How do I get my career started? Will I be taken on? What are my development opportunities in a company? Do I fit to the team? These are typical questions at the start of a professional career, and many arise again when changing jobs. Find out in this POLYAS interview how Anastasia Tomskikh and Elisa Utterodt experienced the start to their professional career at POLYAS.
Hi there, you two! Tell us briefly how your careers at POLYAS started, what position you started in, how your onboarding went, and how your learning curve developed.
Anastasia: I have been with POLYAS since December 2015 and started as a working student in Sales and Election Management. I mainly wanted to earn a bit while studying. I found the job advertisement on an online portal of the Humboldt University.
After I applied, I was invited for an interview, followed a little later by a second interview, and then I was able to start. At that time I started at the same time as two other students, and we supported each other with the new tasks. The first job I did mainly was to create customer lists in Excel, but I also wrote articles for websites and blog posts. The team was much smaller back then. The bigger the team grew, the more varied the tasks became. So of course that’s where you learn even more.
Elisa: I came to POLYAS a little later, in March 2016, when I joined the editorial team as a trainee in the POLYAS Marketing department. In my early days I wrote loads of articles and I took on research assignments about elections that were of interest for our blog and website. My areas of work also included SEO, analytics, newsletter marketing and social media. I felt that I was well taken care of from early on and could always ask any questions. It was a very good feeling.
What were your career goals after that?
Anastasia: After a while as a working student, I got a new contract and worked part-time for POLYAS while studying for my master’s degree. As a working student, I continued to write quite a lot for the blog. I found that interesting, which is why I thought about staying in marketing. My part-time work in Election Management grew more gradually. We constantly had new tasks to do and new colleagues who needed support with the implementation of elections. I then mainly supported a colleague with online elections and live voting at copyright societies.
My interests and the company’s requirements came together, and from then on I worked towards a position as Election Manager. My wish to develop further my career towards consulting and event management has been put on hold for the time being due to Corona.
Elisa: It was a little different for me, but I also come from a completely different area. My bachelor’s degree was in comparative literature and, during my internship at POLYAS, I had the chance to do a master’s degree in applied literary studies, which also includes culture and media management. Back then my idea was to return to the cultural sector after my internship at POLYAS. But then I kind of had the feeling that I’d rather like to stay. I had the chance to join POLYAS full-time as a content marketing manager.
Over time it emerged that my focus was more on product-related issues. I was writing a lot about the security of the product, as well as technical documentation and instruction guides, and later I delved deeper into specific areas such as works council elections. Things then started developing towards product management. A university seminar on agile work practices—and Scrum in particular—did the rest.
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As a certified scrum master and product owner, I finally joined POLYAS as a Product Marketing Manager. At the beginning of this year, I was asked if I would like to become a product owner for POLYAS online voting. Which is where I have been since March.
Your career at POLYAS developed pretty quickly. That was a lot of work, right?
Elisa: Working and studying full-time all at once—that kind of workload shouldn’t be underestimated. Anastasia, you will probably agree. But I was really keen about the work and nothing has changed in that respect. That’s why I would say it was work, but it wasn’t stressful because it was just plain fun.
So what are you enjoying the most at the moment?
Anastasia: I really enjoy managing online elections. I like the planning most. Being in contact with the customers means that I take on an advisory role. That phase is a lot of fun, but so is the end phase when everything runs smoothly. The voting is over, the customer is happy—that’s the most enjoyable thing in election management.
But projects which combine online elections with nominations, or where live voting is carried out remotely or on location—they are all really exciting. And also the team spirit at big events, such as the chamber of commerce user forum in September 2019: That’s nice because, irrespective of the different areas of work, we are all just one big POLYAS team.
Elisa: I feel like Anastasia, only that my project does not involve online voting with customers, but the ongoing development of our online voting products. I enjoy working with stakeholders from Election Management and Sales and understanding their requirements, which I then plan for.
Above all, I like communicating with the development team and working with them to implement the requirements. The best thing is seeing how the finished product or feature appears, and getting the feedback from the stakeholders.
Anastasia: Yes, working directly with a new feature or product is great fun. We work with the POLYAS Online Voting Manager every day, and it’s always good to see what’s new and what the product can do.
What are the cornerstones for professional development for you and how did POLYAS guide you and support you?
Anastasia: My development at POLYAS started as a working student and went on to project management. I was always grateful about how flexible we could work. For example, like Elisa said, with the combination of work and study. For me it was a maximum of 20 hours a week in addition to my studies—which was a lot—but I was able to work flexibly and from home. I could take the occasional day off and make up those hours on another day. That wasn’t a problem at all. I learned a lot. Just considering project management alone; I had no contact with this topic at all during my studies.
Elisa: I can only agree with Anastasia: The flexibility that POLYAS offers when it comes to organizing the working day is wonderful. Especially for one of my personal cornerstones, professional development. POLYAS not only enables ongoing training, it actively promotes it. Another thing is the atmosphere within the company, and in the team in particular, as this inspired me hugely to perform and also increased my passion for the product.
So what’s next?
Elisa: Next I would like further training in strategic product management, simply because I am a lateral-entry career changer in this area and would like to learn and deepen a number of aspects. I would also like to go for further training in Scale Scrum, which is all about better interlinking different teams that are in constant communication.
Anastasia: The corona crisis has made is incredibly difficult to plan big changes, professional or private, and that includes my wish to continue working in event management, but I definitely want to do further training. This applies to our team as a whole. I can well imagine going deeper into the field of digital meetings and events.
How satisfied are you with your development at POLYAS?
Anastasia: I think I can speak for us both: We have grown with POLYAS and POLYAS with us. When I think back to how it was in 2015 or 2016, I see many great processes that we have established since then. We have definitely grown and become even more professional in every area. It’s a huge difference. It’s fun being a part of it.
Elisa: You’ve nailed it, Anastasia. I’m completely satisfied with the development I’ve gone through, and I look forward to what’s ahead.