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An interview with Marcin Laksander, Testing Competency Center Director

The Sii Testing Competency Center – one of the biggest technological units in the company, 600 testers, 50 clients in Poland and 40 abroad and in charge of Testing Marcin Laksander, Director of the Testing Competency Center at Sii. He is one of the few persons in Poland with such a high directorial and strategic position in the area of software testing. In this interview Marcin Laksander talks about his career path, the key to success in testing, his plans for the future and the development of the Competency Center.

Recently you have been promoted to the position of Testing Competency Center Director at Sii. This  position is a novelty on the Polish market, isn’t it?

Marcin Laksander: It’s true, in Poland there are only several persons with this position in IT companies – which can come as a surprise, as it is estimated that the value of the testing market in Poland is worth 2 billion PLN. At Sii we have noticed the potential of testing a long time ago and 2 years ago a separate unit dedicated to testing was created – the Testing Competency Center. It is a big unit so it was necessary to find a person that could manage it as its director. Today we have more than 150 persons in the Center and the budget amounts for 30 MLN PLN per year – so you can see that it is a big area that requires management and decision making. I am responsible both for carrying out testing projects, the budget and the team. I am sure that in the near future there will be many persons with a similar role to mine in the technological sector.

What lead you to the place in which you are now – you manage a Competency Center. What is your recipe for success?

M.L.: First of all it is consistency and making a long-term plan for the future. Already at the beginning of my career, shortly after I have graduated, I set myself a long-term goal – where I would like to be. Back then I didn’t know it would be a directorial position, but I have always wanted to be involved in testing from the side of management and do what I do know. Moreover you shouldn’t get discouraged. You must be patient – getting to such point in your career in IT must take a while. Even when there are moments of stagnation or failure, you shouldn’t feel disheartened and give up. Patience, consistency and persistence are key.

How did it all start?

M.L.: I started as a Software Tester – I worked in manual and automated testing. After three years I became a Test Manager and my further career path was based on developing skills in the area of management in tests – mainly in projects. The next step was managing a team, followed by sales. Because I got through all the stages, I understand the character of work of all the persons on a testing project team. To me this is very valuable knowledge, which I have gained in practice and I take advantage of it in my contacts with engineers.

What do consider your biggest challenge, which you had to face during your professional career?

M.L.: I think that the biggest challenge was to switch from typical operational work in projects to managing a unit – the testing department. This brought totally new responsibilities – first of all managing a team, taking care of its development, recruiting new persons, negotiating business. This can be difficult in the beginning, but everything comes with experience. Also it is necessary to read a lot, study these areas and see how experienced managers work – I have always done this. I learnt from the management at Sii and by reading biographies of famous successful people. Also let’s not forget what I have already mentioned – experience, experience and more experience, is invaluable in this work. Knowledge must come from many sources.

 Did Sii support you in the development of your managerial skills?

M.L.: Of course. I received great support from Sii managers. They shared their knowledge with me and inspired me. The support was always there and still is, because I’m aware of the fact that I can still learn a lot. New goals and challenges lie ahead.

 You have worked at Sii for 8 years– what do you think about your development here, in this company?

M.L.: I have the impression that I have worked in 3 different places. Every position was totally different than the other. First I was a tester, then a test manager working for one of our clients, and then Testing Competency Center Manager. They were successive development stages – every time my tasks were very different. For sure, thanks to this, there was no time to be bored. There is no room for stagnation or weariness when it comes to professional duties. It is as if I changed work every 3 years and each time faced new challenges. My case is not unique, at Sii there are many stories similar to mine.

Today you are the director of the second biggest Competency Center at Sii, which has operated for 2 years. How is it that Testing has such spectacular results?

M.L.: There are several reasons. First of all tests are a quite common service in IT – every software must be tested. Good companies always carry out software tests. Moreover our sales department is very efficient, this is why we participate in many projects. We have also started with a solid base – Sii has been carrying out testing projects for years, we have gained lots of experience and received many references from clients.

 Who are Testing clients?

M.L.: We cooperate with clients from various sectors: Banking, Media, Telco, Pharma – they are both Polish and foreign companies. In this group companies from the DACH and Scandinavian region prevail. The diversity of clients is very big. This gives our engineers an opportunity to change projects, get to know new industries and gain cross-cutting knowledge. It is like changing work without changing the employer. In our Competency Center we have the highest retention rate – specialists develop their skills under our wings and they don’t have to look for employment elsewhere.

What projects are carried out in the Competency Center?

M.L.: The Testing Competency Center can provide every possible testing service – manual, automated, performance or safety tests. We test many systems – web, mobile desktop. As I have already mentioned we carry out different types of tests, but 3 of them prevail – manual, functional and automated tests. We are strongly focused on mobile application tests and so we have created our own Test Lab. We can provide the client with a comprehensive service – it’s not only the people but also our know-how, hardware and software.

 You are a testing expert, you know the market like no one else – tell as what are the upcoming trends in testing? How will the industry evolve?

M.L.: You can see that the market is expanding and its value is growing steadily. This trend won’t change for many years. On the other hand we have a constant shortage of qualified testers, but a visible trend is that more and more persons decide to change their profession to testing. At Sii we give persons with potential an opportunity to start a testing career. We organize the Geek Academy, where we teach testing. What else? We are going in the direction of profound specialization of testers – new areas will appear. Before testers used to do everything. This is already changing and the process will gain intensity. At Sii we have: automated, performance, security and Business Intelligence testers. Additionally, within these areas, the specialization in very narrow domains will get even stronger. I think that automation will gain importance and will become common – also in testing. Everything is in the future – as the Testing Competency Center we won’t rest, we will continue our dynamic development and the conquest of new markets and leadership in testing, not only in Poland, but also across Europe.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for your further development and thank you for the interview.

M.L.: Thank you.

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