You can go home again: How two Platform.sh engineers stepped away and then stepped up
For Yann Deshayes, the realization came while he was vacationing with his wife, Laetitia, in London. She had been planning excitedly for the trip for weeks. She knew Yann desperately needed some rest and relaxation; he had recently left Platform.sh to start his own business.
"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to build my own company. And working at Platform.sh inspired me even more. I wanted to build a company just like Platform.sh–flexible, great people, good vibes." But getting his new company off the ground was exhausting him. "I was the CEO, CTO, CFO; I was doing pretty much everything. I had a small team and a good amount of clients but not enough money to hire more people."
It was days into the vacation, yet Yann had barely left the hotel room. His phone buzzed constantly with messages from employees and customers, and he didn’t dare close his laptop for fear of missing out on an important project development. His wife was understanding, but he could see the disappointment in her face as all her planning to provide him with a quiet respite went to naught.
That’s when Yann knew he would never find happiness in building his company if it meant sacrificing his personal life. It was time to return to Platform.sh.
Sleepless in support
For Frederic Potvin, the realization pieced itself together as he lay in his bed night after night waiting vainly for sleep. His insomnia had started after he had relocated from Canada to France with his wife and two-year-old son to take a cloud support engineer position with Platform.sh. The previous 13 years he had worked as a PHP developer, so in addition to getting accustomed to a new country, Frederic also needed to get accustomed to his new set of responsibilities at Platform.sh.
"As a developer, I hadn’t been exposed to that much critical on-call time before. I dealt with some on-call time to support new releases, but it only added up to perhaps two weekends in two years." But at Platform.sh, he found himself on call three-to-five hours a day as well as every second weekend. The stress from all these changes led to an unshakeable bout of insomnia that started exacting a toll on his health.
That’s when Frederic knew that as much as he relished the challenge he had taken on at Platform.sh, he wasn’t yet ready to take it on. "I loved what I was doing at Platform.sh, but I didn’t have the personal skills to deal with my support responsibilities and the expectations that came with them. I needed to get better at those soft skills if I truly wanted to work in something that I loved doing." After four months at Platform.sh, Frederic stepped away from the company to consider his next steps.
Floating and sinking
Yann and Frederic first joined Platform.sh in 2017 when it was experiencing dramatic growth. An explosion in business led to an explosion of hiring. And if there’s one thing explosions create, it’s chaos. Departments were undergoing rapid changes in their structures and processes, and managers were being forced to redefine tasks and responsibilities on the fly. Fresh hires found themselves not the only ones unsure of what their new roles should be.
Yann Deshayes came on board as a product engineer. Eager to contribute, he dove into his new duties. Unfortunately, he found himself diving into the shallow end of the workload. "The problem was that we were such a small team. I was always ahead in my work because the product and design teams were too understaffed to keep up. I spent a lot of time idling and working on other things. That wasn’t very encouraging, and I lost my motivation."
Frederic faced the opposite problem. Thrown into the deep end with half the normal amount of training, he was soon struggling to keep his head above water. "When I joined Platform.sh, I found that the cloud support team consisted mostly of newly hired people. The growth boom had forced the company to move the experienced support staff to more critical roles. The job became immediately stressful."
Branching into new adventures
Unchallenged and bored, Yann found his thoughts drifting back to the entrepreneurial dreams of his youth. Coming across the opportunity to take over a startup, he parted amicably from Platform.sh and dove headfirst into his new adventure.
The water proved chiller than he anticipated. The sole executive in the company, he got a bracing lesson in the sheer number of responsibilities that come with being all alone at the top of the org chart, responsibilities that refused to take a vacation
Like Yann, Frederic wasn’t content to simply bob along in the current of his troubles. He worked with the directors of the customer success and customer care teams to help them recognize the need for more customer support engineers to accommodate the workload. "They really listened to me and took action as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I was so burned out by that time that I had to take a leave from the company for my health’s sake."
After stepping away from Platform.sh, Frederic spent four months doing developer work and taking stock of his professional goals. He knew that simply being a developer was no longer enough for his aspirations. He wanted to be in a customer-facing role. "The fact that I enjoyed interacting with customers always set me apart from other developers. I like turning customer discussions into results that help them reach their objectives–one of the most important factors in a business."
His mind and body rested and his career goals clarified, Frederic returned to Platform.sh. "I finally knew exactly where I wanted to be and exactly where I needed to go."
Returning with new ambitions
Yann’s desire to return to Platform.sh was heightened by the way his brief time at the company had reinforced the opinions he had about what made for a healthy work culture. He disagreed with the stringent hierarchies that held rein at other companies he had worked for.
"Even in small companies that only have a team of ten, you would have three people above you. No matter what you want to do, you would have to pass it to your manager, who passes it to their manager, who passes it to the CTO. Of course Platform.sh has a hierarchy too, but you don’t feel it. I could message the CEO or CTO directly, and they would respond to me."
When Frederic returned to his cloud support role, he joined a team that was at last fully staffed and properly trained. He also found that the structural changes he had discussed with the directors of the customer success and customer care teams had been put in place. Frederic now only needed to be on call for one hour a day instead of three to five and was only asked to commit to one weekend a month of pager duty. "It was a major improvement and really helped me start taking the baby steps toward building a better balance in my life."
Listening then acting
Today, Yann and Frederic say that despite the challenges, they can’t imagine working anywhere else but at Platform.sh. They are both grateful for the flexibility Platform.sh showed in welcoming them back to the fold.
Seeing what both men have contributed to the company, that flexibility has paid off handsomely. While Frederic has helped spur programs to create a healthy work/life balance for employees, Yann has spearheaded new processes that have significantly improved the workflow between the design and product teams. Both say that Platform.sh took their feedback seriously and went above and beyond to apply solutions to the problems both engineers faced.
"Platform.sh wants employees to be happy and is willing to take the steps to make it happen," says Frederic. "Even though companies always claim to care about their employees, often their actions don’t live up to their words. That is where Platform.sh stands out. The company takes realistic actions to improve the lives of employees. This was true back in 2017 when we had just 50 employees, and it is still true today when we have four times more people."
Even though Platform.sh has striven since its inception to be an exemplary workplace, the company has faced setbacks along the way. But during those setbacks, it has always been the honest and sometimes hard-hitting feedback of employees like Yann and Frederic that has helped Platform.sh correct course. Today, Platform.sh is recognized as a Great Place to Work and has earned accolades from workplace rating sites such as Glassdoor and Best Places to Work in Austin.