Visitors to Electrum often ask why we spend so much money on fancy gear like MacBooks. Dave Glass, Electrum’s MD, lays out his reasons why the company believes the investment in top-class equipment is worth it.
We don’t use MacBooks because of their cool factor (although, admittedly, it’s a nice side-effect). Rather, we find they make the working life of our devs easier. In Stack Overflow’s 2016 developer survey, OS X was the most used Desktop Operating System by developers worldwide. This trend has grown ever since Apple began using Intel processors, and Macs are clearly the first choice for developers to work on. OS X has great cross-platform compatibility, allowing us to develop for iOS, Microsoft Windows, Unix and Linux. What’s more, the machine’s build quality is top notch, with high-quality screens and keyboards, low noise, good battery life and great form factor.
Of course, no machine is infallible, and that’s where Time Machine, the bundled backup software on Macs, is a great advantage. Last year, one of our devs’ hard drives failed and, using Time Machine, he had his machine up and running again within a few hours, without needing to reinstall software or reconfigure his machine and development environment.
Anything but turtlenecks
It’s not blind worship of Steve Jobs that guides our choice of equipment. We feel that any decision that affects the working life of our people is important – whether that’s the machines they work on, the chairs they sit on, the layout of the office, or a decent cup of coffee.
That’s one of the reasons we have the R10 000 Rule in the office – any employee can buy a piece of office equipment, on the company credit card, up to the R10k maximum, no questions asked (except no turtlenecks). Some of our team have bought ergonomic chairs, noise-cancelling headphones, ergonomic mice and keyboards, a water filtration system and even an old-school arcade game.
When we moved offices in 2016, we hired Cuban-born, Cape Town-based designer Eubel Gonzalez to create a fun, friendly environment that’s a pleasure to work in. He configured it for comfort, using custom furniture and plenty of greenery. Our devs sit in partitioned workspaces that help cut out some of the distraction of open-plan, while still allowing face-to-face interaction when it’s needed.
We also figured that if you have to sit within four walls during your work day, we should make the walls as beautiful as possible – graphic designer and photographer Matt Stark’s murals make every room unique. They’re complemented with carefully chosen contemporary artwork, design elements, and a poster of Burt Reynolds because, well, every office should have one.
Communal eating is part of the culture at Electrum. It gives our heads a break from work, and it’s a chance to catch up with other people. It’s all made easier thanks to a daily, healthy lunch served up by our in-house chefs. And because nobody should drink bad coffee, we have a restaurant-grade espresso machine and freshly ground beans.
Sometimes the best work environment is your own home. Or Mauritius. I managed to fit some work around a Mauritius kiting trip. Alex, our Head of Business Development worked from a month-long skiing trip in the French Alps. If the job’s done right and on time, we have no problem with our devs working remotely. We’ll even pay for their monitors, mice, keyboards and home internet connection to make it happen.
It’s not really about MacBook Pros or any other specific piece of gear we give our devs. It’s about creating the circumstances that make the working lives of our devs smoother, more efficient, less stressful and more fulfilling. That’s also why practices like the R10 000 Rule are more than gimmicks – they give our people the autonomy to decide for themselves what sort of work environment they want. Which is a lot more powerful than the latest MacBook Pro.