What a CTO can do to get things done fast and agile.

1-on-1 with Wanari’s server-side CTO

Part 1

During the past 3 months Wanari has helped me a lot to grasp technology like I had never done before. Wanari strives for continuous learning and my weekly tech enrichments with Wanari’s software craftsmen is a great testimonial for that. I try to better myself in anything I put my mind-and-soul into, and I also believe in sharing what I learn, which to a selfish point, has helped me grasp things even better. So this is an attempt to sharing what I have learnt during our 1-on-1 with Wanari’s server-side CTO, Norbert Farkas, known to all of us as Norbi or Pókmalac*.

CTO tech enrichment session (Norbi on left and Ron on right)

I thought of this topic as most of my clients & prospects are CTOs from digital agencies, software houses and app development companies. One of their pain points is delivering a project as fast as they can for their customers. Wanari hasn’t had much trouble when it comes to meeting client deadlines. So I wanted to know what our CTO is doing to make things happen.

Me: Why don’t we start with the most interesting part, how did you end up where you are right now?

I was studying Technical engineering (with various subjects like micro-electronics, robotics & programming) in Kecskemét College of Mechanical Engineering & Automation and was feeling the pressure of finding work soon. So I found a job ad for a software tester at Wanari for which I sent my CV across. I came in for an interview (in a suit :)) to meet Rege (Wanari’s then CTO now CEO) (in jeans :)) – who convinced me at the interview that my path was in coding rather than testing. He convinced me so well that I started working for Wanari right after skipping just the one exam to complete my degree. That was 12 years ago. And I still feel very content to have made that decision and to be a part of the Wanari team.

Wanari was at that time specialized in Java and I did not know anything about it… apart from regretting that I skipped the Java programming class during uni. I started off at Wanari as a junior developer. With the help of Rege, my colleagues and the projects I worked on, I started coding in Java 6. I still remember my first project: an accounting web application for which I worked on various developments for three years. Needless to say I found the whole experience rewarding, I still treat it as a testing-ground to see how I could revamp my very first Java code. It’s a feel-good treat I give myself every now and then :). After the first three years I became a mid-level developer and started working on rather complex back-end work. In 2011 I went on to becoming a senior developer. With years passing by I kept getting additional responsibilities and started to lead development projects. Rege kept convincing me that I’m made for bigger things here at Wanari and in 2013 I became Wanari’s server-side lead and 2 years after the server-side CTO.

Me: Was there anything important for you when you chose Wanari to build your career on?

I did not know too much about Wanari, but I knew I really needed a job. When I look back now I think what made me click with Wanari for the last 12 years is: a) the faith my boss and team had/has in me which reflects well with the progress I have had here; b) the people and the working environment that gives a family-like feeling which makes me feel good about being here; c) all the places, things and changes I have seen and the role I have played in the transformation makes me feel I am a part of a great story in making.

Me: How do you feel about the technologies we are specialized in?

I think these technologies are the future (or perhaps even the present). We’ve seen some very progressive solutions throughout the past couple of years, since we’ve been using Scala and Akka. It is the good kind of challenge to work with them. I hope that companies will continue to realize the potential in changing their old, old-school, Java-based systems in favor of these new technologies. I really love that more and more keep signing the Reactive Manifesto and that unusual and non-traditional solutions keep arising.

Me: Tell me about your team. What talents are you working with?

Most of my team has been at Wanari for more than 1 year. Overall I am happy that we share a very close bond with one another, not simply being colleagues but all of us playing an important part in each other’s personal and professional growth. We work smart and we play hard. We work with various types of complex projects which gives my team a lot more exposure to development. So a year at Wanari might feel like 3 years in another company when comparing the actual coding experience. Most of my team are Scala experts, the few working on Java7 and 8 (waiting for Java 9 http://www.java9countdown.xyz/) are either transitioning into Scala as we speak or are also specialized in other technologies as well. Apart from back-end developers I also have some full-stack engineers. In a nutshell I’ve got more Scala guys than Java. They like Scala a lot.

Me: How do you keep your team in sync with what we believe in and what Wanari wants to achieve?

Perhaps it’s cliché, but rather than them working for me I always work with them. I try to be present at every possible daily stand-up and try to often do what I love the most: coding. I love coding and when you see the bright light shining over me that means I am coding with my team. I’m very much involved in all the projects my team is working on. Yes!, sometimes it does feel like a lot to cope with but my love for coding takes the pressure off. One thing I cannot fathom is when people talk about having “a helicopter view,” staying up there and looking down on their team. I’d rather stay on the ground and take the ride with them.

I hope you found the first half of this interview beneficial, insightful and might even entertaining! Coming up, the second half of the interview with Wanari CTO, Norbi. I asked him what processes he has to make things happen fast, how he views agile methods, what challenges he faced as a software developer and as a leader and his key takeaway for likeminded CTOs!

UPDATE: Part 2 of ‘What a CTO can do to deliver fast and agile’ is out.

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Ron is a seasoned executive who now helps Wanari clients make practical and beneficial, business-transforming decisions.

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