As we prepped for our annual meeting at Dimagi this year, I found the first slide I’d put together for our annual meeting six years ago in 2008. It opened with: “We would rather be a team of 15 people that love their job than 100 people that like their job.” When the next year’s meeting came up in 2009, we’d grown a bit so I had to change it 20 people. In 2010 I had to change it again, this time to 25. At a certain point, I eventually deleted that line because it had become a running joke that we would keep increasing the number to match our headcount every year.
2014 was an amazing year for Dimagi, and one I’ll always remember because we hit 100 people. Four years ago, our global services team has grown from a few scrappy field managers in Tanzania, trying to figure out if this thing we were calling CommCare could work. Now, we have a full-fledged (and just as scrappy) 45+ person team around the world. Similarly, prior to 2010, we didn’t have any fully self-service products so it wasn’t even possible to deploy without Dimagi services. Now, we have a large tech team, and a product where 40% of our users are building apps without Dimagi’s direct help, including self-starters like Aquaya in Senegal, MIT GlobeMed in Togo, Civic Hire in Haiti, and Lift II in Malawi.
As our company has evolved rapidly every year, I’ve come to appreciate that the 100 person barrier wasn’t the key takeaway from my old phrase, but rather the focus on making sure we all love our jobs. So instead of focusing on size, we start with a slide that says: “Dimagi’s bottom line is impact, team satisfaction, and profit, in that order.”
Certainly, as we’ve grown, how we create impact, team satisfaction, and profit has changed significantly. Having a bigger team has enabled us to do things that we couldn’t have delivered on when we were smaller. We couldn’t provide excellent support and quality to our customers without our first support lead, Nate Haduch or our first QA lead, Christy White. We couldn’t provide the amazing services we do without our country directors and everyone in the field in Senegal, India, Mozambique, Guatemala, Myanmar, South Africa, Zambia, and the United States.
Having a bigger team has given us greater bandwidth, including the chance to focus more on innovation and answer bigger, tougher questions. In 2014 we developed a Research and Development team that’s working on making better mobile features for projects in Burkina Faso, the same features that will eventually be adopted into our open source platform for everyone to access. This year we also established a data research team who can now dedicate time to analyze CommCare data trends, some of which can be seen in their “Under the Data Tree” blog series. We have project managers like Fiorenzo Conte in Senegal who are now able to focus in on prototyping new uses for our tools like CommSell. We’re able to dedicate time for people like Saijai Liangpunsakul, Devika Sarin, & Rushika Shekhar to focus their efforts on spending time in countries like Myanmar, where mHealth has just arrived.
Of course, as our team has grown, we’ve had to add in more processes, communication channels, and best practices that companies tend to do when they grow. We try to do our best to balance the autonomy and decisions we expect each team member to make with efficiency, safety and value to our customers. Many of us started or joined Dimagi because we loved the idea of working for a small, tight-knit team and were worried about growing bigger. But, we’ve learned its not an either or decision. To everyone who works here or has worked here, I think we are immensely proud that we’ve been able to maintain that tight-knit culture but adapt it to a 100 person organization.
While I’ll always remember 2014 as the year that we hit 100 people, I’ll also remember it as another year where we’ve managed to retain a company-wide spirit of folks who “…would rather be a team of 15 people that love their job than 100 people that like their job.” Whether it’s 15 or 100, our passion remains as high as its always been and our outlook for partnering to create impact is better than its ever been. Now lets see what we can do in 2015.
Want to learn more about what we were up to this year? Check out this “10 things that made us tick in 2014.”