Marek Elznic has been taking care of clients’ projects at Ackee for three years and newly also of the testers' internal team. In the interview, he revealed which way his path to large projects led, what challenges the role of team leader brings, why he really likes FIFA agile methodologies and what he plans in the upcoming months, not only within the QA team.
How did you get into Ackee?
It started in 2016 at the Faculty of Information Technologies at Czech Technical University. I enrolled at that time in a new Big Data course, and coincidentally our CTO Josef Gattermayer was the teacher. He added me on LinkedIn and one and a half year later, he wrote to me that they were looking for a project manager and asked if I wanted to give it a try. With Marcello, team leader of project managers, we clicked right away, so I joined Ackee.
What were your beginnings like as a project manager?
The first day I started with CareDriver, which was a project for ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab. It was really interesting because it was a service for providing mobility to people who cannot use transportation without assistance. I received a stack of documents and contacts. And the next projects quickly followed.
Has the scope of your work as a project manager changed?
It has, especially in the aspect of a team. I would say my part in the team is beneficial for its development, I no longer go for advice to others, but sometimes it's me who gives away some wisdom. And I also take care of more significant projects.
Besides projects, you also take care of the whole QA team. How did you get from the job of a project manager to the team leader of testers?
It probably came from my work on the projects, where I wouldn't let clients have something I haven't checked at least once by myself. Dominik with Kačka, who is in charge of HR, then approached me about the possibilities of where to move at Ackee after school. And this was the biggest challenge for me, so I accepted it.
You are focused a lot on agile methodologies. Why do you like this kind of management?
Agile management is like democracy – it has many flaws, but we haven't come up with anything better. Nowadays, it is simply the best model even due to society’s development and the emphasis on speed.
Can you tell me what you are currently working on and what is the biggest project you have managed so far?
I think that the biggest project is the one I am currently finishing, which is a mobile app for TV Nova, specifically Nova Plus and Voyo, being used by hundreds of thousands of subscribers in four countries around the world. Another significant project is mobile banking for the bank J&T. I am looking forward to this because it will be agile – and it's not so usual in the world of finance. As for the QA team, at the moment, we are trying to optimise the process of testing and promote more automated testing.
What is it like to be in the role of project manager and team leader at the same time?
It's actually alright, and it also has a lot of benefits. The hardest part is to balance both jobs, but the connection is exciting. Maybe it doesn't seem like it, but tester and project manager roles have a lot in common and require mutual collaboration. It's an advantage when I can coordinate matters between them in “one person”. I can see both teams and try to understand their issues.
Do you have any vision of what you would like to achieve with the QA team?
I would like to involve testers more in the development process and maybe change the perception of QA both among developers and clients. Not that we weren't that part of that process now or that someone wouldn't take us seriously. But my image of cooperation with developers and the client would be much closer. And then, of course, automation and the involvement of artificial intelligence. That is probably the biggest trend across the industry.
Can you tell a little bit about what the QA team actually looks like and how testing works?
At the moment, there are six of us, and we are trying to cover everything from manual testing of smaller projects to automated testing on the big projects. We are well stratified – from beginners to experienced people in the field. Thanks to that, the team is diverse, and we complement each other perfectly.
As for the testing itself, it doesn't make sense to automate everything. Firstly, it's expensive, and secondly, it often generates more work than if we would test it manually. So we try to cover the core functionality of large projects.
Is there anything you would like to mention that you have learned during your time at Ackee and you're proud of?
I'm still learning how to deal with people and how to help them move on and get the best from them. That is the biggest challenge for me. Because I've never thought I would work with people this much and help them with their development. I rather saw myself hidden behind some monitor pounding code on the keyboard. So in that way, I have overcome myself and I'm proud of it.
Can you reveal if there is some fuckup you have made?
I can't! :D Okay, no fuckup comes to my mind, I haven't ruined any project so far. And everyday struggles like sending an e-mail draft doesn't count.
And the obligatory question in conclusion: What do you do when you manage neither team nor projects?
This is quite difficult for somebody who has not had free time for a long time due to school and work. :D TV series are not my thing, so I rather play computer games. In fact, I also joined Ackee to play FIFA, and it hasn't changed. I like old school games like Heroes 2 and Caesar III, the 90's stuff. But I wouldn't consider myself a gamer. When I have a chance, I spend half the weekend with football, and I like running. And I look forward to being able to travel freely again.