Fresh graduates are afraid to take risks

Petr Krontorád

I do not feel completely positive when pushing to make studying more practical. Theory is the basis.

Petr Krontorád is one of the first employees of the Brno branch of NetSuite, which is one of the world leaders in the development of financial systems. A young graduate of the Faculty of Informatics leads a developing branch of an IT company with almost 300 employees. Together with twelve other successful graduates of Masaryk University, he received a gold medal at the beginning of May during the celebrations of the 95th anniversary of MU foundation.

What is behind the fact that companies like NetSuite come to Brno?

When NetSuite reached a certain critical size, it began to look for a location for its second large development center. Incentives from the government and the European Union helped Brno to win. However the decisive factor was that a high concentration of talented and motivated people in the field of IT was present in Brno, which is a relatively small town in a small country. I would say that the term golden Czech hands is taking on a new meaning in our field. People often want not only to have a well-paid job, but they also value good quality of their work, a sense of professional satisfaction. With such people you do not have to breathe down on their necks and chase them to work. On the contrary, skilled employees often push employers to innovate and enable them to do their best.

What about the price of labor?

This is, of course, another important parameter. An American engineer with the same experience will cost five times more than a Czech one. In addition, NetSuite is based in Silicon Valley, where it is very difficult to compete with large companies such as Google, Apple or Facebook when recruiting employees. They often may not offer as attractive a position as we do, but people motivated by the brand prefer to go there. This is not so noticeable here, although NetSuite is naturally not by far the only good IT company that has discovered the magic of Brno.

How does one get to a relatively high position like yours so quickly?

There was a bit of a risk, but otherwise nothing so non-standard. At some point, I decided that I wanted to change jobs, and I learned that a new company was coming to Brno to build its branch from scratch. I found it interesting to be there.

Why was it a risk?

NetSuite is not a well-known company and, initially it was more or less only checking the grounds. It was not that in 2010 we planned to hire the 300 people we have today. We gradually became involved in the running of the company and we had to build the reputation we have today. The growth to today's dimensions is thus supported by the successes of previous years. Even my position was gradually forming, and although it may look enticing today, it was far from attractive at the time I started in the company.

Are you more of a manager today? Is it not too early at your age?

In our company, the well-established definition of a manager does not apply. The culture is very technical and nobody here is just a manager. Managers or team leaders are technically involved in the work together with their subordinates, and are often the best in the team. I also spend at least half of my day programming. I think it is very effective in our field. Quite often the problems we deal with require your direct involvement in order to know what is going on and what the problem is. This eliminates the complicated phase where developers have to translate a very complex problem into managerial language, often at the cost of losing information value. In my opinion, becoming just a manager is a dangerous trap. Within a year or two, you will completely lose touch with IT work and start to have unrealistic ideas. So I am trying to keep my feet on the ground.

What is the key for a student to become a good developer and not end up as a foot soldier programmer?

Graduates of the Faculty of Informatics at MU have a pretty decent advantage in having been given a solid theoretical basis. Therefore, I do not perceive it entirely positively when pushing to make studying more practical. So-called "practical" is often knowledge that one can learn quite well in one's free time and still changes so quickly that before you get into the field, everything is completely different. However, the theoretical foundations remain more or less the same for many years. Therefore, I would advise students to broaden their horizons as much as possible and not miss lectures just because they do not see the added value. At the age of twenty, one still has no idea what exactly they will do. Today, I only regret what I did not acquire during my studies; I definitely do not mind a few hours spent attending a lecture I considered unnecessary at the time.

From the point of view of the length of a working career, it does not make sense to settle comfortably somewhere in the first years.

So the Faculty of Informatics provides you with quality graduates?

I can also compare developers from the USA, graduates from Stanford for example, and I cannot say that they would be significantly better than ours in something. But they are definitely more purposeful and can sell themselves better. Masaryk University is definitely a great school; in retrospect I just have the feeling that it was too lenient with us in some respects and did not force one to be more active.

What do you mean?

In general, the Czech educational system does not lead a person to try something, take a little risk and make mistakes. And I do not mean failing the exam because you did not study, that is your stupidity. I mean the opportunity to try, for example, from A to Z to implement an idea, a student project and know what it is like to fail. College students do not take this chance and it is a shame. This results in complacency; people feel that they must not fail, because the Czech society has a low tolerance for mistakes. For example, the founder of NetSuite only succeeded with his third business plan.

Is it not culturally conditioned?

We cannot make excuses for that. Our recent graduates often prefer to go to an established company to a comfortable position with a medium salary and light work, even if they have the opportunity to start a career somewhere else, where instead of comfort they get the opportunity to develop and learn. This can certainly be changed. When else to take a risk if not right after school, when a person does not yet have such demands and obligations? If we consider the length of a career, it does not make sense to settle comfortably somewhere in the first years. Maybe it would help if people from the field went to schools and explained this to the students. Then maybe we will do something about it.

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