Projects I have worked on
As I started my career, many of the projects that I worked on were small fry: change an ASP page here, implement an API there, as would be expected from a graduate developer. It took years, and a lot of work and searching, until I was finally able to land on a major project, in a team that could be said to deliver software of a measurable impact.
It was not until I had been employed at my last workplace in Târgu Mureș that I came into contact with the first serious, corporate-level project.
The first project in which I worked as a billable resource in a time & materials project was an ERP named RPS, a product of the Basque company Ibermática. Part of the project was outsourced to the (now defunct) Sysgenic Group, of which I was a new hire at that point.
There, I had the chance to work in the first true multicultural environment, and I was able to learn the first things about how a proper enterprise project was conducted.
Development focused on accounting and financial procedures, and made use of heavy validation (unit tests, acceptance testing, interoperability testing and, later on, automated UI tests), as well as numerous aspects related to culture in software development.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned during my time here was never to assume that whatever I was developing or using was, in any way, universal. This lesson came in the form of a Microsoft Excel document, a templated export from one of the modules we were developing at the time, which the client had rejected at a validation test, and had delivered to us with the mention that its formulas did not work. Try as we might, nobody in the team could figure out why, so we asked the client to send us a version of the document that did work, which they were using for validation, to be able to spot the differences and get a clue as to what was wrong.
It was only then that the team was able to figure out our mistake: Excel has culture-specific formulas, a fact that neither of us knew at the time, so the document that they were using, which had formulas localized for the Spanish culture, would not work on our English-localized Excel, and vice-versa. While we were finally able to make it work properly, and the client was ultimately pleased with the result, it demonstrated that we need to pay more attention to the people that we're developing software for.
Thomsons Online Benefits' Darwin
After leaving Sysgenic Group and ending up in Cluj-Napoca, I had the chance of working for Thomsons Online Benefits on their Darwin employee benefits platform (currently owned by Mercer), a British company in the pensions and benefits market. By that time, my career had already progressed far enough that I could be trusted with working on my own on major pieces of software, often impacting many thousands of users.
After a brief foray into the inner workings of the Darwin platform, their main product, I ended up in a team that dealt with architectural challenges, refactoring, performance and many unseen yet very important changes, which, after a while, I ended up leading.
It was in this project that I was truly able to understand product-oriented software development, as a direct result of the environment that featured many people that were not developing software, but that were developing the business. Many specialists in the core market (which was the Commonwealth employee benefits and pensions market) and many specialists for understanding and translating customer needs into changes, features, products and, later, revenue streams.
If, up to that point, I had mostly been involved in pure software development as an outsourced resource, the Darwin project offered a serious opportunity in product development, as I was no longer a developer-for-hire, but was in the heart of the process, and whatever I developed, I could see in action (albeit with a slight delay, as it was here that I was introduced to serious SaaS concepts, such as a release cycle, multi-staged releases, etc.).
All teams that were working together on the project were highly diverse, and I had the chance to lead what was probably the most geographically-spread team of all, with members ranging from Cluj-Napoca, through South Africa, to Singapore, Viet Nam and Australia at the same time.
The exposure I got through this part of my life, and through the many business travels that took me to see very different things (London, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City) completed my development into what I define as an international software consultant: a person that is always ready to take on any software development challenge, no matter the complexity, difficulty, persons involved, nature of the business, nature of the market, and nature of the people.
Darwin, as the two co-founders explained, was envisioned as a software that was always evolving, always adapting, and I was a part of that which made it evolve the most. And, in turn, it allowed me to evolve as well, and prepare for the next part of my life.
When I started interviewing as an external contractor for BlackLine, I did not get to imagine exactly how complex things would get, and yet, how simple at the same time.
BlackLine's product was already a success in its market, and had started to make waves, as it had attracted a lot of capital and was looking at rapid expansion.
The American management had us in an organized long visit to their California headquarters, where we could get to know each other, and get to work on serious improvements on their PaaS offering. I initially ended up in a team that dealt heavily with mathematics, and with tracking of multiple transactions within ledgers for the purpose of reconciliation.
What immediately stuck with me was how much mental work was going in developing that software. At no point could I ever consider it a work for just anyone: no, one needed expert knowledge and serious brainpower just to keep up with the number of things that were going on. To this day, I hold my team leader at the time, a software developer of Russian descent, in great regard for just how capable he was, and how much of a pleasure it was to simply work with him.
But, at the same time, the most amazing aspect of working in this project was how easy it was to just get things done. I (or anyone from the team, really) would simply bounce off an idea to the leaders or the architect, and, if it was a good idea, it was green-lighted for possible implementation when there was no extremely urgent task. Nothing that seemed worthwhile was off the table, and I got to learn that a relaxed attitude towards softare development led to real progress.
After this experience, I learned to be relaxed about my work, and I learned that no task is so important that it cannot bear some time to be discussed and analyzed, and that any idea that is bounced off a capable set of individuals has the potential to move things forward and make life better for everyone (whether on its own merit, or by triggering a brainstorming session that ends up with something even better).
I also had the chance to get first row seats on a real-life masterclass on the importance of knowedge and experience. Not only did I get to work with experienced people who would steer me on the right path with experience ("What you're saying sounds intuitive, but we already tried it in the past, and these were the results, and this is what your overall picture is missing"), but I even got to do that myself, by being able to harness my previous experience with Darwin (which featured some similar constructs, being an application in the same lato sensu financial market), which greatly boosted my confidence in my previous work, but also taught me the true lesson of the importance of knowledge.
Unfortunately, the contract lasted for too little, as the local company I was working for (who did subcontracting for BlackLine) wasn't very collaboration-friendly. As opposed to the freedom that I had, professionally-speaking, from BlackLine, contractual obligations were simply too restrictive. I made the decision to end collaboration and try to assert my desire to manage time, work and life on my own terms, and it paid out.
Automotive testing tools
When joining NTT Data Romania, I was initially fearful of the proverbial hammer dropping. Here I was, after an unpleasant contractual experience in the previous company, on edge after the contract looked almost too good to be true. But everything was true, and I could shed the bad memories and truly work as a consultant.
While there, I did consluting for a major client in the automotive industry. It was a complete change of pace, and a complete change in the way of working that I was used to. No longer was my work a fast-paced environment where software development was done according to the latest and best industry standard procedures, but it slowed down to get a team of developers that were used to high-level development.
The experience of working with the client's team, while having the infrastructure of a very large company with ties across the entire world has allowed me to approach my role of guiding the team and sharing my experience with them, and teaching them some of the best practices in software development. On top of that, the fact that the team was also part of a big company had its advantages, in the sense that it allowed us to work in a slightly more relaxed manner than what we could have done with the strict deadlines and hardline efficiency of a smaller company.
( 🚧 under construction 🚧 )
Last update: 11th October, 2022