Many people who are determined to have a successful career in IT and other fields start by creating a vision board. They envision their dream job, then make an outline of all the steps they need to forge through to get there.
The role of Practice Manager at Pentalog requires a combination of both technical and managerial skills, with an extra sprinkling of business savvy to help oversee the business side of a Pentalog agency.
With the help of George Năftănăilă, Practice Manager at Pentalog Bucharest, we’ll dive into what it takes to be successful at what is still considered a relatively unknown role in the tech world.
What is a Practice Manager, really?
At Pentalog, a Practice Manager is responsible for the daily operations of the agency, such as the technical health of projects, coaching, and being involved in the local IT education communities.
Alongside the Customer Success Manager, the Practice Manager ensures that the agency’s growth objectives are being met. Acting as a binom with the Customer Success Manager, a Practice Manager’s role is vital in maintaining and showcasing the agency’s strengths.
I have a feeling you will be inspired and ready to grow professionally after reading George’s story. Join us and become part of our amazing team at Pentalog!
What Does a Practice Manager Do?
The main responsibilities of the Practice Manager role are to:
1. Support the Agency’s Projects
- during project launch and through the entire project duration
- through follow-up on the agency’s well-being, employment of good practices, enforcement of Pentalog rules, ‘Go see’ Scrum approach & risk assessment
- by hosting technical events & learning sessions corresponding to current projects
2. Manage the Agency’s Talent and Employees’ Skills
- by animating the agency from a technical and engineering point of view
- through the implementation of mentorship programs, creation and management of communities that are of interest
- as he identifies where training and support are needed
- by matching people and projects with the Customer Success Manager
- by hosting technical events and get-togethers
3. Improve the Pentalog Agency
- through the deployment of top-down decisions
- by improving the Pentalog practices
- by facilitating the collaboration with other departments
- by maintaining and fulfilling the agency objectives
From Java Developer to Practice Manager
George’s career started back in 2008 when he became a Java Developer after earning his Masters of Science from the Faculty of Cybernetics, Statistics and Economic Informatics in Bucharest.
In 2011, he came to Pentalog Bucharest, where he took on many projects as Senior Java Developer. After that, his career path took off – he became Lead Java Developer, Technical Lead, Scrum Master and finally, Practice Manager in 2017.
As a Java guy at heart, he has several certifications under his belt and is passionate about various approaches to Java versions & frameworks – such as Spring, Struts, Java EE. Because of his involvement in web, desktop, and mobile projects that have required different integration patterns and architectures, George also has experience in dealing with the front-end and DevOps areas of such projects.
As George himself believes, developers today require an arsenal of different skills and experience in multiple technologies to be able to advance in their careers.
What Does It Take to Become a Practice Manager?
Experience and background, along with preparation and continuous learning are very important for the Practice Manager role.
George Năftănăilă’s diverse background allowed him to spearhead the roles of Scrum Master and developer, enabling him to lend his experience to projects from both a technical and agile coaching point of view.
Before becoming a Practice Manager, George was a Scrum Master. He still attributes his coaching skills to this role and is a firm believer in the Agile methodology and mindset.
Continuous learning such as staying up-to-date with current tech trends, participating in hard- and soft skills training and investing in your growth are all important to the Practice Manager role. It’s also noteworthy to remember this role touches on several of professional competency points: technical, coaching, hard skills, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, communication and collaboration.
What Makes a Good Practice Manager?
A good Practice Manager always looks into the growth of others and of the company to see the reflection of his own work. Taking pride in contributing to the company’s growth objectives, being involved in the team’s improvement and helping with continuous learning both within the company and in the IT community are attributes that separate a Practice Manager from a great one. And, George fits the bill.
We’ve noted his commitment when it comes to offering his colleagues the right means and tools for them to work not just effectively, but happily and independently. In his role, he makes sure to find a balance between providing necessary tools and challenging his colleagues to take pride and ownership for what they do & achieve.
Is It Worth It? – Challenges and Rewards
Pentalog Bucharest has around 20-25 active projects at all time, so we’re bound to run into a challenge or two from time to time.
One particular project George remembers involves the from scratch development of a platform for a Belgian client in the energy industry. The challenges came from the collaboration with the company’s representatives, the team’s skill level and an uptick in the number of small sub-projects that needed to be integrated on top of the initial project.
To ensure a smooth process, the Practice Manager tackled the project delivery in a few steps, by:
- Taking part in demos, holding a weekly synchronization with the Scrum Master and the client (KPIs, alignment regarding the project);
- Increasing the team and introducing a DevOps specialist;
- Bringing in the right Product Owner with the necessary skills to cope with the project demands.
In the end, the way the project was handled, like many others, impressed our client. A hands-on but calm approach combined with continuous follow-ups and out-of-the-box thinking are what makes or breaks projects like these.
One of the perks of being Practice Manager is the ability to connect with many people from various IT fields and finding a common ground: the desire to learn more.
A challenging job like George’s comes with its perks, for sure. And for him, the rewards are endless and definitely worth it.
He feels proud of the company and his colleagues’ achievements. The agency-client partnership is something that brings a lot of personal and professional appreciation – especially because the client’s satisfaction with the services delivered and the level of maturity proven are a direct reflection of the work done on a project.
Another job perk is the opportunity to participate in the change-management process and deployment of decisions in the agency. Being able to directly influence what is happening and seeing positive change within a Pentalog agency offers a great level of professional satisfaction.
George is also thankful for being able to connect with all the tech trends and evolutions happening in the IT world. As a Practice Manager, he stays in tune with the latest versions of languages, technologies, frameworks and tools (such as back-end and front-end technologies, AI, DevOps or BI). As he looks back on his developer days when he only dealt with Java-related technologies, he feels grateful and never misses the chance to inspire others to practice continuous learning.
Another thing that makes the Practice Manager job worthwhile is seeing how people from different communities grow and get inspired – Scrum Masters, Product Owners and techies alike.
Finally, being a Pentaguy is a reward in itself, as George describes it. Having the freedom to make decisions on your own from a professional point of view is what many career-seekers only dream of having. Also, being part of an energetic, go-getter type of team, with an collaborative mindset is something to be appreciated and makes efficient project delivery Pentalog’s strongpoint.
Our Romanian readers can watch George Năftănăilă’s PentaBAR, where he talks about Remote project management.
How to Pursue the Practice Manager Track?
George’s advice is to always be involved in as many activities, projects and dual missions as you can. This way, you will be exposed to different scenarios that will help you tackle a diverse set of challenges in your future. It’s always important to stay hungry for knowledge and follow the continuous learning approach.
You can find here another Pentalog Sucessful Career Story, the first of many others to come.
(To be continued. Keep an eye on us for the following episode of the series!)