brand IT blog series
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Welcome to our newest blog series this year: Brand it!
We plan to touch subjects as:
our programs, work-environment, and principles,
our internal activities,
our benefits and recruitment process,
the way we handled #wfh (work from home) during the last year and how our new colleagues were onboarded and found their place inside the community,
and lots of other subjects that will help you have a better insight about who we are.
Naturally, if you have curiosities, questions or need to share something with us, we do encourage you to write to us.
Hope you find interesting and useful information in the coming articles.
Thank you for being here!
1st: Find out more about us
as we’ve just turned 19…
We are #ITSS Community – proud, fun and very much alive, always eager to discover, create, succeed and deliver excellency. We are one of the largest Romanian Digital Business Transformation organisations, founded in 2002 in Bucharest.
Since you are here, we believe you have already read the business part about ITSS, so here we just want to show you the more human, down-to-earth part of us.
So, here are some things we are proud of:
Our actual size: from 5 colleagues at the beginning of the journey to 150+ and 2 Tech Hubs in Bucharest and Chisinau;
Our vibrant community: techie, curious and very welcoming;
Our achievement: as we are considered one of the largest companies in Romania in this line of business, we are amongst the largest systems integrators, with the largest portfolio of technologies;
Our projects: sooo diverse in clients, industries, technologies and we’ve gone global for a couple of years now;
Our product ambitions: we aim to launch an ecosystem of Fintech digital solutions this year;
Hackathon winners: two first places already (#yey!);
The fact that our success is based on our entire community: we are the source of innovation we bring in digital, each and every one of us with our passion, dedication, energy.
We strive to keep IT simple and always enjoy the little things in life.
'When you really believe you can make a change, passionate talk comes naturally! You will see those around start to support your vision and make it real. With passion, we managed to grow and be a community.'
HR tip of the day
As we like numbers, we’ve made these graphs hoping to show you the bigger picture:
1. Our growth over the years, with an out of the blue interesting development during the Pandemic:
2. The evolution of our community over the last 3 years, as we pride with everyone’s progress in company:
3. A panicked kind (to us) 2020 regarding the colleagues that decided to say goodbye:
4. Every year we see an increase in the average tenure in ITSS, hopefully we will be able to bit market metrics in IT. We seem to be sure are on the right track.
5. We encourage learning and especially self-learning, as these are signs of one’s determination and commitment. We are free to choose our right path in learning (according to this graph, our colleagues either took our word for it, or they finished Netflix during quarantine):
6. This thing below shows we have a lot of dedicated colleagues in ITSS, as we mostly learn from each other. Self learning is immediately next (as we stated before, out of boredom commitment), but we surely get points from our new colleagues, as we try to give them a good start with us. We definitely still need to improve on external learning, especially for the senior levels (heads-up seniors!).
7. This one over here shows we’ve progressed we think:
8. We still have to work on these ones (disclaimer: it is challenging in our line of work):
Well, we hope we gave you an insightful overview on who we are. Stay tuned for more, because soon we will disclose how we managed to survive organised ourselves during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2nd: ITSS during the Pandemic
When you are hyped you can be even more!
…or so we think here, at IT Smart Systems
As with all people and companies, we were no exception when Covid-19 reality stroke. At least we had one last office party before going home for good at the end of February 2020, with our colleagues and alumni celebrating the company’s 18th birthday. Going home with a blast, one can say.
Not long after that, we’ve decided it’s time to work from home for at least 2 weeks, as the news about the new pandemic intensified. And that’s how it all started, on the 12th of March 2020, with us being among the first companies that decided to work from home completely. We all had in mind that 2 weeks of working remotely, but here we are now -> after more than a year of full remote working still.
Funny story is that one colleague really thought we were joking, so he came by the office the second day, only to find that the entire organisation is at home. Luckily, we were already used to the setup, because it was one of our benefits even before the pandemic, so it was pretty easy at the beginning for us.
ITSS was #amongthefirst companies that decided to work from home.
High speed from all of us
We knew we wanted to make it work. All of us! So we kinda did it. We supported each other in how to organise our work, how to exercise, to have coffee breaks or during our birthdays and so on. Even with a #HaveABreak meeting in our calendar, set by one of our shareholders and with the kick to celebrate together online with every occasion we find.
All processes are online now, with video recruiting (we use Teams), 3 online internships (called the Academies) that gathered around 40 new people (and some of our most committed interns so far), production deployments, releases, product development, trainings, webinars and so on.
As we did for all the projects, we had to bring creativity to the table internally as well. We organised ourselves in event teams and came up with the following virtual projects:
Carved pumpkin challenge
Lots of photo contests
Girls online gym sessions
Check out some of the photos, just as a hint of what this meant for us:
We are not perfect. Our remote time is not at all about perfection and flawlessness. We’ve learnt and became more conscious of what call-fatigue or burnout meant, so we started our collaboration with ‘Oana Nicolau’ Therapy clinic, to make sure everyone who needs support in dealing with these unexpected times will get it. Moreover, we organised mental health webinars along the year, with the help of the clinic, again to make sure we all have the mechanisms to understand and deal with what we are feeling. That being said, we highly recommend in engaging with specialists to help you through the pandemic and all its effects, and we are more than happy with our collaboration with the Psychology and Psychotherapy Clinic ‘Oana Nicolau’, linked here.
The mood checks helped as well: these are thought as periodic 1:1s with our HR team for a nice talk and support. And we know for sure the managers were really close to their teams, in heartfelt discussions and fun gatherings.
Boardgames, online games, team meet-ups during or after work, work at your own pace – everyone was free to organise their schedule according to their needs and the whole community understood and applied that principle.
Also, because it feels good seems inevitable to break the rules from time to time, there were sporadic team meetings organised, either for a country trip & a ‘ciubăr’ escape, a mountain retreat, or sports/climbing events at Edenland and small meetings at the terraces. All within the legal restrictions imposed by the authorities, of course.
We felt more productive, more focused and more autonomous during the last year, yet more distant, despite the online connection. We all had our stormy days, but tried to keep in mind we should just make the most of it, though at times some of us needed a kind reminder.
It’s certain we all had our moments, and that was ok.
'As an organisation, HR and management team, we made sure we are all equipped with what we needed to handle whatever comes. We tried to imagine and anticipate the needs, and our colleagues appreciated it. When you have the right base (as in culture and values), it’s a lot easier. Even if we were alone in our chosen location, we were together in spirit.'
HR tip of the day
We feel very lucky to be part of such a community and a group of people who supported each other during these times. The trust is a valuable asset nowadays. No one needed to micromanage, everyone was sympathetic to each other and enthusiastic to self-manage, in most cases.
We hope you felt inspired by our online-only approach and found some useful insights from our HR team. Since we’ve mentioned values and company culture, next we are ready to get you through our principles, the foundation of the #ITSSCommunity. So, stay tuned for more.
3rd: Internships @ ITSS
Signature concepts: Smart Academy and ITSS Technical Bootcamps
Spend your Summer Holiday learning with ITSS
We’ve always valued continuous learning and we’re also seeking for potential in people, even if they don’t have professional experience; that is why, starting with 2019, we organised the company’s first internship program: Smart Academy. It lasted 6 months and at the end of the Academy we hired 10 new colleagues on different technologies, such as: Android, iOS, DevOps, Quality Assurance etc.
Smart Academy 1.0 in 2019
During the pandemic, last year, we continued organising Smart Academy 2.0 in Bucharest, but also in our office in Chisinau, and it was entirely remote, a challenging experience both for us and our colleagues, and for the participants. The Academy in Bucharest lasted approximately 4.5 months, and we had a lot of colleagues (almost 30% of them) that were involved in the initiative, having trainers and mentor roles for our interns. The programme was very popular, taking into consideration the work from home setup, and we hired 12 new colleagues: Integration Developers, Android Developers, Business Analysts, Project Managers and Graphic Designers. In Chisinau, we managed to hire 2 new colleagues out of 5 participants.
Smart Academy 2.0 in 2020
Besides that, we are happy that we’ve reached another milestone in the pandemic: we also organised the first Bootcamp in the company, completely remote. The bootcamp lasted for 2 months and it focused on the Digital Identity area, a very niched but interesting one. Here as well, at the end, we hired 5 new colleagues.
This year, continuing the tradition, we’ve focused a lot on organising internships for juniors, so we’ve already started 2 Bootcamps, that are in progress as we speak – our Android Bootcamp and our Quality Assurance Bootcamp – and we cannot wait to hire around 8 more joiners in total when they both conclude.
But that’s not all, and since we’ve stated getting the hang of it we are now organising the 3rd edition of Smart Academy (Smart Academy 3.0) that’s going to start on the 5th of July and end on 5th of September. So we’re recruiting right now, looking for the best of the best candidates to join the Academy on the following technologies: iOS, Java, DevOps and React Native. Smart Academy 3.0 consists of both practical and theoretical sessions, 6h/day, and our colleagues from the technical teams will have trainer and mentor roles for the future interns. The recruitment process is in progress, so if you want to join us, send your application at firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot wait to meet you!
And now, for the fun part, please find down below some images with our ex- interns, that are now our colleagues, and also some of their testimonials, after finishing the Smart Academy experience:
Smart Academy 1.0 team in 2019
“Smart Academy was a starting point in my journey as a Web Developer. Even if I wanted to work as a frontend dev since the beginning, here I was helped to understand my decision better. More than that, during the Smart Academy internship, I met people who wanted for my knowledge to grow, who explained to me multiple times, with patience, how to do things, to understand what (and why) I was doing wrong (and I always appreciated patience). I would recommend this experience.”, Rebeca Petre – Frontend Developer.
Part of the Smart Academy 2.0 team in 2020
“For me, Smart Academy was a much better opportunity than I would have imagined at first. Through it I have learned about a challenging, but interesting new domain, DevOps, which would have become my career path direction. Furthermore, I have discovered a great working environment while developing tight relationships with my colleagues.”, Andrei Pantelimon – Junior DevOps Engineer.
'Our internships are not simply learning programmes. Instead, we develop our community and bond with each other, develop friendships and a vibrant culture from early stages. Sure, HR results matter a lot, but relationships matter more.'
HR tip of the day
Not much to say now, isn’t it? The HR hard-working team gave all of us a good insight on the learning opportunities for juniors here, at ITSS. You can get in contact with our wonderful HR colleagues anytime: just message them from our brand new and shinny Career page.
4th: ITSS Benefits Plan
As a company, we pride ourselves to be flexible and autonomous, among other things, yet our benefits plan did not quite fit those values. So, we embarked on an improvement journey with the purpose of transforming our benefits plan in one that suits everyone’s needs, is flexible and stands for what we value as a company.
That being said, the new & improved benefits plan launched this year is now both flexible, and fully customisable. It is about our time spent together, as it mostly focuses on wellbeing. It is about striving for efficiency, as we have around 37 vacay days altogether. We made it about learning, as we feel that the next best investment is there. It encourages us to stay healthy, take up a sport, invest in our learning, passion, hobby or choose to ensure our future. And it rewards loyalty, as we know that those who stay with us continue to give their energy to further develop our community.
At the end of our journey, we ended up with 8 categories. And allow us to tell you more about them.
1. We created this long list of custom benefits, where everyone has a budget at their choice and could pick a monthly combination that suits their needs best.
2. The holiday plan offers 37 free days, consisting of contract days, ITSS-vacations days, ITSS-extras for some important holidays, and compensation days (for the legal holidays that happen during weekends).
3. The learning plan has 10 annual days for learning, e-learning, internal trainings and special programs (as leadership programs, or the custom-made seniors program – OwnIT); furthermore, each department has a certain budget for external trainings, conferences and certifications.
4. We thought of our working environment as having no limit in working from home (we will just admit that we like spending time together as a team), plus as having a flexible program (you can start at 7am and finish at 4pm or start at 11am and finish at 8pm, your choice). And starting with this year, we introduced 2 short days per month, when everyone can close their working day 2 hours earlier.
5. There are also the wellbeing and internal events, organised by our events&brand ambassadors team, both online and onsite, such as Quiz Wars or other team competitions, Winter or Easter festivals, team-buildings and so on. This team has always something in store for us!
6. We kept the anniversary bonus after 2 years of being within our community.
7. And we’ve introduced this secret wish: after 5 years within our community, we want to be there for you and make your wish come true!
8. Of course, last but not least: team sports subscription, that must be the oldest available ITSS benefit.
To wrap-up in a positive manner, here’s our HR tip for the day. But not before a de-tour on our Career page, of course – maybe you would like to check out our openings right about now.
‘I feel that there is a false competition among us, employers, when it comes to benefits and sometimes we forget the basic rule of rewards. As long as your colleagues are happy with the benefits plan your company offers and you adapt based on their suggestions, from my part I say you won the competition on benefits. Because it’s them we should be focusing on and make sure our practices, rewards, and everything we do remain relevant to them.’
HR tip of the day
5th: A journey of principles
All organisations are trying to stay true to themselves at all times, and despite every challenge, this desire just rests there as a beacon that guides the decision making, the relations among people and the way the work gets done.
So, we made a callback last week to the guidelines that holds us together and we called it Back to Basics.
Since its inception, ITSS believed in keeping IT simple and this tag line stayed true to our founder, and later to our team of partners, and now to the entire community. It’s something that we realised as we went forward or when things got harder, when our discussions took longer than expected or when we spent too much time to make it all perfect. We were lucky to have had this motto since the very beginning, as most organisations discover it later in their life cycles.
The latter was the case for our principles though, that powerful characteristics that we identify with, as they are triggers of ITSS development and success. It took us 16 long years to articulate them. But fear not, the 5 were there all the time, rooted in our culture since the beginning! They just needed to be acknowledged and brought to light. And they are as follows: Community, Autonomy, Flexibility, Communication and Efficiency. We introduced them to our extended team back in 2019, through a series of internal events. And we want now to share more about them with you.
They now define us as #ITSSCommunity: proud, fun and very much alive, always eager to discover, create, succeed and deliver excellency.
We are the ITSS Community
We realised that, as an organisation, we are a safe place for staying true to ourselves, to work and grow. It is about that psychological safety that we all need, in order to reduce stress and allow us to feel better about ourselves. This is not something that we envision or something that we strive for, it is a fact, described as such by a lot of our colleagues once they joined us. Relevant story here: when our management team went at the Leadership Horse Eye – a leadership program that marked the beginning of our search – even the horses, that are recognised for sensing peoples’ emotions, felt that our leaders group was safe, and they immediately felt comfortable with it.
We realised, then and there, that we count a lot on our people and we entrust them to bring their best and take their own decisions. This also means that each and every one of us is free and has the power to contribute, develop and grow our community.
At the same time, through community we feel that we receive support, knowledge, encouragement and the power to maximise our full potential. Community is the one that kept us together during this pandemic and allowed us to adjust to the new reality at our own pace.
Now, going back to celebrating community, we’ve started a tradition before working from home: food sharing. All 120+ colleagues at that time brought foods to share at the office. The result? Desks full of impressive food courses and good times. See it for yourselves:
We are autonomous
This is the second principle that made its mark on us, especially during these peculiar times. It reminds us to be the drivers in what we do, apply what we know, formulate our opinions, think for ourselves and be confident. We have an unwritten rule that one become autonomous in less than 3 months from joining in. Of course, on those subjects related to one’s level of expertise. To prove our autonomy, we painted the walls of our offices. It turned out this was meticulous work, done with care, lots of fun, and creativity:
We have proven flexibility
The flexibility principle encourages us to always adapt and be open to new things, whether it’s a new technology, a new personality within the team or a new approach of doing things. We work in a dynamic environment and change is the norm nowadays. All the studies suggest that flexibility, growth mindset and adaptability to change bring the most success in today’s world. We have proved our flexibility with an international yoga class, onsite in the Bucharest office and online for Chisinau:
We know how to communicate
Good, efficient communication is something that we hold precious and continuously strive for. Most of the times, we know we should communicate more. Talking with enthusiasm, being transparent, communicating proactively are some of the behaviours we encourage. We had two weeks of celebrations for this important principle during its launch: with private video- booths, were colleagues came and answered questions or received challenges in front of the camera:
We want to be efficient
The last, but not the least, principle we want to mark here is efficiency. We bear in mind to always achieve maximum results with minimum effort. Efficiency lays at the foundation of all the other four principles. Without being efficient, we know we cannot conduct our business. As our founder says, we all expect efficiency from the others around us, not just in a business context, but we look for it within our personal lives as well. The activity that tested our efficiency was non-other than learning to do CPR. This reminded all of us that efficiency matters, knowing what to do is important, and when doing things we must be responsible and focused on effective results, exactly as in a CPR done right:
It is not always easy to stand by your principles and your culture, especially when there are so many different challenges within organisations nowadays. But we look at it on the long run, and know that adopting these values will not only make ITSS successful, but could make a big difference for everyone of us. We celebrate success, share the disappointments, we make sure we build ourselves up again and come back more confident than before.
‘We consider that every organisation has a responsibility not just for itself, but for the people it forms and develops as well. It is not just about the results, as it is about the society we live in and build together. That’s why we call them principles, because they guide us not only in conducting our business, but also in our day-to-day beliefs. When you care for your people, they will take care of you as well! ‘
HR tip of the day
Two years have passed since our first introduction, and last week we focused on our principles once again, during the Back to Basics concept we’ve mentioned earlier. With an average of 55 colleagues taking part daily to the online activities and during these 5 days – 1 hour/day – 20 challenges – 214 reactions – 7 hours organisational effort from 6 organisers – we are proud of this event, its results and the feedback. Let’s see where this journey of principles takes us!
6th: BrandIT together
Autumn is almost over and we are late in keeping you posted with our summer activities here, at ITSS! The pandemic forced us to take different approaches in spending our team-buildings, so this is what we did to keep it simple: we had no doubt in resuming the team-buildings, but we opted to meet in smaller teams (project based or department teams) for the summer of 2021. We felt that we had safer, stronger, yet more authentic experiences taking this approach. The managers, together with their teams, took the responsibility of organising pretty much everything and the feedback was fantastic.
The teams were all about nature and bounding, as they focused on catching up after 2020 – a year marked by remote working and mostly indoors activities.
We, consequently, collected some photos and feedback for you from seven of our teams, and this is how they rolled:
1. A bumpy ride
Our colleagues from Moldova went a bit extreme, exploring the picturesque Old Orhei area by riding quad bikes. What can we say? It seems a definitely faster and unusual way to tour the medieval surroundings. “An unique experience”, as they later confessed, “crossing tunnel roads near the well-known <Stone Age> tourist site, and reaching for the highest point of the Old Orhei, a region explored only by the connoisseurs. The view there was breathtaking, and the road experience with the ATWs was something else.” An all-together marvellous experience, that didn’t save them from “scratches, torn pants or serious bumps” on their way. “But it was all worth it!”, as Radu explained to us.
2. Relaxing in style
Our colleagues from the Digital Identity team have created for themselves a more chilling experience in the beautiful Covasna county. Catalina described it as “a wonderful choice to hang out and enjoy some quality time together, while sharing stories, playing ping-pong, preparing a nice barbecue or exploring the surroundings. The main attraction, however, remains the “ciubãr” (hot tub) experience.” Dani added that this team-building was a great experience to connect, especially for the new colleagues that joined the team last year, as it was the perfect chance to meet face-to-face and get in contact outside the virtual space with (almost) all the team-members. “The area was absolutely fabulous and we took advantage of the “ciubãr” (hot tub) of course, that seemed to create a real competition between the ITSS departments, as it was trending in some of the team-buildings. Some of us even ventured for 6 hours (wow!) in the hot tub! We played volleyball or cards, along with good music, and it was basically so relaxing that we didn’t feel the three days passing. So, both I and the team can’t wait for the next one!”, Dani confessed.
3. Conquering the mountain
The TechX team went mountain climbing to bound, a both hard and rewarding experience. Alexandra send us her feedback, that we would like to share with you:
“This year’s holiday, in the ITSS formula, came as a breath of fresh air (literally, but also figuratively). It was an intense and joyful moment for me, mainly because it allowed me to see my colleagues again and meeting the new ones!
Definitely seemed they had fun! Bogdana added the TechX experience was the equivalent of FUN: “FUN=TechX. The wonderful location and the opportunity to see our colleagues again after a long pandemic seemed to be enough for a successful team-building… but we took everything to the next level. The team games, the challenging hike and the soups prepared by our colleagues, that waited for us after a long day of climbing and fighting mother nature, got us closer as a team. Who would have thought we had master chefs in the department?”. Not us, that’s for sure. We had no idea.
Alex used a Romanian word for describing the experience, something similar to “G.O.A.T”. Anca didn’t get that word. And Corado appreciated the team-building games imagined by the project management team. So, G.O.A.T – greatest of all times, that seems to be the punchline for the TechX’s experience.
4. + 5. + 6. A more visual approach
The next three teams you see above just wanted to share photos and keep the experiences for themselves. We can all relate to that! They are more of the private-type people. They gave us, however, these highlights: ‘Breaking-point’ team adopted a snake as their team-mascot in Sugag, where they went. BugBusters, Darpa & BeCool Teams literally saw the light at the end of the tunnel after an 8 km trip in Leapsa, Vrancea. (We get you, guys!) And the Business Integration team focused manly on culinary experiences and marked one more for the “ciubãr”. (That’s gotta be tough!)
7. The Backstage experience
As we head up towards the end of our story, we still have to share the experiences of the Backstage team. As we are sure the intuitive ones of you realised by now, that is, of course, our team. We, in the Backstage, took a less convenient, harsh approach let’s call it, this year. We kind of wondering why ourselves, but we can blame it on the pandemic as well and the desire to spend time in nature, testing our own limits. So, we took the inexperience path (for the most of us) of hiking a mountain, then the next day another one (!). The revelation rested in discovering that we truly are a team, and that we can truly rely on each other.
‘Outings are always a good thing! Communication, collaboration, even efficiency are some of the benefits they bring. Nowadays, one should consider emotional health as well, and meeting your team and spending time together will do wanders. Team-outings are here to stay! The more the merrier, that’s our advice.
HR tip of the day
So, these were our team-building adventures in the challenging 2021. We had our fun, we got to know each other better, and more importantly got to know ourselves. And we think that’s what team-buildings are all about.