By INSAAF DANIELS and GERHARD NORTJE
As businesses around the world accelerate their digital transformation strategies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, specialist enterprise retail software developer redPanda Software has intensified its strategy to put people front and centre and is actively scouring the landscape looking for new talent.
RedPanda provides highly customised software solutions to leading retailers around the world, including top FMCG retailers in Africa. The agile and rapidly growing business maintains this growth momentum through boldly developing long-term partnerships with its customers. This, says redPanda CEO Gareth Hawkey, would not be possible without building long-term relationships with its staff.
Hawkey says that people are redPanda’s most important asset. “We are a services company and have built our business on transparent and mutually beneficial relationships with our customers. This is only possible if we have an internal team that is not only technically brilliant but also growth orientated. Because of this, we are constantly on the lookout for what we like to call A-team players,” he says.
He explains that by investing in team players and helping them grow in the organisation, redPanda can deliver exceptional application solutions to its customers. This, he says, helps customers become more efficient and profitable, which leads to more software needs further down the road, and yet more growth opportunities for redPanda’s staff. “This self-fulfilling cycle of growth is the nucleus of our company culture, and what we stand for,” explains Hawkey.
Head of human capital at redPanda Insaaf Daniels says that while there is a certain skill level required, attitude is one of the most revered traits at redPanda. “We want people who are passionate because when we hire someone, we intrinsically believe in them and their capabilities and so we back them and create an environment where they can share ideas and grow.
“As the company grows, our employees grow too – not just on a personal level but also professionally, as part of a career growth plan which includes upskilling in the areas people want to move into,” she says.
Gerhard Nortje, redPanda operations director, says that because of the company’s established partnerships, new customers and the healthy new business pipeline, the business no longer just advertises jobs and waits. “This is outmoded. We are always searching for people who are a culture fit, meaning they want to be part of something bigger, they desire to be part of our growth story, and they thrive in autonomous or self-managed teams. When we become aware of these people, we actively target them,” he says.
Echoing the sentiments of Hawkey, Nortje says that the actual job spec is less important than the applicant. For instance, redPanda looks at senior, midlevel or junior developers, irrespective of their coding language. If the culture fit is right, there is space in the team for them. “In addition to developers of all types, we target software architects, development project managers, business analysts and quality assurance personnel, among others,” he says.
He adds that potential applicants often cite the working environment as one of the main reasons they reach out to redPanda, which by virtue of its client base offers international exposure, alongside long-term enterprise projects, as one of its most attractive attributes. “Many people are tired of being micro-managed, or they have families and children and seek a greater work-life balance. Sometimes they want to become specialists in certain areas, and they approach us because of our internal culture and systems. We will look at them, as much as we will look at juniors who are new to the industry if they have a self-starter attitude and passion to learn.”
Diversity in all its guises underpins the people strategy at redPanda, from culture to career development, and from interests to location – there are offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as remote work opportunities. “People first, job spec second,” says Nortje. “We often find the right candidate first and then slot them into the right team and role.”