How did your cooperation with our company begin?
I previously worked as an English teacher for 12 years, but felt that this was not exactly my place. I have always been drawn to IT. It was reflected in my diploma thesis, in which I wrote about the use of a computer to learn a foreign language, and my master’s thesis on Internet addictions. After graduation, I even got a proposal for a doctorate in which I was to focus on another topic close to IT, namely the influence of English on the language of internet chats. But for some reason I gave up my research career.
Actually, it was my wife who found me a job at SoftSystem. She showed me a tester recruitment ad. I went to the interview and was accepted. So, I have been working at the company for 14 years now.
What was your career path in our company?
As I mentioned, I worked as a software tester at first. At that time, the company organized trips to the US headquarters as part of training and close cooperation with the implementation department, then located entirely at SCC. The trips were quite popular, and as they weren’t short-lived (the suggested period was 6 months), I got the chance after 2 years. This trip turned out to be a breakthrough. After my return, the company came up with the idea of creating a new team of analysts, whose task was to directly cooperate with SCC implementers and their clients, analyze reported problems and assist implementers in implementing our applications. As I gained some experience in this field during the trip, I became a member of this team.
Working as an analyst was associated with more trips to the USA. Between 2010 and 2015, I went overseas 5 times, once to one of the largest clients, the MAYO clinic in Rochester, where I assisted during the Go-Live phase. Obviously, trips to the USA were not only about work. During this time, I managed to visit a lot of interesting places. It was an unforgettable experience to watch the night launch of the Discovery space shuttle live. It was… unearthly
At the beginning, the team consisted of four people. Over time, it grew more and more and when the position of Team Leader was created, it was offered to me. When the decision was made to expand the team of implementers to branches in Poland and Ukraine due to the increasing number of the company’s clients outside the United States, the team underwent an intensive metamorphosis, not only quantitative but also qualitative. From a small group of people who were somewhere in the background of the implementation, we gradually turned into a team that was on the front line of contact with customers. Now we have a decisive influence on our clients’ work with the applications we implement.
You are currently the Global Implementation Team Manager. Tell us more about this position and the challenges you face on a daily basis.
I took up this position last July. I manage the team together with Joanna Machowicz, who took the position of Implementation Project Manager. We both took the reins at a rather difficult time as a wave of departures swept through the team. We lost not only both previous managers but also some valuable and experienced implementers. For this reason, so far, I have also performed the duties of an implementer in projects that I carried out before accepting my current position. At the same time, I cannot neglect my duties resulting from the managerial position, which involves participation in various types of meetings, preparation of documentation and solving current problems, both external and within the team. Fortunately, as I have already mentioned, I manage the team together with Joanna. Thus, we try to arrange the cooperation in such a way as to complement each other. We divided some of the managerial responsibilities among ourselves, but we make all decisions that are crucial for the team together.
What is the most difficult thing about working with a client?
It seems to me that the most difficult thing is to convince the client that the implementer is not someone “on the other side of the barricade” but a link between the client and the development team and will always look at the implemented system from the point of view of the end-user. For this reason, sometimes we find ourselves “between a rock and a hard place”. On the one hand, we have clients and their requirements, and on the other hand, programmers and architects who often have different priorities. Reconciling both sides is sometimes extremely difficult. It is sometimes difficult to explain to programmers that a given process in a laboratory must be performed in a strictly defined manner. On the other hand, clients do not always understand that, for example, introducing a minor improvement in functionality entails a number of other necessary changes in the system, which may significantly expand the scope. Fortunately, our systems are so complex that, in the majority of cases, it is possible to develop a solution that limits or even eliminates the need to change the code, at the same time allowing the customers to obtain such system operation that they are satisfied with. That makes us, in a sense, the masters of “alternative solutions”.
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
By fulfilling the dual role of implementer and manager, I can look at it from both perspectives. From the implementation side, the most interesting thing for me is to configure the system in such a way that it meets the client’s expectations. While the framework of laboratory processes is fairly constant and rarely changes, the devil is in the details, so it can be quite a challenge to find a setup to cover every element of a given process.
On the other hand, along with the development of medicine, new methods of diagnosing various diseases arise, which forces the continuous development of our software. This, in turn, gives us, the implementers, the opportunity to show off in terms of developing appropriate solutions in close cooperation with clients and developers. An example may be the situation related to the pandemic, which forced us to develop “covid” test scenarios in connection with the demand for such solutions on the part of customers. At the moment, our experience allows us to propose ready-made solutions to new clients, which significantly speeds up the full implementation of the system because it limits the entire process of “reaching a solution” and allows you to focus only on refining the details.
From the manager’s point of view, the most satisfying thing is when the newly minted implementer succeeds in working with the client. During the last six months, we hired a dozen or so people and some of them are already actively assisting in projects. However, it is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of our actions in this area. The process of training the implementer is quite lengthy. Therefore, we cannot entrust the implementation work to a newly employed person who doesn’t know the application and the specifics of working with clients well. However, there comes a point when the assistant implementer takes over the lead implementer role. We estimate that preparation for this role takes about a year. I am looking forward to the moment when people I have personally recruited will run their first projects.
How has your job changed during the pandemic?
In the beginning, my whole world (and, in fact, the whole world) turned upside down. When the company decided to switch to remote work almost two years ago, no one suspected that it would become the norm. The beginnings were extremely difficult, though not necessarily from the implementer’s point of view. At the same time, schools have also switched to distance learning. Two school children and wife – a teacher, so each of us had to find a place in the new reality. More than once, I had my meetings and an English lesson was held behind my back.
As I mentioned, the pandemic and the transition to remote work did not significantly affect my work as an implementer. All meetings with clients were held remotely using the already popular communication platforms. Determining the details of solutions most often took place by e-mail or telephone. The only thing missing is the possibility of direct contact. Such conversations were often very productive and allowed us to solve many problematic situations in a short time.
How has the management system of your team changed in the new reality?
When taking over the team, we had been working remotely for over a year, so there was no need to develop a new management system. Yes, we have introduced a few changes to improve the work, but the general scheme was already worked out earlier, which, I must admit, was a great help. Anyway, the fact that part of the team works in the Lublin branch, in a way, forced the introduction of “remote” working methods.
An important change caused by the pandemic situation and the transition to remote work is the fact that while recruiting the team, we could expand the “search area” and go beyond Rzeszów and Lublin, which allowed us to hire new employees in cities such as Poznań or Kraków. The current situation has made the location practically irrelevant.
The biggest success in your career so far is…
Each stage of my career, thanks to which I was able to develop, was an equally important success because without it the next ones would not be possible. So, there is no one such thing that is the greatest success. Paradoxically, I believe that every failure is also an element of success because I adhere to the principle that we learn best from our mistakes. The tester’s work was a success because when I changed my job, I realized that it is worth trying new things when the existing ones do not give the expected satisfaction. Each role I have performed in SoftSystem over several years has been a success. My current position is also a success, which, although quite unexpected, allowed me to develop. Who knows what challenges still await me in the future. It is important to keep your eyes and ears open and try to take advantage of opportunities, which my path “from tester to manager” confirms
Why would you recommend working at SoftSystem?
SoftSystem is primarily people who create a unique atmosphere. Even now in remote work conditions, nobody is left to fend for themselves and can always count on a helping hand. Moreover, regardless of the position held, the company offers promotion opportunities. Only within the implementation team, we have five levels of promotion – three degrees of Implementation Specialist, and for the most experienced implementers – a two-level position of an analyst.
The constantly developing and improving training system provides extensive training opportunities for new and long-term employees. Everyone in the company has practically “always” been able to improve their English language skills under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Additionally, the team of implementers has classes with a native speaker. Their main goal is to work on communication skills, extremely helpful during conversations with clients. Before the pandemic, we also had the opportunity to learn French, but after switching to remote work, these classes were suspended. I secretly hope that they can be resumed.
What are your interests outside of work?
One of my interests is astronomy. For as long as I can remember, I liked to look at the sky, and in high school, I even took part in the Astronomical Olympics, where the greatest achievement was a trip to Chorzów for the provincial stage. A few years ago, I bought a 6-inch telescope. From time to time I pack it in my car and drive to a place away from the city lights. This type of equipment allows you to observe a fairly wide range of objects in the sky. The Moon makes the biggest impression on family and friends because the telescope shows a lot of details of its surface. The planets also look very interesting, especially the largest ones, i.e. Jupiter, accompanied by its moons, and Saturn surrounded by rings.
However, I am most interested in deep-sky objects – nebulae, galaxies, star clusters. Sometimes it can take quite a long time to find such an object in the sky. Even knowing its location on the sky map, it is extremely difficult to precisely position the telescope, especially at high magnification, which not only reduces the field of view but also limits the amount of “collected” light. The key here is to get your eyes used to the darkness, which can take up to several dozen minutes, and looking at any source of bright light, e.g. a passing car, destroys the entire effort. But the satisfaction of observing such a long-sought object compensates for all the inconvenience.