Katarzyna, ALTEN Poland Tech/IT Strategy and Partnerships Manager in the banking sector
“You sometimes need a box to be able to think outside of it” – Both creativity and IT are common threads that run through all aspects of Katarzyna’s life, both professional and personal.
First a Developer, then a Scrum Master, an Agile Coach and now an IT Manager, Katarzyna devotes, in parallel to her work, her time to providing training on subjects such as team cohesion and diversity as well as to coaching and budding female IT engineers. In her free time, she even develops her own application projects. The latest? A platform that enables users to get to know their neighbours and forge real social ties around common areas of interest. Through her life and work, Katarzyna introduces us to the immense potential of human development: the combined result of a strong work culture, based on openness and collaboration, and an understanding of computer technology.
Fighting financial crime at work, developing a neighbourhood platform at home
Katarzyna discovered her interest in coding when studying theoretical and computational physics, then confirmed her interest by specializing as a Software Engineer. “At a very early stage in my first job I realised that it was a real passion. I felt the need to code outside my working hours and learn other coding languages. Coding for a large company teaches you a lot, but when I was coding at home, I felt a particular kind of freedom: I could code whatever I wanted from start to finish by myself and I had complete visibility of my project.”
Today, an ALTEN Tech/IT Strategy and Partnerships Manager in the banking sector, Katarzyna devotes most of her working time to supporting and developing her IT teams, but her technical background allows her to better understand their language and the direction that they wish to give to their projects.
Together, their goal is to build for their banking-sector client internal applications that help it fight financial crime, from money laundering to organised crime.
“It is exciting work that gives you the satisfaction of contributing to something meaningful and positive”, says Katarzyna.
Especially as no two days are ever the same: “Every day, I help my teams deliver value at every stage of our project, and there is always a new common challenge.”
“And contrary to popular belief, working in a closely regulated environment is an opportunity to overcome difficulties by being creative, within the boundaries in place.”Katarzyna
Challenges call for continuous learning as the banking sector is very demanding. Katarzyna points out:
“You have to be familiar with a lot of rules and focus on the goal of producing high-quality solutions according to a very strict schedule. But this environment lets you develop very broad skills that can be put to use anywhere.
And contrary to popular belief, working in a closely regulated environment is an opportunity to overcome difficulties by being creative, within the boundaries in place. It is an opportunity to try to find THE most suitable solution, and it’s very exciting, especially since you have to move faster than the criminals and before they strike!”
Katarzyna likes to draw a parallel between the closely regulated world of the banking sector and the one she creates when she codes in her spare time: “At the heart of these two worlds, creation is key. Whether creating within or without a framework, you are still being creative, and that is what coding and computer technology allow. At work, we create solutions with specific tools that we must learn to master; at home, everything is open and there are no restrictions. And paradoxically, these two worlds are highly complementary and let you make progress very quickly”
Through IT development, Katarzyna feels that she can bring something to life. Although she develops with her teams a product designed in its entirety by a company, it does not prevent her from having her own development ideas that could be useful to other people in another context, quite the opposite: “As soon as my working day is over, I turn on my personal computer to make progress on one of my projects which has already come to life: a neighbourhood platform. It enables users to interact with others within a radius of 2.5 miles around their home. For me, this platform embodies another way of thinking about social ties: getting to know those around us and sharing common interests in real life (cinema, sport, etc.).”
Starting with a blank page, building a project in accordance with one’s values and being able to constantly improve an evolving piece of work by adding or removing functionalities: this is Katarzyna’s definition of creative freedom.
“Whether creating within or without a framework, you are still being creative, and that is what coding and computer technology allow.”Katarzyna
To give my teams a taste for high-performance creativity
While at university, Katarzyna realised that she was not cut out to do calculations and IT development alone in an office: “I needed to work in a team, to interact”, she says. Soon after joining her first company, Katarzyna became interested in how to work, solve problems and communicate as part of a team.
This interest explains her career path: Scrum Master, Agile Coach and now Manager. “In addition to the enjoyment that I got from coding, I needed to build a team culture, to ensure that the work was organized in the best possible way, and to support and motivate my colleagues”, she continues.
“I pass on my belief to everyone: transcend stereotypes and your own limits to accept that diversity and iteration are creative forces.”Katarzyna
Her two greatest sources of satisfaction provided by her work? Seeing how much her teams can develop, as a group and also individually, and seeing them take pleasure in learning (especially as she is also learning!)
Satisfaction as well as goals that Katarzyna cannot dissociate from a work culture based on openness, diversity, collaboration and the demystification of failure.
In fact, she has so much faith in this model that she promotes it during training courses, mentoring programmes and conferences: “It resonates with a lot of different people: from those who want to start their own business and select the right candidates to those who want to develop skills within their teams, to young women who are reluctant to become computer engineers as they are worried that it is not an occupation for women”, explains Katarzyna.
She continues: “I pass on my belief to everyone: transcend stereotypes and your own limits to accept that diversity and iteration are creative forces.”
“Aim to become a “T-shaped person”, in other words, aim to develop transversal skills.
The horizontal bar of the T represents soft skills, which are common to all occupations (communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, etc.).
However, you also have to be open to learning new technical skills and you must not restrict yourself to your area of expertise, especially in engineering: technology evolves so quickly that you always have to keep up to date!”
Rapid fire question:
Develop or test?
“Both if you want to create a high-quality code! But developing gives me more satisfaction, because it is directly linked to the result: if you change a line of code, the result is immediately visible in the application and tangible!”