F5 was recently (November 2014) recognised as one of the 30 best companies in Israel by Calcalist, the leading financial publication in Israel. As part of how the award process worked, F5 took on a student, Matan Liberman, from the College of Management Academic Studies, to work with us in Tel Aviv for a few months. He’s reached the end of his time with F5 now, but here is a video that details his experiences (subtitled) plus a summary blog post in his own words:
The Test of Comparison
By Matan Liberman, the College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS)
Published on Calcalist, the leading daily business newspaper in Israel, The Leaders2 project website, Feb 3rd 2015
So how does one sum up a period of three months?
These three months have been packed with discussions, meeting, introductions and hands-on work. Since I had worked in the field of software development during my military service over the last six years, my joining "The Leaders" project was mainly to compare the world of military software development - as I had experienced it, and the way the work takes place in a large company like F5. From my perspective, I think it’s worthwhile to share my conclusions on this subject with you.
I want to start by saying that I was surprised to find more similarities than differences, at least from the standpoint of the professional work. The styles of work routines, development methodologies, and most of the professional terminology were very familiar to me. This has to be taken as a compliment for the military, if it is able to keep pace with an international company such as F5.
Further similarities between the two organizations are the inclination to develop in-house, as opposed to procurement and open code, and the "Big Beast" phenomenon. Organizations of this size, through the vast resources and capabilities at their disposal are able, and are successful in achieving amazing results. The problem most often lies with getting the immense machine moving in a certain direction. But from the moment it gets going, it is very hard to stop it.
The major differences between the organizations are not especially surprising. Outside the significant differences concerning the company's relationship with the employees and their work, there is a major difference in the company’s ability to select the quality of its employees.
In my last position in the military before being discharged, one of the subjects under my responsibility was the professional level of the software development wing in which I served. Six months before the end of my service I began to identify a strong correlation between those who have a real passion for their work and for learning new topics, and those reaching the highest professional levels. There were people who were smarter than this group, and even more driven in routine tasks, but they eventually found themselves falling behind. During the last part of my service, I have attempted to "light the fire" in people where it does not naturally burn, but unfortunately I have very few successes to my credit. Enriching, professional content was circulated to everyone, but it interested only the strongest of the group.
A few weeks after arriving to F5 I understood the company had a critical mass of those people with a passion, those who see software development as a lot more than a 9 to 5 job - it is something that defines them and that they take home.
Left to right: Amnon Lotan, Shlomo Yona, Michael Kapelevich and Maydan Wienreb
I asked Shlomo Yona, my mentor during the program, what he did with his team so it would reach such a high level. His answer was simple - constant learning and curiosity are necessary qualities to get accepted to the team, since the broadening of horizons and delving into the unknown are a significant part of the job. F5 is looking for employees with enthusiasm, interest and passion - employees that take the initiative. The company's employees have the ability to work independently, but also to bear responsibility and cooperate to solve problems.
I think that this is my main conclusion from this internship. No one will "educate" you in the workplace - if you don't keep abreast with new developments, you will find yourself lagging behind. This is probably the most significant difference between the two organizations. The military will push you and make sure you are a professional, but for all the rest of the issues, you have to take care of yourself. The company will take care of you with its perks and conditions, but professionalism is something you have to bring yourself.
In summation, I would like to thank all those who found the time to sit and talk with me - I learned from you all. I also want to thank Galit Khon for her support during the project.
I especially want to thank Shlomo Yona, who taught, instructed and supported me during this time, and to all the algorithm research team - Maydan Wienreb, Michael Kapelevich, and Amnon Lotan - it was amazing.