Desislava Kostova, Desi, has a background in mathematics and information technologies and has worked in the IT industry for the past 20 years. Going through this professional journey, Desi has experienced the industry through the different roles she has undertaken. From developer and PSO consultant, transition/transformation and account manager, senior software project manager and engineering manager and now senior software project manager at Strypes.
"What I found out from my professional experience was that my favourite part of my work is building software and seeing how a software product comes to life and a group of engineers becomes a team. In my work, this goes together with the client work.”
Desi is passionate about seeing how an idea goes through different phases and becomes a product with complex features. “I need to feel the impact, to hear the client’s reaction, and to like what we’ve done when I look back.”
The way to having happy clients is to actively listen to what they have to say and understand their issue. The same applies to communicating with the team. Next, there needs to be transparency. Organisations have different definitions of transparency. For Desi, this means making the client feel that they’re always in the know of what’s happening with their product and that they’re in good hands. It means knowing that we’re open and making efforts to solve any challenges we might have instead of hiding them. Instead of telling them about our challenges, we tell them about the steps we undertake to work on them.
When talking to the team, Desi translates the needs and the business case of the client. “We need to manage the expectations of both parties involved in the project––the development teams and the client––this is the reason why my role exists.”
Desi has always worked for large enterprises, but then at some point in her career she felt the need to experience work at a young and growing company. She found this exciting, as this was when the future opportunities seemed unlimited and when people acquired new skills.
“At Strypes, I feel like I can change and improve the things I need to. The same applies to the size and culture of the company. We can change, make mistakes, correct them, and keep growing.”
Desi now manages three different projects and teams at Strypes. Each of these teams has different dynamics and focus. “The key is to give people perspective and defined objectives, instead of telling them how to do something. Otherwise, they feel as if they are in a box.”
How do you shift between the projects you work on?
Multitasking and shifting the focus is standard for project managers on a daily basis. Shifting the focus also means bringing your experience from one project to another. This can give us ideas of how to implement what we know has worked in other cases. That is often what clients ask from us - our know-how. You know you can solve problems once you’ve done problem solving in the past.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Everyday communication and keeping the level of trust with our clients and teams is one of my challenges at the moment, because of the social distancing and remote work. Scrum requires teams to face each other and it is important to have open and interactive communication to keep it working. Keeping the teams and clients committed to our common goals long term is vital.
How many coffees do you drink per day?
Three. I often don’t count them but usually, they’re around three.
What are your hobbies?
It depends on my mood. I like being outside of my comfort zone - extreme sports, paragliding, diving, rafting. Extreme sports seem typical for our industry. Brings this feeling of I can do this too. If I want to relax, I like to swim and read books on the beach. I love the sea and being around water.
What is your favourite book?
Again, this depends on my mood. I like hobbies, travel and food books and all that help me relax like Chocolate by Joan Harris. When it comes to personal development, I like to read Simon Sinek, Myers Briggs and everything related to people, personality types and response and how we can interact better with each other knowing who we are.
What is your Myers Briggs profile?
ESFJ, an absolute extravert. Project management requires you to be extraverted to better balance with the different types of personality which you normally have within the team. Communicating with people is my comfort zone. I love to like people and bring the best out of them. The ‘Feeling’ part helps me listen actively and read reactions even when people are quiet which is usually a signal that I need to check on them.
What is your favourite quote?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”––Maya Angelou
In my role, I have to take ownership in various situations and make engineers feel safe while innovating and experimenting in their own roles and at the same time clients trust us. Engineers need to feel supported in learning and growing, doing things they haven’t done before while they work on the new challenges. This gives them a long term perspective of what they do today and grows their own self confidence. Clients need to know that we can do best for their products coming with our experience and well bundled teams. This is the way.