Welcome to Ataccama Origins, a new series shining a spotlight on seven of our Spaceport leaders. Since our big SpaceUP reorganization, we’ve been covering the new org structure’s nuts and bolts over at our SpaceUP blog, but we’d also like to let the people that built it say a few words about themselves. One by one, we’ll be taking you to where they all started, where they made the first steps on their journey to Ataccama.
First up is David Kolinek, the head of the Data Governance Spaceport. Taking on the leader mantle is no mean feat — it takes an exceptionally skilled and curious mind years of smart choices to get to the top of a Spaceport. Here’s David, in his own words, taking us through his very first forays into the world of IT and business.
“I got into development in elementary school. I was a little kid, we were playing online games, and I wanted to create websites for our team. So, I learned how to create websites just like that, in the seventh or eighth grade. First for my friends, then my elementary school teacher, and so on. I really liked it. As I got older, I started creating bigger websites, from start to finish. Basically, I was a freelancer. But it feels silly to call it that, I was only 15. I wasn’t making any big bucks, I was just doing it for fun. Still, I was learning along the way. I was doing everything — the first contact with the customer, design, and also development — both front end and back end.”
Everybody at Ataccama talks about David’s integrity. One of the things that sets him apart as a leader is his ability to take responsibility and own up to mistakes…and there’s a good reason behind it.
“In my childhood, I used to play ice hockey as a goaltender. There’s this thing about being a goaltender, in any sport — if you fuck up, it’s really easy to spot it. So if somebody scores a goal across the whole field, everybody will notice. If you are attacking and you miss an empty net, people will forget about it in five minutes, since other things are happening on the field. Obviously, I’ve messed up like this in the past, missing the puck while it’s going really slowly towards the net. And then, the whole stadium’s looking at me like an idiot. At that moment, there’s no point in hiding it. It’s obvious to everyone that I should have caught that puck. Maybe this was the thing that, to some extent, made me the way I am today.”
One of the key aspects of Spaceport leadership is business acumen and an entrepreneurial mindset. A leader is more than just a team motivator or task delegator — for us, it also means a builder, a visionary.
“I was still at a stage where I was convinced I’m never going to work for a company, I’m never going to be an employee. I thought it was a dirty word, that I’m going to be an entrepreneur. That was the vision. I was young, I didn’t have any real experience, I had only built small websites and web applications. But back then I really thought that I’d never be an employee.”
A leader also must grow and change with the times, the team, and the business. One-track minds get left behind.
“I still had this mindset in my first years at university. I was working on bigger and bigger projects, still thinking “I’m going to be a businessman, I won’t do anything else”. This changed a couple of years later, at the beginning of my Master’s studies. After three years I got a bit tired of creating websites, of doing the same thing over and over again. I still wanted to be a businessman, but I didn’t really want to be creating small websites for a couple of bucks, dealing with the same shit but different people, again and again. So I decided that I’d change my original assumption and goal to be a businessman, and I’m going to find employment. I’m going to join some large company and see how others do it to get some experience.”
As on any personal journey, there will always be chances to dive deeper into your interest, or discover new ones. What’s important is to recognize the opportunity, reposition, and push onward.
The thing I liked most was front end, it was at the time when React was booming, and I had always been the visual type. On the business side I decided to get rid of everything, only keep maintaining existing customers, not adding any new ones. So I joined Socialbakers (now Emplifi) as a front end developer and I shifted, I was not a businessman anymore. After a few years, I decided I actually like designing things even more than developing them. So I switched from front end to design, specifically product design. Which is when I actually joined Ataccama as its first ever product designer.”
Sometimes, the paths we don’t take are just as important as the ones we do end up walking. Staying true to your vision, building on your skills and expanding your fields of interest is what turns a professional into a true leader.
“Over the years, I became product manager, and later responsible for the entire product management team. And now I’m a Spaceport leader. Basically, I’m in a position where I own part of the product portfolio, the data governance suite. With our team, we are working on everything that’s related in this area. So we really focus on end-to-end ownership, starting with defining the vision, how we communicate the product and how we promote it, then obviously, the development and the actual use, you really do everything end-to-end. It’s a really nice place that I found for myself — at the end of the day, I actually am a businessman. So yes, I’m an employee, but all the things that you get from being a business owner, I can also get from being a Spaceport leader. And I love it.”
Join us next time, as we catch up with Spaceport leader Adam Stanek to see what he’d been up to as a kid. See you soon!