Meet Michał Kukuł, our Project Manager! He’s one of the few people that built Applover from the ground up. He started working at our company over 5 years ago. How it was changing and what is he doing now? All the answers and more in the interview of My Applover Path!
Thank you for finding time for this little interview, we know how busy you are! Let’s start with the beginning – How did you get a job at Applover?
To be honest, I know our CEO, Piotr Sędzik for more than fifteen years. First, we went to the same class in middle school, then in high school. We have also worked together a few times before Applover – the first time casually during summer in one of the banks, later as part of Footsteps, where we developed a travel application.
After some time, Piotr knowing my reliability and good organization skills, offered me to join Applover’s sales team. I would help Jan whom I knew not only from Footsteps but also on a friendly basis. I thought it was a good opportunity to learn new skills and also a great option to combine part-time work with my studies at the University. And since I already knew ¾ of Applover’s board from Footsteps, I knew it had a chance to develop quite well. Though, at that time I didn’t think it could grow that much!
What did your beginnings at Applover look like?
When I joined Applover, maybe 6-7 people were working here. At that time, I worked remotely to a large extent, and in the beginning, it was dozens of hours a month due to my engineering studies at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. That’s why not everyone realizes it’s over 5 years since I had the pleasure to be in this company.
My main responsibility was lead generation and support of sales. I have to admit that at that time there was a lot of chaos in Jan’s activities. He specialized in conversations with customers – for which he has a natural talent. I, on the other hand, tried to put it all into the process and take care of all formalities, data, and deadlines. With our varied skills, we complemented each other. But now, when I’m looking at present processes in sales that have come a long way, I wonder how it could have worked back then.
Over time, our team expanded a bit, thanks to which I had a chance to work directly with Sandra, currently our Head of Administration (about her development path you can read here). Together we tested many tools related to CRMs and mailing campaigns. Some of them we still use today!
What position did you start from and how did you become a Project Manager?
My start was in lead generation. With time, my role in sales grew a bit but I felt that I wasn’t a salesperson and that I see myself more at managing and organizing work. Especially when for my master’s studies I didn’t choose Mathematics as a bachelor’s degree, but Management for Engineers. I guess Piotr Sędzik felt the same way, because after 1.5 years in Applover when I also started working full time, he suggested I should start managing projects. For some time I was combining these two functions, i.e. working in Sales and as a PM, but when the number of projects increased and I was also assigned to supervise app development (not only websites), I had to choose. And I don’t regret my decision!
What does your typical workday look like?
Each day looks a bit different. Of course, we have a lot of meetings, working with Jira, planning, and talking to clients. But depending on the day and the project’s phase, these proportions might be different.
Personally, I like to start work a bit earlier (slightly different from programmers, because around 8 am 🙂) so that I can answer emails, make plans for the next few days, and figure out current topics before meetings. Then I have 2-3 daily meetings with the team in which we briefly discuss the progress of the projects. And then… It’s actually a lottery. One day there will be a 4h workshop with the client, on another day a PM meeting and long-term resource planning or internal processes work. Apart from the meetings we also do paperwork – technical specifications, Jira planning, discussing customer needs, sending invoices… There are a lot of tasks that project managers have to deal with. But that makes it hard to get bored in this job.
What, in your opinion, is the most important in your job as a Project Manager?
First and foremost: good organizational skills. As a project manager, you not only manage your own time but also arrange tasks for others. Without good planning, no project has a chance to succeed. It’s also important to be able to react quickly and be resistant to stress because we are usually responsible for making difficult choices.
What project was the most challenging here for you and why?
During my over 3-years long career as a project manager, I had so many challenging projects that I can’t even name a particular one. Sometimes it was due to an insufficiently experienced team for the project, sometimes with a troublesome client (every PM surely had one at some point 🙂), sometimes with complicated project topics or integration with external vendors. But thanks to that, I’m not bored and I can learn how to deal with many challenges. What’s important is that despite the difficulties, there was not a single project in which these difficulties prevented us from completing the project and delivering a satisfying product to the customer.
What tools do you use in your projects? Do you have any that you prefer better?
Jira, Slack, Hubstaff, and G-Suite are the main tools I use. When I started PMing we used Trello or Gitlab to describe tasks. Now I can’t imagine any other way than spreading out tasks on Jira. Slack allows for quick and convenient, and importantly, organized communication. Especially if you work on several projects at once. And those custom emoji 😀
On the other hand, Hubstaff allows you to track work time and create reports including how many hours specific tasks took. Thanks to this, I can better monitor the progress of projects. In my work, it’s also necessary to have a good arrangement of all documents, planning meetings, and email contacts, because Slack isn’t always the right tool – especially when you are discussing formal matters with a client. And for all this, I use G-Suite (Gmail, Google Docs, and Calendar). Besides that, we have several other tools like Passbolt, Primetric, Calamari, etc. but it’s a topic for a separate article 🙂
How are you improving the company’s processes?
We are now focusing our efforts on improving the development of project management processes. Firstly, it’s connected with the growth of our project management team, and secondly, we have a new COO in the company who is deeply involved in these topics. Each year, Applover is a bigger company with bigger projects. Managing a 2-months project with 2 people is different from managing a 1-year project with 10 people. So we’re constantly improving our project management and resource planning methods.
We’re also a bit more concerned about standardizing certain procedures to make them as uniform as possible between projects. We are currently updating our specification templates and we’re also implementing a new tool for the long-term scheduling of developers in projects. In the nearest future, we plan to improve the work in sprints as well as increase the role of testers in maintaining documentation. All of this is to be able to deliver even more professional services to our clients but also to provide better work standards to other project team members.
Any plans or challenges that you await in the nearest future?
For the past year, I’ve been running two large projects simultaneously and rotating a few smaller ones. Now both of these projects are coming to an end, so it’s time for new challenges. I feel slightly excited at the thought of new applications because it will be something fresh.
There are two other new topics in front of me, where we are currently running workshops with clients. It’s always quite demanding in terms of focus and workload because you have to analyze ideas from the business perspective, then create specifications, discuss mockups with UI/UX Designers, and consult technical aspects with developers. But workshops are incredibly important and often determine the further success of the project. In other words, it’s worth giving your best, so it’s easier later on. I also hope that the upcoming projects are going to be interesting.
What advice would you give to people who want to start their career in IT? Maybe you can share your favorite knowledge sources?
As a project manager, I would like to remind you that working in IT doesn’t mean only programming. It’s worth bearing in mind that you don’t have to be a strictly technical person to find a place for yourself here. Additionally, we have testers, designers, analysts, sales, HR, marketing, administration… There are many possibilities. Don’t rule out the option of working in IT just because you can’t code.
When it comes to becoming a project manager, I strongly advise you to focus on gathering experience by applying for junior project manager positions or at least activity in various types of organizations. No lectures or certificates will teach you how to deal with real problems in projects as much as facing them in real-life situations.
Become the Project Manager
If you’re looking for a place where you’d like to grow as a Project Manager, keep checking Applover’s Careers Page! We start new recruitments regularly due to the company’s growth. We might need someone like you right now.