The practice of software engineering is the art of possible. At its most common, it is a constant back-and-forth pinball communication between the extremes of requirements and time constraints, between the ideal and the achievable.
Fundamentally, the job of a Solution Architect is to come up with a game plan that places the balance between the ideal and the achievable somewhere within the magical territory of “optimal”. With enough experience, this balancing act begins to trickle into areas beyond engineering.
Recently, we had an impressive demonstration of HTEC’s “art of possible” when we were given an opportunity to present at the Bucharest Tech Week. As we have just recently kicked off our operations in Romania, we felt it important to present a piece of our expertise at one of country’s major industry events.
The invitation, however, came at a fairly short notice and we needed to prepare everything in the span of several days. But firstly, we needed someone to volunteer as a presenter. Enter our team member Slobodan Boljanović.
A Solution Architect with close to two decades of rich experience in a variety of roles and capacities in tech, Slobodan is no stranger to embracing challenges and focusing on the opportunities they carry rather than on the risk of failure. He explains why he didn’t think too long before deciding to embrace the proverbial “hot potato”.
The way I saw it, I had at least three strong motivators to tackle this challenge. Firstly, it was strategically important to represent HTEC in what is a new and challenging market for us. I fully understood the responsibility, but also the honor of being the one to represent it. My second motivation was setting an example. The engineers within our organization look to their more senior colleagues for guidance, and it is extremely important that we don’t just tell them what to do and how to do it, but to always walk the talk, to actively demonstrate what we preach. I believe that my decision to accept this responsibility under such circumstances sends a message about leading by example, about embracing opportunity and tackling the fear of failure head on. My final motivation for accepting was entirely personal, as it gave me a chance to meet some of my HTEC colleagues in Romania and my industry peers in general, and to gain some new insights and perspectives in matters I am passionate about.
With the question of “who” crossed off the check list, there was still the small matter of “what”. With only a few days to come up with a topic, create the presentation, and resolve a variety of practical matters, Slobodan relied on a tried and tested HTEC tradition – team effort.
The presentation topic, “Journey or Adventure: Monolith to Microservices,” focused on a technological area with which Slobodan is closely and extensively familiar. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, it was also the theme of an HTEC webinar that was in the pipeline around the same time (Slobodan quickly returned the favor by moderating the webinar’s Q&A session upon his return). Similarly, Slobodan could rely on different parts of the HTEC team for other aspects of his presentation, from design assistance and content review to coordination with the conference and all the way to travel logistics.
I have encountered immense support every step of the way. It freed me from stressing about different matters and allowed me to focus on the presentation alone. Even the presentation topic was “sourced” from the team. Choosing a topic is not easy, especially on a tight schedule. I was lucky to find inspiration among my colleagues who were already working on a topic that I have experienced first-hand on many occasions. That’s just one example of the team support I was given in preparing for the conference. It was a true team effort.
Another reason for Slobodan’s ease in embracing this opportunity is his broad experience as a communicator. In his illustrious career, spanning everything from high profile roles in large organizations to independent consultancy, he was required to communicate with clients, colleagues, mentees, audiences, and beyond. He is quick to emphasize the often-overlooked importance of soft skills in software engineering.
The further you progress on your technical journey, communication and other soft skills grow more important. You are not only expected to exchange information, but to collaborate, educate, inspire, convince, present, encourage, empathize, and build relevant relationships with a broad range of stakeholders. In my experience, well-developed soft skills can “iron out” some technical imperfections. Obviously, the best-case scenario is that we have both, but there are situations where soft skills can provide equal and even greater value than technical expertise. Any opportunity to develop, or simply practice and fine-tune your soft skills, is more than welcome.
Bucharest Tech Week is a conference dedicated to the intersection of business and tech that spans a broad range of technological areas. In true post-pandemic fashion, this year’s edition was a hybrid event which could be followed in-person or online. Slobodan’s presentation took place on June 17, and he was quite pleased with both the turnout and the feedback.
From what I could tell, the audience was engaged and attentive. The Q&A session was lively, and I had some nice conversations following the presentation. I was even approached by one businessperson for advice on their specific technology challenge, so I guess I must have sounded somewhat competent.
Slobodan is quick to point out that the subject matter of his presentation is far too broad and complex to be fully covered in this limited format. Instead of attempting to provide comprehensive and definitive answers, he had wanted to add his perspective and experiences to the conversation. After all, industry events such as Bucharest Tech Week represent an ongoing conversation, an active exchange of experiences and ideas that propel the whole industry forward. In Slobodan’s opinion, it is highly important to extend a hand and contribute to industry-level knowledge exchange.
At HTEC, we now have the luxury of working with a great number of recognized experts in their areas of interest from whom we can “borrow” high-level knowledge on a daily basis. However, we also understand that no matter how big the collective expertise of our organization grows, we must not horde it. We wish to share our knowledge in order to help others grow, and enable ourselves to grow with them.
We commend Slobodan for being the perfect ambassador and a glowing example of HTEC’s principle of growing yourself by growing others. We are looking forward to new opportunities to offer our knowledge and experience and learn from the perspectives and experiences of our peers.
Here is the video of Slobodan Boljanović’s presentation at the Bucharest Tech Week conference:
(video courtesy of Bucharest Tech Week)