Finding Work: Becoming a CTO

cord helps Engineers direct message other people looking to hire them. But finding work isn’t just about access to hiring managers…

Finding your best work is a life’s journey uncovered through an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the world around us.

The Best Work Stories podcast hosts conversations between Ben (Co-founder and CEO of cord) and Founders, CTO’s, Software Engineers and people in tech who are on their own journey to find their best work.

Transcript

Alexandra Hably (00:00):

I think there is a book that has the title that, all I ever needed in my life, I learned in kindergarten.

Ben Henley-Smith (00:09):

You’ve said in the past, I like working in roles that challenge me daily and allow me to integrate different sources of data, information and knowledge. What did you mean by that?

Alexandra Hably (00:22):

Yes, In my life, I’ve been challenged all the time and I tried myself in different roles. So I started my education in mechatronics engineering, which is a field that combines electronics, informatics and also mechanical engineering and I always found that I’m good in combining different fields and just making something great out of this [inaudible 00:01:01] basis. And I also really like being in this integrator role and I’m looking for roles where I can just step out of these comfortable bubbles and combine different sources of knowledge.

Ben Henley-Smith (01:25):

What is it about bringing together different fields that you find so fulfilling?

Alexandra Hably (01:33):

It’s not easy. And I see that, like they say that you should grow everything towards careers where, what you do is easier for you than for other people. And I find that people are not really… In general, people find it hard to combine different ways of looking at things, for example, I work with software engineers and medical doctors nowadays, and they have such a different way of looking at things. And many times they don’t understand each other. And I’m in this position where I can translate between the different domains and figure out innovative ways of how to solve the problems of both.

Ben Henley-Smith (02:39):

Yeah. How have you gone about choosing the domains that you want to work on?

Alexandra Hably (02:39):

So far? It was, we can say random, how I gravitated towards this. I was always interested in health, because I was a professional athlete when I was young, but I did not think that I will work in this domain. Regarding software engineering, I always loved reading code from my very early age, so that was natural choice based on the opportunities what are presented to us, what we choose.

Ben Henley-Smith (03:21):

How did you become the CTO of Medipredict?

Alexandra Hably (03:24):

Yeah, I think that was mainly due to luck because it was a startup and I was in a good relationship with all the developers and the business persons and the doctors. And I kind of got the opportunity to… Hey, Alexa, we don’t have, there were issues with the previous CTO and someone has to fill the role and I was there, could you take it? And first it was like a temporary assignment, I suppose. But then I really took on the challenge and worked crazy hard, like worked 60 hour weeks for three years. And I really enjoyed it because it was like a wicked challenge, this combination of… I really had to dig myself into medicine, genomics, microbiome science, to be able to map them to IT tasks and problem for the team. So first it was mainly due to luck. And afterwards, I think it was due to my perseverance and hard work.

Ben Henley-Smith (04:54):

How did you initially find work at Medipredict? And then I’d love to know more about the actual process you went through to, then become the CTO.

Alexandra Hably (05:06):

Yeah. So my father is an entrepreneur and from my very early age, I lived up to him and in my soul, I was always thriving to become an entrepreneur. I’m not there yet, but it’s still in me that at some point in my life, I would like to be an entrepreneur. And when I was doing my masters, I attended a course on IT entrepreneurship, and it was an amazing course. It was an international class from students all around the world, from the US and only three Hungarian students. And the main teacher, I think I was really inspired by him. And he, after the course, I got really good notes and I got a job offer from him after the class, so after the semester, but I was working at SAP at that time. So I did not took the offer.

Alexandra Hably (06:16):

And when I decided to leave SAP, he asked me to like, I should send him a message. So he told me that I should send him a message and I sent him a message that, “Hey, you asked me, I’m leaving SAP and yeah, I’m open for new roles”. And then I started working at another company, but he was determined to get me to join Medi predict because Medi predict was his company. And so, okay I was like, “Okay, I’m open to new opportunities.” And he was really determined to get at me to work for Medi predict, so I joined Medi predict. And I worked for the first year, I worked there as a software engineer, so just like reading codes every day and no management role and as this opportunity presented itself…

Ben Henley-Smith (07:20):

It must have been quite an extraordinary change going from just writing code to all of a sudden in a more managerial position and all the things being a CTO entails. What happened on that first day?

Alexandra Hably (07:35):

Yeah. I think there is a book that has the title that all I ever needed in my life, I learned in kindergarten. And it was kind of what I did in the first two years was, speaking with people, trying to solve problems, trying to break down problems and just setting a goal and vision and on the first two weeks we focused on the acute problems. So yeah, these services are failing, let’s fix them because clients need them and, “Okay, this is done. Okay. The next challenge.” And then gradually, like moving forward and also for my roadmap and vision, trying to just think more and more forward. So I can really plan for the team. Like first, I just only knew that we will do this tomorrow. Then I knew that we will do this next week. Then we will do this next month. And in the last half year, I knew that, “Okay, we will do this in the next one and a half year.”

Ben Henley-Smith (09:03):

When you referenced that book at the beginning, all I ever needed in life, I learned in kindergarten, but founded like the complete opposite way that most people would expect you to begin the answer to that question, because you would expect that you would be moving on to really complex problems, you’re going up the ladder, you are finding things more and more challenging. Where has that journey taken you to now?

Alexandra Hably (09:22):

Yeah. So for example, my work or my profession is also my hobby, so sometimes I don’t feel like I’m working. I try to separate more work and like personal life.

Ben Henley-Smith (09:22):

Are you still at Medi Predict?

Alexandra Hably (09:22):

No, I decided to leave like two months ago because I felt that was all I could learn here. It’s like we finished the initial product that I plan to finish, and now I can just safely transfer it to somewhere else. And I can find a new challenge for myself.

Ben Henley-Smith (09:22):

It must be different this time round now that you don’t have, or you may have someone kind of trying to persuade you to join the next company. What’s it been like this time, finding projects to work on and choosing what you want to do with your time?

Alexandra Hably (10:36):

Currently, I’m in a phase where I’m really thinking a lot about what do I want to do with my life. Since I left Medi predict with one of my friends, we started a small consulting company. And basically we are trying to found our own company that works on… Where we can work on compassion projects. So currently my passion project is like health care and software engineering and creating products that have health and speed up this digital transformation of the health care industry. But in the meantime, I’m still thinking a lot about which company would I join if we wouldn’t work on this fashion projects? And yeah, I suppose I would like to stay in this health and IT market and also work on distributed systems where I can work with many smart and experienced people and just solve problems together and learn from them.

Ben Henley-Smith (12:04):

How was your experience becoming a CTO and managing a team? What way has that changed, how you look for work now and the things that you look for in the work that you’re going to be doing?

Alexandra Hably (12:16):

So before Medi, before my CTO role, I had only roles where I was either a electrical engineer, mechanical engineer or software engineer. So it was a very well defined role where I usually received which tasks I have to complete, I did them and then I move to the next task. And the CTO role is a very mixed role, so I had to lead the team like, okay, where are we going? And not just technology wise, but also product wise, like what is the product that we want to develop? How do we get there?

Alexandra Hably (13:01):

And so after this experience, I’m thinking a lot about if I want to go back to a more define role, like a software engineer value, get like, okay, you should develop this part of this software in the next one year. Or if I would like to pursue my entrepreneurship goals where I get to define a bigger vision and break it down. Yeah. One pro for the software engineering or the smaller books part is that the lifestyle is more like… You don’t have that much stress. It’s easier to have a work life balance. You can get deep in one topic.

Ben Henley-Smith (13:57):

Sounds like you haven’t made the decision yet.

Alexandra Hably (14:01):

Oh, not really. Yeah. And the entrepreneurship part is I have to work a lot with the product and on the business and just breaking it down and then figuring out like, okay, with which technology, who does what and also hiring. So I did not figure it out or I’m in the process of figuring it out, what I would like to do with my life.

Ben Henley-Smith (14:37):

Well, I can’t wait to hear what you do decide to do. And I am so grateful that you’ve shared your story right from the beginning, all the way up to now, Alexa, it’s such a fascinating story. And combining not just the feeling of stripping things back to being that kid again and making those kind of more overarching decisions, but also where you’ve managed to intersect different parts of your interests and your broad range of passions and where you found the intersection between all of those and pursued them, has been wonderful to listen to. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Alexandra Hably (15:26):

Thank you for the opportunity and inviting me.

Ben Henley-Smith (15:29):

Oh, no worries. Thank you

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