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Preface

This text serves two simultaneous purposes that mutually feedback each other: it is a user manual which explains how some processes work inside Manas and it's also an instruction manual, as it describes certain goals we want to achieve. True to our principles, the text is in a repository where you can comment on it and send your change proposals. This text will always be a beta version. If you agree with a chapter of the manual, but you don't think it is being implemented correctly in reality, let your voice be heard loud and clear and help us correct what we can. If you disagree with parts of the manual, please suggest the change you'd like to see and help us implement it.

https://github.com/manastech/handbook.git

Manas

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.R. Buckminster Fuller

The name

In Buddhist psychology, manas is the rational or intellectual faculty of the mind. Manas has both an active and passive function. In the passive mode, it is responsible for reception, categorization, and interpretation of data received through the five senses. The process by which manas performs this function is the result of conditioning and habit, which can be modified through the exercise of self-awareness. In its active mode, manas is responsible for the production of emotions and wishes.

The beginnings

Nearing the end of 2002, a programmer who was tired of not finding a workplace which he found satisfactory, sat down hopelessly and contemplated his situation. Despite still being young, he had already worked for small consulting firms, medium-sized companies, one-too-many multinationals and the mandatory bank. With a balanced combination of obstination and naivety, rather than pursuing any entrepreneurial aspirations, he decided to try and create his ideal workplace.

24x7

After the sad end of his last job, he considered for a brief period whether it was possible to survive on selling homemade candles and playing piano at bars, mostly for the waiters. Though he was not a remarkable programmer, the untidiness of his software was much less noticeable than his candle-making and popular piano pieces, so he promptly sat back on his computer. Soon after, he started answering the phone by saying "Manas, good morning?", which was often closely followed by "Yes, mom - there's still some food left in the fridge". He was sometimes joined by a remarkable and missed colleague for afternoons programming sprints, who was fond of knocking mate onto his notebook after each successful commit. After experimenting with polyphasic sleep and 28 hour days, he reached the conclusion that life as a free-lance programmer was sad, and that he missed sharing his passion with other equally enthusiastic people.

The first office

During another fit of naivety, and while the Argentine economy was collapsing on its usual 10-year cycle, he rented an office in the posh neighbourhood of Olivos. The office was close to the river but a little too close to the train tracks. The office started as a rather empty space, although it could pass as minimalist. With time, improvements and expansions were made, but despite the efforts, the main issue was that the team had outgrown the space1 and the horizon of growth was non existent2. After a few years in that beloved spot, Manas relocated twice more. Our current headquarters sit nicely in Av. del Libertador, where we all fit much more comfortably - until the pandemic decided otherwise. We've since then kicked our already remote-friendly culture up a notch, and even opened the possibility to work from anywhere in the world.

Meta-mission

Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny.Heraclitus

We at Manas think that having a fixed destination implies missing the chance of discovering places we didn't know about, and that exploring new territories with the right people is a guarantee of results beyond the imaginable. It's because of this that, instead of a mission statement set in stone, we make decisions and define our path guided by certain principles. Our mission is a meta-mission: to constantly find and improve ways to sustain and embody these principles.

In the following chapters we outline these principles or values, but the real proof of how much we walk the talk is found in our day to day. The rest of this manual is an attempt to reflect on that.

Altruism

We want to contribute to the happiness of the people who work at Manas. We all spend a significant part of our life in an "employment" situation, so we think it's fundamental that, as far as possible, our work environment adds to personal development in all of its aspects.

If you're unhappy or know of someone you think is unhappy, let others know and help us understand how to improve the situation. We hope you will enjoy your workday and, to complement this, you can check the Do great work, have great fun and Vacations sections.

Excellence

We want to excel in our field by designing, developing and delivering quality products on time. Beyond delivering value to our customers, this goal also acts as a compass that guides us in an exploration of our own potential, both as individuals and as a team.

In any domain, the constant search for excellence kindles a self-discovery process whose value exceeds that of the actual result. We will encourage every attempt you make at improving your skills and work style.

To that effect, since the first day you join Manas, you have access to a budget you can use to invest in your training. With that budget you can buy books or materials, attend courses, travel to conferences or do anything you think will help you grow. You can find out more in the Training section.

Transparency

We manage Manas transparently, both internally and externally. Transparency contributes to building trust and improves teamwork in pursuit of a common goal. Lack of transparency only adds friction and discomfort, and it gets in the way of productive interactions.

There is no confidential information inside Manas. Revenue, proposals to clients and corresponding fees, billing status, expenses and salaries are all freely available internally. We hope that beyond giving you visibility this will also encourage you to share suggestions and comments. If you see anything that you find strange or inefficient, please let us know. Within the Compensation section you will understand some of the advantages of this principle.

Agility

We want to be able to constantly learn and adjust our course. We don't believe in a static and permanent methodology. Reality changes, and so do we, which makes the ability to stay agile very important.

Individuality

We believe every person is unique and different, and that a team’s richness lies precisely in that its value is much more than the sum of its parts.

Individuality does not mean absence of teamwork, but the acceptance that everyone of us plays a different and irreplaceable role.

Uncertainty

We consider it impossible to systematize and structure what characteristics would make Manas successful in the pursuit of its meta-mission. Allowing ourselves to engage in a decentralized, creative and dynamic exploration is the best way to unravel the universe of possibilities.

Vision

Our vision is that the most legitimate and powerful way of adding value to society through technology is making sure that everyone involved in the process enjoys as much freedom as possible and is able to let their creativity flow in a collaborative, relaxed and dynamic environment. If this doesn't work, what we're doing lacks any meaning. As a member of our team you are entitled to demand that this premise is followed to its last consequences. We believe that we provide the best of ourselves to our customers when we work with joy, excitement, freedom and creativity.

Why was I hired?

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.Unknown

The whys

First of all, we hired you because we consider you share the same values and principles which are important to us –if you have read any one you highly disagree with, let us know soon! When we start off from a common base of shared values, everything else is simply implementation details.

Secondly, and paraphrasing Joel Spolsky, we hired you because we think you're smart and can do stuff. That last bit is really important: we are a group of people who MAKE stuff. We don't just think, suggest and design; we sit down and do.

Expectations

We don't expect anything other than you being who you are. Be yourself, bring your best every morning (or midday, your call), speak up when something is not to your taste, share ideas, try constantly to get better, help others, go for new things, do stuff, relax, have fun.

From here on, this handbook is full of sections showing our efforts to help you achieve this. Feedback is always welcome.

The office

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.Confucius

The current state of affairs in the world has drastically changed our relationship with our office. We miss it, and the chance it gave us to connect without screens in between. Though we always had a policy of freely deciding when we work and where we work from, in recent times we have taken that one step further, and hired people in other countries and continents.

What follows is a description of our lovely offices, that serves as a meta-description of how we conceive common spaces and collaboration.

Team Rooms

We have two main rooms for teams working on large projects, who benefit from having their own workspace, the possibility of writing on the walls and impromptu meetings.

Kitchen and lunch room

A sunny and cozy place to start our mornings with a nice breakfast. There, one can find fruit, coffee, tea, cookies, yogurt, and cake from time to time. Anyone can stay and work there if they'd like, but it gets a little busy around lunch time.

Meeting rooms

There are a couple of spaces reserved for any activity that involves many people talking –design sessions, code reviews, architectural discussions, iteration planning, etc. There are two rooms dedicated to meetings, both with an entire whiteboard-wall and a TV.

Bunkers

In the furthermost spot of the office there are two minuscule rooms, very similar to a phonebooth (if you’re old enough to know what that means). You can use our Bunkers any time you need some private time apart from the rest, to make a call, a demo, or just to take a break and relax. Feel free to use them.

Walls

You'll sometimes notice that people stand up and write on the wall. They're not having a regression to childhood, but taking advantage of our writeable (and, more importantly, erasable!) walls. Feel free to use your favourite area as a blackboard. It should be fairly easy to figure out which ones can be written on but, if you have doubts, ask around and find the corner you like the most as a blackboard.

Resources

Creative collaboration is awesome.Alicia Silverstone.

Is this my seat?

Nope. Not in a strict way, at least. For the sake of positivity, we’ll say that it's as yours as any other seat in the office. After more than a year working remotely, however, it’s not really all that relevant.

But we can safely say that you can sit at any free desk you find. Once you start working in a project, find a place near the people you're working with. As you change projects or work with different people, change places as much as you need.

What is everyone else working on?

Giving people the freedom to choose the project they want to tackle and encouraging cross-team collaboration requires that everyone in Manas has a way to know what everyone else is working on. You can see Allocations by project, by engineer or as a timeline, by engineer or by project, to get all the details on our current activities.

Library

Most people at Manas are naturally curious and thankfully have a habit of sharing great stuff they come across, when they think it can help in the never-ending refining of our beloved practice. We have a specific channel for that and you can also contribute new resources to our Library.

Methodology

It is as deadly for a mind to have a system as to have none. Therefore it will have to decide to combine both.Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Every methodology is a combination of bureaucracy and adhocracy. If we turn too much towards bureaucracy, we lose the ability to adapt to new environments and we become slower and heavier. If we turn too much towards adhocracy, the difficulty of coordinating our work increases as we constantly switch around processes and methods which we adapt to our idiosyncrasies.

Duration

Most projects we take last from a few weeks up to a few months. You are free to choose to work on long-term projects if you enjoy working on a single challenge for a long time, watching it grow and having the chance to refactor code as the visibility of the problem improves. If, on the other hand, you prefer to start new projects often, rotate through different topics and teams and solve new issues, you can opt for shorter projects or continuously switch between the two. Here you can see a full list of the duration, scope and definitions of all our ongoing projects.

Programming languages

We're not married to any particular language, as we try to make sure the tools we're using are the right ones for the job at hand. Even though we do have stretches where we use the same language, we're always open to new things. We are even making our own language!

Project Genome

Wanting to understand what kinds of projects we liked to engage in, and direct our commercial efforts to get better fits for that, we conducted a survey to evaluate which are the preferred characteristics we see in a project. Project Genome is the name of that initiative, and it led to this visualization, which allows us to see how close each new project we are inspecting is to the ideal of what we like to do.

Synergy

After all, we are what we do, to change what we are.Eduardo Galeano

Lightning Talks

We would love for you to present a talk on any topic that interests you. We call them Lightning Talks because the idea is that they last between 5 and 10 minutes. They usually take place on Wednesdays, among beer and snacks. The purpose of these talks is to share knowledge with the rest of the team and, incidentally, to exercise our presentation skills. Here you can see what the past sessions were about, and here you can join the conversation on upcoming talks.

Reviews

Every 3 months, we take a day to look back upon the work we’ve been doing and reflect upon the direction we’re taking as an organization. The format, contents and overall structure of these reviews varies from one to the next, but they are always rewarding, refreshing, and a space for what we may call organizational soul-searching.

Restrospectives

After each project comes to an end (be it final or temporary), we sit down to reflect on what went right or wrong, which things we enjoyed or suffered throughout the process, and what we would like to improve upon for next time. Feel free to ask your team for a retrospective when the project is over, or after any key event where it might be useful to observe the process from a distance.

All for one

Even though most people are assigned to a particular project, you can pick the brains (do not take this literally, please) of anyone in the entire team for whatever you need. It makes no sense to go it alone with so many talented people around. When you get stuck, are in doubt or would like a second opinion, don’t hesitate to ask whoever you think will be able to help you. If they can't, they will surely be able to recommend someone who will. We developed our own Tech Radar to optimize this process.

FAQs

We want everyone in Manas to feel heard, and we want equal access to information, so we keep a Frequently Asked Questions document where we log questions (and of course, answers) that anyone in Manas can benefit from. Feel free to add your own, if there’s anything unclear, but make sure it isn’t already answered in this handbook or in the FAQs document.

Wait, I get a budget?

The simplest definition of a budget is ‘telling your money where to go’.Tsh Oxenreider

Everyone at Manas has access to an expense budget to cover the costs of things they need to improve the quality of their lives: be it work-related or else.

For a while, we had a few separate internal budgets that we used for different purposes, such as personal activities, training and conferences, events, and hardware. However, in 2016, we started exploring a more streamlined and unified system that could be used to approve any expense required. The basic idea is simple: anybody can propose an expense to a group of people in the organization (we do it via a Slack channel) and get almost immediate approval on it.

How it works

  1. Every four months, we revise our finances and determine the budget available for the next period. That is the total budget for all variable expenses.
  2. Every person in Manas has control over the allocation of a fraction of that budget. The fraction each one can allocate is proportional to the total months they have been part of the organization. This ensures a progressive alignment with the culture and mutual trust to be developed before significant expenses can be approved individually.
  3. There is no limit on the expense amount that anybody can propose, but the more significant the expense, the more people are typically needed to get it approved.
  4. All expense proposals are visible internally.
  5. Interested people can support the proposal.
  6. Once enough support to fund the proposal is obtained, the proponent can approve the proposal.
  7. Budget is deducted proportionally from the people that supported an expense proposal.
  8. The expensing system is connected to our accounting software, pulls actual expenses, and matches them against their proposals, showing the details of how the money was spent.
  9. The system also displays all variable expenses that don't match against any proposal and displays those as deductions to the available budget. Whenever an expense is charged but the person who made it forgot to make a proposal, or a contingency occurs, this ensures accountability. While people can still spend money without going through the process, that is transparently communicated and accounted for.

Training

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.Abraham Lincoln.

A wise man said: "Continuity is decay". We hope you can learn and grow continuously, and for that Manas sets aside a budget for every period.

You can use this budget on any sort of activity that'll help you grow in your role inside of Manas: language lessons, software conferences, books and seminars are all valid examples. The only limits to these expenses are common sense and the whole of the budget put together.

Do great work, have great fun

A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play.Friedrich Nietzsche

We are all for multifaceted people, and we think that everything we do is subject to a different perspective given by our pastimes. Do you feel like doing yoga, swimming, origami or taking Japanese lessons? Manas will take care of the cost of whichever activity you want to take up. Acceptable ideas are sports, languages, courses, etc. Anything illegal or immoral is excluded. Ideally, you could share a little of the wisdom and experiences you've collected with the rest of the team.

We also spend time doing things that, while still pertaining to our work, are not billable. We use keywords to track that time with the purpose of understanding where our focus goes.

Compensation

We tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us.John Godolphin Bennett

We want you to be rewarded for your work as fairly as possible, and in an organization like ours we could not leave such an important decision to a single person. In Manas, your salary is not decided by your boss (there are no bosses), or calculated as a function of a 182-question survey where your teammates rank you from 1 to 5.

Salaries at Manas are calculated as the sum of 4 components:

  1. The basic salary component: it accompanies the cost of living in the capital of the country where you live, and is calculated as a function of rent + services, food and transportation.
  2. The competencies component: this component accounts for professional capacities, according to our competencies rubric, which describes said individual capacities across different areas, techniques, organization, interpersonal skills, etc., and the associated expected behaviors, on a scale of mastery for each domain. This scale of mastery is reflected on a scale of salary multipliers. When incorporating people to the team, we are usually a bit more conservative with the milestones we assign, since these cannot go back. Anyone can ask for a reevaluation of their competencies, at any point in time.
  3. The accountability component (a.k.a. Role & Responsibilities): it depends on the role you are playing; it can fluctuate as we allow people to decide that they want to spend time as an individual contributor, start or stop coordinating teams, etc.
  4. The peer-review component: this is meant to decentralize the decisions around salary and to account for things that are not easily measurable, like your attitude, performance, sense of humor and how other people in Manas feel about working with you. The mechanism is simple: everyone at Manas is given a percentage of the total amount of money available for raises, and they decide how to distribute that amount among every other member of the organization. This is done over 3 or 4 rounds, and whatever amount they allocate to you, is incorporated into your salary from that point on. The peer-review component is not maintained from one period to another, though; it is reset back to 0. That means that, if all the other components remain the same, and the peer-review you receive is lower than in the previous period, your salary remains the same than before; in no situation do we lower salaries (unless you decide to change roles or work fewer hours).

The sum of these 4 components determines your full-time salary, in US dollars, and assuming a full-time legal employment relationship. If you decide to work less than 40 hours per week, that amount is adjusted correspondingly. For people under contract, this may vary. Check with Nico, Clari or Lu to evacuate any doubts.

Benefits

There are a number of benefits to this system. It allows for a better understanding of the remuneration each person in Manas perceives. It acknowledges and compensates human qualities and automatically keeps up with inflation.

It is also a function of how we see our culture: we need a way to allocate resources without resorting to a hierarchical structure, and we want to maintain our systems and mechanisms as transparent and fair as possible.

Last but not least, it allows us to easily transition into hiring people all over the world in a transparent and streamlined way.

Vacations

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.Proverb

Nothing beats a good vacation to recharge, come back with fresh ideas and enthusiasm to share.

There is no limit to the amount of vacation days you can take, but be sure to use this freedom responsibly. Choose carefully which are the best dates, duration and distribution of your holidays.

Two things are required before you can take your vacations:

  • Check that no one in the teams you're working with sees any issues with the date and duration of your vacations. Avoid overlapping with your teammates as much as possible. And, if you're working on your own, find someone to cover for you in case something urgent should arise.
  • Let everyone know in advance. The notification should come with as much anticipation as the length of your vacations. For instance:
    • If you're taking Friday off you should notify it on Wednesday.
    • If you're taking a week off from Monday 11th to Friday 15th, you should notify on Friday the 1st.
    • If you're taking March off you should notify on the last day of January.

It's only necessary to make any arrangements about your vacation plans if you're going to stop working. In that case, make sure to cancel any appointments you have on your calendar for those dates, and set up the vacation responder for your email. On an administrative note, since we legally need to divide vacations from time off, we keep track of available vacation time.

If what you want is a change of scenery, but you're going to keep on working, feel free to do that anytime. As long as meetings don’t require you to be physically present, or connectivity is an issue, you can choose your location freely.

Bon voyage!

Hiring & interviewing

Once you're all settled and you understand how everything works, you might start feeling an urge to share Manas with others. When that happens, you can start to help with bringing people as great as you to the team by getting involved in the interview process.

As you can probably imagine, our hiring process is not exactly traditional. We get candidates as usual: an email arrives at jobs@manas.tech or we find them through online searches. But after that, it's pretty different. We don't usually send out postings with "semi-senior programmers wanted with minimum three year experience in Java. UML basics appreciated".

We're always looking for the next perfect person to hire. The catch is that we do not exactly know how to find them by a list of skills or experience. That's where you come in. If you feel you would enjoy working with someone, it’s a good first sign that they might fit right in with us.

The interview process is simple: if a candidate reaches out to us or is recommended by someone, we begin with an initial interview which hopes to rule out serial killers, minors and ABAP programmers (not necessarily in that order). If that goes well, we perform a simple asynchronous evaluation of technical skills, to gauge what their technical level is.

This technical interview is key in the evaluation of the candidate’s salary across every component (except for the peer-review). Even though we share a core set of ideals and methods, the interviews themselves don't have a specific format and everyone is free to find their own style. The goals are, on one hand, to find out if the interviewee shares Manas' values, is smart and fits in with the kind of work we do; and on the other hand, to assign milestones in order to formulate a competitive salary offer.

Once the interview process is over, everyone involved has to decide between "YES HIRE" or "NO HIRE". We know sometimes you will not be entirely sure, or you might prefer to defer the decision to somebody else. That counts as a "NO HIRE". We don't want to take any chances: if the candidate wasn't great, then it's better to keep looking. Ultimately, the team will suffer much more from hiring a wrong candidate than from losing a good one.

Should everyone agree to hire them, an email with an offer will be sent to the candidate. Should they accept the offer, congratulations are in order: you've closed the loop.

The next steps are onboarding and project assignment. To make it easier and more fun, every new employee is assigned a buddy, who will be the leading point of contact for evacuating doubts and inquiries.

Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.