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Decoding success: 5 Key Insights From A Principal Software Engineer's Journey The market of innovative IT solutions in sales and marketing is experiencing exponential growth. Businesses must invest more resources and time to create products that appeal to audiences across different countries. It's also crucial to recognize the needs of customers.

By Jitender Bhagat

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Inna Olenina, leading software engineer

The market of innovative IT solutions in sales and marketing is experiencing exponential growth. Businesses must invest more resources and time to create products that appeal to audiences across different countries. It's also crucial to recognize the needs of customers. So, how do you find that key that equally resonates with colleagues and clients? How do you build effective teamwork and streamline processes? And can knowledge from related fields make a difference in advancing your career? Entrepreneur India found five secrets to creating effective communication and top-notch IT products. Inna Olenina, a leading software engineer known for her extensive experience with major technological projects and collaborations with market giants like Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Nokia, provides valuable insights.

IT career is a Continuous Systemic Evolution

"I've been in the industry for over 20 years, mainly focusing on mobile and embedded systems engineering. Technology was quite different in the early 2000s, but I've always chosen projects that combine advanced math, engineering, and up-to-date technologies", shares Inna. She collaborated with tech giants such as Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Despite the engineers' extensive experience in such projects, the challenge remains in adapting swiftly to evolving technologies and developing applications that keep up with fast-paced changes.

A significant milestone in Inna's career was her cooperation with Stereotaxis, a company specializing in software for high-tech medical equipment used in non-surgical heart arrhythmia treatments. Those systems, equipped with magnetic setups, provide surgeons with comprehensive 3D images and anatomical maps during procedures. Here, she had the opportunity to directly contribute to life-saving technologies, a project she considers one of the most exciting and socially impactful in her career. "As an engineer, I could directly contribute to life-saving technologies. It required keeping up with programming advancements and delving into general biology and anatomy," she elaborates.

Following a similar trajectory, upon joining Nielsen, Inna had to dive deeply into business models to understand how various products are marketed and the impact of marketing principles on team dynamics. "Additional knowledge can significantly influence an IT specialist's career path, especially nowadays, with the increasing importance of multidisciplinary approaches. We never know which new knowledge will inspire us to devise innovative solutions, so it's essential to regularly and systematically expand our interests and knowledge across various fields," Inna emphasizes.

Converting Customer Challenges into Growth Opportunities

In 2018, from the software development domain, Inna was invited to serve as an expert and lead developer on a large-scale technological project in the retail sector. Today, this mobile application is utilized by tens of thousands of users from Russia and 70 other countries. It is a vital solution as major companies need more constantly updated information to adjust and optimize their marketing and advertising strategies. This challenge is a crucial pain point for most large companies to recognize and propose to the client as a growth opportunity.

"Our software helps aggregate information for the client in real time. Several thousand auditors work for us. Both professional auditors and ordinary consumers are gathering information about the product. Then, the information is sent to the server, processed using Big Data technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) elements, and recognition proceeds for further product data analytics. Then, on the server, all the information is sorted, compiled into reports, and provided to our clients in a clear and convenient format. Today, these are large international companies, market behemoths among our clients, for whom a detailed analysis of how their product is selling, on which shelves it is located, in which stores, what their pricing policy is, how they inform customers about the product, and what the sales dynamics are, is necessary to determine a sales strategy," explains Inna.

Such detailed analysis is the key to increasing business efficiency. "The current project can confidently be called unique due to the technologies and principles we apply. We are not just creating an application; we are forming a whole front-end system, where the front end is the data collection application itself, and the back end is the space where all the data from devices is gathered and analyzed. It is also important that we are never allowed to stop in our process. System elements must be constantly updated, tested, and improved based on customer feedback and the discoveries in Data Science," underlines Inna.

Facilitate Collaboration

In addition to deep technological expertise and the ability to debug source code when necessary, Inna had to significantly reorganize the workflow process in her role to enhance business efficiency.

"Before my involvement in the project, clients directly communicated with developers, while software managers, in turn, communicated directly with client-side managers. Such a common scheme breeds conflicts, as business and development speak different languages. I had to become the liaison between the parties and prove myself not only as someone capable of understanding the cause of technical breakdowns, analyzing errors, and creating temporary solutions under deadline pressure but also as an effective functional manager. My responsibilities include negotiating with clients, forwarding issues to teams of developers responsible for the problematic functionality for each case, training and retraining staff," she explains.

The process commonly involves dealing with non-trivial tasks. "We support various countries, time zones, and thousands of gadgets on iOS and Android platforms. The breakdowns can be specific to each gadget, country, and release. Each time, it's different contacts requiring a personalized approach within tight deadlines," adds Inna.

When dealing with such a massive application, any mistake triggers a chain of breakdowns, so there's rarely more than a two-hour window to resolve issues. "The work of thousands of people stops. Every minute of delay costs thousands of dollars, and everything depends on how quickly you can make decisions," shares Inna. In such conditions, resilience and making well-considered decisions quickly become paramount. "Negotiation skills and finding common ground with all parties helps a lot. It's important to establish constructive dialogue and make the client understand that you are genuinely interested in solving his problem quickly and effectively," she summarizes.

Develop Transparently

Another important innovation introduced by Inna was the implementation of transparent development practices. This tool not only benefits the client but also the business itself. Every change is discussed. Every step of the developers is documented. A meticulous analysis of bugs and errors helps understand what led to new bugs' emergence.

Developers start with a prototype, present the project to the client, define requirements, document them, formulate a plan, and implement it. The client evaluates and either immediately uses the release or tests it beforehand. "This is an iterative development process. We set specific sprints to fix errors and implement particular functionalities, working according to the Agile methodology. Additionally, thanks to the JIRA system, the client can observe all our steps they track changes in the code, the status of work on specific tasks, and see on what equipment and under what data conditions various changes were made. In other words, they get a complete picture of the tasks we have completed. This is what we call transparent development," explains the expert.

Stay Responsive to Innovations

When every step of development is documented, any team member from the tester and developer to the functional manager and, of course, the client himself can quickly analyze the product for errors.

"We enjoy carefully analyzing client requests, and we believe that the simpler the interface, the easier and better it is for the user. There is always a temptation to create complex interfaces that inevitably lead to overload. For the user, this may become a problem; they get lost, and the application's performance slows down, and up to half of the buttons could be removed without losing functionality," highlights Inna. "Therefore, we are constantly optimizing to speed processing, data transmission, and delivery. Sometimes, we even change the application's architecture to make its operation fast and comprehensible because users' main requirements for the application remain speed and simplicity," she adds.

According to Inna, an essential requirement for effective client collaboration is a focus on innovation implementation. Her team regularly supplements the product with new technologies. It incorporates achievements of new technologies into product development, new methods of Big Data processing, and Artificial Intelligence, which helps recognize images, graphics, codes, and texts. According to Inna, the defining success factors for an IT specialist today are flexibility and responsiveness. In a rapidly changing world, it is crucial to track innovations and be ready to implement them to provide the client with the best experience interacting with your technology.


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