The quest to find your place

22 March 2022Up Stories
People are what a company is maid of

“You see, it’s not the place. It’s the people.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the best way to explain the reason why I love the place I grew up in. It’s a place of special importance to me, yet no matter how highly I think of it, in reality it is a small place, similar to other small places, with the human traits that one expects with people who come from small places. And those idiosyncrasies, which I too carry now, molded me into the man and professional that I am today. I don’t just hail from a small community. I’m the product of one.

Small communities build a particular kind of character and behavior. Nobody can -or wants- to do everything by themselves. You lean on others and, as expected, others lean on you. This way you get closer to people, you get to know them as they get to know you and in that process, you get to know yourself. You learn to value small businesses that feed families, where passion or, as we Greeks say in such cases “meraki”, and tradition has an obvious effect on the end product. You learn to be responsible, to take initiatives at a time of need because you can’t and won’t hide. You are part of a whole and you have your part to play. And beyond work, you also have barbecues on the beach on Sundays and coffee time at the village’s car mechanic’s garage. But above all are the starry nights that you can only get in the countryside, where you stand side by side with others and you can silently be present, without the need to fill a void with words. There’s no void to fill. This is your place and day by day you give it life, not just through partying but also through labor. You realize that the lifeblood of the place is the people and that the common endeavor is the anvil interpersonal relationships are forged on.

You’ll ask, then, why did I leave my homeplace? I remember dreaming big when I was a kid, feeling that the world is not big enough for my dreams. That generally happens in the countryside, this need for dreams, the hunger for taking up challenges somewhere else. This childish idealism for more and bigger things never really leaves you. So when I found myself looking for a job, I was also searching for some specific traits in the company I would work for. To be fair, in the beginning I was less selective due to my need for work, so I learnt that finding a place to fit in isn’t easy. The honesty of the countryside comes from the inability to hide and urban directness that springs from the relative anonymity starts to affect you. With the passage of time, you learn that you might take the kid from the island, but you can’t take the island out of the kid. As years go by, your blood might run colder, yet the fire in your heart burns as hot as ever. Dreams turn obstacles to kindling.

So here I was looking for a job again. I knew what I wanted but I also knew what I didn’t want and sometimes that’s just as important.

As someone who codes, I’d like to say something. Getting into a technology company per se wasn’t my one and only priority. Sure, in a technology company the road would be smooth, the structure more concrete and the roles predetermined. There would be a time frame for adjustment, with a senior developer as a mentor to guide you while smoothly scaling the difficulty of what you take up: three months till a major contribution, six to be production ready. All until you feel comfortable enough to then switch from “learn mode” to “earn mode”. And this part is where I usually push back a bit.

If stability is the be-all end-all of working, I believe that this kind of compromise is a slow and insidious killer. Since experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want, I ‘d rather keep on learning. To not be somewhere where I keep repeating the same tasks but in a position to try new things as I aim to fill the gaps where a bigger company would plug by “throwing more bodies” at them. To learn how to create with limited budget and discover that it’s the restrictions that lead to inventiveness.

Beyond the hard skills involved, I’m more interested in the rest. Personally, I perceive my job, which we love to label and market as “problem solving”, to actually be “people enabling”. Many small companies, as they emerge and grow, they hire more personnel, increase turnover and are called to handle the rising workload. Since modern problems call for modern solutions, they enlist technology. And you are called to find solutions. The toughest part isn’t the finite resources or the workflows that need to change since they were designed with technology as an afterthought. The toughest part is comprehending the basic issues the employees face and communicate them. It doesn’t matter how good you are with tech if you can’t talk to, understand or feel them.

And that’s where Up Hellas comes in. It’s a small, growing company, a company that needs technology to make its next steps. It’s also a company that has managed to collect a wonderful group of people to help reach its goals. There, you’ll find people that have been on board since the beginning, who perceive the company as their child and have been through all of its different stages. You’ll find those with experience for whom Up is not their first rodeo, but a new challenge in a long career. You’ll find people for whom Up is their first job, where they grew, they learnt values and saw the company as their launching pad towards their dreams. You’ll find a culture that loves diverse approaches, allows people to try new things, gives them a chance to become, to make mistakes and learn from them. You’ll find a company that loves having fun, no stranger to team bonding events, homemade cooking sharing at the office and afterwork drinks. You’ll find a place where people really are the heart of the company.

You’ll find me there too, as I found my place.

It had only been a month since I joined the company when the opportunity arose for a visit to my hometown. Spending winter on an island doesn’t sound and it certainly isn’t the greatest of ideas, unless you are as lucky as I am, having people that I love to call friends there waiting for me. At the first chance we got, we gathered, had the wood oven burning, the food cooking and pairs of eyes were looking at me, waiting to hear how I fare at the company I’m working for. I’m searching for words, I sip some coffee, I glance at the dancing flames.

I start.

“You see, it’s not the company. It’s the people.”

By Stavros Vergos, Tech Business Analyst of our super team!

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