Working together, sometimes for decades, we are all sharing formative experiences that shape our now and our tomorrow. This is why I want to share with you my ECT story, and the tools I collected along the way.
In the beginning
Although I am not a carpenter or plumber, I do carry a toolkit of sorts. My toolkit is full of the lessons I have learned over the years, lessons that have distilled into a set of core beliefs. These are my tools.
I was first hired to program in C++. Following two years under Hans’s wing, I moved into ASP programming. That’s where I met Rainer, who quickly became my mentor. We were both developing webpage applications and he was more experienced than I, so I tried to learn everything I could from him.
It was an exciting time in my life: ECT was my first stop after graduating, and I was surrounded by many other young programmers who were also relishing their first work experience. But it wasn’t all just easy going. When I wasn’t sure what Rainer wanted from me, or didn’t understand his priorities, I didn’t stop to ask questions, so sometimes I caused a holdup further down the line, or went off down the wrong track, wasting time. I learned the hard way how important it is to pay attention to expectations and priorities; this became the first tool in my kit.
As I mentioned in a separate blog post I intended ECT to be a five-year stint in my life. Five and a half years after I arrived, though, I moved from software developer to application development. I vividly remember working with Abdullah and learning a lot about VoiceXML, one of our key technologies; I implemented scripts while he did the testing. I was enjoying my time, switching to different roles that suited my growing interests After application development, I got to work as a solution architect and eventually as a project manager. By then, ten years had passed, twice the amount of time I had expected to stay when I joined the company in 2000.
During this time, I also had to face my share of setbacks. Hans, it turned out, hadn’t been completely happy with my skills as a developer. I don’t remember (or perhaps I chose to forget) the exact details of the situation. But I do remember how I just stood there, completely dumbfounded because I had just assumed that my work had made only good impressions. I had to face up to the fact that I couldn’t take success for granted (and I certainly doubled my efforts to make sure that I earned my keep).
”Every morning, when I walk through our Munich office, I see faces both new and familiar.
Expanding my horizons
When I started working in project management, I met so many colleagues who became a fundamental part of “my” ECT story. While I knew and understood the inner workings of our solutions, I lacked any certification for project management, so in this new job I had to learn by doing. Luckily, I had great teachers: Gavin, Mannan, Michael, Michel and others. They gladly shared their experiences and skills, showing me how to deal with customers, and helping me with reporting.
Part of being a project manager is being an orchestrator: I had to be aware of internal delivery processes at the same time as interfacing externally with the customer. I had to balance both sides of the equation in order to solve it. Were there statistics or Java-related points? I had to go to Robert, Florian, Andreas, Shibu or Zvonko. Was it C++? Then I had to go to Wolfgang or Ralf. Implementation and project delivery wouldn’t work without Josef and Stefan. That was the next tool in the toolkit: to learn the strengths of my colleagues, to trust in their abilities, and not to be too shy or proud to rely on their help when it was needed.
After my time in project management, seemingly without a chance to catch my breath, I moved again to presales. With the help of Reinier and Francine, I dived headfirst into this new role. They taught me about the importance of a good presentation, how to deal with a customer, and how to prepare a meeting. “We have NTS and a contact center at Belgacom [now Proximus]. Get familiar with them”, I remember Reinier, at the time the vice president of NTS, inbound and call center solutions, telling me. Being inexperienced with that particular piece of ECT technology, I went straight to the NBCC interface to try to understand how it worked. I then planned to study some of the test cases – but, it turned out that there… weren’t any. “Oh, by the way, you also have to write them,” Reinier added.
The following two months weren’t easy, but they helped me to understand our NBCC to its very core. It was because of those two months that, whenever we received tenders, I knew exactly what we had and who I needed to talk to in order to achieve our goals. Ten years after that moment, I am still learning how a lot of things work, and, in all honesty, I don’t expect that learning process to ever stop. So that would be another tool, then: I always want to be ready to learn something new (and perhaps at breakneck speed!).
”But I do remember how I just stood there, completely dumbfounded because I had just assumed that my work had made only good impressions.
Back to school
After I had been here for 15 years, I couldn’t see any more big challenges ahead of me. But unexpectedly, ECT founded a new innovation department and I was made the director, hiring both Uğur and Diego. Together, we started developing a product that would come to be known as Fuse. Although it didn’t start off as a success, under Uğur’s vision and leadership, it transitioned into unified communications and collaboration, a first step towards a different ECT solution: Workspace. This experience taught me to be patient, trusting that good work usually leads to good things in the end.
This shaky start to my new role as the director of a new department also brought me more criticism and a suggestion that at first shocked me: Marshall told me that I needed to develop my business and management skills, actually recommending that I return to university! So far, I’d been learning by doing, but it looked like that was no longer going to do the trick. I had to do something I never expected: go back to school and get an MBA.
By the time Workspace emerged from the innovation department, this second stint as a student was nearing its end. It was a key achievement along the path to my present position. I didn’t do it – and could never have done it – on my own: Everyone at ECT helped me to continue to do my job at the same time as writing my thesis and preparing for classes.
Every morning, when I walk through our Munich office, I see faces both new and familiar. When I see those who’ve joined us in the years since I started at ECT, I like to imagine how their own journeys might unfold, and I am glad to have the chance to help them find their way. And when I see the other members of my own “Class of 2000”, I cannot help but remember how we all began our careers at around the same time, collaborating together and learning from one another.
Twenty years later, we are still here, working together with the same passion that we had back then. That is the latest tool in my toolkit, and possibly the most important: ECT is not merely the company I have worked for during the last two decades, it is also the family with which I have shared so many important moments. I have seen how much my first colleagues and I have changed during this time. We have grown our families, some of us work in different departments, and we certainly look different. But, at our core, we’re still the same people we were when we started. And our journey is far from over.
Into the future
So, what’s next? Well, Marshall, Hans and Walter, the executives that have guided us through the last 20 years, are passing the baton to me. I will lead the new generation of executives forward, and we will steer the ship through the next two decades. These will be challenging years, not just for me, but for all of us at ECT… and I can’t wait!
My mentors, colleagues and friends have given me many valuable tools for this daunting task: a desire to discover the priorities and expectations of others, a need to continually ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of what we are doing together, a determination not to take anything for granted, and a feeling of belonging to and being supported by my friends and colleagues at ECT.
I am looking forward to discovering a few more tools with you along the way ahead.
Here’s to the next 20 years!