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"A new person with us gets the opportunity to learn directly on the project. By working on it, he profiles himself with the help of his colleagues and then grows himself," says architect and delivery manager Jan Karban in the Adastra podcast, who is in charge of teams that deliver data integration projects to the largest corporations in the Czech Republic.
Listen to the podcast (CZ)
Read the podcast as an interview
Ivana Karhanová: Honza Karban delivers data integration projects to Adastra customers. The team he is in charge of has about 40 people and works for the largest corporations in the Czech Republic. Honza, hi.
Jan Karban: Hi.
Ivana Karhanová: What kind of projects do you often handle for clients?
Jan Karban: Consolidation, integration, data unification. That means BI solutions, data warehouses, and so on.
Ivana Karhanová: Let’s give some specific examples.
Jan Karban: We supply one bank with a data warehouse that a new bank has integrated into as part of a merger. We supply in the energy sector. For CEZ Sale, it is an operational data store linked to an analytical data store, including tools for unification, data cleansing, and so on.
Ivana Karhanová: And does your team work in the Czech Republic, or do you also deliver abroad?
Jan Karban: We also deliver abroad, but primarily our biggest projects, in terms of the number of people, are in the Czech Republic.
Ivana Karhanová: You mentioned banking, energy, or utilities. Are you still very active in any other sector? Or is it primarily these two?
Jan Karban: I am primarily in those two, but at Adastra, we are in many sectors, including insurance and other utilities.
Ivana Karhanová: How do you manage your team? Do you allow them to work remotely, or do you need them in the office? Or do you have some sort of mutually agreed upon hybrid format?
Jan Karban: We have a mutually agreed hybrid form. Primarily, the customer controls whether it’s remote or on-site. The customer can ultimately say – which we don’t have anywhere – that the person must be on-site from nine to five. He is perfectly entitled to do that under the contracts, but for many customers in terms of covid and developments in recent years, that is not even possible, because if all the people came to work, they would not fit in those offices. So that’s where they’re counting on the part of it being remote, and it’s up to the agreement. However, working from home makes sense for senior people who know what to do. Our experience with our junior colleagues is that remote access is inefficient.
Ivana Karhanová: When a junior joins your team, how do you work with them? How do you ensure he works well in that team and can continue to grow?
Jan Karban: Basically, I don’t have to worry about that. We have a junior program in place, including the Adastra Junior Academy, which was created as part of that. A new person goes directly to the project. It should be his responsibility that if he gets a task there, he should complete it. In the beginning, they are very simple tasks. The person has to get a feel for the basic principles of architecture, technology, tools, and why it’s done at all, but it’s all available in that team of five to fifteen people. So when he gets the task, he has to go to those people to get it done, which is important. If he’s been doing that task for a while, he finds that the second time he does it, he’s doing it maybe a tenth of the time. That creates slack, and he starts to either do more analysis or get more immersed in the more complex tasks in the technology. That’s how he profiles himself and grows himself, so there’s no need to move him somewhere artificial. He gets the opportunity to learn and move through that work.
Ivana Karhanová: And from everything that has been said so far, is Czech the main language for you or English?
Jan Karban: On projects in the Czech Republic, it’s Czech. We did projects with junior colleagues in the Balkans and in Vienna, where of course, it was full English.
Ivana Karhanová: But the primary language of your team is primarily Czech. That was my point.
Jan Karban: Yes, but when we have, for example, some foreign colleagues who still have problems with Czech, we use English.
Ivana Karhanová: If someone wants to work part-time, is that possible for you?
Jan Karban: In general, it is possible. As far as projects are concerned, I require four days a week for internal colleagues. If the junior people are there for only three days, for example, in two days of their absence, the project shifts, and before they know what has happened in those two days, it is inefficient for them. It’s also inefficient because the person is not moving as they should. Because of that, many students in their first or second year of college find that they cannot work 32 hours a week, so it doesn’t make sense. School should still be more important for them to finish. I tell these students to come back in two or three years when it’s possible while they’re studying.
Ivana Karhanová: How would you describe yourself?
Jan Karban: No, not fat.
Ivana Karhanová: And apart from that, you don’t go overlooked? What do you tolerate, and what do you not forgive?
Jan Karban: It’s very important to me that the communication in the team is very open. It’s for one simple reason. If a person does something wrong, they need to know immediately and be strong enough that even if they hear it in a not-so-pleasant way, they have to stand up to it. The most important thing I insist on is that when people do something wrong, it should not be dealt with in a week or two. It needs to be dealt with – even from the point of view of others – immediately and on the spot, which is not always pleasant. The flip side of that is that people on the team are essentially friends. They meet outside work, are close-knit, and work as a team.
Ivana Karhanová: What do you tolerate, or can you tolerate?
Jan Karban: I tolerate a lot, I guess. And to what I won’t tolerate, I would add that I don’t like it when someone makes excuses that he expected something to happen or thought someone would come to him and go through with it. Even junior people should know that they have to will themselves in life.
Ivana Karhanová: That means that you expect people to be able to accept quite a lot of responsibility.
Jan Karban: Absolutely, but most importantly, they must take care of themselves. That means, for example, that if someone wants training, they have to ask for it. It doesn’t matter if someone is extroverted or introverted, but if I just want something, I’ll say so. It also means that if someone is conflicted about something I want, we have to talk it out and work it out. But it’s still better than me guessing and figuring out how to move that person along. It’s better if he moves on himself.
Ivana Karhanová: When you hire a person for a junior position, how long before he can work on his own and become a full-fledged member of the team?
Jan Karban: It would be best in a week.
Ivana Karhanová: And in real life?
Jan Karban: For example, in data warehousing, usually, in more than a year, he can analyze, design a solution, deliver it, test it, deploy it and support it in production when a request comes in or a bug is discovered.
Ivana Karhanová: And that’s roughly a year from when he joins?
Jan Karban: I don’t know anybody who can do it in a year. Even the most capable colleagues take longer. For the students or juniors we recruit, I already tell them at the interview to learn some discipline. The first project, if circumstances allow, should take between two and five years because, in that time, they will have learned something and will have touched a lot of things. Projects that last five or six months usually don’t give the person much, and it shows. I also see it with colleagues who have come from somewhere other than school. Those who have done a bigger project are significantly more successful than those who came in with two or three very short projects. When you have a big project behind you, you have more experience.
Ivana Karhanová: What are the current types of candidates, or what positions are you looking for colleagues for?
Jan Karban: I’m looking for hard-working, smart people with a technical mindset. We generally say that Adastra is technologically independent, and I stand by that. When that person learns one programming language, in terms of using a second programming language, it’s very fast. It’s more about thinking than the syntax of the code. So with juniors, we don’t have big fundamental requirements for what they need to know. That’s why we recruit people from schools to allow them to grow with us.
Ivana Karhanová: If someone was a senior interested in the projects you’re working on, would they find a job with you as well? Or are you closed to such candidates at the moment?
Jan Karban: We are not. We are certainly not closed to any candidates on the market. But, of course, senior people will find employment with us. It works because experienced senior people don’t come to the interview much. These are the people who are approached on the market. That means they’re not actively looking for a new job. I know this from personal experience. There is currently no need to look for employment in this area.
Ivana Karhanová: Thanks for the interview. You can find all the vacancies on www. jobs.Adastra.cz. Honza, what if someone feels that they don’t want to go through our HR department and would rather talk to you directly? Where can they find you?
Jan Karban: They can find me on Adastra’s website and contact me on LinkedIn. However, he will have to go through the HR department anyway, and that’s why they recommend going through him, for many reasons that we haven’t discussed here. We have the Adastra Junior Academy, which, as a complement to what I said, provides courses where people learn about a much wider range of the jobs and projects we do. It’s not just about me then, but of course, if someone wants to contact me directly through LinkedIn or other channels, that’s certainly possible.
Ivana Karhanová: Honza Karban, architect and delivery manager from Adastra. Thanks for coming in.
Jan Karban: You’re welcome.
Ivana Karhanová: See you sometime.
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