15 Apr 2021

Step back in time – story #6 Kamil Piekarz

The IT world is a fast-paced environment with constant turnovers and short-lived relationships. However, every now and then, a brief narrative becomes an epic story. What makes a tale special are the protagonists, and who’s better to tell the story than the main characters themselves? That is why we decided to give the floor to our colleagues who cooperate with us in Software Mind for more than 10 years. Their memories are humorous but also do a brilliant job at showcasing the reality of the IT business of the past decades.

1/ How many years have you been working at Software Mind and what do you currently do?

I have been working at Software Mind for over 13 years. At the moment I am a Software Delivery Director responsible for a part of our business, in particular, its sustainability and growth. We build and grow software development teams for our customers. Most of my work is about maximizing value from the cooperation for both customers and development team members. I usually spend the rest of my time on continuous improvement of our organisation.

2/ How did the beginnings and your path to becoming a software delivery director look like?

It all started years ago when I entered an auditorium full of people at the University of Science and Technology in Cracow to listen to a lecture on how a company named Software Mind was developing software for their customers. Having taken a comfortable seat, I watched our CEO & Founder Grzegorz Młynarczyk passionately explaining to students how to put in practice everything we have been learning so far to deliver customers value with software of best quality. It was back then when I heard that understanding your customer’s requirements, introducing proper software architecture, building the quality into the process of software development are the things to start with when you want to be successful in the art of software development. That was the moment I decided I want to join this company. I was deeply convinced Software Mind knew their stuff when it comes to building software for their customers.

My next move was that I tried to join Software Mind internship program. Unfortunately, it quickly turned out that my computer science knowledge was mostly theoretical which was not enough to get a chance to join at that time. The competition was ahead of me. My gritty nature did not let me yield. I took a deep dive into the .NET world and came back to work for Software Mind after having completed my university studies. This time I was prepared enough and had a meaningful conversation during the recruitment meeting with one of the senior developers. Finally, I got the job 🙂

I was assigned to the part of the company specializing in software development for telecoms. I still have some peculiar memories from that time, for example, I remember that on one of the first days I received an email with ‘FYI’ in the body part. I didn’t know what it meant and was wondering if someone was trying to lecture or insult me, so I went to ask my manager what this was all about. He had a good laugh, however after that explained the mysterious acronym to me 😉 By all means, I found myself in a very cheerful team. People were very helpful and there was a lot of laughter – starting from the first day, I felt really good in Software Mind.

In terms of the work itself, my team was implementing an integration platform that gathered, transferred, enhanced, transformed and uploaded data into a central billing system. I analysed customer requirements, designed the solution, implemented and tested it, built customer versions (at times on local machine…), installed, and then worked long hours on improvements and fixes (mainly the latter…). Those were completely different times. Back then we did everything manually. A significant amount of time had to be spent to implement standard functionalities and there were many places for potential mistakes to be made, mostly due to human error. For example, I had to write installation instruction precisely enough that someone completely unfamiliar with the topic could use it to deploy a new version.

Having spent some time working for telecoms I took on an opportunity to work in the financial sector. I joined SM leasing team to work on a strategical project of implementation of a new back office system for our customer. That was the moment when my career accelerated and turned from developer towards a managerial position. I started as a team leader of front office integration team and quickly became integration team leader for the whole project (all systems). I worked on-site at customer premises for over a year. There I had the opportunity to witness and feel how a leasing company uses technology to do their business. My job was to manage the integration process and deployment of the core system into the company’s integrated environment. Back then, the latter was not exactly an execution of one k8s command practiced nightly and automatically tested😉, but a whole-week process including data migration and deployment of a dozen or so systems. Having completed the back-office project, I became a Project & Team Manager at Software Mind working in the financial sector. I had a chance to work with banks and be present when the LiveBank product was born however what I am most proud of is taking on the leasing team of 6 developers and having an active role in growing with them to become the LeaseTech Product Unit of c.a. 50 people in both business and IT roles, building products for top Polish leasing companies. I also grew with the team taking on the Operations Director role at LeaseTech.

All of the above lead me to the role I am currently in, which is Software Delivery Director at Software Mind where I have a chance to work globally with customers around the world building software development teams leveraging technology to grow their business. And I am doing it in great company!

It has been an exciting journey, and I believe there is more to come😉.

3/ What changes inside the company have you observed?

A lot, fortunately for the better 😉

The company has grown, from c.a. 80 (upon my arrival) to 700 people resulting in a distinction between Ailleron (products) and Software Mind (services). In Krakow we changed office location a few times and we also opened new offices in Warsaw, Rzeszow, and Bielsko-Biala. Yet fortunately, along that growth we achieved to keep the autonomy of the development teams focused around their products or customers along with reusing the knowledge we gained along our way.

Furthermore, our level of understanding of our client’s business context has grown a lot. We have developed both in terms of the areas we operate in and the scope of our work and engagement. We have a better understanding of our client’s needs, the reality they operate in and are therefore able to be of better help to them. We started as developers and now we advise our customers how to solve their business problems, build their products, manage their IT teams, and plan their IT strategy, tactics and budgets.

Our work organization has also changed quite a bit. When I joined the company waterfall methodology was used in almost all of our projects. As the projects got more complex, we introduced project stages to shorten cycle times, in the end turning to agile with all its benefits. We strived for empiricism, collaboration, customer value delivery, team growth, and having fun! 😊 DevOps practices like continuous integration, delivery, deployment, system monitoring gave us the capability to further shorten cycle times, enable experimentation and gather feedback to decide on how to further develop the software.

Technology has advanced immensely. Back in the day, I used ASP.Net 2.0 webforms and web services to build a 4-layer architecture system deployed on physical machines according to installation instruction written in a Word document. That was an innovative web based solution in comparison to thick client winforms solutions quite popular at that time… Nowadays, there are many more tools and frameworks that support software development. JavaScript based frontend frameworks occupy web development whereas backend development moves constantly towards loosely coupled component architectures backed by containerization, infrastructure as code, and deployed into the cloud. Mobile frontend applications and frameworks emerged with the introduction of smartphones to our daily lives. Various software architectures are applied depending on the problem we want to solve bringing more resilient and reliant software tailored to business needs. Test automation enables us to repeatedly and swiftly check our software out for errors and encourages frequent software deployment. Data is king – or, I should rather say, the ability to smartly and swiftly process large volumes of generated data to derive meaningful conclusions and support informed decisions with the use of machine learning, AI, and Big Data tools is the direction most lean towards.

4/ What’s the first anecdote connected with working in SM that comes to your mind?

The first recollection that comes to my mind is related to autonomy, which I’ve already mentioned, and which perfectly illustrates what I had in mind. I remember once I went to my manager to ask if I could do something in a certain way, to which he replied that in principle we do things here differently, however in general, projects should be lead according to, and I quote here, ‘The Code of the Pirates of the Caribbean – what you are told is only a set of guidelines more than a set of rules…. You need to decide on your own what solution fits your context best and go for it‘. Maybe it is not a very funny anecdote, but this situation stayed in my memory ever since. It was one of those ‘aha! moments’ that changed my way of thinking about how one should work within our environment.

But let’s not be so serious, I have more ridiculous memories as well, and the one I have in mind now have a really good fit since it’s also movie-related 😉 I believe it is worth knowing how others perceive you to compare it with how you perceive yourself. Over the years I have had many chances to learn what my teams think about me, yet one situation especially imprinted in my memory.

Most of us fancy good pop-cultural references and probably that’s what guided one of our Software Engineers (‘M’) to compare all members of our team (including the managers) to the main heroes from the Star Wars universe. Can you guess to which of them we have been compared to?

I won’t leave you in the dark – managers were not distinguished as Jedi Masters ;D Our names were written down by M next to C3PO and R2D2 with a short description that goes as follows –“Seemingly insignificant characters of the story. However, at key moments of the plot, they are the ones who save the team’s ass”. Glad to be helpful and needed 🙂 If you are wondering how the other team members were assigned, let’s just say that in this context we must treat the project like Vegas, and what happened there, stays there 😉

5/ What made you stay in Software Mind for 13 years?

That is a really good question – in general, all the people working at Software Mind. Software Mind environment we create and work in together every day simply suits me.

I would like to take this occasion to thank all those good people I had a chance to meet and work with along the way of my career at Software Mind (hopefully some of them will dare to read this lengthy article ;)). I learned a great deal from you and have spent some really good time filled with lots of positive memories. Thanks very much and I won’t lie – I am still counting for more of this to come 🙂

Yet, in addition to what we have been focusing on so far, I think it is worth mentioning what has not changed much over the years at Software Mind, forms our organisational culture and is keeping me here since 2008 in more detail ;).

The atmosphere is great at work – we communicate openly, work together, have fun and laugh together. There is mutual trust between co-workers – we have each other’s backs. I feel a sense of empathy – people are mindful of their differences in both character and opinion. We value professionalism, especially towards our customers – when we do something, we want to do it well. What is more, we are supportive of each other – everyone can reach for a helping hand. If something needs improvement, we give feedback and support so that results become better and better. Working in such an environment we feel safe and are encouraged to grow. So was I, and I did.

These are of course just examples of values important to me, probably if I had to, I would find some flaws too, but they are not that important 😉. Going one step further, because we base what we do on such values it also reflects client cooperation. Development team members treat our customers in a way they are treated within Software Mind. This results with an environment where customers trust us, know they can rely on us and that we are focused on their needs and pursuing their goals. That is how we move relations with our customers to the level of partnership.

But that’s not all of it. Looking back at my story, my responsibilities and areas of work have been regularly changing over the years. I started as a developer, took team responsibility as a Team Leader, worked directly with the customer as Integrator, grown my team and customer base as Project & Team Manager which transformed it into a separate business unit of the company with its own set of products and myself in the role of Operations Director. Last but not least, as a Software Delivery Director at Software Mind I got a chance to go global and work with people around the world leveraging technology to do their business.

I had the opportunity to learn many new things over the years, related not only to technology and business but also to working with people. Taking advantage of our teams’ strengths, working on their weaknesses, building motivation in teams through giving them autonomy and purpose, collaborating with customers are just some examples of competencies I developed over time. Nowadays I have a chance to work with clients from various countries, experience cultural differences and master ways of effective communication and collaboration despite those differences, so there is something new all the time 😉

So, to summarize, because I am stretching it a bit once again – on one hand, I have an environment that suits me, a great team to work with every day, and that’s how it was from the very beginning, and on the other hand, I have the opportunity to do interesting things and grow all the time without having the slightest chance to feel bored.

6/ What do you plan for the following 13?

13 years is far too long to plan something tangible, however, I know what I am going to focus on during the years to come. I mentioned earlier things that are important to me at work. I want to continue building an environment based on values important for me and leverage technology to grow businesses. I want to build teams that will thrive in this environment, partner with customers who appreciate the way we work, meet more interesting people, continue to broaden my horizons, and most of all have fun at doing all of this! 😉

 

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