As you might be aware, effective April 4th 2015, the new minimum wage for non agricultural workers in Philippines has raised from P451.02 a day to P466 (+P15.00 COLA) a day. (Source: DOLE)
Not so many months ago, a talkative fellow wandered in my small Cebu office by chance. Dressed in shorts, flip flops and a black shirt with a man in a red cape. Turned out that was Mike Stephenson, CEO of PayrollHero. He talked about adventure, learning, teamwork and improving one’s self and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Manila two days later to pair with a few of their engineers. A little under a year and here I am, in Singapore, busting out a blog post about the adventures and misadventures of Adventure Engineering.
Adventure engineers often travel depending on the client’s need. We go wherever we can be more effective at our job. Being ridiculously client focused, as we always say. (yes, we are hiring)
One of the things that we wanted to try out this year was to partner up with 3rd party engineering teams to help us increase our velocity. In comes AgilityIO, a 150-strong engineering team based in Da Nang, Vietnam. We believe that a lot of problems can easily be solved when you’re in the same room together with your team. Making the communication loop so much shorter meant making things move faster.
At the beginning of April, Adam, Mike, Piotr and I decided to meet up in Da Nang, Vietnam to personally meet and work with team Agility. Adam, and Mike flew in from Singapore, Piotr arrived from Whistler and I catapulted all the way from Manila.
Getting to Da Nang is no simple task. Flying from the Philippines meant that I had to take a flight to either Hanoi or Saigon, then take another domestic flight to central Vietnam. I landed in Saigon around 12am bags in hand waiting for my next flight at 5am. DO NOT fly at these hours. Saigon domestic airport closes at night and the earliest they open is at four in the morning. I had to stay outside of the building and wait for it to open. Fun times indeed. I arrived in Da Nang around 6:30am. Being in Vietnam also meant that we had to wake up an hour earlier. Our daily huddle always happens at 6:47am GMT+8 and no, it doesn’t matter where you are.
I downed a can of RedBull and a shot of Cà phê sữa đá and headed to AgilityIO’s office with Piotr. Agility has a HUGE office in Da Nang, 5 floors of mobile and backend developers, it seemed like they had it all. We knew from the start that this wasn’t going to be a breeze. Communication and getting your thoughts across was definitely a challenge, but we didn’t let that wall stop us from where we’re going. We’re now two weeks into the project that we’re working with Agility and we’re almost near completion.
Da Nang wasn’t all work and no play. We went for a food tour around Da Nang at lunch time. Summer from Funtastic Food Tour took us around Da Nang to its secret foodie gems scattered all around the city.
The next day we hopped in a cab and ventured to Hoi An. Our first stop was the Marble Mountains. The Marble Mountains is a cluster of mountains made of, you guessed it, marble. Going up one of the mountains wasn’t that difficult. Partly because the local government attached a modern elevator to the side of the mountain that takes you up halfway of the mountain.
Scaling the peak wasn’t all that bad either. All that marble makes for perfect steps when crawling up to the peak.
We just made it in time for lunch at our hotel and just enough time to prepare for our motorbike tour around the countryside of Hoi An. This was the very first time I learned how to ride a motorbike and surprisingly enough it wasn’t that bad. Vuong took us around the scenic countryside of Hoi An, we rode on floating bridges, elevated bamboo bridges and along the rice fields. Exhilarating and enjoyable, the whole 5 hour ride was quite the experience.
Finishing at 7pm left me little time to prepare for my 9pm domestic flight to Hanoi to get to Manila. Even though I left Vietnam a bit exhausted with mud on my shoes and a little bit of dirt here and there, I had a really great time. 10/10 would definitely do again.
Want to read more about our Adventure Engineers? Check out Nico’s story from when he left Manila to work from the Whistler office while getting his Canadian residency.
Interested in joining our team? We are always hiring!
What is an Adventure Engineer?
PayrollHero client Frontline Accounting liked what they saw on our blog from our visits to the White Cross Orphanage that they organized a trip to visit the kids themselves. Check out their video from their visit:
White Cross always needs visitors and donations. Reach out to us if you are interested in connecting.
Editors Note: Introducing Kieran Peppiatt, Head of Client Success at PayrollHero. He will be contributing to the PayrollHero blog from time to time.
So it might seem a bit peculiar to make my inaugural post to be about commuting! I actually plan to write about Client Success in the Philippines. However, if you live in the Philippines you’ll know it’s a pretty big problem. Traffic in Manila is some of the worst I have experienced. There are now over one billion cars on the planet and I am pretty sure they’re all here!
According to Time.com the average American’s commute to work is 25 ½ minutes, well the average commute in the Philippines is around 2 hours. The Philippine’s is ranked 9th worst for traffic in the world, and although that’s better than their airport rating it’s still not a ranking to be proud of.
Manila’s rush hour, like any, is a total misnomer. In fact the Philippine government estimates that Manila’s traffic costs the country around $3 billion per year. This is from wasted fuel, break downs, road works, deaths (you will go nowhere in an ambulance) and productivity.
Something to think about…
What does commuting mean for ensuring clients are successful?
Studies have shown that commuting will increase your blood sugar levels, cholesterol and likelihood of depression. The UK office of national statistics has also shown that your anxiety levels drastically increase, and another study by the University of Utah shows that your blood pressure temporarily spikes as direct result of a long commute.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg and keep in mind that all of these studies based their findings on commutes that exceed thirty minutes, which is way below the standard here in the Philippines.
Think about that for a moment. Your team arrive, there was a big pile up on the highway. There late and already frustrated before they’ve even logged in to their computer. There’s a backlog of tickets because they’re only just in the door. Is that really going to create an environment that is conducive to excellent customer service?
Commuting means it’s not 9 to 5… it’s more like 7 till 7.
It’s really hard to build a team of truly exceptional employees in any industry. Add to the fact that even a two mile commute is a one hour mission. It starts to shrink the area of your employment pool. People just don’t want the hassle and who would? If you commute for two hours each way you are wasting 43 days of your life every year stuck in traffic. Not to mention the travel conditions for some commuters.
When it comes to Client Success attracting the right people is important. Without truly empathetic people whatever you try it’s all irrelevant. You want people who instinctively put themselves in the clients shoes, who can evaluate situations quickly, figure out a problem and act to create an environment in which your clients can thrive. These types of people are hard to come by.
So, how do you get them to commute to you? What should you do to try and attract the right talent into making the trip every day to your office? You don’t. We made a rule, you either live within walking distance of the office or you don’t come in. All you need to have is a computer and internet connection that is good enough to bring the office to you.
It’s quite early in our trials and this is definitely going to be a topic that I write about in the future. I’ll keep you guys informed on what we learn from it. That said, the staff who have opted to go down this route are genuinely happier and definitely more productive. They choose to spend more time helping out and don’t have to worry about getting up early to commute to work, or leaving late to miss the traffic home.
The plan is to meet up every second weekend so we can have face to face time, good food and a few drinks. We will also do a retroactive look back on the last two weeks. This is where we can see what we did well, not so well and most importantly learn how we can improve. Something I definitely plan to share more with you on in the future.
By the way, if you didn’t notice we’re hiring in a big way. If you love customers even more than we hate commuting get in touch.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the Philippines is no longer the world’s worst airport, rising to fourth spot after topping the list for the past four years.
With a slight improvement in its ranking as a result of increased positive votes for its Terminal 3, the same can be said about the country – looking ahead despite ongoing challenges.
We have visitors coming to Manila all year round and continue sending out information about the taxis at the airport so I figured I would post it here for all to use. For our purposes, the fees are based on getting from NAIA to Fort Bonifacio.
Metered Taxis are the yellow ones that are found under the “Metered Taxi” sign. There is a desk there that will grab your name and give you a slip of paper with the vehicle’s license plate written on it. This is meant to give you some comfort incase there is an issue or you forget something, but best to make a note of the plate yourself as many times they are not legible (see below). The costs from NAIA to Fort Bonifacio should be about P220+/- (depends on traffic and route)
Coupon Taxis (aka Fixed Fare)
The Fixed Fare taxis are just down the road a little bit and marked with a similar sign. They are white, and usually larger than the metered taxis. They are a bit better quality vehicle and will take you to Fort Bonifacio for a flat P440.
Here is what the paperwork looks like. What license plate is my taxi?
What to watch for at NAIA?
1. There are a lot of random people running around asking you if you need a taxi. Many don’t have “official” ID. I find it best to go straight to the counter where the taxis are.
2. The taxis drivers love to say “no change” – so best to bring pesos with you.
3. Keep an eye on your items.
Welcome to the Philippines!! Make sure to get out to some of the beaches, they are the best in the world.
Most software as a service (SaaS) companies focus on the US market, or other western countries with little regard for emerging markets. While there are definitely challenges with focusing on emerging markets (internet, power, traffic, corruption, to name a few) there are some big advantages.
For example, the above photo was taken at a department store in the Philippines. In this photo, of one of the many areas of the 3 floor department store has no less than 12 employees. For a company like PayrollHero that charges based on employee count, you can see why we like emerging markets. In Canada or the US, if I took the same photo, you would be lucky to see 1 employee.
But it is not all as easy as it seems. These employees are actually not employees of the department store but rather merchandisers who work directly for the brands they are standing beside. So while you might see 12 employees, they most likely work for 12 different companies. Making selling a product or service to them a bit more of a challenge.
But still, employee counts in restaurants, retail, etc are usually much higher in emerging markets due to the cost of labour.