He started as a junior developer. Today he is a director. He knows what advantage Agile has over Waterfall. And he learns languages without having to spend a penny – in the new, inspiring Goyello People conversation Paweł Bejger, Operations Director at Goyello, reveals some facts about his work and passions.
I joined the team when I was still at the university. I had worked for a small company before. One day I realised that I learned everything I could there. I wanted to face new, bigger challenges. I already knew I wanted to be a .NET developer and to code in C#. So I started to look for a new job.
Why did you choose Goyello? Was it because someone recommended it to you?
As a matter of fact, it was by pure chance. At that time the IT market wasn’t as developed as it is today. I found only three open positions for .NET developers on a job website. Two offers were published by corporations. The third one was Goyello’s. Despite the fact that I was looking for some greater challenges, I didn’t want to work for a corporation. So it was an easy choice.
What was the job interview like?
Well, it was the shortest job interview ever! Back then, in 2007, there was no HR department at Goyello, so Peter Horsten himself invited me to the office. The decision was taken during the meeting. Soon I joined the team as a .NET developer.
You started your career as a junior developer. Today you are a director. What was the reason for such a switch in your career?
I have always been very much into writing code. When I learned that I could earn my living doing what I actually loved I decided to become a developer. I assumed I would follow a typical career path: junior, medior, senior, to finally become a software architect.
But meanwhile my team started to expand. There were more and more of us and we needed a Team Leader. It was me who was appointed the position. Writing code was still among my responsibilities but apart from that I took on some new duties: team management, communication and problem solving. I learned new skills and found out I quite liked my new role. Suddenly my work became more complete and diverse at the same time.
What happened next?
Then I was promoted to a Project Manager position. Having accepted it I could spend even less time writing code – about 50%. But my work gained a completely new dimension. An interesting new aspect was that I started to look at projects from a business perspective. What value a project would bring to a client and what benefits it would offer to its end users – those were the issues I was to deal with as a Project Manager.
And after that I became .NET Team Lead, which meant taking over Goyello’s largest team of developers as well a dozen or so of projects. Over time I started to be more and more involved in other areas of the company’s activities. That is why it was much easier for me to accept the position of Operations Director.
You said you were very much into writing code. You don’t do it in your current position, do you? Don’t you miss it?
Well, that’s right, I don’t write code at the moment. I haven’t totally given up the technical side of my job, though. Programming languages change very rapidly. So do technologies. Usually every 1-2 years new versions of languages and platforms are introduced. So if you want to keep track of things you need to learn all the time. That’s why I read professional blogs and I code for my own purposes.
At Goyello you are an expert in Agile. What aspect of that method did you find interesting?
Let’s start with answering another question: what is a successful IT project? Most managers would say that it’s a project they managed to deliver on time and within budget. And I would say that a successful IT project is one that, delivered on time and within budget, offers maximum value to its users. It’s a project that, having been validated with end users, perfectly satisfies their needs.
The IT industry is too dynamic to stick to the old project management methods, like for instance Waterfall. New technologies keep being introduced. Yesterday we used desktop computers. Today we have mobile devices. Who knows what tomorrow brings. Only businesses that are flexible enough to fit into the ever-changing reality will succeed. And Agile is a methodology that enables such a flexible approach towards project management.
But Goyello wasn’t always Agile, was it? Do you remember the moment you switched into the new method?
Of course I do. And it wasn’t an easy process at all. First of all, we had to plant the very idea into people’s minds – both our employees and clients. And you must know that over years the latter got so much used to traditional approach to managing IT projects. What we wanted to offer them was so different from what they knew, that many of them rejected it as they were not able to accept such a revolutionary approach.
What did you do in such situations?
Well, the only solution was to dose Agile drop by drop. We introduced certain elements of Agile step by step, leaving the rest untouched. It enabled our clients to slowly get used to the method. In most cases it was them who approached us after the end of the project to say that Agile was a really great project management method.
Preparing myself to this conversation I found out that you know several foreign languages. And you keep on learning new ones. Is it yet another passion, apart from writing code?
My language learning is a result of a bet. Seven years ago I bet with my granddad. I said I would learn more foreign languages than he knew, which was, and still is, seven. I have already learned five, so there are at least three more to go.
That’s impressive! What languages can you already speak?
English, German, Dutch, Norwegian and Spanish. Next year I’m starting to learn Russian.
Do you like any of them in particular?
I really like to speak German. Then there is Norwegian, a very melodic language with short and easily pronounceable words as well as intuitive grammar. Frankly speaking, each of the languages I have learned is in a way “magic”. This turns learning into pure pleasure.
What learning methods do you use? Do you attend any courses?
My granddad used to learn languages writing letters to people from different countries. I use the Internet. You wouldn’t believe how many resources you can find on the Web. And you don’t have to spend a penny on them. People are eager to share their knowledge, which results in plenty of free courses with audio recordings and websites where you can learn any language you want.
Do you have any proven ways of learning new languages?
First of all, I believe that before you start learning a language, you should learn how to learn. There are many materials on the topic, such as Sebastian Leitner’s book entitled “Learn how to learn”. Knowing the theory you can shorten the time needed to learn a new language by 50%.
As for me, I always start with the basics, that is vocabulary and grammar. However, I never learn words out of context. Instead, I study a sentence in which a word is used. This way I get the context and I am able to correctly use the word myself. A solution called Fiszki provided by Cztery Głowy, a Polish publishing house and Anki, a language website, are a perfect choice if you want to learn vocabulary.
If you want to learn writing check Lang-8, a portal where users from different countries review each other’s texts. For instance: I have written a text in Norwegian and I want to know if it is correct. I simply upload it to Lang-8 and Norwegian users check it for me. They mark, correct and explain my mistakes. And similarly – when a user learning Polish uploads a text, Polish users like me edit it online. And it’s pure exchange – all free of charge.
Of course, you also have to learn to speak a foreign language. Services like Italki are a good place to start as they let you find a conversation partner to talk online.
The last stage is listening comprehension. You can listen to radio and TV programs. I love to listen to a Norwegian radio channel when I’m stuck in a traffic jam.
A good way to effectively learn a new language is to do it in several different places alternately – at home, somewhere outside, in a park, etc. Certain associations develop in your brain then, which helps you better memorise things.
What key do you use as for choosing languages to learn?
First of all I check if I simply like a language and whether it will prove useful, for instance for my work. If I were to choose between Dutch and Japanese, I would obviously choose Dutch. What I also take into consideration are similarities between languages. It is always easier to learn languages that belong to the same family, like for instance the Germanic ones.
I don’t recommend learning two similar languages simultaneously, though. It’s better to acquire the first one at B2 level at least. Only then should you start with the second one. If you don’t follow this order, it’s quite likely that the two languages will get mixed up in your head.
What do you like most about learning languages?
Every new language is like a new personality. I call it a separate mind. Every new language lets you broaden your horizon. That’s because when you learn a language you learn about culture, tradition and history of the nation that uses it. Languages reflect characters and personalities of people who speak them. So, when you learn their language you get to know them, too. I also like the fact that with each new language I learn faster and faster. I draw conclusions and do my best not to repeat my mistakes.
You have recently volunteered in a project in which you cooperated on translating a book about Agile into Polish. How was it that you joined the project?
I participated in the project because Agile is very close to my heart. We have already mentioned that. Besides, the book is about retrospectives, which is something I truly admire. I personally think that retrospectives are a great way to inspect your actions in the project, improve your work and cooperation within your team and to aim at perfection in an iterative manner.
In projects like the one we are talking about your professional knowledge is what actually counts. Your linguistic skills are much less important. That is why several Polish coaches and experts on Agile were invited to participate, due to which I had an opportunity to meet great specialists from the whole country.
When I talk to developers I often hear that they lack certain Polish vocabulary that they could use to describe things they do. Is it similar with Agile? Was the translation an easy task?
There is a problem, indeed because on one hand you want to translate a text so it sounds Polish. On the other though, you want to maintain the spirit of the original. In this particular case we arrived at a sort of compromise. Our major aim was to make the target text intelligible. Some English terms translated into Polish would sound awkward. That is why we decided to leave the original versions.
What are you career plans for the future?
My professional plans are closely related to my being involved in the development of the company. And I’m not talking about expanding the team or simply increasing the number of projects. What I mean is looking for interesting challenges and business models as well as new target groups. To develop software that changes the world – this is the aim every IT business should want to achieve. And this is the aim we pursue at Goyello. Meanwhile we don’t forget about our people. No company will enjoy success if it doesn’t have a great team of people satisfied with what they do.
What do you do in your free time, when you neither work nor learn languages?
I play board games, mainly economic, strategic and fantasy ones, like for instance The Witcher. I’m also very much into role-playing games, in which, in a nutshell, you invent a character and act out its role travelling a fictional world.
I spend plenty of time writing code for my own purposes and reading professional blogs. I do it not because I’m obliged to. I simply like it. Besides, the fact that I’m learning new things enables me to better support my colleagues at Goyello.
I read a lot about management, interpersonal relations, psychology and neuroscience. The more I read, especially on neuroscience, the better I understand myself. In my home library there are over 150 books about the Second World War, a topic I’m truly interested in. For me the scale of the event was unbelievable, as well as strategies people were adopting at that time and decisions they were taking. Reading about the World War II you can actually learn a lot about human nature in general.
Do you have any dreams you would like to come true and can share with us?
I don’t have dreams. Instead, I have goals to pursue. The first one is to learn at least eight foreign languages. The second is to keep on gaining more and more knowledge of management, psychology, neuroscience, programming and IT in general. And finally, the third one: to support Goyello in its further dynamic development. Not all of my goals can be measured but I’ll do my best to achieve each of them. And this is how goals differ from dreams. You can have a dream – an abstract notion. But you can reach your goal which is tangible and realistic. That is why I’d rather reach goals than have dreams.
I keep my fingers crossed for success in reaching your realistic goals.