Spark Spotlight: Milena Sobolewska
At Egnyte the Spark is at the center of everything we do, including our logo. When it comes to our team, we see the Spark as the intersection of talents and passions that drive each and every employee – which is what ultimately drives Egnyte. Through this series I hope to showcase the outstanding individuals whose combined talents make Egnyte what it is today.
* Bold Writing Represents the Voice of Egnyte CEO Vineet JainMilena, it's wonderful to have you visit our headquarters in Mountain View. I hope you've been enjoying your trip here. So our readers can learn more about you, can you tell them where you are located and what is your title?I’m a Senior QA Engineer and based in our Poznan office in Poland.How long have you been with Egnyte?It was my two year anniversary in April.Congrats! That’s awesome! That’s a very long time. What’s your current mobile device and current computer?I use an Android phone, it’s a bit older. It’s a Samsung and it’s small because I don’t like big phones. Most of the phones are large and I have small hands. And your current computer?For work, I use a Mac and at home I have Windows.That’s interesting.Yeah, because I play games.You won’t get the same games on Mac?Unfortunately, no. Games are released for OSX with a delay, up to a year sometimes, and in general, it’s easier to install games in Windows.What are your favorite apps besides Egnyte?Driving a car in Europe isn’t as easy as it is in the US, so I use public transportation a lot. My favorite apps are the ones that allow me to get the most out of it. I use city buses and trams to get around the city, and trains and buses to go outside the city. I have all the applications that help me find the best and least expensive tickets and routes.So you don’t own a car?I own a car but I actually don’t drive it a lot.When you’re leaving Poznan, you will not take the car, you’ll take public transportation?Yes, I’ll take the train. We don’t have many highways so the train is actually faster than driving.That’s interesting. And you have the flexibility to go wherever you want to go? Because in California, if you try to go exclusively with public transportation, you can be quite limited.I can get almost everywhere I want with the train in Poland, and it’s quite a fast and affordable way of transportation. For example, my hometown is only a three hours away taking the train from Poznan.What’s your hometown?Iława. (pronounced I-lava)This is where you grew up. And I’m curious what brought you to Poznan?I went there for university, in my hometown, which is small, we didn’t have a college or university.How large is your hometown?There’s about 30,000 people.Oh that is small. So you came to Poznan for studies. What did you study?I have my Bachelors in Economics but then I realized that I don’t like math so much. So I switched to engineering and have my Masters in Computer Engineering.And after that you came straight to Egnyte?I started working while I was getting my Masters. For three years, I worked for a small consulting company. And later, I worked for almost a couple years at a larger consulting company. I joined Egnyte afterward because I was interested in working for a company that had its own product. So going back to your hometown. You grew up in this town of 30,000 people, in terms of geography, where is it located in Poland?It’s Northeast and the closest recognizable city would be Warsaw. It’s also close to Olsztyn which is the capital city of the state. Iława is a summer city so many tourists travel there. Roughy around 30,000 tourists visit every summer. Would you ever go up North to the Baltic Sea to do anything or is it too cold?During the summer, we go there to sunbathe. But we don’t swim much in the Baltic Sea since it’s cold.So tell me about this town that you grew up in, your parents lived there and you went to high school there?I went to high school in a different city.And how many siblings do you have?I have an older sister.Just the two of you? Where is she?She lives in the city of Torun. She went there for university and my parents and I decided I should attend high school in Torun since the schools were much better.So you lived in a hostel?I actually lived with my sister since she had moved there to study. My parents gave her an allowance to rent a small flat.Your parents are still in Iława?Yes.How often do you see them?Usually about once a month. It’s a three-hour train ride.And what if you drove?It would take 4-4.5 hours.So you go on the weekend?I’ll leave on Saturday around noon and get back Sunday.I’m curious what your hometown is like.It’s a very vacation summer city. It’s a walkable city, sunny, green, very beautiful views around the lake. Tourism is the main economy.When you came to Poznan, which is a much larger city, was it a big change?Yes, it was. Becaus Torun was also small compared to Poznan. There’s about 500,000 people in Poznan and roughly an additional 150,000 students. So, it was a huge change. The commute time was doubled. In my hometown, I could basically walk to the other side of the town in twenty minutes. And when I moved to Poznan, just the district alone where I lived was as big as my home city.I was in Poznan once and it’s beautiful. And of course coming from here, Poznan for me is a small city. We walked everywhere and it was very cool.What does a typical day look for you?Usually I wake up before 9am. I try to push it to 8am. After I shower and eat breakfast, I walk to work.How long does that take?About 10 minutes.That must be nice.And I eat a big breakfast so I skip lunch because I’m not very hungry.I’m curious, what’s a typical breakfast like in Poland. Do you eat buckwheat or is it more like Russian?Well, more like Russians or Slavs in general, for example scrambled eggs, sausages, sandwiches, salads.No cereal or milk?No, not so much dairy.And lunch?I don’t normally eat lunch, maybe a small snack or a fruit. I eat dinner around 6:30 and then I head home.Do you usually eat dinner at the office?I usually eat somewhere in the city on the way home or I have dinner at home with my boyfriend.What does your boyfriend do?He’s a QA engineer for a consulting company.In the past two years at Egnyte, what changes have you seen at the Poznan office?We've grown quite a lot. Originally, it started with fifty of us.And now we have grown to 135 people there.Yes. I used to remember all the names and faces, but now I meet people, I remember their faces but I forget their names and their projects.My problem is that we have a couple of the same names. So many names that are common like Maciej’s and Bartek’s. Yes, and a couple of Piotr's as well. What’s your favorite thing about Egnyte?Although we have our own product, I like the fact that we’re constantly improving. We don’t settle for what we have. We’re introducing new features and making it better for our customers.
What are some goals for yourself or your team?I’m really into our new product called Egnyte Connect that we’re currently working on. A couple months ago when we started the discussions about how it should look like, I became very eager and excited to be part of this. And we’re the only ones in the market implementing this. So I think it’s quite exciting that we’re introducing something so fresh. A lot of people know who Salesforce or Atlassian is, I would really like Egnyte to be recognizable like this.I was in Boston recently. A month in a half back. And I had gone to meet with one of our investors annual partner meetings. I checked into the hotel and then after an hour we were on buses heading to a museum where the event was. So I sat next to this guy, and I asked him, "What does he do?” He was a partner in a limited partnership company that funds our investors fund. And he asked me, “What do you do?” I didn’t mention Egnyte, I just described what our product is. And he said, “Oh, we use something wonderful and really love it.” I asked him to show it to me and he opened his phone and it was the Egnyte icon. Wow, I loved it! There’s no better feeling than that so I know exactly what you’re saying.What can we change at Egnyte to make it better?Sometimes, I think we miscommunicate between the offices. I feel that the communication is either misunderstood or something isn’t communicated, something goes missing. And usually it will be important information.Have you shared this feedback?Yes, in Poznan at least, we had some meetings about it. We went though some lectures that helped us understand the cultural differences between the American, Polish and other cultures.For example, in Europe, if you speak with your hands, talk loudly and fast, you’re associated with the so-called multilinear culture. Like the Spanish or Italians. So when we speak with people from India, who are rather calm by nature, we compare them to Germans, who are associated with linear culture. But from those lectures, I learned that Indian folks are actually a multilinear culture. So it was surprising for me. This and many more interesting facts helped me communicate better with several of my colleagues.Who is your biggest role model, personal or professional?Margaret Hamilton, she was the lead engineer of the NASA project that sent people to the moon. This is in the 1960’s and back then, women were expected to stay home and here she was as the lead engineer for the Apollo project.Wow, that’s pretty cool. What’s something unique that other Egnyters don’t know about you?People see me as a very confident, maybe even overconfident but I wasn’t always like this. When I was younger, I had many complexes and I grew out of it.What helped you change?When I went to the university and met other people similar to me. When I was younger, I was always the one with the good grades, a bit of a nerd because I liked computers and playing video games. There wasn’t anyone else like me in my town. When I went to my university, everyone around me was a nerd or geek. They liked computers and also had good grades so it showed me that there are other people similar to me and who like me for being me and not impersonating someone else.What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?If you are a leader of a team, you should always praise your team for any success. But if the team fails, you should take the blame yourself. You shouldn’t blame your team.And the worst advice?Do it in a rush.Who gave you that advice?Not a specific person, but from people who want things done quickly because they want it for tomorrow or this week. Usually rushing stuff isn’t very helpful.So when things don’t go as per our expectations, personal or professional, or you’re just having an off day, we all have a coping mechanism to help us spring back. We draw our strength from something. Some people have spirituality, some people talk to their better half, others go running, or lift weights. What’s your source of staying calm and handling adversity?I try to keep my emotions to myself when I speak with other people. And then I speak with my boyfriend who helps me cope with everything.
What’s the next activity or place you have on your bucket list?I’d like to try skydiving. But I’m scared.You can do a tandem to start with.Yeah, but I’m scared that even if I do it in a tandem, that the parachute will not work. It will be the 1 in 1000 that will fail and I will die. So, I’m a little scared of doing it.If you were to do it, is there some place near Poznan you can do it?Yes, there’s a air-club near Poznan.Cool, that’s great! I’ve learned so much about you, this has been wonderful. Thank you, Milena!
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