Staff Spotlight: Renita

 

This year we decided it’s also time for you to get to know our team a little better. For the first staff spotlight, we’d like to (re)introduce you to one of our senior software engineers: Renita! She’s a familiar face to many of our clients in Metro Manila and one of Akubo’s longest tenured members.

 

Name: Renita Pioquid
Job title: Software engineer
Has been in Akubo since: June 2013

 

Tell us about your career so far. What did you do before you came to Akubo?

Right after college I worked as an IT instructor for 6 months in Aklan (June – November 2008). I left Aklan in June 2009 and applied for a software developer position in a small company in Makati. I left my second job to look for an opportunity to better enhance my skills and that’s when I joined Akubo.

What projects do you work on?

I started working on adding client enhancement requests in Akubo, including the events and memberships feature, and working with another software engineer to completely modify the look and feel of Akubo.

What do you like about being a software engineer?

I think it’s being able to have a chance to use technology to help others.

Tell us about a typical day at work.

Coffee jump-starts my day, then I spend the first few hours making sure I don’t have any unopened emails in my inbox (I hate seeing unopened email notices in my inboxes. Haha), then I plot my schedule for the week so I can easily track my available dates in case a request for product presentation or client visit / meeting pops in. The remaining hours of the day are spent either in development, meetings / visits / sales presentation, and working with other developers.

What’s the most rewarding part about being in Akubo / being a software engineer?

There was this one time when I had to train members of a government office and at the end of the training one of the bosses said, “You’re really good at what you do.” To be appreciated by people you work directly or indirectly because you’ve made their work a little easier / faster (through technology) is I think the best reward.

What do you look forward to learning?

 I think being adaptive to new technologies is a good to have skill when you’re a software engineer. In the future, I wish to jump into mobile app development since most users now have access to cellphones. Easy access to smart phones tends to push most service providers now to have a corresponding app available for their services/products.

How do you balance client expectations with your workload?

I tend to set priorities, making sure that urgent needs are tackled first and client expectations are met on time.

What’s the key to managing / completing a project successfully?

Following a development life cycle (SDLC) is key. In every project it is always vital to start with defining the requirements, planning and design before building a product. And always perform thorough testing or series of tests before deployment.

What do you find most challenging about your work? How do you deal with it?

 I think I still find doing multiple roles challenging. It often confuses me to switch between tasks, so what I did is to divide my work week between development, sales, tech support and office work. I also use apps like Apple Calendar and Trello to manage schedule and deadlines.

How do you define success?

Success for me is doing things that make me and the people I love happy and things that help others.

What is your philosophy in life / motto / mantra?

To always see things positively.

Tell us about three career lessons you’ve learned so far.

  1. To know when to speak and when to listen
  2. To always keep an open mind, and
  3. To never stop learning.

What does Akubo mean to you?

Akubo is family and friendship. Family because it is supportive and gives you opportunities to help you grow as a person and as a software engineer. Friendship because over the years, I was able to meet real friends in Akubo.

 

Bonus questions!

Favorite movie: The Age of Adaline

Comfort food: Blueberry cheesecake

If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Blue. It’s calming and it reminds me of the color of the sky and the ocean.

If you could swap places with someone else for a day, who would it be? Mark Zuckerberg, I wanted to know what a day in Facebook is like. 

Best of luck!

Last week we bid farewell to two long-time employees. We’re very happy to have worked with Myla, our operations manager, and Patrick, one of our software engineers, over the past 3 years!

One of Akubo’s first employees, Myla has always been full of energy and makes everyone, including our student interns and remote co-workers, feel welcome to the team. Patrick is less sentimental, yet he leaves his mark with his tongue-in-cheek humor. We wish both of them the best of luck as they move on to their next chapters in their careers.

best-of-luck-1

best-of-luck-2

Bug Tracking

bug-tracking

by Carlos Resurreccion, System Administrator

The only thing that is constant is change they say. So software systems likewise will require change over time due to changes in user needs, change in technology, or just because it’s not working right (i.e. buggy), among other things.

The changes to the software need to be recorded or tracked in order to know who did what on which part of the system and how it was done. These recorded information can then be used to coordinate work among developers to avoid overlapping of work assignments, identification of finished and unfinished tasks, and provide a ready-reference for future tasks of similar nature, etc. But even a one-man team can benefit from recording such information to better organize the development effort, especially when the system being developed has a level of complexity.

Continue reading “Bug Tracking”

Akubo at Campus Devcon: Five lessons about UI Design

https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f28717926%2f44263128080%2f1%2foriginal

Recently we attended the Campus Code DevCon, held at the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos last February 28.

Partly sponsored by Akubo, the forum aimed to boost students’ academic learning with trends in the IT industry and discussions on bug tracking, version control, and design. Among the guest speakers were two members of our team. I was one of them.

When I was first told to talk about UI design, I was not sure if I was the right person. I started to create user interface mockups for Akubo projects two years ago. I learned on my own, and I still have a lot to learn. So I reminded myself: every UI designer starts as a beginner.

ui-design

What is UI?

Decades ago, if you wanted a computer to do something, you had to use a programming language and type a command. It was just a screen and lines of code.

Eventually we were introduced to computers with an interface, and a mouse cursor. Most of us know the old (Windows) design: the gray pop-up windows, chunky buttons, checkboxes, desktop icons.

The design may already look “ancient” next to the ones we now see today, especially on smartphones. But still, old or new, they’re both examples of UI design.

UI stands for user interface, and it’s more than just the colors or graphics. UI design is the look or layout of the product, and everything that the user sees or clicks (or presses, on a touchscreen device). A Sign Up button, the menu, the links on the sidebar, the familiar What’s on your mind? field in Facebook, the Photo Stories of Instagram — these are all parts of a user interface.

Five Lessons

You’d think that after two years I’d find it easy to create designs for our projects at Akubo. That’s not always the case. But I did learn a few things, and so every time I begin to work on a mockup, I remind myself of five things:

1. Who will use it?

Is your software/app for kids or adults? Millennials, teachers, or parents, who may not be very tech-savvy? Once you understand who you’re designing for, it’s easier to plan out everything else: what information you need to show, how to organize the pages, the style of the graphics or illustrators, the colors, even the font families and the writing style.

2. Work with shades of gray

A tip I learned only recently — build your mockup with monochrome colors first. Worry about the colors, gradients, and fonts later. This way, you can focus more on the layout and the technical aspects of the design. It’s also an exercise to test your skill and your creativity, and you’ll learn to make your product look great and usable, even in black and white.

ui-a

3. Be consistent

The red traffic light always means Stop, whether you’re here or in another country. It’s the same idea in UI design. The buttons, links, and text headers are there to guide your user around your product, so they need to be easily recognized. If your Cancel buttons only have red borders, then all Cancel buttons in all pages need red borders. If you use an X icon to Close a page, use a different icon for Remove or Delete options.

ui-b

4. Use simple language

Most bad examples are error messages. “404 Not Found?” or “Syntax Error?” might mean something to programmers, but it’s a foreign language to ordinary users. The user doesn’t know what it means. Or what went wrong, how to fix it, or when it will be fixed. When that happens, you’re basically leaving your user in the dark, and the experience doesn’t give your product a good impression.

5. Copy and deconstruct

If you’re new to UI design, it’s hard to create something from scratch, or something original. That’s why we learn and practice by copying.

The idea is not to plagiarize — it’s to sketch out the skeleton of a design. When you copy a design, you break down every element of the product. The tabs, headers, sidebars, positions of the sections and even sizes of the buttons.

Slowly you’ll understand why the design worked for that product, and why it might or might not work for a product like yours.

_

This article was written by Joy Martir, a Design & Communications Specialist at Akubo.

Job Perks: Work from home

blog-work-from-home

We at Akubo enjoy a handful of job perks. Newbies get their first big one on their third month at work: once a week, they get to work from home! And it’s easily one of the best perks — here’s why:

We don’t need to look presentable

So we’re free to send emails, write code, or fix software bugs while in our pajamas! It’s an advantage particularly for our co-workers with young children, because working from home means more bonding time.

It also means less travel expenses

We get to save gas or jeep/taxi fare, as well as time in traffic, which can be long and tedious especially for our Manila-based team.

blog-work-from-home-3

We can work from anywhere, not just our home

It is widely known that J.K. Rowling herself wrote the first Harry Potter manuscript in coffee shops. Many of us would agree that it’s energizing to work in caffeine-filled places and get that much-needed inspiration, so this once-a-week job perk lets us do just that.

blog-work-from-home-2

I have worked at Akubo long enough to be among the first to enjoy this job perk, and even plan how the schedule works. Every member of our team works at home on a different day every month — any day except Wednesdays, that is. We have to complete as a team at least once a week for staff meetings or company lunches.

Not every organization can afford to let employees work from home. Ours allows it, partly because our tasks, like email support or programming, are often doable wherever there is wi-fi. Working from home is a nice break for us. It’s a day that we look forward to and keeps our daily routine from feeling too mundane, even if it’s just once a week.

(PHOTOS) May-June 2016

A few weeks ago our company founder, Robin Abello, came home to Bacolod City in time for two events.

The first was the soft product launch of Twerkle at Sugarland Hotel. Twerkle is a new human resource software being co-developed by the Akubo team with US-based company HowardTech.

Twerkle Launch

 

At 7pm of the same day, we hosted Roofcamp x ClearbugsClearbugs is the bug tracking software developed by Akubo, and this is the second time we have collaborated with Roofcamp to hold its trademark gathering for open information exchange here in Bacolod City.

The free two-hour session featured our own founder Robin Abello and one of our software engineers, Ronilo Peñero, Jr, as speakers, who discussed software systems and bug tracking, respectively.

Clearbugs 2

Clearbugs

 

In line with our bi-monthly company lunches, our team also took an opportunity to have the buffet experience together at Vikings!

Vikings 1

What multi-tasking cost me

Blog - Multitasking

Being a customer care engineer, I have to work with clients and assist them if they have technical questions. I handle clients in the US and in the Visayas region in the Philippines, and sometimes give client presentations. At the same time, I also have another task: a web application project.

With these tasks that I have to work on everyday, I have to multitask so that I can accomplish all of it on schedule. But lately, with the looming deadline of the project I’m working on, I have to prioritize it. Unfortunately, by doing so, I gave all my hours to the project and completely forgot to check the clients.

So I was struggling to catch up with technical support to clients AND risking the programming project. If I’m in the middle of tech support and an email comes in regarding the system, I would get distracted. I would go and check the code, then eventually forget to compose a tech support email. It’s the same thing when I’m programming and a client calls, asking for help.

While I was juggling two tasks, it became too hard for me to concentrate. Half of my brain was left pondering on a support question and half of it was trying to figure out how to put that function into code. I admit that it isn’t ideal; however, at that time it was the only way I could work on both tasks.

I got distracted.

Because of how the project turned out, I was pulled out of it. I had to put all my attention back to Akubo support. It wasn’t a good time for me because I felt that I failed. But I have to move on and learn from it.

For me, the cost of multitasking is that I lost my train of thought, especially when I get overwhelmed with work. When multitasking, you have to be good at time management, and in my case, both tasks were a high priority and needed full attention, which is why it was hard for me.

However, while it was bad for me, I did learn something out of it. I had to be strict in following the time I set for each task. If I set time in the morning for tech support and in the afternoon for programming tasks, I should follow that schedule and not let myself be distracted. This is helpful in a way that my brain can focus one task at a time, instead of dealing with multiple assignments at the same time.

_
Written by Pauline Manolo.
Pauline is one of Akubo’s customer care engineers, a bookworm, and an avid writer in her spare time.

How I de-stress a work day

Blog - How 3

It is inevitable to experience stress at work; it’s pretty much tacitly implied when you agreed for the job. But it doesn’t mean that you have bear it until the end of the work day. There are ways to cope with stress, depending on a person.

For me, when I’m stressed at work I listen to my favorite artist. Music plays an important role in my life. Each artist has their purpose and time when I should listen to it. Being a Taylor Swift fan, I listen to her songs the most. If I’m stressed or came up blank in programming, I listen to all the albums of Maroon 5. In the afternoons, when I feel lazy, I listen to Hozier. Or if I have an assigned task which is overwhelming and I feel like I couldn’t do it, I listen to a playlist that I created, titled ‘Chin up’. It contains uplifting and confidence boosting songs.

If music couldn’t help, then I eat a tub of my favorite ice cream. It’s my body’s way of saying that while I’m stressed, at least I have a little bit of heaven — in the form of ice cream.

I guess the most common way for me to de-stress is that I check for updates from my favorite authors, or the release days of books that I’m waiting for. I have a calendar in my phone full of dates when this book or that book will be released. And usually a couple of days before the release day, there is a blog tour: it features teasers or excerpts. It isn’t that long but it is enough for me to take my mind off things for a while.

Blog - How I De-stress a work day 2

But mostly, I listen to my body. If I’m too stressed, and my body is screaming for a little break, then I stop whatever I’m doing to take a deep breath for a couple of minutes. I learned the hard way that I have to set a limit for the amount of stress my body can handle. If I pushed myself, I know that it will go back to myself and I’ll eventually get sick.

I tend to overthink things, and the way I usually understand a certain topic is far from what the clients actually wants, because I throw in a lot of what ifs, alternative solutions which, when you look at it, aren’t relevant to what the client is asking for. At these times, I communicate with our developers and when I get the feeling that I’m trailing away from the actual topic, that’s the time I say to myself to take a breather.

It is important for me to de-stress. I can’t work properly if I’m too stressed. Actually I can, but the output of my work is barely passable.

Stress is not good for our health. I think it is needed for someone to alleviate the stress they are feeling by doing things that can make them feel happy or light even for a brief amount of time.

_
Written by Pauline Manolo
Pauline is one of Akubo’s customer care engineers, a bookworm, and an avid writer in her spare time.

Akubo Christmas Party 2015

Blog - Christmas Party

Yesterday we had our little Christmas party as a team.

Unlike our previous overnight gatherings, we spent only a day together, this time at Punong Silay / Gary’s Place, where we relaxed, ate a great lunch, played some games (four of our members even ended up playing piko later on), and did a long session of gift exchange.

Christmas Party 2015

We’re happy to have celebrated early with our founder, Robin Abello, who had come home for Christmas with his family. Happy holidays, everyone!

Christmas Party 2015 - 2Christmas Party 2015 - 4 Christmas Party 2015 - 3

7 Cool job benefits that keep Akubo employees happy

Blog - Job Benefits

As an employer, Akubo wants to make sure employees are happy. After all, the company understands that people are the ones who keep the business going.

Prior to joining the Akubo team, I have been in the call center industry for 9 years. I was in operations so I lived and breathed the fast paced culture for as long as I can remember until I decided one day I wanted to stop and smell the roses. My career was growing fast but I did not have time to sit down and have coffee with friends or have a vacation with family because I was always working. Needless to say, I left the job I had always loved because my priorities have changed.

The opportunity to join the Akubo team came unplanned but it was probably the best decision that I have ever made. I have always loved working with people and make customers happy. As a customer development manager for Akubo, I communicate with existing clients and have the challenge of improving customer relationships to make clients our long-term partners. This is where I get to do just that, plus so much more.

A year and a half in Akubo, here are 7 awesome benefits that the team and I enjoy:

Drinks in the fridge

Here at Akubo, we have a fridge with a variety of drinks available (coffee, soda, juice, milk, chocolate drink) for all employees. This doesn’t seem like much, but it can really help everyone out. This lets employees get that boost of energy without having to run out of the office to get drinks. People also feel more at home in the office because of this.

Education subsidizing

Education is undoubtedly valuable to any employee, but it’s a privilege that not everyone can afford. Whether it be informal training or a post-graduate degree, Akubo invests in its employees. This way, employees get to bring in new ideas they learned from their classes which they can also apply at work and people appreciate the company more for helping them reach their educational goals.

Paid day-off on birthdays

Everybody likes feeling special, and getting a day off on your birthday definitely makes you feel special. Akubo is one of the few companies in Bacolod that offers this benefit and everyone loves it!

Free food

This is another great way for Akubo to make employees feel at home: providing free food lets employees run to the pantry and grab a snack instead of going out of the office.

Work from any space you choose within the office

Akubo sees flexibility as a benefit for its employees and believes that giving people the flexibility to where they are at their best is a way to increase their productivity and satisfaction. If you’d rather put your headphones on and stay in a corner and work alone (like I prefer to) instead of sit with a group of people in a big office table, you are encouraged to do so.

Bi-monthly team lunch

We also have the twice monthly team lunch that everyone looks forward to. This allows for people to connect with everybody even on a busy work day and get a chance to try out new restaurants in Bacolod.

Work at home

Every employee in Akubo gets to pick a day where they don’t have to report in the office and can work at home. This means I get to save on travel time going to and from the office on my scheduled work-at-home and I get to put on my favorite music and sing along with it without a colleague having to complain about it. Also, the beauty of working at home is that no one’s there to see all your weird rituals that help you do your job effectively.

_

This article was written by Ina Torrejon, our customer development manager at Akubo.