Mario Alberto Tamà
Mario Alberto Tamà

Life @ MM Guide: Mitchell Sitohang

Hello Mitchell, it’s a real pleasure to have you here today!
Please, tell us a little bit about yourself:

Hello everyone! 

My name is Mitchell, 33 years old and I`m currently living in Almere. My dream is to relocate back to Amsterdam once the conditions allow it, I miss the air of the capital! I am a huge fan of Super Smash Bros and many other video game series and other geeky stuff! 

I started my collaboration with MM Guide 4 years ago, but my path was far from orthodox. My education was not about software development or engineering, or any IT-related area: I studied international business at the University of Amsterdam, followed by a master’s in business administration. 

 

During this period, I realized that the topics I was learning were simply too broad: marketing, management, finance, languages, and regulations. Remarkably interesting, but I felt that everything was on a superficial level. As a further specialization in the master’s path, I chose digital business, and here I get in touch with many developers and IT specialists who gave presentations to the students to better understand the digital business aspect. Back then, the hot topic was Alibaba and its growth and development into Ali Express. During these meetings, I quickly realized that I found way more interesting the technical side of how things were achieved, rather than the business side itself. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the business part; however, I was fascinated by what those people were able to create with the software. 

 

 At that moment I made a decision: I chose to quit my premaster just before the end and I started to look for opportunities to move into IT from a technical aspect. In short, I realized that “I wanted to build stuff, rather than guide stuff”. I like the idea of logic used to build things. Translating that logic into code and seeing how that code can do something for all of us.   

 Luckily, I found a program from Amsterdam university called “Make IT work” dedicated to people with a bachelor’s degree that wanted to change their career to IT. This was a very specialized course, with only strictly tech-related software engineering courses. The program required me to find a sponsor beforehand to be directly in contact with the IT job market. It was at that time that I met MM Guide and started my internship with them. After several months of challenging work, I got hired and here I am!    

 

This is indeed a remarkable experience!
Could you please tell us what your current assignment is?

Currently, I`m collaborating with a major Dutch insurance company. They are working on implementing the IFRS 17 protocol: this regulatory reporting standard was implemented to standardize insurance accounting globally and to improve comparability and transparency. Here I work alongside the development team, which consists of mathematicians who create models that uphold the standard I previously mentioned, and 3 to 4 software developers who translate the model into an application.    

Our goal is to create an application that will assure that the predictions of different scenarios based on the mathematical model will uphold the IFRS 17 reporting standard. This project really shows the difference between a developer and a mathematician: sure, the developer should be able to crunch some numbers, but this model is so much way out of what I`m able to handle, that it really seems like another language!   

 

What is the most valuable thing you have learned on your current assignment?

I think the most valuable lesson I learned is how well a project can run when it is properly structured. In previous assignments, I felt like there was some uncertainty regarding the requirements and the client’s desires. Many things were vague, including what the application should do! 

So, the main task was to find out what was expected to be done, rather than doing it. For instance, during a migration project, all we knew was that it was a legacy application that needed to be updated to current standards for security and performance reasons. However, the process of development and review was very swampy; we wanted to move forward but it was quite difficult to make some steps.   

In my current assignment instead, there are various and defined levels: it is clear who are the people who make decisions, people talk openly about their needs and obstacles, and there is a process of review that allows us to go back and fix those errors in an iterative way.    

The process is:    

  • Establishment of the requirements   
  • Development   
  • Evaluation of the results    

And this process goes on and on and on. 
I think this is the first time that I really witnessed the power of the SCRUM/Agile framework. Now that I have experienced this methodology, I will for sure bring it to my future projects, especially from a developer’s point of view. I understand that it is my responsibility as a developer to be very honest about the real status of the project and to report it accordingly to the team. In this specific project, it is genuinely nice to see that the stakeholders are always up to date with the project, and they are not kept as a separate entity. Using the whole SCRUM framework is the best way to keep the whole team up to speed and avoid friction. SCRUM is a great tool to make everyone’s expectations match. It creates early visibility of whether deadlines will be met or not. This may help in either changing the deadline or finding other solutions. 

 

Wow, that sounds like an ideal situation!
let’s talk a bit more about your daily experience, how does an average workday look like?

I usually start my day with a stand-up at 9 o`clock. There are two different meetings: one dedicated to the requirements and one involving the developers. To assure an adequate level of transparency and efficiency, members of each team are participating in the stand-up. During the 15 minutes of the stand-up, we answer the traditional SCRUM questions: “What did you do yesterday?”, “What will you do today?” and “Are there any impediments in your way?”. The work is organized by items put on the SCRUM board to easily identify issues and find solutions together with other team members. This framework is implemented also for every internal MM Guide`s task and it is widely used in the company.    

Did the pandemic affect your work-life?

To be honest, for me it was quite ok. I can say that regarding the work aspect I saw more pros than cons. While working from home, I could focus more, and be more efficient with my work and I was happier with my results in general. However, less interaction with other developers caused a lack of exchange and improvement of ideas. I had to be proactive firsthand to improve my ideas. I would like to add that before Corona I was in a team with other MM Guide developers and I enjoyed working with them. Everyone tries to do his best and the shared philosophy of self-improvement is very alive within the company. MM Guide is always a wonderful place where we share ideas and collectively improve them.   

DO YOU THINK THIS IS A SPECIAL TRAIT OF THE COMPANY?

The culture of improvement is indeed incredibly unique: the energy and the passion that each and every single member of MM Guide puts into improving a promising idea is remarkable. Even if developers are naturally stubborn and tend to defend their view, if anyone suggests a better solution, then everyone would agree and build on top of it. We always look for the best!   

Is there something you are particularly proud of?

mainly working on the front-end and its connection with the back-end. This assignment instead is 100% back-end and is very mathematical. This, besides the fact that I went from being a student of economics to the professional I am now in less than 4 years, makes me very proud. I’m even more proud of the fact that I did it without a traditional course of studies 

Thank you, Mithcell!
One final question, Why would MM Guide be the right choice for future colleagues?

First of all, MM Guide is a company that gives a chance to the people. They did it for me and I`m sure they will do it for other people in the future. MM Guide gave me a mentor when I started but even now Luciano is still mentoring me and helping me when I have doubts and I need help to achieve my goals and plans. MM Guide links junior with senior members so that the interaction can generate actual growth. Despite the fact that I`m very independent in my studies, MM Guides provides me with me the right amount of resources to allow me to become a better developer.  Secondly, MM Guide always tries to follow the evolution of IT. We may not be at the front of the race for what concerns experimentation, but we join the race by implementing new industry standards. Some companies are using stacks that are declining but MM Guide is for sure on the right tech stack, the one that looks forward.   

In conclusion, all I can say is that it was quite tough to get where I am now; there were times when I thought I wasn’t good enough to make it, but along the way, I got much better and now I am very happy and I feel good about myself.  

In my opinion, it does not really matter what you achieve, what matters more is how happy you are with yourself getting there! 

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