Name: Milena Kolarova
Location: Works remotely from Varna, Bulgaria
Joined Xoomworks, part of Accenture, in January 2022
Milena is a Senior Delivery Manager, a role she describes as an Agile IT Project manager. Her current client project with a global news company requires her to have knowledge of both scrum and agile methodologies. She also relies on other skills, including finance and budgeting, estimation planning and road mapping. She is responsible for mentoring and coaching the project’s technical team. Her goal is to remove all the obstacles that prevent her team from performing at their best.
Milena feels fully integrated into the client’s team: “As far as the client is concerned, I am just a regular employee and part of their specialist team of 30.” Most of her team are software engineers, some senior, some junior – not that it matters. It is about the work they do together and what each person can contribute.
How do you navigate the dynamics in your world of work?
“I feel as if I am part of something big and substantial. I’ve been assigned to a large, strategic client, but the integration between the companies, and the trust I’m given, is what’s actually interesting. In time, I may get to work for another big brand with new opportunities. I get to see inside another company without having to change jobs! It gives me a sense of security to know I can try something new – without taking a risk as it’s not a whole new change of employer.
Our client is digitally ambitious, but they are not a tech company. That’s where we come in – to support them in reaching their goals. Our stakeholders are internal rather than external, so perhaps deadlines are a little less pressured, giving us time to work with and grow the technology team. My colleagues tend to be quite mature – regardless of the level they are working at, so they know what is required of them and what behaviours are expected. That allows us to focus on doing good work. We ‘compete’ internally with other parts of the business to be more efficient or implement something new. It’s a great way to avoid a stale environment – from a technology perspective”.
How does Xoomworks Technology support you?
“I feel like Xoomworks is my safe place. Right from the start, communication with my line manager was open and very honest. You know how you can sometimes feel there is an artificial barrier between people who don’t know each other until they take their masks off and you get to know them better? With my line manager, we dropped all barriers at the start. Formal communication with leadership is very open too, and I have a similar experience with the whole HR team. I feel that I can reach out if I ever have any questions or concerns. That’s not just the Bulgarian team, but also the support from the team in Romania too.
What I mean is that I truly feel like a Xoomworks employee. When I am with the client, I’m fully dedicated to them, but at the same time, in terms of support and my career, I’m very aware that I belong to Xoomworks.
And I like it like that!
How have things changed now that Xoomworks is part of Accenture?
“When I applied to work at Xoomworks, I was aware it had recently been acquired by Accenture. Without knowing the details, I thought it was an exciting development – that it meant that Xoomworks was going places. When a global firm sees the value in another business, it can only be a positive!
When they rolled out all the systems and policy changes, I wasn’t tied to how things were done before, so I didn’t struggle with the change as much. Accenture is a big organisation, and there’s a lot to learn – it was natural that we were all a little lost in the beginning!”
To help her immediate Xoomworks community within her department, Milena set up a group so that whenever she found out something new about Accenture or there were things they needed to do, she would share it with the group so everyone knew exactly what to do and when. This made it easier. It’s the kind of proactive approach that you often see at Xoomworks amongst the rising stars.
Despite finding herself going from a small organisation to one with hundreds of layers above her, Milena firmly believes she has the same level of freedom and flexibility to do her job as she had before the integration with Accenture.
“Absolutely! I’ve only had a positive experience. For me, nothing has really changed; I’ve not felt more constricted or as if I am being monitored in any way. But I know where I stand within that big organisation, and I am fine with it.”
What advice would you give to a new person coming on board?
“First, focus on doing your job to the best of your ability during your probation period. See what you can learn during that time. It’s important to be open to the people around you, to try and understand what they are feeling, their points of view, and what they are doing. There is no need to feel isolated just because you may be working remotely.”
Despite being in a ‘faraway city’, every few months, Milena will travel to the Xoomworks office – or to the client’s office in Sofia to meet up with colleagues.
“I don’t feel isolated, not from the Xoomworks team, nor the client’s team. That’s because I take time to show people I want those connections.”
What does a typical working week involve?
“Currently, I have four main work streams, consisting of 14 people. Every morning I start with short meetings – the typical scrum meetings to see what we did yesterday, how we’re moving within the sprint, do we have any problems and so on.
Once I see how things are and identified any problem areas, I move on to deal with individual questions throughout the day. I’ll follow up on specific issues and prioritise the most important ones.
Usually, I have additional meetings with stakeholders on specific topics to clarify how to move forward, or I meet with the product team to see how their plans are going. We always take time to share the good news and any bad news.
Essentially, a lot of my work consists of meetings. I have meetings with the client’s PMO team where we talk about budgeting, how to structure team resourcing, and where we can assign any new starters. In between meetings, I’ll collect and collate information from different sources and decide how to present it and who needs to see it.
I’m responsible for ensuring that everyone submits their timesheets correctly and in a timely way so the business can raise invoices. It’s a lot to do but not overly complicated.
I also serve as a question hub for the team; if someone asks a job-related question, I can help answer it, point them in the right direction, and share the response with the group.
What do you like best about your job?
Funnily enough, I joined Xoomworks because I wanted to avoid dealing with people matters! Now I enjoy communication with people and collaboration. That’s because I find everyone is very open to feedback, which makes the work very easy. If something is wrong or not has not been done properly, you can just easily bring it up and address it. It’s the mindset that ‘Oh, thank goodness you told me. Now we can fix it’, rather than adopting a defensive position and saying, ‘that’s not my fault, I didn’t do it’ and passing the blame on to others.
This mindset is engrained in the Xoomworks’ no blame’ culture and is also an attitude we actively look for in new hires.”
What skills and strengths do you bring to the job?
“I’m not very impressionable! Which I think is a good trait to have in my role. By that, I mean I don’t usually have a strong negative or positive emotional response, as in, ‘Oh, wow, that’s too bad that happened!’ I always try to be encouraging when things don’t go as planned – however small. It’s a balancing act. I don’t want my team to feel I am patronising them. I try to consider cultural communication barriers; someone from the US might view my comments differently from someone in Bulgaria or Romania. That is why getting to know people as individuals and how they might perceive your feedback is essential.
Milena has had ample experience in project management, which helps her avoid getting stressed too easily. “Even if I see things are not going the way they should, I’m not afraid to let relevant stakeholders know. I don’t enjoy having to report when things go wrong. But it’s part of the job!”
“I like my day to be filled in with something meaningful. If I have a bit of free time, say I’m waiting on something or some feedback – I like visiting Accenture’s learning portal and have done a few of the learning sessions. I have bookmarked the ones that interest me. I did a PMI certificate over the summer. You need to collect credits throughout the year to maintain your certification. The Accenture platform has a certified area with training sessions that you can use as credit which is great and makes it very easy to stay relevant.”
How else are you growing personally and professionally?
“I don’t like it when things are pending, and I will always try and move them forward if I can. It’s a double-edged sword because I can end up wasting time on something that’s not critical. I’m trying to keep myself in check and prioritise what is important. I’m not aiming to be perfect. Being perfect is no longer a positive quality! But I try and read the latest books on self-improvement.”
A final piece of advice for anyone considering applying to Xoomworks, part of Accenture?
“Don’t be afraid to take the leap! This a great place to work, it’s a calm environment, and people are good and kind. Everyone is very professional. The good thing about being in a big company like Accenture is that there is so much in place that has been carefully thought out to support our performance and careers. It’s easy to take the HR team or the learning platforms for granted if you haven’t experienced a working environment without them. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the most of what is available.
I know I made a great choice for myself!”
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