Search
Close this search box.

Interview with Manuela Serban, rinf.tech's HR Director

Some time ago, our HR Director Manuela Serban was interviewed by Ziarul Financiar – Romania’s leading financial publication. Since the original interview is in Romanian, we’ve translated it into English and enriched it with more facts and some good insights on the current state of the Romanian IT talent pool, strategies to overcome tech talent shortage issues, what it takes for software engineering companies to build an innovative culture, and more.

Enjoy the reading! 

Don’t forget to check out rinf.tech’s open vacancies and apply on our Careers website!

What are the industries where engineers are most needed? 

The technology and software development industry is the obvious frontrunner when it comes to the demand for software engineers. From promising startups breaking new ground with innovative applications to established tech giants driving advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, the quest for talented software engineers is relentless and expansive.

But the reach of software engineering extends far beyond the tech industry alone. In the healthcare sector, for instance, a digital revolution is unfolding. The growing reliance on electronic health records, telemedicine platforms, health analytics systems, and digital therapeutics tools has intensified the call for software engineers who can navigate the complexities of this crucial field.

The finance sector, too, is witnessing a similar transformation. Amid the rise of mobile banking, digital payment systems, and robo-advisors, software engineers are becoming key contributors to the FinTech revolution.

At the same time, the automotive and transportation industries are speeding towards an increasingly digital future. As we edge closer to realizing the dream of autonomous vehicles and smarter, more connected transportation systems, the need for software engineers, who can write software for self-driving cars or develop sophisticated logistics algorithms, becomes ever more pressing.

Then there’s the education sector, where the recent shift towards online learning platforms and digital resources has drastically changed the landscape. Here, software engineers are vital in crafting and refining digital tools that provide a more effective learning experience, particularly in light of the increased reliance on remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the realm of retail and e-commerce, rapid growth is leading to an increased demand for software engineers. They’re at the forefront of developing and maintaining e-commerce platforms, improving user interfaces, managing sophisticated inventory systems, and more.

Finally, the energy sector is turning to software engineers to help lead us towards a more sustainable future. As we move to smart grid technologies and seek to optimize energy storage and distribution, these professionals are pivotal in improving systems for monitoring and maintaining energy infrastructure.

In each of these industries, software engineers aren’t just coding specialists; they’re the pioneers guiding us towards the future. 

As a technology company, we’re more than happy to see our contributions having a direct impact on industries and individuals. For instance, our award-winning Cloud CCTV solution for the transportation and railway industries that is currently running on UK trains helps prevent and decrease trespass and vandalism and improve passenger safety and on-train security in general.

Our project on Uberization of routes planning and delivery ETAs helped a leading truck transportation and instant delivery company increase deliveries and pickups by up to 40% per day, resulting in astounding optimization of courier operations and increase in customer satisfaction and retention.

Our custom banking process digitization project helped our customer  reduce effort spent on platform monitoring and cross-systems health checks by 35%, resulting in a 6-digit figure in yearly cost savings.

These examples demonstrate well how innovative solutions become game-changers and how software engineers become the catalysts of change when it comes to digital transformation. 

How can the labor shortage in the tech industry be reduced? 

Addressing the labor shortage in the tech industry requires a multifaceted approach, ranging from enhancing educational opportunities to improving the attractiveness of the sector as a whole. 

Firstly, we need to start with education. Increasing access to quality STEM education for students of all backgrounds is a key factor in developing a larger and more diverse pool of tech talent. This involves not only improving curriculums in schools and universities, but also providing more opportunities for vocational and on-the-job training, boot camps, and online learning platforms that can reach a wider audience.

In addition to this, initiatives that encourage underrepresented groups to pursue careers in tech, including women and ethnic minorities, can help to widen the talent pool. Diversity not only helps address labor shortages, but also fosters innovation and creates a more inclusive industry.

Businesses should also take steps to retain and attract employees by creating positive work environments. This includes providing competitive salaries, offering benefits like flexible work hours or stock options, and promoting a positive work culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing and career development. Offering continuous learning and development opportunities, with the chance to work on cutting-edge projects, can also make the tech industry more attractive to potential employees.

For instance, at rinf.tech, we have internship and paid tech mentorship programs where we hire junior developers and graduates and immerse them into real-world projects under the guidance of our senior developers, solution architects, and project managers. The best achievers get a full-time contract with our company and, after some time, start working on customer projects, while continuing to be mentored by their senior colleagues. This way, we can add new engineers to our pool on a consistent basis and provide them with continuous on-job training to ensure they have a good business understanding of client’s needs and expectations and work up to industry standards.

Lastly, immigration can play a significant role in filling labor gaps. Policies that make it easier for skilled tech workers from other countries to work and settle can provide an immediate influx of talent. This includes simplifying visa application processes and offering work permits for foreign students who graduate from local universities.

At rinf.tech, we have firsthand experience relocating software engineers from Latin America to Romania, and supporting them along their legalization process. While this process can be bumpy due to bureaucracy, if done properly, it can be a good solution to address tech labor shortage and foster diversity in the workplace.

While the tech industry’s labor shortage is a complex issue, these strategies can help to alleviate the pressure and create a more robust and diverse talent pipeline for the future.

How can software engineering companies create an innovative culture? 

Creating an innovative culture within software engineering companies involves a holistic approach that prioritizes constant learning, open communication, and creative problem-solving. rinf.tech vision on how this can be achieved leverages on multiple factors

Firstly, the commitment to innovation must start at the top, and we fully understand this Our company leadership actively encourages innovative thinking and provides both the space and the resources needed for exploration and experimentation. This includes our Agile Root Team (ART) program implying that our engineers are involved in short-term side projects where they act as “first-line thinkers” and can get firsthand experience with strategizing the business and technical approach, architecting a solution, and preparing the delivery – all to help them further solidify their software development experience in adjacent areas and get a better grasp of innovation.

Next, fostering a learning culture is essential. The world of software engineering is always evolving, with new languages, frameworks, and tools constantly emerging. Regular training and development opportunities allow our engineers to stay on the cutting edge and bring new ideas to the table. These opportunities range from in-house training sessions to attending industry conferences or even online courses and certifications.

An open and inclusive environment also plays a significant role in encouraging innovation. When everyone in the team feels comfortable sharing their ideas without fear of criticism, innovation can thrive. Regular brainstorming sessions, where every contribution is valued, can stimulate creative thinking and lead to the development of new, groundbreaking solutions.

Additionally, we recognize and reward innovative efforts of our colleagues, which helps boost this culture further. Whether an idea succeeds or fails, acknowledging the creative process and the learning that comes from it motivates our engineers to continue pushing boundaries.

Lastly, the integration of cross-functional teams can be instrumental in creating an innovative culture. By having engineers work alongside professionals from different disciplines, such as design, marketing, or data science, it encourages diverse thinking, which is a key driver of innovation. This diversity sparks unique perspectives, promotes a deeper understanding of the business as a whole, and inspires software engineers to create more holistic and innovative solutions.

What are the skills that newly trained, early-career engineers need to have? 

In terms of technical skills, an early-career software engineer should have a firm grasp on one or more programming languages. This could include widely used ones like Python, JavaScript, Java, or C++. The choice of language will, of course, hinge on the requirements of the job and the engineer’s area of specialization. These programming languages are the raw tools with which software engineers create and mold digital solutions.

Additionally, a foundational understanding of data structures and algorithms is paramount. This knowledge is the bedrock of efficient and effective problem-solving, allowing engineers to optimize performance and produce clean, organized code. Equally important is the mastery of version control systems, notably Git. Version control is a non-negotiable skill in software development, especially for those working within a team where changes to the codebase need to be managed in a structured and traceable manner.

Moreover, early-career software engineers should be adept at testing and debugging their work. Writing robust tests and diagnosing program failures are routine parts of a software engineer’s role, helping to ensure the delivery of quality software products. Furthermore, familiarity with development frameworks and libraries relevant to their chosen programming language can be a significant boost, often enhancing productivity and offering pre-built components that speed up development.

Beyond technical knowledge, software engineers also need to cultivate key soft skills. Problem-solving sits at the heart of this job – they’ll frequently be faced with challenges that require innovative and practical solutions. Good communication is another pillar of success in this field, enabling effective collaboration with team members, bridging gaps between technical and non-technical stakeholders, and even negotiating with clients.

Time management is crucial due to the fast-paced nature of tech development. The ability to juggle multiple tasks, prioritize effectively, and meet deadlines can set apart a good engineer from a great one. Moreover, the technological landscape is ever-evolving, making continuous learning a necessary skill for keeping up-to-date with new languages, technologies, and methodologies. Lastly, since even the smallest mistakes can lead to significant issues in software development, a keen attention to detail is a must-have quality.

By building a robust foundation in these technical and soft skills, new software engineers can not only excel in their initial roles but also set the stage for continuous professional growth and advancement.

How has the behavior of IT&C specialists changed in the last three years? What are they looking for? What needs do they have? What benefits do they expect? And what attracts them to a job ad? 

In the ever-evolving tech landscape, the last three years have seen considerable shifts in the behavior, needs, and preferences of tech specialists. These changes have been driven by several overarching factors, including rapidly advancing technologies, shifts in workplace norms, and a heightened emphasis on personal well-being and professional growth.

The global pandemic, a significant event in the past three years, drastically altered the work environment. Prior to this, remote work was a desirable perk for many in the tech industry. However, in the wake of the pandemic, it’s become more of an expectation than an exception. Tech specialists have increasingly come to value roles that offer the flexibility to balance their personal life with professional commitments. 

In parallel with the digital acceleration brought about by the pandemic, there’s been a surge in technological advancements. Tech specialists have always needed to stay on the cutting edge, but the pace of change has accelerated. They’re more actively seeking employers who support their continuous learning, investing in their professional development through training programs, certifications, or opportunities to work with the latest technologies.

In addition, there’s been a shift toward seeking meaningful work. Tech specialists are more frequently looking for roles where they can have a significant impact. The opportunity to contribute to innovative projects or to use cutting-edge technologies to make a difference in a particular niche  has become a strong draw.

Meanwhile, cultural shifts toward inclusivity and diversity have echoed in the tech industry. Tech specialists increasingly favor companies that value diverse teams, inclusive cultures, and a variety of perspectives. They’re attracted to organizations that don’t just pay lip service to these ideals, but embed them into their corporate DNA.

The expectation of competitive compensation hasn’t changed. However, what that compensation looks like has evolved. In addition to fair salaries, tech specialists are looking for comprehensive benefits packages, including health and wellness initiatives, mental health support, stock options, etc.

When it comes to job advertisements, transparency has become key. Tech specialists are drawn to clear, concise information about the role and the project, company culture, and opportunities for professional growth. They appreciate when potential employers lay out how they will be working with the latest technologies, how their work will have an impact, and the specifics of compensation and benefits.

At rinf.tech, we are constantly adapting our benefit policy, taking a good look at the talent markets we deliver from (Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Mexico) and at our own colleagues. The change in employee needs is influenced by not only the technology trends but also by the career stage they are in. We pay attention to all of the factors and design specific benefits to serve groups of people in our company, and potential new talent that we bring in.  

In a nutshell, the tech specialists of today are not just looking for a job, but a role that satisfies their professional aspirations, personal needs, and values. They’re attracted to organizations that understand and respond to these evolving needs and preferences.

Is it important for young people to also know older software technologies? 

Absolutely, understanding older software technologies remains crucial for young people, despite the rapid pace of innovation we’ve seen recently. This relevance stems from a few key reasons.

In many sectors, legacy systems—those built with older technologies—are still in use. They might not have the allure of newer, trendier technologies, but they form the backbone of numerous critical applications in areas like finance, healthcare, and government. These systems often require maintenance and upgrades, creating a demand for professionals conversant with older software technologies.

Moreover, many principles and patterns used in modern programming have their roots in these older technologies. Understanding them can provide a valuable context and a deeper comprehension of why certain practices exist today. It’s like studying history—it gives you an appreciation for the present by understanding the past.

The last three years have also seen a resurgence in the value of some older programming languages. For instance, JavaScript, a language more than two decades old, has become more critical due to the growth of web-based applications and frameworks like React.js and Node.js. Similarly, Python, another language with considerable history, has surged in relevance with the rise of data science and machine learning.

Further, learning older technologies can enhance problem-solving skills. They often lack the abstractions and conveniences of newer languages, requiring programmers to understand the problem at a deeper level and come up with efficient solutions.

Even as we embrace new technologies, the past few years have proven that older software technologies aren’t fading into obscurity. They still play a significant role in the industry. So, for young people looking to build a robust career in tech, knowledge of older software technologies is not just beneficial—it’s often a unique selling point that sets them apart.

What will be the most important technologies that young people should start learning now? 

The most crucial technologies that young people should familiarize themselves with would certainly depend on their specific field of interest, but there are a few universal areas of knowledge that are beneficial across the spectrum of tech professions.

Firstly, coding skills have become fundamental. Whether it’s Python for data science and AI, JavaScript for web development, or Java for enterprise-scale applications, understanding at least one popular programming language is crucial. This not only opens up various opportunities but also promotes a problem-solving mindset.

Secondly, data has been termed the “new oil,” and this adage holds true. Being familiar with data analysis and database management systems, as well as the principles of data security, is valuable. More advanced areas, like machine learning and data science, are also worth exploring for those inclined towards these fields.

Next, cloud computing knowledge is increasingly important. Major providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform offer a range of services that power modern application development and deployment. Understanding how to leverage these platforms is a highly sought-after skill.

In addition, given the prevalence of internet-based services, knowledge of web development, including both front-end and back-end frameworks, is advantageous. Skills in working with APIs and understanding network protocols can also be beneficial.

On top of that, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. As digital technologies permeate all aspects of life, the need to protect and secure digital assets grows. A basic understanding of cybersecurity principles is vital, and deeper knowledge in this area can lead to important and fulfilling work.

What technologies do young people “meet” within specialized faculties?

I think it depends largely on the university. Today, a lot of universities in Romania and around the world have been updating their curricula to better meet the needs of the contemporary job market. This means that students often encounter a wide variety of technologies and disciplines as part of their studies, both old and new ones.

However, as the software engineering world is highly dynamic and versatile, university education may not be enough and students have to take external courses or join tech companies as interns to boost their skills, gain a better business understanding, and future-proof their career.

There’s a statement that “companies are pointing out that as technology advances, the training of new engineers must be based on an innovative culture”. What do we do with the “old” engineers who are ageing? 

The technology field thrives on a blend of innovation and experience, and “older” or more experienced engineers bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and perspective that is vital to a company’s success.

While it’s essential to keep up with technological advances, the experience these seasoned professionals bring cannot be replaced by new graduates. They have a deep understanding of the systems they’ve worked with, problem-solving skills honed over time, and a perspective on long-term project outcomes that only comes with experience. They’ve seen technologies come and go and can provide valuable insights on trends and cycles in the tech industry.

rinf.tech is a technology service company. That means our clients rely on us to deliver at the highest standards in the fastest way possible and a big part of our success are the talented and highly experienced colleagues that manage to exceed our clients expectations. 

As such, we ensure that experienced engineers also have access to continuous learning opportunities. This can take the form of training sessions, workshops, conferences, or time allocated during the workday for self-learning and exploration. Upskilling and reskilling are essential in an industry as fast-paced as technology, and this applies to everyone, not just new engineers.

Another strategy is to foster a culture of knowledge sharing within the company. Experienced engineers can mentor newer ones, passing on their wisdom and understanding of the systems in place. Conversely, newer engineers can share their knowledge of recent technological advances, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits the individual and the organization.

Experienced engineers transitioning into education roles is an excellent path that benefits both the individual and the wider tech community. After spending years in the field, these professionals possess a deep understanding of both theoretical concepts and their practical applications. They’ve navigated real-world challenges, they understand the industry, and they can provide invaluable context that goes beyond textbook knowledge.

As educators, experienced engineers can guide the next generation of software engineers, helping them understand not just the ‘how,’ but also the ‘why’ behind various technologies and practices. 

How can companies and the academic environment collaborate so that young graduates with a technical profile are better prepared for the business needs? 

Here’s how this synergy can be effectively nurtured.

Firstly, companies can have a more active role in shaping the curriculum. They can provide feedback to educational institutions about the skills and knowledge they value most, helping to tailor the curriculum to better align with industry needs. This could involve including emerging technologies, practical project work, and soft skills training in the curriculum.

Secondly, internships and co-op programs offer a win-win scenario for both students and companies. These provide students with practical, real-world experience, a better understanding of the industry, and an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge. Companies benefit by identifying potential talent early and training them according to their specific needs.

Thirdly, guest lectures and workshops conducted by industry professionals can bridge the gap between academic theory and industry practice. These interactions provide students with first-hand insights into the industry, future trends, and the challenges they may face.

Mentorship programs can also play a significant role. Experienced professionals mentoring students can provide valuable career guidance, help students understand the industry better, and offer practical tips that they wouldn’t typically get in a classroom setting.

Finally, collaborative research and development projects between academia and industry can also be beneficial. These projects can focus on solving real-world problems, leading to innovation and providing students with valuable research experience.

By working together, companies and educational institutions can create an ecosystem that not only nurtures the technical skills of the students but also equips them with the practical knowledge and soft skills they need to succeed in their careers. This collaboration is crucial in preparing a workforce that is ready to tackle the demands and challenges of the ever-evolving tech industry.

How many STEM graduates do you estimate enter the Romanian labor market annually and how can this number be increased? 

I’d say around 10,000 STEM graduates enter the tech labor market in Romania every year. According to the most recent Eurostat data, STEM graduates make up to 30% of the whole pool of graduates in Romania (similar to Finland, Austria and Portugal). 

Here’s what we can do to increase their number and make IT careers more attractive to Romanian students.

The foundation for a career in STEM begins in the early years. By introducing STEM subjects in a fun and engaging way at school, more students may be encouraged to pursue these fields. Furthermore, organizing competitions, science fairs, and workshops can also stimulate their interest.

Many students are not aware of the diverse career options available within the STEM fields. Providing career guidance and showcasing successful figures in the industry can help students understand the potential opportunities and benefits.

Scholarships, grants, and financial aid can make STEM degrees more accessible to students who may not have the financial means to pursue higher education.

Universities should continuously update their curricula to reflect the evolving needs of the industry, ensuring students gain the skills that employers are seeking. Collaborations with industries for internships and practical training can also be beneficial.

Women and other underrepresented groups are often less represented in STEM fields. Specific initiatives to support these groups, such as mentorship programs or networking events, can help to increase their participation.

Governments can play a crucial role by investing in STEM education, creating policies that favor STEM research and innovation, and providing incentives for students to enter STEM fields.

It should be noted that these strategies are more effective when implemented in a comprehensive, coordinated manner, involving schools, universities, government, and the private sector.



Looking for a technology partner?

Let’s talk.

Related Articles

retail software solutions development
retail

All You Need to Know About Retail Tech in 2024

In this article, we explore a current retail technology landscape and trends shaping the industry, retail tech use cases, as well as what the future holds for retail tech.