Anna Piekarska is a QA Lead who's been with X-Team for many years. She lives in Krakow and is a naturally motivated software engineer who always pushes herself to keep on learning and growing.
Hi Anna, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. What motivated you to get into programming?
Everything started when I was a child. I've always been someone who asks tons of questions about how things work and why they don’t work differently. When I was twelve years old, I got my first computer with internet access and I created my first public blog. It was full of photography / post-processing tutorials, because I've been a huge fan of taking photos ever since I can remember. I even won a couple of prizes.
After that, I decided to take it a step further; I started creating new tutorials not only about photography, but also about blogging and IT topics. In these tutorials, I would give step-by-step instructions on how to show an animation on a page or how to create a custom layout.
A year later, a blog admin noticed my work and I was promoted on the landing page of Onet.pl, Poland's biggest information web portal and sixth-most visited website.
By the time I reached junior high school, I was the lead admin of my school’s website. At the time, I also discovered my life motto, which is still valid for me - keep pushing yourself to master new skills, even if no one is expecting you to. I wholeheartedly believe in that, and it’s what drives me to constantly push myself.
Everything is possible. You just have to be brave enough to take the first step and reach for it.
Then I decided to learn how to program. The feeling that struck me in response to seeing my code work for the first time... it was addictive. I really like thinking about these moments, because they continue to motivate me today and have strongly impacted my career.
What other passions do you enjoy exploring?
The word boredom doesn't exist in my vocabulary — my head is always full of ideas and I love keeping my mind busy. Because of that, I spend a significant amount of time solving puzzles and playing strategy games.
I fiddle around with security and cryptocurrency topics as well. A while ago, I built two mining rigs and also finished a couple of security trainings to get my first pentester certification. It feels so rewarding to gain that kind of knowledge!
On the flip side, when I need a mental break, I jump on my bike and take long rides through the forest. I also sometimes find a quiet place to meditate, so I can clear myhead and relax.
Other times, I draw or tattoo on artificial skin. I'm also a huge fan of professional photography and design. Any type of design, from brilliant architecture to splendid fender flares on a modded Nissan S13.
When it comes to cars, I'm modding mine as well. I installed lower, harder suspension springs and finally found the perfect rims for my car. I really like to spend hours in the garage focused on improving my car. I love applying wax and watching it harden. The best part is polishing off the excess coating.
All these things really keep me inspired.
Every remote developer has their favorite spot to work from. What's yours?
Usually I work from home, but it really depends on what I’m working on and how I feel. But I'm the most productive at my desk, where everything is configured and adjusted properly, and where there's nothing there to disturb or distract me.
From time to time, I need to gather my thoughts and sometimes my creativity or inspiration runs a little dry. That's when I need a place to recharge my batteries. For me, the best way to do that is by moving to a completely new spot. It could be a really busy and loud coffeehouse or a small cabin in the middle of nowhere with breathtaking views. Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to become re-inspired.
I think this is the advantage of working remotely. Every day, I can work in a different place. At least, if there's no global pandemic going round.
“Patience, persistence and a strong belief in success can do wonders.”
Let's talk war stories. What's your favorite memory in the trenches of being a QA Lead?
The ultimate goal is to avoid ending up in tough situations in our projects. Sometimes it’s inevitable, but we always aim to manage them properly. Many years ago, my desire to gain more and more experience put me in truly deep waters, which no one had anticipated.
The project was supposed to be quick and easy, but the requirements got more bloated and complex as we deviated from the original plan. A lack of resources became an issue and the imminent deadline bothered everyone. Even worse, our client's way of sharing information left a lot to be desired.
The next days became overwhelming and the scope of my duties exceeded my skills at the time. I'd been assigned to a team leader role. I began to understand how much I didn’t know yet and this knowledge opened my eyes. I started reading a lot of books and articles, asking many questions and eventually managed to find better solutions to our problems.
It would have been much harder or even impossible without all the support that I got from other team leaders and teammates in the company. They made me feel like I could also become great and I'm grateful that they gave me the room to grow.
In the end, the project was delivered on time to great feedback from the client. A couple of months later, they even came back for another project.
“Keep pushing yourself to master new skills, even if no one is expecting you to.”
Definitely a consistent theme here that you love to grow. Has working remotely helped you grow as well?
Definitely. Because my work requires a significant amount of creativity, being able to have flexible hours and not being tethered to one place has a big impact on my performance and growth.
Nowadays, whenever I tackle some hard tasks that really use a lot of my mental energy or take a lot longer than expected, I can take a break and finish my work a little bit later, when my batteries are re-charged again. Thanks to that flexibility, I know that I'm maximizing my potential and not forcing myself to work when I am burned out and waiting for the next bout of inspiration.
But to successfully work remotely, self-discipline and good time management skills are essential because it’s important to fully focus on work responsibilities and efficiently separating your private life from your professional one.
And last but not least... what dent do you want to leave in the world?
I would like to be the living proof of why you should follow your dreams. Patience, persistence and a strong belief in your success can do wonders. Everything is possible. You just have to be brave enough to take the first step and reach for it.