Goyello joined the Aspire Systems group last year. What changed when the Tri-City company became the European hub of a global organization? Adam Łopusiewicz from Just Join IT asked Paweł Bejger, Operational Director at Aspire Systems Poland, about his plans for the coming years and methods of supporting employee development.
You said once that you always wanted to create software that will change the world. Why?
My mission is to build software that has a positive impact on the lives of others. If I had to spend years building software that no one uses, I would not have accomplished this mission. So far, most of the projects that we’ve done have somehow improved people’s lives, for example, automating their work.
When did your adventure in the IT world begin?
It started very early. I got an Atari computer when I was a kid, and I fell in love with the world of IT quickly.
Do you remember your first learning experiences?
The Internet was just entering Poland at the time, so learning programming was quite difficult. It wasn’t easy to access the Internet, so I got some learning materials from friends. My adventure with programming began with the Symphony C ++ book.
Later, while creating a game, I tried to upgrade my programming skills by trial and error.
Did these self-study experiences help you find your first work as a programmer?
They certainly helped. During the second year of my studies, a colleague asked if I would be interested in joining a small IT company in Gdynia. After a year I decided it was time for a new challenge and joined Goyello.
People outside the industry say that a programmer will always find a job. It seems to me that now only the best candidates are chosen.
We employ several interns every year. Initially, 80 candidates applied: last year there were almost 600. The fact that so many people apply for the internship program shows the scale of interest. Because we have a limited number of internships, we must do a large screening of candidates to identify the best.
Tell me about the first days of a junior developer at Aspire?
Each junior must get to know our system. The larger the system, the longer it takes. The second thing is getting to know the business domain, which is also time-consuming.
When entering a new project, every junior must learn about a specific industry and acquiring this extensive knowledge takes a lot of time. We have phases of learning about the system from the technical side, the business domain and the acquisition of programming skills; building the code in a scalable and extensible way.
How Aspire help interns develop?
Usually, at the beginning, we give small tasks, for example repairing simple errors in the system. Someone might say it’s boring, but with time we give more difficult tasks. We want the junior to know all the stages of software development.
The beautiful thing about the IT industry is that there is no age limit, and you don’t have to wait five years for promotion.
How do you get to know the ambitions of employees?
We call it personal development. The career progression of every new employee, whether in a junior or senior position, starts with assigning a buddy. The mentor supports the new person in their everyday work. Each new employee has his team leader and their own reviewers. They deal with checking the code that is produced.
Thanks to this closeness of other team members, we know what predispositions a person has, and which project should they join. Several times a year, formal goal update meetings are held, during which we set quarterly goals for employees. We also have an annual impact evaluation, where we assess the impact of a person on the entire organization.
What did employee development support look like when you came to Goyello?
There were ten of us then and, as you can probably guess, we didn’t have buddies or team leaders. That came with scale. The bigger the organization, the more people there are taking care of the company’s development. At that time, almost all employees were programmers. We worked in one room, which made communication easier. We didn’t have team leaders, and everyone managed each other.
Why did you become the first leader?
Probably programming wasn’t as appealing to me as the fact that I could make life easier for others. After a while, I was noticed as someone who was also focused on business, because I was interested in something more. The very aspects of projects, so I could run a team of programmers.
What do you do as an operations director?
That would be easier to answer if I were a programmer. I deal with many tasks simultaneously: I am responsible for projects in terms of client contact and the value provided to them. I also make sure that employees are satisfied with the projects and their implementation. I like to improve processes and automate tasks. This makes employees appreciate the organization. I am also responsible for recruitment and internal headhunting.
Can you identify the most important features that an ideal candidate has?
The best candidates were programming in high school or even earlier. And I don’t mean Computer Science classes, but self-learning. It is very likely that such people will work with passion and not just for money. I base this on the example of the candidates who have applied to us. This has been confirmed many times: people who started early, are today’s valued programmers.
As for the education of candidates, many of them graduated from the Faculty of ETI, Gdańsk University of Technology, although the University of Gdańsk is starting to catch up, as it is planning to open a field called ‘IT in Practice’, which seems interesting. It is difficult to generalize, but I must admit that graduates of programming schools and bootcamps are the least likely to be recruited.
Could you say what changed after Aspire Systems took over Goyello?
As far as the mindset and work culture are concerned, little has changed. We continue to share the same values, we have a similar mission. However, the path of employee development has changed. We used to have a few basic levels from junior to senior.
We have also introduced an additional level of team leaders, each supporting about 5-6 people. The whole project is supervised by managers who support team leaders.
How do you imagine Aspire Systems Poland in 5 years?
The IT market is dynamic enough that talking about a five-year perspective is practically impossible. Languages change, technologies evolve and the history of Goyello is a good example. We started building desktop software, then moved towards web technologies. Now, we create a lot for mobile.
We care about the value delivered to clients and that we get along well. If we can keep all these values, I will be personally satisfied.