After I examined the role of the Solution Specialist at Vaimo, I was left wondering how Vaimo offices with a different structure take care of their clients. As per now, Solution Specialists operate in the Stockholm, London, and Finnish Vaimo offices, and in a nutshell, their position is comprised of three roles: support, account management and project management. They act as the first point of contact for smaller to mid-sized clients who do not have a key account manager and their own maintenance team at Vaimo. I discovered that in some Vaimo offices that are smaller, these tasks may be allocated differently. While the Stockholm office, Vaimo's headquarters, houses nine Solution Specialists and boasts over sixty employees overall, the Vaimo Norway office currently only accommodates five staff members. It's interesting to explore a small office with a different, dynamic structure – dynamic because with an office of only five people, each person ends up wearing many different job “hats” throughout the day, and manages tasks outside of his usual role. I would like to share with you below not only about the Solution Specialist role at Vaimo Norway, but also to talk about their day-to-day work routines and what they do to keep their team spirit elevated.
Vaimo Norway opened its doors in February 2013, and today, the office is comprised of Kjetil Hansen, Managing Director; Simen Thorsrud, Technical Director; Patryk Makowski, Backend Developer; Boban Davidovic, Frontend and Backend Developer; and Branislav Jovanovic, Backend Developer.
I spoke to Simen, Technical Director at Vaimo Norway, because his duties most closely match up with Solution Specialists in other offices.
What's a typical day like for you, Simen? Can you explain the main key responsibilities of someone in your position?
I usually start the day by checking Zendesk (client support ticket software), as all of our client queries end up there. If I can, I answer them immediately, much like a Solution Specialist would. If it's a query that requires the attention of a developer, I create a JIRA issue for it and prepare it for the team to look at during our daily morning meeting. I also inform the client of the JIRA issue number and assure them the issue was forwarded to our team. By the end of morning, I have responded to all client queries – some with direct solutions, and some that I have forwarded to developers.
Then we have the Daily – there we ensure the whole team has something to work on that day, and I point out the new client requests and ask the team to assign the tasks amongst themselves. When I'm satisfied with the order in which the tasks have been arranged, we conclude the Daily. In that moment, I have my Project Manager hat on, because I am prioritising tasks for the team to complete. Essentially, they can choose what they want to do, but they need to do so within the confinement of my priorities.
Then I work on development or product improvements. Every single day, I develop our processes or our products a little bit, so that there's a constant, incremental improvement. Basically, I make sure we have upgraded our base products by improving one of several areas. And then, I might take the case from a sprint myself and do some normal developments, and I actually really enjoy that. After that, I check Zendesk again to see if we have received new requests or any responses from our clients. Usually, our Zendesk requests are answered within four working hours at the most. I put my Solution Specialist hat back on and forward any tasks that I need to pass on. And then – rinse and repeat. I am also constantly in sales support meetings; I am regularly pulled away from my desk to join Kjetil in a sales meeting, or to create the architecture for an integration, or something like that. It's rare to find me focused on one task all day. Though the Vaimo Norway office is quite small, we do get support and help with resources for larger projects from other Vaimo offices.
Wow, that's a lot of different hats to wear throughout the day! And there are five people in the Norway office, correct?
We regularly request people from other Vaimo offices to help out with Vaimo Norway client projects. For example, we ask Vaimo South Africa or Sweden if we can have a particular person for one month for a particular project. Also, Vaimo Sweden often helps out with sales support. Otherwise, Kjetil is the head of the office and sales. He also has many roles – Project Manager, Administrator, and Sales hats all go on and off throughout the day. This can be a heavy load, so that's why I'm obligated to take on more Project Manager duties to free up his time to focus on sales. We also have three developers: Boban, Patryk, and Branislav.
How long have you been at Vaimo Norway?
I have been here from the beginning, since February 2013.
What's your educational background and what has brought you to this point?
I was a full stack developer for twelve years, and I worked with Zend, the framework that Magento is built on, for six years. And now I have spent four years working with Magento. I studied new media studies and by initially focusing on animation, I figured out that programming really corresponds to my method of thinking. That led to my interest in web development, which is still my area of interest today.
What's the culture like in the office for you guys?
We talked about this recently, actually. For lack of a better word, we have a fantastic culture at our office – we are very synchronised and we work extremely well together as a team. We collaborate very tightly, and there isn't a single task that goes through our team that our entire team hasn't been involved in. For example, we always explain the tasks to the whole team and give everyone an equal opportunity to work on them. All tasks go through quality assurance processes where the whole team is involved, either on a functional testing level or more importantly, on estimation and call reviews. We talked about it, and we don't expect the culture to be this tight or this good when we have several teams; but it's kind of a necessity to work so well together when we are only five people. But I am very proud of the collaborative spirit and the team we have built in Norway.
It sounds like you have a great atmosphere in Vaimo Norway! Does your office have team events?
We attend the yearly Kick-Off in Sweden with all the rest of the Vaimo offices, but with our office, we have sporadic dinners together every now and then. But we also have our “Vaimo Winter Olympics” - we go to my Spartan cabin which has a fireplace, and no electricity or running water – we go there in the middle of winter and we do winter sports together. That is a risky proposition when you have three developers who have not seen snow before! It's a great experience for all of us, and we always have a great time. Next year will be the first year that we will send our people to conferences – we plan to all attend at least one. We are letting our developers to pick the ones they want to attend, and some ideas are already on the table. We really want everyone to go and really bring back some extra knowledge with them that we can all benefit from.
Lastly, what inspires you at work, Simen?
We recently had this discussion as well – for my part, it's two things in general. It's meeting my colleagues in the morning, which fills me with the feeling that it's great to work here - we are delivering great projects and are having fun at the same time. And the second inspiring bit for me is improving our skills. We consistently find improvements everywhere – from our skills as programmers, but also in processes – the improvement factor is a big inspiration. We regularly try to discover new tools and new methods of doing things, whether it's reviewing code better, writing code better or writing it cleaner – any improvement inspires us, or me, at least.