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DOU Inspector in Lviv: Little Holland in Symphony Solutions Office

Two weeks ago we had a very special guest – DOU Revisor in our office, who published an article about Symphony Solutions on their website – the most popular web-source for developers in Ukraine.

DOU inspector at Symphony offices
You can read translated article below. Enjoy!

On New Year’s Eve our DOU inspector team headed to the cultural capital of Ukraine to review Symphony Solutions office. It’s a young European company, head offices of which are situated in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and in Lviv. Recently Symphony Solutions has also opened two small offices in Rzeszów (Poland) and Skopje (Macedonia). The company was established in 2008. Currently it employs approximately 250 specialists.

Not long ago the company moved to a new office (Lviv, Naukova str, 2b) The premises consist of 3 floors and occupy 2800 square metres. The initial idea was to recreate the setting of one small village in the Netherlands, Zaanse Schans. Its elements have been integrated in the office interior.

It’s difficult for us to evaluate the location of the office, because we are not locals and only managed to stay there for one working day. However, the employees of Symphony Solutions cannot but mention that it’s very convenient, you can easily get to any part of the city, which is even easier if you drive. In front of the office you can find a roomy outdoor car park for the employees. Whereas bicycle lovers can leave their vehicles in the outdoor bicycle rank just in front of the building. You won’t find many cafes or canteens in the vicinity, the closest spot is restaurant “Gopak” where you can get a full meal at a price of 80-100 UAH. Considering that fact, the company provides its employees with free meals. Free breakfasts for early birds and organized lunches for all employees with great selection of dishes. You may find more information below in “Leisure and Inspiration”.

Working space

While planning a new office, it has been decided to place all working space on the second and third floors.

It’s a bit unusual that there’s no hierarchy at Symphony. No matter whether you are a programmer, tester, PM, or even Bill Gates himself, you still get the same desk and working space as the others do. There are no separate rooms for “bosses”.

There’s one interesting thing about little Dutch houses on the first floor, they function as meeting rooms for discussions and skype calls with clients. However, most meeting rooms are on the first floor, e.i. to have a 15 min skype-call, you need to go downstairs. Symphonians say they’ve got used to it now, and in case they need a quick sync up with their team, they may do it without leaving their working places.

They’ve got rid of all possible barriers at Symphony. It’s all about self-management here. It is believed that this kind of organization will attract more good specialists and professionals as well as will be a great environment for their full potential development and growth. According to Symphonians, their schedule is quite flexible: it’s possible to work remotely. The main requirement here is a sufficient amount of hours worked per month, work of a stellar quality and satisfaction of client’s needs.

One person has as much as 12 m2 of green area + 1 plant + 1m3 for our water inhabitants (turtles and fish), who are considered to be a great part of the community (according to company data).

Leisure and inspiration

The first floor of Symphony Solutions is a relax zone for all developers which consists of Symphony Park, «Old Amsterdam Café» and Wellness Zone. You don’t need a foreign passport to go to Holland. It will be enough just to see our office.

Symphony Park is the imitation of a picturesque Dutch village Zaanse Schans with a windmill, small houses, bright green grass and wooden picnic tables. You can relax as well as work still staying close to nature. To maximize the effect, they play birds songs in the Park. Very soon there will be audio transmitters installed on trees branches to create a perfect harmony.

The second part of the first floor is occupied by «Old Amsterdam Café», designed in the style of Dutch Brown Cafes, where you may have fresh aromatic coffee or just enjoy a friendly chat with your colleagues. Cute barista girls are happy to serve you drinks all days 8:00-20:00 except for Sundays. Employees may pay by their access cards, from which the necessary fee is withdrawn monthly. The prices are really low: Americano, Espresso or Ristretto will cost you 5 UAH, Latte or Cappuccino – 7 UAH. You may also order fresh juice here for 10 UAH/250 ml and snacks at the cost of 5-15 UAH.

Every morning you can have breakfast in «Old Amsterdam Café» till 9:30 (normally it’s muesli and cereal with milk), and lunch from 12:00 to 15:00. You may choose your own menu no matter whether you are a vegetarian, fruitarian or a raw food eater.

On the first floor there is also a Wellness Zone: massage and manicure rooms, a yoga room (which is used as a table tennis room during the day), and the most interesting place – a Nursery – the room where a baby-sitter takes care of employees’ babies.

The company supports gender equality policy 50/50, which is depicted in its logo that looks like Yin and Yang sign. Balance is often maintained here, 50% of the employees are male and 50% – female. The nursery room was equipped with two baby cots to make it easier for mothers to come back to work after the maternity leave. A baby-sitter hasn’t been found yet but it is said that the room will have started its work by spring.

One more unusual thing about the company is its benefits. Symphony Solutions does not provide medical insurance, but offers general practitioners’ help who come to the office once per week or to employee’s home if needed.

Frankly speaking, it seems that Symphony Solutions is not fond of clichés. It differs from other IT companies by offering things that we have never met in any other office before.

Dou Inspector asks

We’ve decided to talk to employees and find out about their lives by asking two simple questions:

“What do you like most about the office?”, “What would you like to change or improve?”

Oksana, QA lead, has been working for Symphony Solutions since 2009

“I like our Amsterdam café. We have free lunches here and our wonderful baristas make late that is even better than at some coffee shops in the city center. We can also have massage and manicure. It is very convenient to have your nails manicured during the work day. As for another things that I’d like to see in our office, ….maybe a gym. We have a room for yoga and fitness, but no swimming pool or training equipment. However, they are not the most important things and we can do without them, of course.”

Misha, jun. Salesforce developer, has been working for Symphony Solutions for 2 months

“I like all company’s benefits and enjoy working with my team. All the employees here are very friendly. That is why working at my previous job was more difficult than working for Symphony. The project that I am working on now is also very interesting. It is even difficult to say what I want to be improved here. I am absolutely satisfied with the open space, with my comfortable chair and so on. The only thing that I’d like to be changed – is to make our kitchen (the one with the fridge) bigger. It is a very tiny room and there is not enough space for everyone. And if we have 50 more employees, we will need one more fridge. Everything else is great. If to compare with my old job, I must say that Symphony Solutions is just like paradise”.

Andrew, senior Windows app developer, has been working for Symphony Solutions for 3 years

“It feels like my second home here. A very cosy and beautiful place. What else…comfort and again cosiness. I do not like a so called ‘conveyer’. There are such big companies that function as some kind of plants or factories, it feels like working in an anthill there. And it is so great here. What to change? I do not know. If we wish something or have some concerns, we say about it and everything is settled. For instance, we moved to this office about a year ago and a lot of things were missing. We did not even have water supply in some of the taps. But a lot of things have been changed since that time. All our suggestions are now in an Idea Box and Theo is happy to study and integrate all the ideas, even the ones not connected to our work. I mean our band. Once all people who could play or wanted to learn to play some musical instrument got together and formed the band. We have already had two little concerts. It did not take a lot of time to have all the things we needed, e.g. a place for rehearsals, a stereo system and an amplifier. This is an excellent example of how the initiative is realized here”.

Roman, mid .NET developer, has been working for Symphony Solutions for about 2 years

“The thing I like the most is our green zone. You can take your laptop and sit comfortably on the puff. It is much easier to breathe here than in the open space, there are less people and you can even enjoy birds singing. And it is also cool when our rocking chair is not occupied. What would I change in our office? For some period of time it was impossible to open windows which I didn’t like, but the situation has changed now. New windows have been installed and we have more fresh air now. I think that we need a booth for phone calls as to make them we have to go downstairs. Everything else is awesome. I like our comfortable chairs and desks with great space division system.”

Yulia, QA lead, has been working at Symphony Solutions for about 7 months

“I feel very comfortable here. At first I thought that it would be quite uncomfortable to work in the open space, as at my previous job workspace was organized in a different way than it is at Symphony. I do not know how they managed to do that, as a lot of people work here and everyone has their own space, and also a large number of plants make this place even cosier. If you want to relax a little bit, you can go to the park or have a cup of tea in our café. I have been working here for about half a year and I do not see any obvious downsides. Everything is getting better. For example, some new trees have been planted recently. I have no concerns about the working conditions. It is great that we have our Idea Box. If we do not like something, we immediately write about it and ask people to like our idea. By the way, this cow hanging on the ceiling was also somebody’s crazy idea which got the largest number of likes.”