What do you do at Melon?
I’ve been a .NET Project Manager (PM) for two years now.
How did you start working here?
A friend of mine at my previous company started at Melon and told me it was great. So I came for an interview and this is how I began as a junior developer eight and a half years ago.
What was your previous job exactly?
I was a developer at GenSoft. Back then the team was small, no more than ten people. The product was only one. There were no more challenges for me and I had to move on.
How did you become a PM at Melon?
It was an organic growth from junior to senior developer through a lot of projects, clients and products. At some point, working on a very big five-year long project – Bookatable – the PM got more managerial responsibilities in the company. Naturally, I became in charge of the team of eight and sometimes ten people.
Is this the biggest project you worked on at Melon?
In terms of the number of developers – yes. Afterwards, I started working more with a different type of clients – startups. Often people came with their new ideas and we had to step in as consultants. We offered them our experience and expertise. The teams were smaller and all the products were experimental and designed after the clients. First, they tested if the products could be successful on the market. Most of the times they were, and then we developed them further.
What kind of projects do you prefer – bigger and longer like Bookatable or smaller, innovative and provisional like the startups?
The bigger projects are more standard, the infrastructure and the path are all set. While a startup comes with an idea and you have to help them bring it to life. This is more challenging. To me, giving our know-how is an added value. The smaller projects are coming from a variety of businesses and are more diverse. It’s a way more interesting process.
Can you give an example of such a project?
The last one was for a back office system to manage the production of bread and other wheat goods. The client needed a tracking system to monitor what and how often it breaks down, the number of products etc. And another interesting startup project was for an Australian company providing expert consultancy in economics and law.
Is it the diversity of projects that has kept you at Melon for eight years?
Yes. This gives me the opportunity to see how the different businesses start and then develop. Also, I can learn new technologies because every project is tailored to the new client implementing various tools. Another thing that keeps me here is Melon’s culture.
Describe it, please.
In the beginning we were 50 people and I knew everybody. Often we stayed late working on a project together, we used to go out for drinks and our girlfriends came after work hours to join us for a beer or a game. The teams were less but bigger in numbers and we all worked together. We were a community.
How does your work on a project go on?
First we have to pin down what exactly the client needs. Often, if it’s a startup, they don’t have a clear idea and we play a big consultancy role. Then we gather a team, make a project plan, write down the specifications, the client approves them, we set up a schedule with the tasks for one or two weeks periods and how often we will present the phases to the client to get their feedback. At a later stage we start the quality assurance processes to clear the bugs. For the startups it takes from six to nine months. For six months we have to get the product to the market and then test it. If it’s successful, which is usually the case, from a product it becomes a service.
What would you say is the most useful skill you acquired working here?
It isn’t the technologies. These you can learn anywhere else. Rather it is people management. In Melon I find a lot of people I can “steal” experience and knowledge from, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now. The management team hasn’t changed since the founding of the company and I am learning a lot from them. They and their doors are always open. I am learning how to be like that too. At Melon I can develop and grow. If I have a plausible idea, no one would stop me.
What do you dislike about Melon?
I had problems with the ventilation system in the office. I switched places and it was taken care of.
If you had to describe Melon to a friend, what would you say?
It’s a place where you can bring your ideas to life and find a lot of friends. One of the most positive things is that the environment is very friendly and the newcomers feel at ease. Of course, today with more than 150 people it’s different from what it was with 50 but we try very hard to keep the good old Melon culture.
What was the biggest challenge you had working here?
Communication with clients. When you’re a developer, most probably you’ve chosen that field because you just want to code and not to interact with people. When you have to be a manager, you either have the soft skills or you have to develop them so that you can communicate with clients and with your team.
Do you think one can learn these skills?
Few are born with them and you can immediately tell who they are. But with patience and positive thinking you can learn soft skills.
How do you see yourself in the near future?
In my opinion, a 50-year old developer is a rare case mainly because it’s hard to keep up with the 20-year old ones. That’s why at some point I decided to move on to PM. Now, I’m pretty much halfway from learning all the necessary skills. As it comes to Melon, I will stay as long as here’re people to learn from.
How do you see Melon’s development?
So far 90% of Melon’s sales come through client referrals. I think this is the best way to do business. Melon has to keep it that way. Тhe company grew from 50 to 150 people and it’s still managed by a body of friends. This also has to stay as it is and they need to find how to keep the present style of minimum hierarchy.