An Employee Perspective on Volaris Group's Commitment to Talent Development:
Volaris Group's investment in talent development has proven to be a catalyst for Tom Knoebel’s professional path
Tom Knoebel’s career has excelled beyond what he imagined possible since joining Volaris Group. Three years after Tribute’s acquisition by Volaris, Tom is on the path from Development Manager to COO – an impressive leap from the career trajectory he had expected before the acquisition.
We caught up with Tom to learn about his employee acquisition experience and fit within the Volaris family – a great read for software owners and leaders looking to provide new opportunities for their people.
Describe your years of service at Tribute pre-acquisition.
Before the acquisition by Volaris Group, I worked at Tribute Inc. for 28 years, starting as a Junior Developer out of college and eventually progressing to Senior Developer. I never really felt I had a career, but I was happy in my job. I figured I would work another 20 years in the same position and then retire.
There really wasn’t much opportunity in a smaller organization - as Senior Developer, it seemed I had made it about as far as I could go. Then came a critical moment in 2020 that changed that sentiment.
What was your reaction to Tribute being acquired by Volaris in 2020?
Everyone in the company knew our owner was planning on selling and that he was exploring exit options. Everything from selling to a competitor, a venture capital firm, a private party, or an ESOP was on the table.
So, it was not much of a surprise when we were all called into the meeting room on January 2nd, 2020, to hear his decision: to be acquired by Volaris. Tribute's owner had a 25-year track record of really caring for his employees, so I felt whatever path he chose would be good for the company as well as good for the employees. What I saw and heard in that meeting really solidified that feeling!
What was your experience with the integration process?
Considering that Tribute was a small, stand-alone company being welcomed into a massive, multi-national organization, the integration into the Volaris family was surprisingly calm! Our owner stayed on as CEO for a year, smoothing the transition while making plans to pass the reins. We retained all our employees and started making plans to grow and add more employees, all under the guidance of people from Volaris who had been there, done that.
And what perfect timing; just a few months after acquisition, our world was changed by COVID which flipped everything upside down. I honestly think the pandemic would have been the death of our small company had we still been on our own. Being a part of Volaris and having knowledgeable leadership and experience beyond our own walls was key to our survival. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. We had to run very lean for quite a while, but we got through it and are now thriving.
As we moved through the pandemic, having the ability to run our company as we saw fit, albeit within the guidelines of Volaris, eased everyone’s mind and kept employee and customer retention at nearly 100%.
Everyone kept their vacation and pay, and the retirement and medical benefits, improved greatly after acquisition; it’s amazing what an 11,000+ employee company can offer. Likewise, the introduction of a significant yearly bonus was a welcomed addition. We never really had such a thing in the past, but it has really helped retain employees and allowed our company to pay market rates to our staff.
Did you feel comfortable with your job and future potential with Volaris?
Initially, my job continued much like it had for the last 25 years, but with the new understanding that one of our main weaknesses as a company was no longer an issue: we now had the financial backing and support of an entire operating group in a publicly traded company. As such, I felt comfortable right away. The promises that were made by Volaris came to fruition, and we started to learn the metrics and lingo of our new parent company along with best practices in the software industry. We were also given resources within our portfolio that we could tap into for advice and feedback - something I took full advantage of as soon as I could.
It was also made clear to us that each employee had the opportunity for personal and professional growth, not only within our company but also within Volaris and CSI (Constellation Software Inc.) itself.
"For the first time in 30 years, I had a career and not just a job. We learned that those who were interested could aspire to leadership roles within the company and eventually move on to the portfolio level. Volaris heavily invests in talent development and is continuously promoting from within; it is inherent to the Volaris growth strategy. "
-- Tom Knoebel, Development Manager, Tribute
Describe your career progression since acquisition.
Since acquisition, I have moved from Senior Developer to Manager of Development, with 11 employees either directly or indirectly reporting to me. My CEO told me she felt I was a good developer but that I am now a great manager. I have really seemed to find my calling. I never would have had that opportunity under our old structure, and I absolutely love it!
I have taken my responsibility as manager seriously. With guidance from Development Managers in other areas of our portfolio, I have begun tracking our team’s development velocity, quality, and revenue numbers. As a team we are thriving and working towards ambitious goals. Each developer can travel, improve their skills, and eventually progress into leadership roles. We have seen our team velocity (i.e., coding output) increase by 15% while cutting our reported defects in half. For the first time, the development team is contributing directly to professional services revenue, and it is exciting to watch the team affect our corporate bottom line in such a way.
Since becoming manager, I have traveled to conferences in the U.S. and London, England for training, cross-pollination, and professional development. Likewise, I’ve sent developers to summits, conferences, and customer visits; something we would never have been able to do in the past. The experience of rubbing shoulders with peers from around the world is amazing, and it has helped keep our team technically current, challenged, and excited to work.
Describe your aspirations.
My next role within the company is expected to be Chief Operating Officer, and I have begun a year-long training and mentorship program designed to prepare me for that role. As such, I will be traveling to places like Vienna and Portugal to meet with a small team of others being trained for similar c-level roles. Like I said, Volaris is greatly interested in talent development, and they back that up with more than just words!
I never expected to be in such a position. I mean, programmers don’t get promoted to COO or CEO roles, do they? While that may be true for many software businesses, as part of the Volaris portfolio of companies, and with the abundant resources and programs at hand, anyone who has the aspiration and talent can carve their professional path forward. From department manager to CEO, to Portfolio Leader and beyond, the talent development options within Volaris are endless.