Software testing wasn’t his dream career path, and being a team leader meant leaving his comfort zone and taking on a new challenge. Today, Michał Brewka, Team Leader of the testing team working with one of Sii’s largest clients, admits that it was a good decision.
You joined Sii team in Gdańsk branch as a Test and Analysis Engineer. Why did you choose the career as a tester?
Michał Brewka, Team Leader: Testing was kind of a blind shot for me. Previously, I was responsible for a local, one-person IT department in one of the factories in Pomerania, which was part of a large corporation. Fixed processes, global Service Desk, etc. – the work was easy to handle. Unfortunately, the number of responsibilities (including those not related to IT) grew and my development was not satisfactory, so I quit my job. Testing at Sii interested me due to the close relationship of the project with my field of study – telecommunications. That’s why I decided to try and I definitely don’t regret it. It turned out that my innate inquisitiveness, logical thinking and willingness to implement improvements were enough to take up this new challenge.
You are currently managing a testing team working for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of integrated circuits. What does your team’s day-to-day work look like?
M.B.: My team currently consists of 15 well-coordinated young people. They are inquisitive, meticulous and responsible, and at the same time read documentation, write code in C# (sometimes also in Python), understand the hardware structure of a computer and, of course, can test. A typical day in my team consists of meetings, running semi-automatic tests (those that require the tester to take activity – e.g. entering a command), performing automatic tests that can last up to several days, as well as analysis of results – which sometimes end the exposure of so-called defect. What we test is confidential, but I can tell you that we check the software that allows you to control the actions of the hardware. It means working in a place where many areas and challenges meet – hence the word boredom does not exist to us.
How did you become a team lead?
M.B.: After my first project, in which I was a tester, finished, I joined the current team as a technical leader – in order to organize the team’s work in the execution area. After a few months, there was an opportunity to be promoted to team leader. I wanted to develop so I took advantage of this opportunity. At the time of making this decision, I had a lot of experience and quite extensive technical knowledge. In my opinion, it was the right moment to decide whether I am still developing towards an expert with a narrow specialization or in a managerial direction. The decision to take on the role of team leader (and project manager at the same time) was associated with leaving my comfort zone and taking on a considerable challenge, as the cooperation with the client was not easy at that time. Thankfully, Sii and the new supervisor gave me their full support.
What competencies should a leader have in a testing team?
M.B.: I think that understanding the project and the people working in it is crucial here. And also the balance between independence and limited trust (in relation to myself and the team) – depending on the situation, I often shift it one way or the other. And undoubtedly, resistance to stress and self-discipline.
What are the challenges of this job?
M.B.: The most difficult for me are conflicts between team members – that’s why I focus on prevention, trying to avoid them as soon as possible so that they do not escalate. Secondly, there is a conflict of interest with the client. You have to be able to navigate inside the triangle: time, quality, cost, which is sometimes very difficult, because I have the “resources” (time, skills and availability of my team), and the client has the tasks he entrusts us with. The trick is to systematically show and communicate the limit of our flexibility, but at the same time have a bit of space to allow the client to bend this limit in the name of good cooperation.
And what gives you the greatest satisfaction?
M.B.: In projects – problem solving and introducing improvements that, simply speaking, allow me to focus on other most important tasks. In the team aspect – a successful recruitment of a new person. Especially at a later stage, knowing that I have made the right choice. And you can see it in the results and how the team works with the new person, both at the onboarding stage and after it.
The last year brought many changes to the characteristics of teamwork, such as the transition to working remotely. How has the pandemic affected your and your team?
M.B.: Like most of the teams at Sii, we didn’t have the slightest problem with the transition to remote work and we did it right away when the decision has been made. However, for me as the person responsible for the team, it was quite a challenge – because I immediately felt it difficult to obtain information about what was happening both in the project and between people in the team. Sitting in one room, we were in the very center of team communication. It allowed to “effortlessly” catch problems, connect people who need information with those who have it, and be aware of the current situation. We had to move our conversations to Teams and plan additional individual meetings with people from the team. As a consequence, when I started working from home, I was wearing headphones for 6-7 hours a day.
The second challenge was a significant (~25%) reduction in our project in April 2020. Thanks to Sii’s approach and cooperation with other team leaders, this did not mean layoffs. All the people reduced from my project managed to find other projects at Sii, and two people were also looking for a job on their own and unfortunately left.
In addition to working at Sii, you are also passionate about paragliding. Tell us about your hobby!
M.B.: That’s right – I am a paraglider pilot. It is kind of a flying soft wing (it can be folded into a backpack) and, importantly, it works without an engine. Unfortunately, I have hardly practiced this sport for two years – paragliding takes quite some time. We depend on the wind and air conditions, so you need to be in the right place at the right time to fly. I could talk about it for a long time, but it’s best to try it yourself, even starting with a tandem flight. For me, the best thing about flying is freedom and being cut off from other matters, as well as being here and now – we quickly (seconds / minutes) find out whether the decision we made was right or not. The more experience and the more right decisions – the longer we are in the air, the further we will get. When I think about it, I find paragliding a lot similar with being a team leader.
I plan to return to paragliding in 2022, and I encourage you to try and explore areas that seem abstract and unconquered. Our goals should be ambitious so that we develop – both privately and professionally. 😉
Explore your passion for technology, as does Michał, and join us!
Together we are unstoppable! #UnstoppableSii