Alexandre Delavanne is Technical Architect, Head of Carrefour’s Microsoft department and a member of the Carrefour back office team. In his time with Carrefour, he’s led various team building projects.
Last month however, Alexandre decided to organize something new, reinventing team building for his tech team. On April 15 and for two hours straight, 15 members of the Microsoft cluster battled it out, remotely, in a Clash of Code tournament. On the menu? A series of mini coding competitions or “Clashes”.
Developers took to virtual coding arenas with only their wit, speed, and favorite programming languages to defend themselves with.
This collaboration with CodinGame is part of an action plan that Alexandre has been working on for the past few months. He has identified two main goals:
- To inspire remote team dynamic and nurture team relationships
- To encourage skill sharing between tech employees
How does he plan to achieve these goals? With a company culture of learning through games. Curious? We were too!
Alexandre agreed to let us in on all of his remote team building secrets! In this interview, he tells us how he went about organizing an online Clash of Code tournament for his people and how he made sure that the event was successful.
A discussion that was as authentic as it was inspiring.
Have remote team building initiatives taken a new turn amidst the current health crisis or were they already an integral part of your practices?
I have teams scattered across France. So, I’d been thinking about organizing a remote team building event for some time.
The teams that I’m responsible for work simultaneously on several projects and in different workplaces. We’re split between Massy and Lyon. Plus, a lot of the teams (in Lyon especially) are physically distant at work, even though they’re in the same building! They don’t mix on a daily basis, but they’re regularly required to collaborate.
This year, I’ve been working on internal activities that encourage learning through games, through enjoyable activities. The idea is to bring my teams closer together so that they can get to know each other, ask each other questions, share technical knowledge and, in fine, easily move from one project (and project team) to another.
It’s a long-term and strategic aim and I take it very seriously. Plus, in today’s context of crisis, isolation and remote working obligations, it’s especially relevant.
Has the recent boom in remote working made a big difference to you and your teams?
As far as our ongoing projects are concerned, switching to telecommuting has shaken up some of our work habits. In the end though, it’s actually the human side of things, the lack of human interaction, that’s most difficult to deal with. Although we are fully equipped for teleworking, communication just isn’t the same.
It’s extremely important to be attentive to your colleagues’ well-being. Managers and team members need to be on the lookout for signs of unhappiness or isolation. Our Clash of Code event was one way to keep this negativity at bay.
How did your Clash of Code event combine business and social objectives?
We organized this event with two goals in mind. We wanted to strengthen the social link between team members and we wanted to encourage our developers to share their best practices. Both goals were equally important to us.
Skill sharing within the tech team ensures that transitioning from one technical project to another is easy, efficient and well-organized.
A tightly-knit tech team is an asset to any company. Close team collaboration facilitates group synergy, improves retention, cultivates creativity, etc.
What event formats have you tried in the past?
I try to offer variety in the events that I put together.
Last year, we organized a 2-hour coding session where everyone worked on the same exercise. Developers took part in teams of two, taking turns to work on the same functionality. Working in close proximity, they were able to discuss ideas and guide each other. The most interesting part of this event was to see how each team produced something different by approaching the topic in their own way.
I’ve also considered group activities, where we’d identify a piece of code as « bad » and put our heads together to come up with and challenge different solutions.
What matters most, for me, is that participants really enjoy themselves!
What made you choose CodinGame’s Clash of Code?
I knew about CodinGame for a couple of reasons.
A long time ago, I actually joined the CodinGame.com platform and took part in a couple of coding contests. Then, Carrefour decided to start using CodinGame Assessment as part of their recruitment process. I’ve now been using the CodinGame’s tech hiring platform to test candidates’ technical skills for over a year.
I was much less familiar with the company events side of CodinGame. I only came across it recently.
The addictive Clash of Code format was a perfect fit. We were able to organize an event that was utterly in line with the action plan I’d been working on. Plus, when the country went into lockdown and all of our teams were forced to work from home, CodinGame was a life saver!
What did you like most about the Clash of Code format?
It’s both short and dynamic.
Each clash is fast, between 5 and 10 minutes, and I really liked the fact that there are several types of exercise. Depending on the clash mode, you can be awarded points for speed of execution, quality of the code… Oh and for the reverse mode you need to look at the problem backwards to find the initial algorithm! There are also clash modes that award points for the shortest code. This always bothers the « purists » among us, but that’s just how it is! 😉
Based on your experience, what’s your advice for anyone wanting to organize this type of event?
When organizing such a project, there are several non-negotiables:
Listen to your teams: these initiatives are halfway between work and personal time. We, for example, set up a survey to find out who wanted to take part, before taking a blind leap of faith and imposing an event without considering colleagues’ opinions and obligations.
Make participation optional: it’s important to understand that this type of event isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. I would therefore advise against making participation compulsory. Besides, here at Carrefour, we made participation completely optional and ⅔ of our teams decided to take part – not bad at all!
Set up communication channels: when organizing events between remote teams, it’s a real plus to set up communication channels for before, during and after the event. For example, when organizing an event for our Massy and Lyon teams, we’d connect the two sites by video-conference. This is all the more important in these troubling times, when contact is particularly difficult. Live communication brings excitement and friendliness to an event.
Have fun: the « game » concept of your chosen activity is decisive. The fun, even competitive, aspect of your event will draw teams in. They’ll really rise to the challenge and immerse themselves in the game. This is one of the things we loved about Clash of Code.
Gather feedback: it’s when we debrief on code that we learn the most. It’s important to go beyond the competition and get together as a team to discuss what was produced in the game.
Measure team satisfaction: to help us make decisions about future events, we take the time to survey participating teams. For example, after our Clash of Code event, we asked participants if they’d like to repeat the CoC experience. 90% of participants gave us the green light!
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