Our company values influence everything that we do, from the way we work with our clients, to how we spend our time outside of work hours. We sat down with Mobile First’s Founder, Lee Higgins, to find out a little more.
You shared how you got started in the industry in your company profile, but what motivated you to start We Are Mobile First?
I worked as a contractor, for many years, back in London. Whilst contracting, I witnessed different approaches to development and I soon felt the urge to take the lessons I’d learned, and the best bits from each experience, in order to create my ideal workplace.
I have an overactive mind; I’m constantly wanting to try out new ideas and work on my side projects. I tried to fit them around my day job back in London but, frustratingly, I rarely had adequate time to spend on them. By starting Mobile First, my own digital product agency, I was able to build a team that could share the workload and, in turn, build up some profit which we could then re-invest into our own projects.
How would you describe the working environment at Mobile First?
It’s more like a home than a workplace. The office is available for each team member to use whenever they want to and we often hold tech meet-ups, board game nights, and poker nights too.
We have tried to make the space ours and, for me, it actually does feel like an extension of my own home, as I keep my motorbike gear there. It’s definitely a bit of a geek cave!
What are the company values and how important are they to the success of each project?
The core company values are, essentially, to create an environment that people are happy to work in, to ensure that everyone has the tools and support that they need, and to always listen and be open.
It’s also important to me that there’s no real hierarchy within the team and that no one works late. The minute someone has to regularly work extra hours, you know that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I think some companies can be extremely complacent with this and that abuses the rights of their employees. A healthy work/life balance is the key to creating good software. If you’re having an issue with something at the end of the working day, it’s important to head home, get some rest, and come back to it the following day with a clear mind.
Another value that I would love to focus on and develop over the coming years is that of health and well-being. Since moving to Barcelona, I have found a new appreciation for exercise and I have seen huge benefits to my productivity as a result. There are so many beautiful routes to run across the city, making it a joy to exercise, and the relaxed beachy attitude means I can get away with skating to work on my longboard! I’d love to motivate the team further to ensure that we are all as healthy and happy as we can be. That can be another new side project for me to work on…
How did you devise the company values?
I started by evaluating what I felt were the best practices of the companies that I worked at in London before assessing what it was that I felt that they lacked. I, perhaps selfishly, wanted to create my ideal workplace, so the company values came to reflect my desire for open communication, a healthy work/life balance and collaboration.
We do, however, hold regular retrospective meetings where we listen to one another about what we all want and need as a collective.
What personal values do you feel you have ingrained into the business?
Firstly, I value open and honest communication so that’s something I’ve encouraged in the workplace in order to ensure that each team member knows that their voice and input is both valid and important.
Self-improvement and seeking out new knowledge is also incredibly important to me and that’s something Mobile First thrives on.
What advice would you give to industry peers when it comes to not compromising their values for a client, or a specific project, and how do you suggest they work in respect of them?
This is a difficult one. On occasion, I have not agreed with a client’s direction – both technically and, sometimes, even morally. I have met each disagreement with transparency in order to move the project forward. Sometimes, I think that can be taken advantage of but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in order to remain true to myself and my values. I’m thankful that the vast majority of people that I have worked with have also shared my values so it has not been too much of a problem.
When running a business, and working with clients, there are going to be times when something isn’t working out and my advice is to sit down, work out a plan, and remain helpful and professional throughout.
What, or who, inspires your work and the company’s vision?
I’m lucky enough to be doing a job that I really enjoy so my work is often enough to inspire me to sit down and code.
I have, however, become a big fan of Elon Musk in recent years. I think he has a fantastic scientific approach to problem-solving and he seems to possess a limitless supply of original thought – particularly in a time where so many focus on imitation of existing paradigms and small incremental updates to age-old technology.
Both Apple and Google are also sources of inspiration for me, as they both seem to understand how they should treat not only their employees but the environment around them. For example, Apple is consciously trying to be more green.
At Mobile First you’re big on collaboration, why is it so important to you and how does it aid the working environment?
Collaboration is key to everything we do.
For example, we peer-review one another’s work and we all have different experiences and knowledge which we then try and pass on to one another. We never silo tech. Android Developers will review iOS Developers work and vice-versa. This gives us all an idea of how the other side works and that helps us to also continually learn diverse techniques from one another.
Peer-reviewed work also means that we avoid single points of failure, as no one is working alone, and we are able to pin-point mistakes or missteps easily. It’s also a lot less stressful as we share responsibility. This stops us from making the same mistake twice…well…sometimes we do…but there’s never a third time! You will never stop making mistakes but if you have numerous eyes on each project, those mistakes will be eliminated before the project launches.
Teamwork also means that no one gets stuck or is afraid to ask questions – making for a more comfortable working environment.
With your collective values in mind, who or what would be Mobile First’s idea of a dream client or project?
I’ve said this a few times before but Inshur really was a dream project. It’s a perfect example of how an industry, that runs on antiquated techniques, can be transformed by going mobile first.
I do have some bigger personal dream projects that I would love to find some time to work on, ranging from telepresence VR-controlled JCB’s, to giant vegetable vending machines that grow the vegetables, to autonomous delivery robots. I could be here all day…
How do you envision the mobile world, and digital products, working to create a better world? How can companies adapt to this wider mission?
I believe that Augmented reality (AR) is the future. AR glasses will eventually shrink to the size of contact lenses – meaning that mobile phones will no longer need screens and will, in turn, shrink to a size that means they can simply be stuck to your skin or weaved into your jacket. All of our material items will become digital meaning that they will be changeable in an instant.
By using eco-friendly cardboard placeholders, we would still be able to emulate the tactile physical presence that we are used to. Apps, conversely, will have more of a three dimensional place in our homes, jumping out from our mobile screens into the real world. It’s already easy to imagine alarm clock and calendar apps alongside us keeping us organised. I’m extremely excited by the future of technology.
This re-imagined technologically advanced planet has a lot of advantages. Imagine not needing a single LCD screen and not needing to power a single TV. Imagine not even needing light bulbs. Imagine companies not needing to build millions of material, and non-biodegradeable, products. The energy saving would be incredible and could change the world as we know it.