Filip is a friend of Divante and he decided to share with us, why companies from USA are building their developer teams in Poland and why outsourcing might be a really valuable option. Have a nice reading!
Damian: How did you start your adventure with San Francisco? What’s your story?
Filip: I used to work for the pharmaceutical giant Roche, specifically for its IT Shared Services Center. In 2009 Roche acquired Genentech – a biotech company based in Bay Area. I moved to San Francisco to support the merger and promote SSC services in the new organization.
D: How did you become the Managing Director Poland at Taptera?
F: During my early days with Genentech I met Chris O’Connor. Chris was a director of mobility and enterprise web apps. His team pioneered cloud and mobile solutions with huge success. They loved working with engineers from Poland and so we cooperated very closely. Chris left Genentech in 2011 and founded Taptera.
We met again at SXSW in 2012. One of the problems Taptera was facing at the time was expensive and unpredictable delivery. Convincing me to join and start a team in Poland didn’t take long.
D: How does it feel to sell products to clients like Salesforce, Airbnb.com or Apple? Is it difficult to reach such client?
F: We are very proud of our customer list. Selling to big names can be challenging for a small startup. You really need to offer unique, distinguishing value to even start talking.
At the same time we love our smaller customers just as much. Every new client brings valuable ideas and opportunities to learn. Our products evolve and improve based on the input from both big and small.
D: Which project was the most challenging in your career?
F: I always did my best to get involved only in challenging projects. This is where I can grow and learn.
Taptera was a new experience after eight years spent in the internal IT department. I was surprised how certain corporate problems become trivial in a small, focused and dynamic environment. On the other hand I face challenges that managers in corporations never have to think of.
My Genentech assignment was a lot of fun, new friends and great opportunities. I was put in a completely new environment and given only loosely specified goals, with little support from anyone. For someone who never lived in the US and never sold anything it was a very challenging time. Every single move I’ve made in my career happened because I wanted a new challenge. I never looked back and never regretted the change.
D: What would you advice to polish IT people, if they want to conquer USA and become successful on this market?
F: There is no place for bullshit in IT anymore. Especially in Silicon Valley.
Number of opportunities is endless and everyone has a chance to find their niche and be successful, but there is some serious homework to do before that happens. Become really good in something that brings value to other people. There are no shortcuts. University diploma and certifications is not enough.
The other thing I’d advise engineers is to work on their social and communication skills – even if you are a hardened introvert. Most interesting opportunities come through your connections and if you don’t have any – you will miss a lot.
D: How big is the Warsaw Office and what’s your plan for the future?
F: We fluctuate between 15 and 20 engineers, depending on how much custom work we have. I really care to hire only the best people and when you are under time pressure it gets difficult. Growing fast and hiring only the best individuals is almost mutually exclusive. At the same time two of our apps – Showcase and Marquee – are selling very well. The product roadmap is already ambitious and we still get new requests for custom work. One of the challenging, but also fun things about being in a startup is that you can never plan too far ahead.
D: Why companies from US or Western Europe start their development teams in Poland?
F: There are couple of reasons.
Cost is the obvious one. Engineers in Poland make much less than in the US or Western Europe, although that gap is not as big as it was ten years ago.
Another important factor is loyalty. Engineers in Silicon Valley still have more opportunities than in Poland and keeping the stable team of top developers is a challenge in San Francisco. At the same time you can’t deliver if your team rotates every few months.
The other reason is quality. Poland has long traditions in disciplines like maths, physics or IT. Polish students win international programming contests year by year. Not every country is equal in this space and Poland definitely ranks high.
Lack of significant cultural differences is important too. We belong to the same cultural circle, have similar work ethics and communication style. This makes Poland – and Eastern Europe in general – really easy to work with comparing to more exotic offshore destinations.
Finally Poland is a predictable country, with stable currency, relatively strong, growing economy and no significant internal or external conflicts. We are a part of EU and speak fluent English. Some compare Poland to the Germany twenty, maybe thirty years ago – the economy is quite structured, modern, predictable and has significant potential for growth. That makes Poland an attractive place for doing business not only in IT.
D: Thanks for the interview!
About Filip Witkowski
Filip Witkowski is Managing Director Poland at Taptera - San Francisco based mobile app developer focused on the enterprise. He is responsible for company’s design, coding and testing delivery.
Before joining Taptera, Filip spent 8 years in pharma giants Roche and Genentech where he took various roles in software development, service and project management, organisational change and customer success leadership.
Filip loves working with focused teams of top performers and always drives for simplification rather than complication.