In international waters

An interview with ALLWIN Team Lead Candidate Ádám Uhrin

How long have you been working for ALLWIN and how did you find us at first?

Ádám: Since 31 July 2018. My roommate at the time, Ádám Izbéki, had been working at ALLWIN for a year by then. We've known each other since high school, lived in a shared apartment for several years during and even after university. During our nightly smoking sessions, he would tell me about the current happenings, so I’d been familiar with the names, for example, before I applied, but I just couldn't associate a face with them. As a result, upon joining ALLWIN, I had interesting discoveries, because I imagined someone in a way that might have very well been completely different in real life.

Ádám Uhrin, Team Lead Candidate with his (work)friend, Ádám Izbéki, Software Developer

And what did he tell you that had a particularly positive effect on you?

Ádám: I saw his enthusiasm for the company, that he enjoys his job, and that he works with exciting technology, plus the company itself, which he joined, seemed welcoming, and I took it that the whole atmosphere was quite positive. These factors definitely influenced my decision.

What do you remember about the onboarding period?

Ádám: It was great, but it had a lot of challenges because I’d come here with almost zero knowledge. I had C# knowledge, but no web skills, and I certainly had no clue about REST APIs. So, I studied web development specifically for the job interview. During the two-week Sitecore training period, I improved a lot, and after that I was immediately assigned to a project, and soon I found myself on an international project. From then on I developed in Sitecore continuously for a year and a half. Until there was a dedicated frontend team at ALLWIN, we’d performed frontend tasks together with other Sitecore developer colleagues. Of course, not in a framework, so we were not expected to use React or Angular, but using basic JavaScript and jQuery was a requirement indeed.

Do you think it is better or worse from a Sitecore developer’s point of view that a dedicated frontend team deals with frontend development tasks on projects?

Ádám: I think this is completely subjective. It would be worse for me, because I like to see the whole process. When I write something on the backend, I like to see how it will look and work on the page. But there are those who have no need for this at all. Anyway, it's strange that I do, because when I was still a university student, I thought to myself that I would never want to do this. Then I realized that it’s actually really good.

Did you come to this conclusion while developing in Sitecore?

Ádám: Yes, because it was part of the process.

And how did you get assigned to your current project, which is not a Sitecore development?

Ádám: After about a year and a half of doing Sitecore, it turned out that there was no need for an extra Sitecore developer on any of our projects at the time, and I would have liked a little variety in terms of technologies, so after minor other project work, I ended up on the current, international project. We work with a Norwegian company that provides a platform for Norwegian fishermen and shipping companies.

What does this cooperation look like?

Ádám: They are the operators, currently with three developers who can see and understand the code. I am in contact with them, we design the tasks together. They know the needs of their customers and discuss with me how they can be implemented.

This must be very interesting, if only because of the topic.

Ádám: Yes, I could soon become a Norwegian fisherman, I have learned so much about the subject.

For example, there are resettlement stations where fish are bred, dewormed, lice removed, and so on. The biggest fishing danger is that the fish will get lice. The fish are kept in underwater nets that look circular from above but are actually attached to rings. These structures can be of different types. There are also those that have so-called lice shield, which prevents the lice from getting to the fish.

That's really interesting, I've never heard of sea lice before.

Ádám: I also hadn’t known about them before I started working on this project. Actually, the point of all this is that the tools that are used there in the water, like the net itself, or the ring, or the ropes with which these rings are tied under the water, all wear out. And in Norway, things are regulated in a very brutal way, how long they can be in the water, how they can be in the water, and certificates must be issued for them, etc. and this system helps them not to run into anything such as a net is in the water for three years instead of two, and they are punished for that. So, in fact, the entire system we are working on helps ensure that all regulated processes are carried out properly.

So, if I understand correctly, their activity is tracked, and the system sends, for example, a notification that "hey, here is a fishing net whose license is about to expire".

Ádám: Yes, for example. Plus, you can watch the ships as they move on the map in real time based on GPS data. Because, in addition to these administrative processes, the system also has a map view. There you can see exactly what the device looks like in the water, and there are also the ships. Furthermore, the ordering of new devices or any service is also done through this system. The management of orders is a large part of the project. There is an old system that is the cherry on top, it includes everything, only on a technology called Silverlight that is no longer supported and hated by everyone. The process of replacing technology intensified when I joined the project. It has not been a supported platform since October 2020, so the replacement has a high priority.

What would you mention as an advantage of the project to those who might have been made a little uneasy by Silverlight?

Ádám: As is usually the case with international projects, English is the language of communication. Thanks to this, my English has improved a lot. Back then, when we were studying English together at ALLWIN, it was difficult for me to speak. I was also afraid to speak English on my international project at the time, and that's why my English communication skills were quite weak back then.

However, in my current project I got into a younger, more relaxed community. We joke a lot with the Norwegian developers, there is no strict business approach, which helped me a lot. This experience broke through that block, I started to communicate more confidently in English and picked up a lot of expressions during the meetings.

Not to mention cultural knowledge.

Ádám: Absolutely. Obviously, the Norwegian culture is not as different as, say, if we were to cooperate with a country on another continent, but there are still a lot of small things that make people wonder. During joint work, they inevitably talk about, for example, what kind of mountains there are in their region. The relationship is so direct that I feel like they are ALLWIN employees just like me. They have even invited me for a beer. But we haven't made business trips at ALLWIN since COVID hit.

I have already mentioned in our company podcast that back when I was teaching English at ALLWIN, my students working on international projects had a completely different vocabulary from those working on domestic projects, and now I don’t only mean their English vocabulary, but also technical words like "agile".

Scrum? GIF - Siliconvalley Scrum GIFs

Ádám: Yes, agile development is more common when it comes to international projects. However, it is important to point out that the client must understand what this means in practice, they must be open-minded and cooperative in this, otherwise it is useless to label the project as agile.

I've heard here and there that developers on foreign projects feel somewhat isolated from ALLWIN.

Ádám: I don't think these two necessarily go together. Given that everyone has weekly 1:1 meetings with their direct manager at ALLWIN, and also talks with the org chart level team within ALLWIN for at least half an hour a week, regardless of whether they are working on the same project with the team members or not, plus everyone can bond with their local colleagues even on a monthly company-level team-building event, I don't think that isolation is predestined by an international project.

If you have already mentioned 1:1, the question arises: how do you feel in the relatively new role of Team Lead Candidate?

Ádám: I really like allocating the right people to the right projects or the weekly 1:1s. Although it is a fact that a lot of time is consumed by the people management tasks associated with the role of Team Lead. However, my previous people management experience from leading a team of 120 people picking up trash after festivals comes in handy. There, people worked tirelessly at night, in 12-hour shifts, there were fights, and several times there was a very tense atmosphere. My current managerial responsibilities are nowhere near this.

This is definitely good news. 😊 But you still have challenges here, since, for example, the person who joined your team this year is the first non-Hungarian-speaking employee in the history of ALLWIN. What is the experience like for a Team Lead Candidate?

Ádám: Since we constantly communicate in English on my project, I haven't experienced any changes regarding 1:1s, just because I have to talk to him in English. At the weekly org chart-level team status meeting, the change can already be felt in the sense that those employees who work on domestic projects and therefore do not necessarily use English on a daily basis may have some difficulty in discussing certain topics, which until now have been easily discussed in Hungarian. Our team status is about everyone sharing what happened to them in the past week. This helps information flow within the team. In addition to this, of course, all other information must be communicated to the new team member in English, whether it is a weekend company program or the policy. We are constantly working to ensure that everything that was previously available in Hungarian is also available in English. Also, we have to learn to deal with the fact that we now have a colleague who has been socialized in a culture different from ours, where the rules and social conventions may be different from what we are used to at work.

Can you possibly cite a specific example where this occurred?

Ádám: For example, once a week during the day he is not available for a while due to religious practice. ALLWIN is flexible, everyone can go to the dentist or pick up their child during the day (with prior arrangement, unless it is an emergency), but this is the first time a colleague is away during the day for religious reasons. This is not bad or good, it is just something new in the life of the company.

What book are you currently reading?

Ádám: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. I have a schedule for what I read after what. I always put it together in such a way that there is a big fantasy series that provides the framework and five or six other books are integrated between the individual parts of it. That's about a one-month stint. I get from one fantasy book to another in a month.

Ádám's reading list on goodreads

And the five or six books between the two fantasy parts are put together in such a way that they are different in genre, so, for example, there won't be another sci-fi after a sci-fi. That is, if I read, say, a horror, then, say, a sci-fi follows, I wash it down with a fantasy. Then a classic literary novel, and then I get to the next part of the fantasy series. However, these comics can come in any order, and there can even be several of them at the same time. 😊