Ivan and Andrej have been a part of our company for many years and have each made their mark not only in our company but in the health insurance industry, becoming Tech Leads and managing teams of their own. They both have a wealth of industry experience, and they consistently demonstrate their skills as leaders.
We are excited to sit down with Ivan and Andrej and learn more about their journey. How did they get to where they are now, and what obstacles did they need to overcome along the way? What motivates them and what do they do to motivate their teams? Stay tuned for the interview to find out!
How and when did you enter the IT world?
Ivan: A classical cliché would be that I was interested in computers since I was a child and I programmed in elementary school using Basic. Well, that’s true, but it was not as straightforward as it may seem. Like every boy, I was interested in various machines and technology. It was a coincidence that I was able to explore and “play” with computers in my father’s workplace and that it was safer than to allow me to play with a car engine. One day my father bought me a kids’ book about the fundamentals called Basic programming. Later, my interests changed and were much broader as I guess is normal for young people. At the end of elementary school, I was interested in history and archeology. When I applied for university, I considered business informatics along with economics or even expertise in road transport. My dilemma was solved by a classmate who said: “Do not overthink it, just come to Bratislava with us.” It was a déjà-vu in our family, although not so dramatic as with my grandfather. He wanted to study electrical engineering but ended up in veterinary medicine. But seriously, I was leaning towards the combination of economics and informatics more anyway.
What’s your current job position at GoHealth, and what exactly are your duties?
Ivan: I guess it is hard to define my role in a broader way without being too specific or too vague. I am doing my best to help the team to have all they need so they can fully concentrate on daily duties and do not need to take care of the administrative burden. I also try to help them move forward either with daily problems or in their career overall by using skills from my previous developer and test automation engineer roles. I very much agree with the saying “People do not leave companies, they leave managers” and I keep that in mind. I think everybody naturally inclines to have a meaningful job and to have the ability to move forward — either in the job or as an individual. I had the chance to see how an atmosphere of trust, creativity, and the feeling that everything is possible boosted the mood and output of the team I was in. My goal is to create such an atmosphere as I think it is a win-win scenario for both the company and the individual. It goes without saying that this involves a lot of honest discussions and finding the sweet spot of everyone’s needs. As I am not a fan of a strict top-down approach, the amount of communication is even bigger, when trying to shape a new or re-shape an old process or a vision. Of course, communication is necessary as you gather different kinds of information when dealing with daily routines and when trying to keep an overview of every team in your unit. Effectively combining them is vital.
Andrej: As I focused on a broader range of technologies over time, including backend development and software architecture, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow my skills in a variety of areas. This has allowed me to take on more complex and challenging projects and has ultimately led me to my current role as a tech lead. My responsibilities include guiding and supporting the technical direction of my team, as well as providing mentorship and support to individual team members. I work closely with the development team to ensure that our projects are well-designed and implemented, and I also collaborate with other stakeholders, such as product managers, to ensure that our efforts are aligned with the overall goals of the organization. In addition to my technical responsibilities, I’m also trying my best to motivate team members to achieve their full potential and encourage team members to stay up to date with new technologies and trends.
You’ve been with us for quite a while, how has your job evolved and what has changed since your beginning?
Ivan: I was lucky to have Kamil (VP of GoHealth Slovakia) as a roommate at the university. His knowledge and can-do attitude influenced me a lot. We stayed in occasional contact after the studies, when we went to a pub and discussed work or life in general. By coincidence, I was looking for a job at the time Kamil was looking for help with a bigger project. It was by far more advanced than web apps in Slovakia by that time — an interesting challenge, so we shook hands. We rented a small office where we worked together as a team of three or four. A year later we have grown into a group of twelve. We did a lot of small projects for startups, mostly web apps. Thanks to the greenfield short-term nature of the projects in a quite short period of time I gathered a lot of experience with various technologies. We have had a place for experiments too. We even dived into the mobile apps a bit. With such projects and a small team, we were able to manage things even without involving strict processes. Different circumstances allowed us to do things unimaginable today — making direct changes to the production environment during daytime or committing messages that were far from what best practices suggest. We constantly improved ourselves and that also meant improvements in managing our projects. The breaking point was when we started to work with GoHealth. With the tremendous growth of the team, the demand was to improve our processes to maintain our quality standards and improve efficiency. We also needed to look for a bigger space to move to, but after only six months we needed to search again, and we moved to our former office. It was a bit empty at first, but after not so long again we filled it and looked for another floor to fill too. Despite steep growth, we maintained our friendly and informal atmosphere and we knew each other. Although it is harder to maintain deeper relationships in a huge team, I still think we have maintained that atmosphere thanks to the fact that we are a group of friendly, open-minded, and open-hearted people. It is not a problem for the team to get together for a run, beach volleyball or other events.
Andrej: Starting my career in a company with friends and schoolmates and transitioning to a larger company with dozens of team members has been a significant evolution in my career. In the beginning, working with a small team provided the opportunity to take on a wide range of responsibilities and challenges, and allowed me to learn from my peers. As my skills and experience grew, I was able to take on more complex tasks and more leadership responsibilities within the team. However, the company’s growth in size introduced new challenges and opportunities. It required me to adapt my communication and collaboration skills, as well as to learn how to navigate the various processes of a larger organization. It also introduced me to a much larger group of individuals, with a wide range of skills and expertise.
Being a Tech Lead means managing a team of developers and being responsible for the technical direction of a project and/or a product. It is a challenging role that requires strong leadership skills, technical expertise, and the ability to motivate and guide team members.
One of the main obstacles of being a Tech Lead is balancing the demands of the project with the needs and development of the team. It can be difficult to ensure that team members are working effectively and efficiently while also providing support and guidance for their professional growth.
However, the joy of this role is seeing the outcomes of the team’s hard work come to fruition and knowing that you played a part in their success. It is a rewarding experience to be able to lead and mentor others and to see them grow and thrive in their roles. What’s Ivan and Andrej’s take on this role?
What does it take to be a Leader? How do you keep your team members motivated?
Ivan: It is a different type of job compared to my previous roles. There is less accent on technical skills and more use of soft skills. Of course, a broad range of technical skills is vital, but it is not enough. It takes a bit of humility, the ability to discuss constructively, and the ability to streamline issues and jell the team members. It might sound a bit weird at first, but when it comes to motivation, I see some parallels in between how you motivate adults and children. As I dived into psychology a bit when raising my kids, I see some benefits of it in my job too. Some behavioral characteristics are universal. Motivation from outside is maybe easy to execute but does not lead to outstanding results (or maybe to any useful results) and suppresses creativity. It is vital to understand the meaningfulness of a task, its contribution to the effort, and the big picture. It’s also important to feel involved in the team as well as in decision-making. And last but definitely not least is the meaningful feedback. Although it is a bit more time-consuming approach at the end of the day it benefits all the parties involved.
Andrej: It is important to have a strong understanding of technology and how it can be used to solve problems. This typically involves having a deep understanding of one or more programming languages and frameworks, as well as experience with software development and design patterns. In addition to technical skills, a tech lead should also have soft skills. This includes the ability to clearly communicate technical concepts to both technical and non-technical team members, as well as the ability to motivate and mentor team members. To keep team members motivated, a tech lead can encourage team members to keep up with new technologies and trends. It can also be helpful to recognize and reward team members for their contributions and accomplishments, and to provide opportunities for career growth and advancement.
What pushes you forward the most at work? Where do you acquire new information or follow new trends?
Ivan: For me, it is humility expressed in the quote of Socrates “I know that I know nothing” and the sense of responsibility that my actions influence far more people and the company even more than before. You cannot lead your people by staying behind them. I have developed this kind of mindset as a synergy of my experience with raising kids (which when done properly is a kind of a full-time job thing) and my early company years. Kamil was cultivating culture of innovation and growth. On the other hand, he always found some time to help anyone with complex issues, so nobody was stuck for a long time. When everything failed, it ended up on his desk. In a small company like Creatix at that time, there was no place for unsolved problems. Unsolved problems meant unhappy clients and unhappy clients leave. The main impulse for a change is dissatisfaction with the existing state of things — so being always dissatisfied a bit is the stimulus and the way of thinking. Finding better solutions by searching the web, discussing with colleagues, and reading books is the basic way of getting to the most recent solutions. A step further is to find a new solution through the synthesis of information, experience, and analogies in enterprise and the outer world. Many times, going for a run helps. Nature, clean and fresh air clean the mind and make ideas fresh as well.
Andrej: I am driven by my passion for technology and a desire to create solutions that make a positive impact on our users. To acquire new information and stay up to the minute with new trends, I rely on a variety of sources. These days it’s mainly online industry conferences and events, reading technical blogs, and participating in open-source projects. Overall, my desire to learn and grow, and to make a positive impact through my work, inspires me to continuously seek out new information and opportunities.
What piece of advice would you give to developers or testers, who aspire to become Tech Leads?
Ivan: Gather all the information about the role to leave no place for misunderstanding and later dissatisfaction. Feel the responsibility and influence on others’ lives and the company. Be humble and maintain the drive that pushes you forward. Be a team player, jell, and empower the team. Recently we discussed with my colleagues, that most people just want to receive a simple and straightforward tip on how to succeed. It is all about consistently making sure details are not neglected, having the day planned, and having the will to execute that plan.
Andrej: Set an example of how to approach work in a professional and effective manner. This includes writing well-organized code, following best practices, and being reliable and responsive. Being able to communicate with your team clearly and effectively is crucial for your success. This includes the ability to articulate technical concepts to non-technical audiences and to clearly articulate your thoughts and ideas. Be a problem-solver, and find solutions to complex technical challenges. You should be able to approach problems in a logical and systematic way.
We hope that it was inspiring to hear about Ivan and Andrej’s experiences and to see their passion for the industry.
If you’re enthusiastic about software engineering and maybe eventually becoming a Lead, take inspiration from Ivan and Andrej’s journey. It is not an easy path, but with hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn, you too can reach this level of success in your career. We encourage you to pursue your dreams and believe that with determination and perseverance, anything is possible.