A senior developer is a good candidate for a leader because such a person can accurately guide less experienced team members, indicate areas for improvement, or propose a development direction – told us Łukasz Jaźwa, Senior developer and Product Design team leader at Synergy Codes. We talk to Łukasz about his career path, which he has been pursuing for eight years in one organization. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in the same company?
What made you tied your career with one company?
I think that my decision was influenced by many factors: great, family atmosphere, employment stability, influence on the company’s strategic decisions, work in technologies that interest me. In addition, I still want to develop, and in the current organization, I have too many challenges. I feel great where I am now, and I don’t see any reason why I should change it. I receive job offers from competing companies, but most of all, I value what the company represents, and as long as it is authentic, I will be willing to engage in its activities.
What do you think, have you accelerated your career path by working all the time in the same company?
The career path in each company is different, so it is difficult for me to make an objective comparison with working for a competitive organization. From a subjective point of view, my career flows naturally. I was promoted to the next level at exactly the moments when I felt confident with my skills. Working as a senior, for example, was easy for me. Looking back, however, I notice moments that accelerated the growth of my “seniority”.
They were mainly related to the fact that when I started working, Synergy Codes was a small company. I became a mentor to new associates quite quickly. On the other hand, we employed many experienced developers who, at that time, were blocking my rapid growth (understood as vertical promotions). To put it simply, they were better candidates for higher positions.
How did it happen that you suddenly moved from the back-end to the front-end? What made you make such a change?
The fact that I was a back-end programmer resulted in the dominance of back-end languages during my studies. Since I was programming, two aspects have given me the greatest pleasure – making me create something out of nothing. What I particularly mean here – the effects visible immediately after programming and the optimization of the application. The front-end fills in the first point. Optimization requires a broader explanation.
I studied at a university that puts quite a lot of emphasis on the basics of computer science and instilled in me a passion for algorithmics. Initially, I was not sure if I would ever use my skills professionally in Wrocław. I came across Synergy Codes, which at the time of my employment dealt with graph theory. I quickly entered this area, and I liked working with diagrams so much that most of the time it dominated the front-end, where I also got to know modern frameworks (React, Angular).
Some programmers prefer corporations. Why did you decide to join a team of three (today, the team consists of 60 people)?
When I was looking for a job, I participated in many job interviews. I have applied to both corporations and small businesses. My main goal was to gain work experience towards my interests, and money played no role. The offer from the current company was the best for me. That’s why I chose it. If at that point there was a corporation that would suit my preferences even better, I would probably go for it. If I were looking for a job today, I would be leaning towards smaller companies – mainly due to the flat structure, atmosphere, and sense of real influence on the direction of the organization’s development.
You worked in one company from the position of an intern to a team leader. When did other companies start bidding on you?
I set up my LinkedIn profile late and for the first seven years, I was invisible on the job market. From the regular level, there were occasional job offers. But only when I became a leader, I set up an account on the aforementioned portal, the number of offers increased drastically. Currently, not a week goes by without a new message from a recruiter.
You mentioned that these vacancies usually come with a higher salary. How do you react to such a situation?
Money cannot convince me to change my job. A well-matched raise process makes my salary grow regularly, and from what I can see, my salary is at the appropriate market level. I have never used another company’s offer as a bargaining chip because I just didn’t feel the need to do so.
What do you do daily? Are you still programming a lot or are you more into management?
I run a rather specific team – we call it “Product Design“. We deal with contacting new clients, project estimation, prototyping, and development of small projects. There are situations in which the team implements 2-3 topics simultaneously, and then my role is limited to coordinating the work and helping with the architecture of solutions. Looking across the last two years of my leadership, I would say that I spend 50% of my time on management and talking to clients, and the other 50% on working on advanced functionalities. There are quite a few of the latter because we usually convince our clients that we can achieve things that our competitors cannot.
Don’t you feel tired after so many years spent in one place? How does the company make sure that you don’t get bored?
It is a question that I ask myself – how is it that after eight years in one place I do not feel bored? When I look at my work experience path, the answer is obvious. Practically every year I work with a new team, I have the opportunity to gain knowledge from many great experts. The projects that I create last a maximum of two years, which is why I am constantly using the latest technologies. In addition, I also take part in developer recruitment, conduct training, represent the company at technology fairs, have direct contact with clients from all over the world, and participate in in-company guilds. All this is summed up by the statement: it is happening.
Have you had any “burnout” moments? How did you deal with them?
Yes, moments of “burnout” do happen every now and then. They occur after hot periods when we have a flood of new customers. You just do not know what to put your hands into. As a leader, I have to reach the heights of soft skills to manage the team properly. As soon as this period is over, I take a longer vacation and distance myself from the entire IT world. In the past, when I noticed that my motivation to work was starting to “burn out”, I spoke to my boss/HR and honestly presented how things were going. We tried to work out solutions together and so far we have managed to stave off the crisis each time. Most often, we agreed to a change in responsibilities, a change of team, project, involvement in a new topic – completely separate from the work at that time.
You have participated in many recruitments. Have a lot of people stayed with you for longer, just like you?
We have a few “dinosaurs” with whom I have been cooperating practically from the very beginning of my adventure with the company. In addition, there are many people I have recruited who receive awards for a 5-year internship with Synergy (the company is relatively young and 5 years is a long period for us). Of course, there are people who, after a few months/year, decide that it is not for them and change the company – which we fully accept. I have the impression that we recruit people who have similar values to the employees on board, thanks to which we have been creating a harmonious package for many years, in which there are no drastic shifts of employees.
Sometimes people who are close to work and treat it as a passion are called workaholics. Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
I think I meet all the conditions for being a workaholic (my wife will confirm it for sure). There are days when I leave the office after eight hours and forget everything, but there are also many days when work accompanies me even while sleeping. For years, I have been trying to find a good work-life balance, but it is a difficult task. To be honest, only the birth of my daughter forced me to plan my time properly. The reason for this is certainly the fact that I treat programming as an integral part of my life, being a developer is one of the main aspects of my “I”.
Using your passion for work blurs the boundaries between private and professional life. Up to a certain level, it suits me very well – if I were to treat my profession only as a source of income and expect the end of the working day, it would mean a daily waste of 8 hours of my life.
How do you share the responsibilities of a team leader and senior developer? Do you think this is the best possible solution – a combination of these two functions?
I believe this is an appropriate solution, but I would not risk calling it the best. Much depends on the profile of the team and the implemented project. I have seen analysts doing well as leaders. In teams loaded with a lot of managerial work, I would suggest this as the preferred option. The most important aspect of the development team leader is the mix of his knowledge of the IT world and the subject matter of the project. The leader should keep up with high-level technical conversations in the team so as not to be dependent on developers. If this requirement is met, then each role is suitable for a managerial position.
I believe that a senior developer is a good candidate for a leader because apart from meeting the above condition, he can guide less experienced team members, indicate areas for improvement, and propose a development direction. The necessary condition is the appropriate level of soft skills – talking to people, transferring difficult information, motivating, conducting meetings. I know many great experts who, due to the lack of any of these abilities, do not consider becoming a leader.
The combination of these two roles is not easy. Honestly speaking, it’s only after two years that I can say that I have reached the point where I am satisfied with my division of responsibilities. The key aspect is the proper organization of work and a large dose of assertiveness – when we determine that in a given week we spend 80% of our time on programming, we should maintain this position in discussions with the management or the team. In addition, delegating tasks is an important skill, thanks to which some of our duties will pass to the team or PM, and we will find some space for the area that interests us.