21 December 2017

The IT commando - A Programmer Who Went Far by Leaving His Comfort Zone


Meet Robert Strzelecki, age 40, vice-president of the TenderHut Capital Group. His associates refer to him as the “one-man special task force”. Currently COO in a capital group consisting of 4 technological enterprises with7 foreign branches opened recently. In 2015, Robert, along with his associate, took over a company with no income, no employees, without any clients or even equipment. By the end of 2015, they managed to accumulate PLN 6.44 million of income. The year 2016 closed with a result of PLN 8.93 million, while in the first three quarters of 2017, the TenderHut Capital Group managed to achieve a revenue of almost PLN 12 million.

Robert is a person who doesn’t accept failure. He refuses to acknowledge that something can’t be done. This is the source of his achievements. Like a trained commando, he is incredibly target-oriented, he knows where to aim and he is confident in his aiming skills. It’s like he has a success pointfinder imbedded in his sightWaldemar Birk, CEO of the TenderHut Capital Group, explains humorously.

In the IT industry for a quarter of a century

He took his first steps in theIT industry as a 15-year-old. He sold copies of popular computer programs at a local marketplace. “Microsoft could be unhappy about this fact, but back in the day, this kind of activity wasn’t illegal” quips Robert Strzelecki.

It all started with a fascination with computer hardware. In high school, besides just studying, he also worked as an IT specialist there. When he was 19, he opened an online computer shop together with a friend. He started his studies at the Warsaw University of Technology, but due to his work, he was forced to put his education process on hold. At that time, he was working as an ERP system developer in a company called IT P.I.W Kompakt, currently known as Asseco. Eventually, he acquired his Master’s degree at the Polish-Japanese Institute of Information Technology. At the same time, he spent his weekends at the University of Management and Marketing in Warsaw, attending a specialization course in management.

The corporate world

Robert Strzelecki’s career began to pick up its pace in 2002, when he started working for BRE Leasing, where he managed IT projects. Robert was responsible for implementing and developing leasing, insurance and HR systems. He started as a database administrator. Over the next 6 years, numerous promotions led him to be the Deputy Director of Informatics. Robert Strzelecki thus became the person responsible not only for the technological aspect but also for business strategy.

The position required multipath thinking and assuring that both the quality and profitability of projects were maintained. I had to learn how to build business relations, present my ideas and defend my subordinates within a short time. To successfully perform these tasks, I had to leave my comfort zone. Nevertheless, I’m proud of those experiences, because they allowed me to prepare for the challenges that I face in my current activity – Strzelecki recalls.

A flooded server room and the helpdesk from India

At BRE Leasing, Robert is remembered as a person who is capable of managing crisis situations, proving that he is well-balanced and has the ability to think logically.

When we had a water leak in our server room, it was Robert who was the first to act, cutting off the power supply. In a matter of seconds, he deactivated dozens of fuses. It was a really dangerous situation, many people could have been electrocuted, not to mention the damage to hardware – recalls Wiesław Drążek, the former director of the informatics department.

Even back then, Robert was very courageous in his decision-making and had the ability to stand up to his superiors. He has an instinct in informatics and is able to take risks. Once, we encountered a serious software malfunction in the company’s main database. Robert then made a very controversial decision not to report this malfunction to the helpdesk immediately. He wanted to waitwiththe decision until 6 P.M. At the time, this move seemed irrational. The sooner you report errors, the sooner they are fixed. Theoretically. From our preliminary analysis, it seemed that the malfunction could block our systems for days. The company would suffer serious financial consequences. Nevertheless, Robert, despite the opinion of others, decided not to report this malfunction immediately. He knew that during the day, the helpdesk service was performed by programmers from India, but after 6 P.M., US programmers would take over the service. He also knew that the US helpdesk had much more experience and resources, which would be crucial in fixing the malfunction. He was right. The US helpdesk solved the problem in one hour. The decision was controversial, but in the end, it was the right decision to make – Wiesław Drążek reminisces.

International experience

After BRE Leasing, Robert’s career was enriched by a series of promotions within the SMT Software and iAlbatros companies, where he had the opportunity to encounter large international projects and learn the business culture of foreign companies. His French supervisor during that period, Moncef Khanfir, CEO ofiAlbatros, said – Robert is a great person to cooperate with, a professional with an impressive know-how in managing projects and people.

At iAlbatros, Robert had the opportunity to become acquainted with the business travel industry, particularly as he developed systems for booking hotels, plane tickets, taxis and handling other issues regarding the organization of business trips. I worked with commitment, but I still wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted more challenges. There were new challenges at every company where I was employed, but sooner or later, they would become routine as I learned how to deal with them. Over the years, I made huge professional progress as I became involved in more large and complex international projects. I also learned how to operateonforeign markets. But still, the idea of managing my own business was always present in my life. Based on my experience, I wanted to establish a large, technologically advanced company according to my own rules. A place where I could utilize my knowledge and implement my ideas and business model. I had previously created IT departments for others – says Strzelecki.

Business owner

The history of TenderHut began in 2010, when a company named CodeArch was established as a branch of SMT Software in northeast Poland. Between 2011 – 2014, Robert Strzelecki was CEO of the company and was responsible for the programmers working there. In 2015, however, he left iAlbatros together with Waldemar Birk, whom he had met back at SMT Software. They decided to repurchase CodeArch from the parent company. That is how, after the company name was changed, TenderHut was established. The new company focused on expansive growth and implementing a new business model. IT outsourcing in a brand new style, international expansion, IT market consolidation in northeast Poland and new products and services that can be transferred to various markets. This was our idea for the company’s development – says Robert Strzelecki

The battle-tested IT commando

The people who are most strongly convinced about the advantages of Robert’s working methods are his clients. End of the week. 3.30 P.M. Robert receives a phone call. A fellow company asks for support. They have a knife at their throat. They know that only one person can help – a man who loves challenges and for whom time pressure is only a motivating factor. Sometimes, it is the lack of workers, sometimes the lack of particular skills, but mostly, people call me when there is little time. I often hear: Robert, the deadline was yesterday, can you provide? In such situations, I feel like a commando, or more like the commander of a special task force. You have to remember that the most important thing is teamwork. We move out together, we complete the mission together – Strzelecki says with humor.

The majority of our clients now perceive us as a team for special operations. When there is a problem with implementing a project, and the deadline Is just around the corner, people come to us for assistance. There is a saying going around in the IT industry about how nine programmers can give birth to a baby in one month. A large number of our clients obviously share this point of view. They ask us to implement a project initially scheduled for several months in several weeks. In these situations, we give our best to complete the task – says the IT Commando.

To lead a company his way

Today, Robert Strzelecki is making use of his broad experience. Robert, as ourhead of operations, is responsible for finances, assuring that our activity covers our current costs, and enables us to achieve a satisfactory profit. He is the one in charge of our debut on the Warsaw Stock Exchange – says Waldemar Birk, CEO of the TenderHut Capital Group.

As the COO, Robert coordinates the entire process of creating projects, from concept and design to the implementation phase. Although he is not the one responsible for marketing, he attracts new customers and sells our products successfully. When work needs to be done, he grabs a keyboard and starts programming.

As the manager, I don’t limit myself to issuing commands. I personally get involved in the development process together with my team. This attitude has helped me to maintain my programming skills. In order to test myself, I regularly participate in programming competitions. I’ve still got it – Robert Strzelecki says with a smile. I come from a family with military traditions. This probably influenced my character. I prefer the lead-by-example style of managing a company. I also follow my basic principle: If there is work to be done, I do it – says the COO of the TenderHut Capital Group.

Alicja Szymkiewicz
PR IR Manager

Experienced Corporate Communication Manager in fields of IR, PR and marketing. A philosopher, PR person and IR person by profession. Privately enthusiastic diver, mum for a son and young Labrador, and happy wife for one husband.