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Unexpected Level of Autonomy with over 85 Projects a Year for Top Brands like IKEA or Volkswagen  - This Can Be Your Daily Job

“A perfect job for people who like challenges and learning new skills but are also flexible and able to adapt to changes”, this is how Marek Talarczyk, Netguru’s Chief of Operations, described the position of Head of Project Management. HoPM at Netguru will be responsible for six teams of almost 30 project managers running more than 85 projects a year in total with almost 70-percent project predictability. Sounds interesting? Read on and apply for Head of Project Management as the recruitment process is now open.

Aleksandra Prejs: What convinced you to apply to Netguru? What did you know about NG before you applied? How did you envision your job and working here?

Marek Talarczyk, COO at Netguru: Netguru is my first job in Poland. Before joining the company, I only worked abroad. When I decided to come back to Poland, I was afraid that I would find a job in a big corporation. I'm not a fan of organisations with rigid hierarchies. I was hoping I could find a company that puts its values and the working culture at the forefront. Not only did Netguru seem to meet those expectations, but it also surprised me with the quality of its processes and people’s attitude. When I decided to apply for the role of the Head of Project Management at Netguru I was almost sure that there had to be a catch somewhere. I tried really hard to find it. I even asked the company to allow me to come and see how the company works before I accepted the job offer. Only then did I realise that the values and work style mentioned on the website were true. I also believe that Netguru still preserves the culture and values of a startup but applies them to the reality of a big organisation.

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How did Netguru change along the way?

Well, over the last two years, the number of people has almost doubled. At the same time, the values and culture luckily haven’t changed that much. Every day, I can see that we're getting more and more professional in what we do. We're getting stronger; we're working on making our processes stronger, too. Our visibility and the recognition of our brand on the international market is growing. As a result, we're able to make more complex and more interesting products that let people do things differently. At the moment, we're working on a cancer detection application, to give you an example. Another project we have is a unique fintech solution for one of the German fintech stars. Recently, we've helped Volkswagen build an exceptional concept store for their cars. We also work for giants like IKEA. No boredom here, none at all.

And how have your responsibilities changed along the way?

Well, during my two-year-long collaboration with Netguru, I have worked on three positions and had to tackle a lot of diverse challenges. I started as Head of Project Management. At that time, I supervised a team of 12 qualified project managers running more than 40 projects. Now, the project management team consists of more than 35 people lead by a senior leader and runs more than 85 concurrent projects. Later, as Head of Delivery, I also started to supervise the work of the Quality Assurance team, which now consists of more than 30 members. Then, I was offered to take care of tools and data at Netguru. After that, I took over the scheduling area to oversee the process of assigning people to projects. Now, as Chief Operations Officer, I'm responsible for all the operational activities of the company. I'm doing my best to make enable everybody to work towards the same goal. With hindsight, I’d say that the position of Head of Project Management will be perfect for people who like challenges and are flexible and able to adapt quickly to the changing environment.

What surprised you the most during your collaboration with Netguru?

What came to me as the biggest surprise was how much trust the company’s founders vested in me when they promoted me to the role of COO. When it comes to the company's growth, I knew that Netguru would grow quickly, but I didn't expect we would grow that fast. The challenges Netguru was facing when I joined the company two years ago are no longer there. Now, we have to deal with entirely different problems. At the same time, we're acquiring more prominent and more ambitious projects. This means that we're trying to meet very high expectations of our clients and of our team members every day.

What was the biggest challenge you had to tackle?

My biggest challenge was to organise data and internal tools. I can now say that Netguru is an organisation that can make decisions based on data. In my everyday work, I had to keep up with the unexpected pace of the company's growth. Growing so fast, we have to look for processes and rules that no longer work, because they don't scale up enough. When left alone, they can become bottlenecks and hurt the company's performance. It's a constant struggle to spot these bottlenecks fast enough to introduce changes and make things work. Constantly putting forward changes in such a dynamic environment is challenging but also exciting.

What was your and your team’s biggest achievement?

I admire the fact that our team can run more than 85 projects at the same time. Our portfolio covers a wide range of services. We do web development; we do product design and also consulting services such as scoping sessions or product design sprints. Project Managers at Netguru do an outstanding job. They coordinate the work of more than 180 developers and 30 designers to deliver the best possible results. At the same time, they're super-skilled in mentoring new team members. New project managers receive a lot of independence. Not long after joining the company, they're able to run their projects.

Any challenges ahead Problems remaining unsolved?

I guess our biggest problem is universal to the software production industry – it’s project predictability. We've already made tremendous progress in this area. We've managed to increase our project predictability by 102%. But we're still striving to perform even better. Creating accurate estimations is our daily struggle. Then, we have to successfully manage clients' expectations and the cost of development.

If you had to name the three most valuable lessons you learned at Netguru, what would they be?

I'd say that any decision is better than no decision at all. Making mistakes is all right, but making the same mistakes over and over again is not. You have to trust people and let them work. You have to believe that they will do their best to make things work as you'd like them to work.

If you had the chance, what advice would you give to Marek Talarczyk of 2016? ;)

Dear Marek, just like Andy Grove wrote in his book  High Output Management: “the work of a manager never ends. Manager's job never ends. There will always be more things you can do and there will always be more things you should do.” There will always be things that you have to take care of and tasks to solve. Come to terms with the fact that if there is a task with a low priority on your list, not only can it wait for its time, but it can also remain uncompleted. And it will be ok.

Who inspires you (people, companies) and why?

I look up to Marc Benioff from Salesforce, who created the concept of V2MOM and was able to move from building SaaS software to creating an extremely complex platform. I also follow Andy Grove from Intel and admire his concept of high-output management. I think it's a very solid base for management. High-output management tells you to always seek the biggest possible impact when prioritising your tasks. Jurgen Apello and his concept of Management 3.0 are also worth mentioning. Jurgen was trying to find a style of managing the company, projects, and products in the Agile way.

What does the daily routine of Head of Project Management look like?

The routine of Head of PM consists mainly of managerial  responsibilities. I used an approach inspired by scrum and split my duties into sprints – just as we do in commercial projects. I always try to tackle the most urgent issues first and follow the GTD approach. I break down a task into many smaller parts that are easier to solve. HoPM’s routine also includes meetings with Senior Leaders, the team, and the other Core members. Of course, it also involves helping the team in the most challenging situations, which is an essential part of the job. The team’s needs always come first.

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What tools do you use to track the progress of your work?

Salesforce is the most important tool I use. I have a dashboard with all the key metrics I have to keep an eye on to be sure the company goes in the right direction. Salesforce enables me to track our performance almost in real time and react immediately when there is anything we can improve. As a company, we set our goals in V2MOMs, Salesforce's goal-setting framework. I'm responsible for the V2MOM of the whole company. Salesforce reports help me track the progress in the realisation of all the metrics'. I use Slack as the company's communication tool of choice. Apart from using Slack to communicate with the team and clients, I also try to use it to boost my productivity. For example, I star the messages I want to read later. I set reminders. I use many Slack integrations to stay up-to-date with all the relevant information. To keep track of the progress of my tasks, I use Wunderlist, where I plan my work in sprints and keep a log of all my tasks.

What does the collaboration with other core members look like? Do you collaborate a lot?

We do collaborate a lot. The Heads have a lot of autonomy in their teams. They take full ownership of what is happening in their departments. The new Head of Project Management will collaborate most frequently with Head of Technology and Product Design, Head of Business Development, and Head of People. And will report to directly to me.

Any tips for the candidates? What should they focus on during the recruitment process?

At Netguru, we have a set of values that we really believe in.

  1. We try to exceed our clients' and colleagues' expectations
  2. We take the ownership of our tasks and question the status quo constructively.
  3. We're trying our best to be brave, curious, and to experiment.
  4. We learn from all our successes and failures and act in a way that makes us proud.
  5. We want to be ambitious, grow ourselves and the people around us.

Those are only some of our values, and we'd like to see them in the candidates for Head of Project Management. Just be yourself and don't try to act differently to how you behave every day. Be direct, because we're looking for partners in building an inclusive, transparent, and socially responsible culture together.

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