Have you ever wondered what it’s like to build a whole new company office from scratch, in an unknown city?
You may think that running a new office of an already existing company is much easier. But it comes with its own set of challenges which you have to face to succeed.
Recently I’ve had the pleasure to conduct an interview with Wojciech Lichota, Head of Service Delivery in our newly-created Gdańsk office. He shared his experience and gave me some tips outlining what pitfalls to avoid when opening a new office.
Wojciech Lichota is already well known on our blog. He is the author of some of our top articles, including:
- Serverless Computing Explained - Comparing Features and Pricing to SaaS, IaaS, PaaS
- Go Go Python Rangers - Comparing Python and Golang
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiring High-Impact Software Developers, Part One and Part Two
Most of these articles are based of his knowledge about business and IT. But today I wanted to show you a different chapter of Wojtek’s story: opening our new office in Gdańsk. As Head of Service Delivery in the Gdańsk office, Wojtek is the greatest source of information in that case.
- why we’ve chosen Gdańsk as our new location,
- what obstacles Wojtek faced in starting the new office,
- best practices how to deal with the first weeks of building a new office,
- what your most important first hire will be in a new location,
- how the Gdańsk story unfolded, step by step.
Let’s get started!
From Python developer to software house CTO
Wojtek joined STX Next more than 10 years ago. He started working here when the whole crew counted 6 people (now, it’s almost 300!).
For the first 6 years he worked as a Python developer, but he was also taking part in creating the whole company. That’s how he became CTO - he was responsible for managing technical issues but also contacting clients and helping with projects.
Two years after Wojtek became CTO, the company grew by 90 employees. Meanwhile, we opened two new offices in Wrocław and Piła. After the next two years, the company doubled the amount of employees and counted 180 people on board.
Such growth means more technologies, more leaders and more people to manage (including 1-on-1 meetings). As a company grows, it becomes difficult to fully focus on all of the tasks. It was almost impossible to control every process in the company.
Fortunately, Maciej Dziergwa, our CEO, had an idea to open another office in Łódź. It was the perfect opportunity for Wojtek and a chance to face a new challenge.
Getting experience in starting new offices
A huge amount of projects and the continuous growth of the company were the main reason why we needed to open a new office. We chose Łódź based on market research of competitors, the workforce and the office location.
Running a new office was a task for more or less one year. During that time, Wojtek started from scratch and went on to create a team which counted 40 employees.
After one year Wojtek came back to Poznan to meet with Maciej Dziergwa, who was impressed by his achievements in Łódź. Immediately, he received another proposition to run another new office. This time, however, it a was permanent offer, meaning that Wojtek had to move out from Poznań and move to a different city.
The idea was to open a new office in Gdańsk. After considering the advantages and disadvantages (one of the pros was that Wojtek has family there), he decided to live in Gdańsk and create the new office.
Why choose Gdańsk to build a new office?
The main reason why we’ve chosen Gdańsk as the location for our next office is that area is seeing some of the most rapid development in Poland.
Gdańsk - or to take a more traditional categorization, the whole Tri-City area: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot - attracts people from almost all of northern Poland because of great opportunities to work and develop. The city government takes steps to provide proper conditions for new citizens and to promote it through campaigns such as "Gdańsk. Tu się żyje!" (Move to Gdańsk).
One of the most important criteria when choosing the new location was that in Gdańsk there is a strong emphasis on developing the IT community.
Wojtek Lichota, HSD at STX Next in Gdańsk
The STX Next team decided to actively contribute to special events in the city. For example, not so long ago Wojtek had a presentation about Management 3.0 on 3camp.pl, a place for tech geeks to meet.
What is more, despite the well-developed IT community, there is no other company in Gdańsk whose main area of interest is Python. Other companies may have Python in their tech stack, but STX Next represents a strong brand focused mainly on this programming language. Since the first days of our new office in Gdańsk, the team has been involved in the local Python community PyGda, where we’ve already had 2 presentations.
The biggest challenge in opening the Gdańsk office
The biggest challenge for Wojtek while starting the new office was finding a good recruiter.
He said that his recipe for success to create a good team consists of not only specialists but also people who understand each other.
The recruiter plays a crucial role here because this person has to find and encourage developers to work with us. As Wojtek said “The people shape the office, which is why we pay a lot of attention to the recruitment process”.
Wojtek admits that a transparent salary model and detailed job descriptions including salary range (which is not typical in Gdańsk) quickly paved the way to success in encouraging potential candidates.
The way forward for Gdańsk
For now, the main goal is to find highly-qualified senior developers (check out our Careers page if that sounds like you!).
Fortunately, Wojtek knows a thing or two about recruitment, as you can see in his Ultimate Guide to Hiring High-Impact Software Developers. He said that in our work, developers cooperate closely with clients, which is why we have to select the best ones who will meet our client’s high expectations.
Meet the Gdańsk crew
At this moment there are 6 people working together in the Gdańsk office: two developers, one tester, one project manager, one top-notch recruiter and Wojtek.
All of them are working in one room, making for a well integrated team. Wojtek added that they don’t even need any team outings after work because they spend their working days all together.
Of course, the team has ambitious plans for 2018: to hire around 20 people more and to find another office in Gdańsk when the present one inevitably becomes too small.
Summary: top tips for opening a new office
It may seem that it’s easier to create a new office for a second time. Wojtek already has some experience from opening the office in Łódź, for example.
But every city is different. You have to face new challenges, work in a new environment with new people - provided you can even find good employees and bring them on board. It is not boring, to be sure.
Wojtek told me that the main difference between opening the office in Łódź and in Gdańsk is that now he is more aware what to do and he knows his expectations. He is still learning, but he already knows that there is no universal advice on how to get an office started.
But there are some guidelines, of course. To sum up, the most important things you have to take care of are:
- finding people who not only fit your office environment but also create a great atmosphere,
- finding a good recruiter who helps select well-qualified specialists; this person supports the manager and is crucial when you want to open a new office,
- setting your office in a good location (preceded by deep market research),
- preparing strong job offers which can attract potential candidates.
Wojtek said that in small office like in Gdańsk you become much more than just a boss. Depending on situation, you may find yourself doing the work of a developer, a secretary, or even a handyman. His time in Gdańsk has already given Wojtek some thoughts about the challenges of assembling IKEA furniture…
But even if the task is hard, it brings you a lot of satisfaction because you create something more than a product. You’re creating a huge machine including business, technology and people. And you’re building it from the ground up.
I was really impressed by the interview with Wojtek. All I can say is that I wish him luck and I’m sure that he can repeat the success of the Łódź office.