ATA People

15 Years (and Counting) With Ataccama: Vojta's Story

Natalie Miller

Natalie Miller

14 minutes read

Mon Oct 31, 2022

15 Years (and Counting) With Ataccama: Vojta’s Story

All our colleagues have their own unique Ataccama origin story. If you've been following along with our origin stories series, you've met Spaceport leaders who started learning about computers and coding at impressively young ages and have some fascinating hobbies outside of work. (If you haven't read our origin stories, check out this interview with our Data Governance Spaceport Leader David Kolinek and this one with Data Stories Spaceport Leader Michal Baumgartner.)

Now, we’d like to introduce you to Vojta, an Ataccamer who’s been with the team in one form or another since 2007. He’s seen us grow from a single department within Adastra, to a company with offices, colleagues and major clients all around the globe. Enjoy!

Applying while he was still a student, Vojta started out with us as a part-timer. Those first interviews with Ataccama led to 15 years of exploration and experience.

“There wasn’t a perfect fit role that I knew I wanted to do at Ataccama at that time, so I just kind of interviewed for several positions. And then I joined and in time, it became my life.”

After reaching some major milestones in 2022–hitting the 500 employee mark globally and obtaining an investor for the first time in the company’s history–we’ve been reflecting on how we’ve all grown and changed with Ataccama over the years.

“Ultimately, it’s my longest-running relationship. I met my wife later. And for me, it’s not really about milestones. I don’t set goals, I don’t really plan. I enjoy and focus way more on what is than what will be. I enjoy the process of doing stuff, contributing to something, more than the goals.”

The Student Days

“The common theme is that Ataccama has been changing. And I have been changing as well.”

Vojta was hired when the team was only a department of 24 people in Adastra, before Ataccama even existed as its own company.

“I think our biggest milestone is that we actually broke out from Adastra, set up our own office and started our own thing. I joined a company that didn’t have HR or Finance, and was literally just a development team. So the fact that we actually built a company out of a department, with all the bells and whistles, is a big one for me. But probably the biggest one for me is the change.”

Vojta started as a QA engineer, then migrated to presales, where he spent the longest time so far in Ataccama. Later he realized working with external customers wasn’t right for him in the long run. He started focusing on internal processes, where fellow Ataccamers were his clients. He introduced several internal systems and platforms the company implemented over the years. After the Covid pandemic hit, he moved into marketing, then to leading the Cloud team.

“The common theme is that Ataccama has been changing. And I have been changing as well. For me, change pretty much always comes with new people, because I’m not an agent of drastic changes. I focus on existing problems. As I don’t really plan, when an opportunity arises or a new person comes along, I tend to shift myself.”

What’s So Good About Being Good at Ataccama?

“I was joking with people that the only thing I’m really good at is being at Ataccama. I don’t think I’m really good at one specific thing.”

Vojta is clearly more talented and insightful than he would ever admit, and his ability to step back and see the bigger picture when needed has allowed him and any team he’s on to thrive. This idea, “being good at Ataccama,” is a deeply-rooted feeling that’s different for anyone who’s been with us for a number of years, and seen the big shifts. For Vojta, “being good at Ataccama” is linked to flexibility.

“If Ataccama stayed the same, I would leave eventually because I would grow bored. I enjoy the fact that it’s changing around me. Some problems disappear because we start solving others or we solve them and new ones open up. That’s what fuels me.”

“And it’s the people. And I like the product. We’re not spamming people, and I would have more problems with us being, say, a social network. But our product itself is morally clean. It’s helping others do what they want to do. It’s not opinionated. So that’s part of it.”

“The other thing is that Ataccama grew with me. When I joined, I wasn’t really a good employee. I was partying and everything. And as I matured and grew up–I now have two kids and I’ve been married for a few years–the company was going through similar stages. It’s not a department anymore. It’s not a startup. It’s more than 500 people. It’s at some stage of its life cycle and I’m glad it’s there.”

“I remember the old times. But I don’t want to be in those old times, and I don’t want Ataccama to be in those old times. I’m glad that we’re stepping up and scaling. And we’re opening more and more offices around the world and fishing for bigger and bigger customers. That’s what keeps me interested. That’s what’s important about Ataccama, it’s growing and changing at a steady pace.”

“A common theme that I always tell people when they’re new is that I think we always bite off a bit more than we can chew. Sometimes people are stressed, or worried that we can’t hit a deadline. I succumb to this as well. But then I look back and it was always like this, it’s 14 years of running like this. It’s the #Aiminghigh, or #Challengingfun. These buzzwords all mean something, and we really try to challenge ourselves. We want to be doing the hard stuff. And we fail at some of it, but we can still do it. And it’s not breaking our backs. For a scaling company, this is a healthy mindset. If you stop challenging yourself to this degree, then you stop growing, and someone else will.”

“It’s like running downhill. You are running and you have to just keep on running because there aren’t really any other options. We are ambitious. And we have been successful in fulfilling those ambitions historically. So let’s just continue.”

The Ataccama DNA

“People are not just laying back here. They understand that we have to change things. Sometimes it’s painful. But it’s challenging fun, right?”

So, how do we spot and hire colleagues who share this ambitious mindset? Cultural fit is a key factor when we look for new teammates. So what’s more important–arriving on day one already aligned with the company values, or being flexible enough to adjust with the team?

“I think it’s both. I think you need people who kind of go with the flow, who like the work. You don’t want everyone in a company to be a visionary, because ultimately, I think it breaks the vision. But in the teams that I was on, which were presales and Cloud, there is very little stability. You are kind of on the front line in some shape or form. So you need people who are quick on their feet, and they’re okay with not being coddled because there is no other way.”

“But what I think is a common thing, and something that I was hiring for as well, is that you have opinions and you want to be changing things. And I always say to people, we have very few mechanisms to prevent change here. If you come here, you see some problems, and you say you want to do something about it, no one will stop you. And because there’s always a bit more work than we can handle, there’s always places to look and do something about it.”

“Of course, you have to do your job. But myself and others are prime examples that in the Ataccama culture, if you see a problem or area that you want to work on, you can do it if you make the right case, if it aligns with the business and our objectives. And having explicit objectives, now it makes it even easier.”

“I complain a lot, but I’m trying to do something about the things I complain about. People are not just laying back here. They understand that we have to change things. Sometimes it’s painful. But it’s challenging fun, right? We like to challenge ourselves, and we like to have fun. The theme I was shaping around myself always is, sure, sometimes you can work 10 hours a day. But then we have fun. And some days we just, you know, banter. But all the time, you’re trying to make things better for you and everyone else around you.”

From Parties to Presales

Today, Vojta has seen the inner workings of most departments of Ataccama. But he first interviewed while still studying computer science.

“I knew nothing about data quality, I had no idea that term even existed. I’m formally educated as a computer scientist, but I didn’t have the practical experience to build and grow software. So I went into testing, which kind of meant taking the software and figuring out ways to automatically test it so that it’s doing exactly what it should. So it’s a bit of understanding, it’s a bit of tinkering, it’s a bit of technology. So it was right up my alley.”

While being with Ataccama and learning more and more about how things worked, he switched to presales, where he could use his interpersonal skills more.

“It was kind of all the things I enjoyed at the time with a very short attention span. We have the customer, have a few demos, and then I’m out. There is kind of no long-term commitment. I didn’t want any long-term commitments back then. And I enjoyed being somewhere else and traveling and talking to customers and showcasing the technology, because I knew it’s good. Because I was working on it on a technical level, I really enjoyed explaining it to people.”

He’s racked up quite a few travel miles, even spending one year in the US as the only presales consultant back in 2011.

“They asked, do you want to go to the US for a year? And I said yes, on the spot. That was kind of where I was at the time, personally as well. I wanted to change. In the US I shared an office with just the marketing director, who was an older American guy. Our work didn’t really overlap at all. And I spent a year traveling the US by myself and presenting Ataccama.”

After a few more years of last-minute travel and being on the road, he grew tired of this lifestyle.

“At one point, I was really enjoying the fact that maybe on Tuesday, I’ll find out that for the next two weeks I’m in Germany, I’m in France, or Canada. But the hundredth or second hundredth hotel is not as enticing as the first 50.”

#UnlimitedPlayground: Not Just a Hashtag

“Ataccama is my first and only full-time job, and I will never join another company. I am going to retire from Ataccama.”

In true Ataccama form, he explored other departments before finding an area that fit him perfectly for that point in his life.

“From my experiences and talking to other presales consultants, and because the presales grew from five people to maybe 15, there was now a need to maintain the internal knowledge and set up some processes. I was also getting older and I was kind of looking for more stability. I wanted my colleagues to be my customers. I focused on knowledge management on Slack and interconnecting tools. I did several workshops on how to leverage the tools we have and organized some naming conventions internally and did various things on the side.”

Talking with friends in the HR department inspired Vojta to help them set up a new hiring tool to streamline their internal processes. Though not in his job description, going out of his way to help others in the company succeed was natural for Vojta.

“I think this never went against the grain of Ataccama. There are others like me, and for me this is an important part of Ataccama and this is still encouraged. Our CEO Michal used to say that new leaders should emerge. And historically, Ataccama has grown its own people a lot. I joined with no previous experience. Ataccama is my first and only full-time job, and I will never join another company. I am going to retire from Ataccama, whether early or later. I still don’t feel the need to look somewhere else. There’s enough changing and room for me to be exactly what I want to be doing, right here. I think some people don’t share this, and that’s okay! I don’t expect or want everyone to be like this. For me Ataccama grew alongside me, and I adapted my role here to where I was in life.”

A Culture of Change

Just like you’d find in any workplace, Ataccamers decide to give different amounts of time to their work. For some, Ataccama is strictly a day job. For others, it’s more of a passion. But sometimes you need to step back and adjust how much time and energy you give your work.

“I’m leading a team of 10 people and don’t want the responsibility anymore, so I’m onboarding my replacement. I’m trying to make Ataccama a nine-to-five job because I need the time and mental capacity to be a father and not think about work, after work. I’ve been here for 15 years so it’s natural to think about work-related topics in my off time, but I’m trying to break this habit, at least to some degree. I really care about people, so if I have managerial duties, I can’t shut down at the end of the day. That’s why I want more of a technical problem, that I can deal with in my head.”

“I have chosen to connect my future with Ataccama’s future. Eventually I want to retire and I’m doing everything in my power to make Ataccama the company I want to work for, whatever that means. The current goals are clear — we want to scale. So I’m really working on scaling it, and part of it is taking myself out of my current role, because I’m the bottleneck.”

Heading Onwards and Upwards

“I want new people to come and change stuff — to critique how we do things, and help us do it better. I don’t want this to be a museum.”

For Vojta, moving forward means embracing new ideas and allowing others to initiate changes.

“My replacement should have some kind of vision and be able to articulate it. We all kind of look at the same things differently. And I know I’m stuck in some ways. What I tell new people is that I kind of represent Ataccama right now, the old way of doing things. But I want new people to come and change stuff — to critique how we do things, and help us do it better. I don’t want this to be a museum. I don’t want to start preserving stuff because this is how we used to do it. This mentality drove some people away because they didn’t know that. And I think my superpower in a sense is that I need to change to be happy.”

“Change is what got us here, and this comes from both the bottom and from top of the company. I know (our CEO) Michal as a person and I know he cares. He grew with Ataccama, and he’s staying with it. And I see the people at the bottom care about Ataccama. The most important thing I’m trying to preserve is that it’s not us versus them. It’s a big us, but it’s still an us. We don’t have to compete. We might have competing priorities, but exact goals, alignments, it’s the same.”