Project manager for the “J’apprends l’Énergie” (Learning Energy) program – an educational program provided by the French multinational utility company ENGIE, Manon Gélibert could not sum up the situation of her peers any better than this: “So many projects – so little time.”
To do something about this problem, she chose to call on Vincent, an IT freelancer, to help her team meet delivery deadlines and integrate new requests into the platform in real time.
The collaboration started 2 years ago and is ongoing today in a course that has turned out to be much richer than expected in spite of distance. In Manon Gélibert’s opinion, their work is characterized by “dialog and a good understanding of development.”
Aimed at teachers, the “J’apprends l’Énergie” website offers free digital resources to both students and the general public for raising awareness of energy issues and opportunities.
The website also hosts a platform that connects teachers and volunteer experts for classroom sessions. Many features are available to facilitate organization, such as locating volunteers, following up session requests, ordering materials, and providing presentations.
When Manon Gélibert took over the project in 2019, the platform was a long way from meeting the needs of its users, and the way it was developed no longer responded to new technological choices.
Like her fellow project managers, Manon Gélibert observes that projects are multiplying, and development teams are always working on many fronts, while deadlines are always getting shorter.
To meet those delivery deadlines and integrate user feedback in real time, she decided – for the first time – to collaborate with a freelance developer.
If you want to ramp-up your IT team, let’s discuss about it.
“Very quickly, I received profiles, then we continued with the interviews.”
Manon Gélibert is in charge of recruiting the IT freelancer who will join her development team.
Her research quickly focused on Pentalog and its freelancing service.
“I looked over the profiles, and of course opinions, before continuing,” she tells us: “What I read reassured me, so I completed the contact form and very quickly, a Pentalog advisor called me back. We discussed the project and the profile we were looking for – everything went very well.”
The pace was set and the selection of candidates followed, as Manon Gélibert explains: “What I appreciated was the responsiveness of the Pentalog teams. Soon after our discussion, I received several profiles, then we continued on to interviews. We didn’t waste any time.”
“Vincent is an excellent freelancer; he develops things that make sense.”
To help her carry out her project, Manon Gélibert wanted to work with a senior freelance developer in PHP and Laravel, ideally one with Product Owner experience.
Collaborative skills are just as important for the ENGIE project leader. Interpersonal skills and proactivity were at the top of her list of criteria. Retaining Vincent was obvious for Manon Gélibert: “We chose Vincent because during the interview, he was able to explain his development method to us, the technique he applied. The way he presented himself and how he talked about his professional experience was also decisive.”
Very quickly, Manon Gélibert realizes that she made the right choice and Vincent proves to be a valuable asset. Proof of his technical and relational skills, ENGIE’s internal IT team regularly calls on him for advice.
“Thanks to his experience in the trade, Vincent develops things that make sense. He does not do it because he was asked to, but because there was a real reflection upstream,” explains Manon Gélibert.
She continues: “Vincent is proactive in implementing best practices. If he thinks that there is an inconsistency in the code, that an element could interfere or that a better method could be applied, he has no hesitation about letting us know. We genuinely are in an exchange and in solid intelligence for development.”
“Working remotely saved us time.”
With a collaboration that started during the first French lockdown in April 2020, Vincent and Manon Gélibert had no other choice than to work together but at a distance.
Against expectations, this did not slow down the project. In fact, it accelerated it.
“Even if there had been no lockdowns, we would not have been able to organize at least face-to-face onboarding. In addition, Vincent does not live in the Paris region, so moving him would have involved more constraints” explains Manon Gélibert.
She continues her argument in favor of teleworking: “If you want to recruit developers internally, you have to be ready to devote time to them. And then, face-to-face also requires a certain logistics to organize the offices.”
She continues: “Regarding Vincent, we immediately saw that he was used to this mode of collaboration because we very quickly felt at ease with him from the first exchanges. In addition, he already knew the tools and very quickly, he showed himself to be autonomous. Not having to be behind people all the time is a huge time saver.”
For Manon Gélibert, the recipe for a successful remote collaboration would be based on only 2 ingredients: communication and visibility on the project.
She explains: “We have regular meetings with Vincent, and he has full access to ENGIE. In addition, a weekly update is held with the ENGIE IT team and Vincent is always welcome if he wants to participate and keep up-to-date with developments on our side.”
Manon Gélibert goes on: “Trusting him also played a big part in the success of the project. Of course, it is not possible to check that he’s working all day every day, but as long as he returns the development to us on time, that is all that matters to us.”
“I don’t think that internalizing the resource is a guarantee of long-lasting collaboration. Quite the opposite.”
Manon Gélibert is convinced that ‘full-time’ is not a guarantee of a lasting relationship – unlike freelancing. She relies once again on her collaboration with Vincent to support her point: “There will always come a time when the employee with a permanent contract will want to change position, evolve internally. He or she may also be required to work on several projects at the same time.
“However, there are many more elements of reassurance when working with a freelancer.
“Freelancers choose their own project and devote themselves to it 100%. The fact that a freelancer stays on is a testament to involvement and motivation. Of all the developers on the team, Vincent is ultimately the one who stayed on the project the longest.”
“Freelancing responded to our need for flexibility.”
Is freelancing compatible with the meticulous organization of a large group like ENGIE?
Marion Gélibert asked herself this question: “I think that what most frightens companies when working with freelancers is the idea that they won’t sign up to the culture of the company, to its standard operating procedures.”
From the initial interview, the emphasis is on communication and transparency.
In this way, companies and freelancers are fully aware of the adventure on which they are embarking.
“From the first interview, we explained the program, and the constraints linked to the group. Subsequently, regular meetings were organized to make sure that everything remained clear,” specifies Manon Gélibert.
The project leader also notes the daily flexibility of the IT freelancer.
Dedicated to a single project, Vincent is able to integrate a new modification without delay, the moment a user provides feedback.
“Making use of a freelancer allowed us to meet deadlines, develop faster, and energize the project by meeting the needs of users in real time,” says Manon Gélibert.
“We thought we would get 50 volunteers registered on the platform. We’re already up to 300.”
With support from Vincent, Manon Gélibert and her team have developed a platform dedicated to ENGIE volunteers that will facilitate their in-class sessions.
But how to encourage them to take the first step – that is, to register on the platform and discover a wealth of features?
As it turned out, registration was not a problem, and positive feedback about the platform was quickly shared. For the development team, for whom user satisfaction was the top indicator of performance – this was ‘mission accomplished’.
“Based on average activity, we thought we could get 50 volunteers registered on the platform. So far, we have 300,” concludes Manon Gélibert.
Following its redesign, the “J’apprends l’Énergie” website will have an additional 95,000 users in 2021, with 200,000 articles viewed, 6,000 quiz participants, and 450 specific requests.
The collaboration between Vincent and ENGIE recently took another turn, since they have been working together to display the “J’apprends l’Énergie” package in the ‘Resource Access Manager’ (a technical solution supported by the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports, which allows teachers, staff, and students to access digital resources while also guaranteeing data protection).
Just like “J’apprends l’Énergie” website, deliver faster thanks to an IT freelancer.