The beginning of January is always full of excitement and inspiring events at MaxBill, with the annual workshops and Best Employees award ceremony being a highlight of the month. We would like to start this year’s series of interviews by talking to one of the winners. Alexander Kovalevskiy has just joined MaxBill in the summer of 2020 as a project director but already shown outstanding enthusiasm and leadership skills.

What was your professional journey before MaxBill, and how did you start with the company?

I’ve worked in many companies with a very varied specter of responsibilities. At Kyivstar, I’ve started as Head of Roaming Billing Support department, moved to Marketing Product Development, returned back to IT as Project Manager, and then reached the Head of GSM Product development positon. At Ericsson, my two positions were the Technical Pre-sale Manager and the Head of Digital Services PMO CIS & Eurasia. I’ve also worked as Project Director at Infopulse.

When coming to MaxBill, I had to consider not only the scope of responsibilities, the team I was going to work with and the management, but also if I was down to change the place of residence. My family supported the decision, as we have dreamt of living near the sea for a while. That’s when I started to think more seriously about accepting the offer because I really liked the MaxBill team and its culture felt very natural to me.

The dive into the processes was very fast. I’ve had a fantastic onboarding: everyone was super helpful. On my second day, however, I was already invited to participate in a client meeting to address an escalation. So the adventure began!

What makes MaxBill special for you?

I appreciate how focused the management is on doing things right. There are limitations, of course, you can’t do anything in 1 day. But there are no excuses based on how the company operated historically. It doesn’t matter if some procedures were always followed in a particular way or the code written in a particular fashion — if it is not efficient, we find a way to switch it up. Everything is negotiable. 

It is also notable how fast the decisions can be made in MaxBill. CEO and the VPs are always there to step in and settle on what’s best for the project. I’ve rarely seen anything like this, and it is very inspiring.

What is the most challenging part of your job and which one is the most rewarding?

To learn everything about the MaxBill internal world is a lot of work. I have to fully understand our product functionality, the way MaxBill experts work in design, implementation, testing, etc. I have to establish meaningful connections and clear communication with everyone on the team. Only equipped with all of the above I can adapt my own working style to fit the project and achieve maximum efficiency.

My tricks for coping with work challenges include mixing up the more difficult and complex projects with simpler tasks. Getting a smaller task done gives the team and me a feeling of accomplishment that fuels the mental energy for moving forward with the harder issue. Also, everyone has to share emotions and challenges within the team, not to get stuck with an issue you can’t resolve on your own, because you will become overwhelmed and burnt out very quickly.

The best reward for me is to see the major team achievements happening and recognize my own contribution to them.

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Let’s touch a bit on your passions unrelated to the workplace. What do you do in your spare time?

I have a lot of hobbies. In my opinion, people who don’t have anything exciting going on in life besides work are already on the road to burnout.

My favorites are water and winter sports, hiking, road trips, picnics. I’m also very fond of music: play a wide array of different instruments and sing.

After some time at MaxBill, I developed an interest in board games, which are a big hit here. And, of course, I crave communication with people. It is my way to experience the world around and develop my personality.

Do any of your hobbies influence your work and if yes, how?

Definitely. Communicating with different kinds of people is one of the Project Director’s main responsibilities, so it is very advantageous for me that I’m naturally extroverted and find value in quality time with all my teammates.

Also, surprisingly, music comes into play as well. Once I promised and performed a song for the entire Project Team, including client’s representatives, as a reward for a successful workshop. Definitely, it was an additional motivation for everyone to have the session completed successfully. And as a bonus, it created a very positive team atmosphere.

What were the most interesting and fun situations at work?

The story about the song during a challenging workshop is probably one of the most interesting ones. It taught me the value of creativity at the workplace, the benefit of coming out of one’s comfort zone and the unexpected ways of getting the team and clients on board with some difficult task. A shared joke or fun activity is sometimes crucial for raising the spirits of people around and establishing connections.

That’s probably another reason why I like after-hours activities at MaxBill a lot. It’s very fun to get to know your teammates outside the project boundaries, understand their outlook on life and interests. The culture in our company is very warm, everyone is very open with each other, which creates a spirit of togetherness. It is highly important for me.

What is the most special moment with your colleagues?

It is truly amazing how welcoming the MaxBill team is. I’m still very new to the city, so it’s great to get hints and suggestions from others. Thanks to my teammates’ help, my life in Odessa has been nothing but a wonderful adventure so far, with lovely people around to share the positive vibes.

Do you have any tips and/or wishes for MaxBill newcomers?

Accept even the things that look strange to you at first sight — there might be more to them. Be responsible and passionate about your project, as like you own it — it’s the best way to grow personally and professionally. The value you bring will be much appreciated. It is also very important to have passions outside the workplace to avoid exhaustion. Make sure to appreciate life for what it is, and keep finding activities that excite you.

As a winner of the 2020 Best Employees Award, can you share some tips for those who would like to better their leadership skills?

Leadership for me is being the man with the light. It is about helping people to move in the right direction. Not forcing them to follow you, but showing them how they can add the best value out of their own potential. And then let people make their choice if they want to follow or not. You have to support the team in communicating with each other to reach the common goal, not just give orders.

It’s much easier to lead a team in person, so even if you were a good leader before the pandemic, you have a lot to learn in new circumstances. However, the way of addressing the team is still the same — share the information, let everyone be clear on the context of the project, keep up an open flow of feedback.

Of course, you have to accept that there will be people who are not buying into your vision 100% and it’s okay. Don’t treat it as a failure and keep a clear focus on what you need to accomplish. The way you get the project done will not be the one you expected, so be flexible and seize the opportunity to make things work when it arises, even if you didn’t plan for it.

Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries and dare to try new ways of issue resolution. It will pay off not only in the current project but in your personal development. Never give in to the fear of the unknown and the push to stay in the realm of tradition.

And last but not least — always keep your promises. Set clear expectations with the team and the clients and then stick to them. People appreciate truth very much, and trust is one of the main pillars of good leadership.