers? Does the time you spend at work enrich your life outside of your compensation package? I don't think it's a new topic, but companies in every industry still seem to struggle to find the right people and get them into the right seats. It's magical when it happens.

  2. Getting the workflow right. A bad workflow can kill a great team. A few things we try to avoid: redundant data entry, batching time-sensitive tasks for convenience, doing work from the field that could be done safer and easier from the office... etc. Creativity regarding tools and workflows often provides us with more long-term gains than throwing more hours or bodies at the problem.

  3. Aligning interests. We're always looking for mutual wins. Mutual wins not only reduce friction but also keep us rowing in the same direction. We try to make the most attractive proposal for a client that is also a win for Katapult and a win for staff. This often takes work and can be uncomfortable, like "renegotiating" a contract, changing compensation structures, or reorganizing a team. While uncomfortable, these changes tend to result in massive personal and relational growth.

  4. Providing regular feedback/review. Timeliness and quality of feedback are hugely important for employee growth. The temptation is almost always to fix a mistake and just move on—but the investment in feedback almost always pays for itself if you have the right people. We built feedback and review tools into our software to incentivize teams to invest in growth—especially the teams that don't sit next to each other.

  5. Leading indicators. We try to set healthy targets and measurables. If possible, we prioritize measurement of things that are within teams' control and are a leading indicator of future success or failure. This also helps calibrate our instincts so we can sense when something is off before it's too late to do anything about it.

  6. Solving issues. It can be fun to track down the problems in our way and opportunities that come up. As long as you have good trust with your team, regularly solving issues quickly, creatively, and permanently will have a huge impact on results.

A lot of teams know their run rates cold. They know the KPIs and they may even know what they need to charge per unit—down to the penny—in order for a project to be profitable. This list isn't a replacement for that knowledge, but it might serve as a helpful complement. 

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