Everybody has a startup it seems. For Ton Tam and Pham Gabriel, they never quite imagined that they would be heading a mobile applications development company. The duo behind APPS Cyclone is always busy, always improving and always working.
Ton grew up wanting to be a master chef, and Pham grew up wanting to be a pianist. They were both encouraged by their fathers to pursue information technology, and that’s the field they find themselves in today. However, they both maintain a healthy love of cooking, and they both tap on keys, only they’re plastic and attached to a laptop instead of a piano.
They have developed the groceries ordering application honestbee, the kid managment tool for parents StrayHat and are currently working on a new application GoodJob that is a digital yellow pages for sharing trusted contacts among friends and colleagues.
Ton Tam, mobile team manager, oversees the development of applications and games, specifically managing all the processes and training within the mobile department.
Pham Gabriel, operations manager and mobile developer, is in charge of product development, but also works directly with all clients and oversees the big picture. He’s the one researching and studying all of the stuff nobody imagined that they would have to know before starting their own business.
Both Ton and Pham wake up early in the morning and check their emails, because clients from Australia and the US are just finishing up their work day when APPS Cyclone is waking up.
The globalisation of the tech economy is creating more and more opportunity for working with clients from around the world. Great for business, yet funny that with this boom comes a sneaky, seemingly twenty-four hour workday.
“I like to joke,” Pham says. “I tell people that I am the CSO. ‘Chief Servant Officer’.”
Pham has a Skype call with his partner in Kuala Lumpur every morning at 8am. They never miss this meeting, as it’s integral to developing a disciplined, structured narrative about the high commitment that they have for the process of developing products.
“We had a problem with resourcing in Kuala Lumpur, Pham explains, “So, we’re here in Vietnam. We are impressed with the speed of growth in the IT sector here. Even though we are Vietnamese, we are still impressed by the growth.”
Once the two have answered emails, and planned the strategy for the day, they head on over to their office in Tan Binh district to begin the workday. Ton starts his workday with the staff daily meeting for all of the projects. They operate a ‘scrum’ development process, which is a subset of an agile software development framework.
Basically, scrum is a malleable product development strategy that allows a development team to work as a cohesive unit. It enables teams to self-organise by encouraging physical co-location, or close online collaboration, of all team members, as well as daily face-to-face communication among all team members and disciplines involved.
Scrum adopts an evidence-based empirical approach, and the inclusion of all departments and parties involved in a project allows for quick adaptation to unforeseen challenges, and proper reaction to constantly changing markets and technology.
“Everyone starts off by doing their specific tasks,” Ton says. “We have a checking tool for managing all the processes. Each project has a project manager who will input the tasks into the checking tool, and then as each task is completed it aggregates into the system.
This is useful for many reasons, but mostly because if we have a similar project in the future, now we have a trail of history. It allows for more comprehensive and comparative advantages.”
If you aren’t involved in coding, or otherwise developing tech, think of a Trello board, the widely used application that allows visual streamlining of tasks, but much more complex and detailed. Pham begins his morning in the office by checking all of the timelines for each project.
“I’m in charge of the money, so the customer is always asking about what’s happening,” Pham says. “I check any new proposals. We get a lot of new proposals. I get streams of e-mails telling me about a new idea someone wants to develop, and asking for a quote and timeline. If the inquiry is lacking information I have to ignore it, or reply requesting more information.”
“We are very excited with new technology, and the capabilities of our staff are high, but occasionally some customers want to do 3D games [which are very expensive], or develop projects out of our specialty. Our reputation is always on the line. We don’t have a sales or marketing staff. We are all by word of mouth, and if we can’t deliver, that hurts us.”
After fielding questions, daily conflicts and issues, and usually stopping for a quick lunch, Pham and Ton really like to focus on keeping their staff operating at a high level. They accomplish this by having a phenomenal training regimen.
“Because I’m a mobile manager, the most difficult thing to deal with is turnover,” Ton explains. “People leaving is always an issue. In six months I’ve had half of my staff leave. Mobile development is very hot today, and because of this it’s like a revolving door. People leave people come in. Our strategy is and always has been: we will recruit the internship for training, train them extremely well, and if they stay, it is meant to be.”
Pham explains how they really give their trainees usable skills whether they stay with APPS Cyclone, or not. A lot of IT graduates come out of school with a lot of theory, but not a lot of practical, applicable skills.
The training programme they receive while interning for APPS Cyclone provides them with invaluable hands-on experience. They’re not just sitting around making coffee for the management.
Both Ton and Pham usually leave the office around 4pm. They both go to pick up their daughters, arrive home to feed them, let them play with their toys, and then continue working, although now it is time to handle business with the West.
At night before bed, they review the results for the whole day, and plan their strategy for the next morning.