Tag Archives: culture blog

How Software Developers Learned from the Food Service Industry

2 Mar

We had a kind of odd Leap Day celebration this year at OST – we ran a one-day-only pop-up restaurant from within our headquarters in Grand Rapids. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, what?” I’ll say it again. We served breakfast and lunch to nearly 80 customers, including a Rice Krispy-crusted French toast, an eggplant, squash and zucchini tower, and perhaps the fanciest lasagna roulades I’ve ever seen.

Why would a technology firm – a company that prides itself in our Design to Datacenter delivery framework – spend the last Monday of the month running a restaurant? It’s a fair question, and something I spent a lot of time thinking about as I stood in our lobby, decked out in my Café OST t-shirt and seating guests and clearing tables.

Here, then, are the three most obvious lessons learned:

We succeed and fail together. Whether you’re taking orders, plating lunches, running food, or clearing tables, you can’t run a restaurant without counting on the rest of the team to support you. What would happen if, every time a customer gave an order to the waiter, your waiter said, “I can’t cook that, so I don’t know what you’re going to get.”

It’s true, though. Your waiter isn’t going to cook your lunch, but they are trusting that the kitchen staff will, and that trust is so strong that they make recommendations, take our orders, and never hint that there is any chance that things won’t go exactly as planned.

Is that dishonest? Is it wrong that I’m confirming details that are outside of my control? Absolutely not. It’s essential to our success. As a team, each of us has unique abilities and responsibilities, and we’re trusting on each member of the team to fulfill their role. The sales team can’t write code, and the delivery team isn’t responsible for selling; but without the two working together, trusting that they can do their jobs, we’d all be out of work. Whether your work is in a restaurant or you’re part of a complex software delivery team, whether you realize it or not, we succeed and fail together.

Details matter. One of our customers today had a silverware roll that was missing a fork. Something as simple as a fork has the ability to define or deny a customer an enjoyable experience. How can I eat a salad – even the best salad in the world – without a fork? I can’t. Paying attention to those details, working to ensure that no detail is overlooked that nothing is taken for granted – that’s the most-basic building block of successful service.

I don’t make forks. I wasn’t even responsible for forks today. I’m not even sure that I know where the forks were kept – but I know that forks matter. And I was on the look-out, every time we reset a table for the rest of the day – to ensure everyone had a fork. We each have our individual roles and responsibilities, but we’re all responsible for quality control. They say the devil is in the details – the details matter, and it’s everyone’s job to keep them in focus if our goal is to deliver quality.

Service is service. Whether you’re waiting tables, baking quiches, or plating lunches, you’re in service. Whether we’re writing code, configuring RAID arrays, updating a virtual environment or providing strategic assessments, you’re in service. Whether we think of it that way or not, we’re a service provider, and our (unspoken) commitment to all of our clients is the exact same in our real lives as it was in Café OST today – to deliver exceptional service.

We have the luxury as consultants to define our customers’ expectations. Then we get the pleasure of delivering on those expectations. That contract defines what we do, and defines everything we do in the service industry. I am proud to have dedicated my life to the service industry, and thankful that I got to spend the day reminding myself of this.

I’m thankful that I work for a company where we’re granted that luxury to learn. There is so much to do, and only so many hours in a month – how great is it to have been given the grace to spend a whole day of that time focusing my energy on the core of what we do?

Here’s my call to action for you: Find the time. Every moment you spend learning is a moment that will reward you tenfold. Every minute you spend exploring why you do what you do is a minute that will color all the minutes that follow it.

Your order is in the window.

Eat up, while the plate’s still hot.

_ _ _

Andrew Powell edited photo

Andrew J Powell, Application Development Principal, OST

Andrew Powell serves the Application Development practice at OST , providing guidance, strategic support, and candy to more than fifty developers and consultants. Andrew has been a technology consultant for more than twenty years. In addition to consulting, Andrew is a frequent public speaker in technology circles, and loves to talk about the coming Robot Apocalypse and how application developers are positioned to defend the world against our future robot overlords. When not cowering in fear, Andrew makes his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Fun Facts about OST

20 Oct

OST Day of Refection – Celebrating What We Have Accomplished Over the Past Year   

Does it feel like you are constantly running hard, giving it your all, and when you finally finish a project you jump onto the next one without ever celebrating what you have just accomplished?  It seems like most of us are like that in our personal lives and in our work lives, and OST is no exception.  So we decided to designate a day, Friday, October 3, as a day for us all to reflect back on the past year and all of our success.  It was a normal workday except that we decoded to spoil ourselves with great food, massages, shuffleboard, and more throughout the day.  It is an overused phrase, but we wanted each of our employees to be able to take the time to “smell the roses” and savor their accomplishments.

At OST, we take great pride in our culture. There’s something special about OST – and its people. Over the year, the OST family has crossed some interesting milestones – some remarkable, some just fun.  As part of our OST Day of Reflection, we asked our different teams to provide interesting and fun facts and figures, which were then presented in a digital presentation that ran throughout all of our offices the entire day.

Take a look at some of our favorites:

OST Names

There is a 47.5% chance you share your name with someone else at OST.



Clock Hero

The ERP team has traveled 293,848 miles across the globe this past year to better serve our clients.



Managed Services

Managed Services handled over 14,000 high severity issues through monitoring since September 2011. They also currently manage 2,423 servers and 2.4 petabyte of storage, hold 342 certifications, and hold 6.4 billion records of data in their analytics data warehouse. Members of the Managed Services team have also been woken up in the middle of the night 1,192 times in the last three years.




Operations consumes a daily average caffeine intake of 4,631 mg.




OST has been written about in over 126 articles.




OST has received & sent over 1,164,000 emails this year (outside of OST).




The OST family has grown by 58 employees in the past year.




The OST family has grown more than by its employees, but by its babies/grandbabies. 18 new babies/grandbabies were born into the family in the past year




Over the year, we have had over 11,000 cans of pop.



March Madness-33

The security team has cracked over 3,000 passwords in the past year.




So far this year, OST Staff have sent 562,800 instant messages.




We’ve had over 834 pounds of candy (which includes 375 pounds of peanut M&M’s)



The sales team has lost over 73 golf balls during golf outings in the last 12 months.

OST’s Magic Recipe for Chicken (Dancing)

28 Aug

Whitecaps 2013192. That’s how many tickets I handed out for this year’s OST Night at the Ballpark – our annual summer celebration for our Grand Rapids employees and their families. 192! That’s one hundred more guests than last year!

Growth. That’s what we’ve been experiencing – but not just this year, every year. As a matter in fact, just last week we found out that OST landed on the Inc 500 | 5000 list for the seventh year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US. We recognize this level of exponential growth is unprecedented and are grateful every day for the opportunities it provides, but how does that happen? What’s the secret?

Well, I’ll say it here, but it’s been said hundreds of times before me– we believe that one of the main contributions to our success has been this magical little recipe that our entire organization follows when making all major business decisions:

  1. Employees First
  2. Clients Second
  3. Profits To Follow

Back in 1997 when Hanson was Hmmbop-ing on the radio and overalls were über chic, OST was formed. And right from the beginning, the team decided to always make sure that employees needs were the company’s top priority, followed by the clients. They didn’t let the neon of the 90’s cloud their decision and to this day we are led by a team that understands if you take care of your employees first and your clients immediately following, the profits will fall into place.

So when the seventh inning stretch rolls around and the chicken dance starts to play, we at OST feel confident that we are part of a family that supports us and respects us as individuals, and we shake our little tail feathers with no hesitation.  When you know the company you work for has your back, it’s much easier to stand tall and put in your best effort, every day. And that, we believe, is one major reason we have been able to continue to grow and succeed.

Photos from the Whitecaps game: http://www.flickr.com/photos/open-systems-technologies/sets/72157635137308197/


Lizzie Williams, Marketing Specialist at OST

Lizzie Williams
OST Marketing Specialist

Lizzie Williams is the Marketing Specialist at OST and focuses on creating, executing and measuring marketing programs and events to support the growth and expansion of the OST brand, products and services through traditional and creative digital marketing activities.
Prior to OST Lizzie was the marketing coordinator for the Center for Community Leadership, a program of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. The combination of her experience in community leadership and technology has led to her involvement with a variety of organizations that work creatively to solve community issues such as Habitat for HumanityFriends of Grand Rapids Parks, Opening Village Doors, WGVU and the Saint Mary’s FoundationFeel free to connect with her via twitter or linkedin.