Reflections after 1 month of Working at Volvo Cars
I joined Volvo Cars exactly one month ago and here are the 2 most interesting and unique things I’ve observed so far:
1. On the road workstations
While the rest of the world is still trying to figure out sensible remote work policies, we already have a great next-level policy in place: all employees are required to work from the car or as we call it internally “on the road”. Initially this came to me as a surprise because I could not for the life of me figure out how to work on my laptop while sitting in the car. But soon I learned that all on the road workstations are equipped with Wifi connection and have a clever usage of the in-car camera and screen to support Zoom/Teams calls. The car GPS, built-in microphone and camera are used for the Advanced Employee Monitoring (AEM) at all times.
While some companies buy expensive brand chairs to motivate employees to come back to the office, Volvo fully capitalised on its reputation building comfortable car seats. This way of working solves multiple other issues. No more freezing or sweating at the office due to different people’s different tolerance. Social distancing is not necessary when you’re the only one in the car. And best of all, one can listen to loud music while coding without distracting others. No one can tap on your shoulders and distract you. The doors are locked and you’re in a civilian class armored vehicle!
I have to admit during the interview process I had my doubts about leaving my home office but after trying the on the road workstations for a month, there’s no way I’m going back. If I didn’t have a family, I would sleep in the car.
The best part is the lunch break! I usually grab some burgers from McDollands drive through. That way I can eat at my comfortable desk while listening to music.
Sometimes I have lunch together with colleagues. We just drive through together and then park next to each other and chitchat over the VC. This is especially handy in Swedish cold weather. Love it.
Did I mention that all the on the road workstations are fully electric?
2. Drive your code
I came to Volvo Cars directly after working with the media sector for 6 years. Media companies have a very high risk appetite due to the nature of the product. The worst that can happen is that the site goes down. No one dies, if you know what I mean.
This allows media companies to go wild with technology. I recall using Node.js when it was still in beta. GraphQL? We used it before it was even publicly announced! Looking around, there were at least 100 languages and technologies in production. The first 3 years were cool and dandy but then I constantly felt the urge to jump on the next big thing. “New” was all the rage when working with the “news”. Towards the end it was exhausting to play catch with technology. I really wanted to cool down and focus on myself. A sabbatical of some sort. I wanted a job that pays for little effort.
So when the chance arose to join a car company, I didn’t hesitate a second!
- Having worked with Robotics, I knew that the integration between hardware and software is a source of stagnation that slows down everything and creates lots of room for “breathing”.
- Having worked with health care, I knew how the high impact of the risk can scare away any feature development that remotely smells like a threat to patient safety.
A car company is the ultimate 2-in-1 combo package. Even more so for a company which takes pride in safety. The general strategy is this:
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!
Our backlog contains bug fixes and is completely clean from any feature work.
We have a “you write it, you drive it” policy which has a huge impact on code quality and lifecycle. Here’s how it works: instead of making a PR and seeking approval, we develop bug free code and merge to master directly like a boss! “What!?” I hear you say. Remember the “on the road workstations”? Every line of code you write will be tested by you on the very vehicle you are driving. That way the company ensures that every developer does their best to avoid any bugs. Bugs can literally be deadly. To avoid cheating, the car only runs the code while it is driving (compile is possible when the vehicle is parked).
I developed a new skill to mentally run the code in my head more than running it on the car computer. Is it slow? Yes. Does it lead to safer products? Absofuckinglutely! That is what it takes to write bug free code.
Of course due to the hazards of dying while driving the code, the company fully covers any accident cost and has a generous life insurance policy.
It had only been a month but I’ve had 2 close calls. I am very impressed though. Due to fatality and inefficiency, we are expanding the Stockholm office. 700 more people (to be exact) are needed to keep us cruising at the current speed smashing bugs. If you have mastered the art of writing bug free code and want to get your red stapler, here’s your path to the future: https://jobs.volvocars.com/