Polina Trofimova, Digital Design Project Manager: “You can’t get personal achievements without team victories!”

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For over 27 years in IT industry, Polina Trofimova was engaged in coding for Clipper, studied an unknown at that time program Excel, developed procedures in SQL and built multi-dimensional cubes on MDX, lead the directions of BI, ERP, software outsourcing, promoted high-load storage systems. Today, she starts her working day with a 10-kilometer jogging and she is in charge for promoting the Sitefinity CMS platform. In this interview, Polina decided to share her secrets of effective project management and ways to keep growing personally.

Polina, could you please tell us about your start in IT.

I started working in 1994 at my senior year in the Baltic State Technical University “VOENMEH”. I took part in the development of an automatic train control system at the Data-processing computer center of the Oktyabrskaya Railway. I used Clipper, GUPTA and SQL Base programming languages. The system was designed for tracking railcars and data exchanges at the border check point with Finland. Then I was promoted to become the Depute Head of Division and at that time I was already actively cooperating with Digital Design.

Then I took different positions at Digital Design: implementation engineer, Excel VBA development engineer, project designer (now called “analyst”), head of Business Intelligence and ERP-systems departments, marketing and sales manager of DSS (data storage system) for high-loaded systems called RAIDIX, where I developed a partner network for sales and technologies and was responsible for organizing international exhibitions.

What was different about working in IT at that time? What technologies were the most popular?

These were the days of MS-DOS. We developed an Automated Traffic Control System, that is why my first account was <ac_polly>, my colleagues in Digital Design were always amazed by my innate modesty!

Where are you up to now?

Now I am in charge of the Sitefinity CMS platform development (web content management system), which is extremely popular abroad. My team is rather unusual: we have as many marketing specialists as regular project team members.

Moreover, I manage projects in the custom software development, we develop external portals for large companies. We don’t have too many employees in our team but everybody is extremely valuable.

I appreciate custom software development because no matter how long you are in it, you always get to know something new, as you deal with businesses of different areas and new technologies.

You have been managing teams in IT for 15 years. What practical recommendations for effective organization of teamwork could you share?

Firstly, I stand for democracy and trust. As far аs I am concerned, a team works good for a long time if the relationship is based on mutual respect for each team member. Group decisions and brainstorming sessions allow the team to work smoothly and efficiently, and each employee understands his or her involvement. I delegate responsibility to young employees to help them get comfortable and become full-fledged participants in the process. There are different situations and difficult customers, but we always try to find a compromise and establish communication in a formal and informal setting.

Our work is focused on results, not on KPIs. I motivate team members to support each other. If you can rely on your team, it gets more comfortable to work. People become open-minded and they are not afraid to say “it’s hard” and as a result they grow professionally faster than shy silent people. Secondly, it is always necessary to support your employees at the management level, to show their strengths. The employees are growing fast in my team, which is great! Thirdly, it is crucial to avoid bullying even in the most difficult and conflict situations. We use these situations as rewarding experiences that all team members should be taken into account.

We often visit exhibitions and concerts together to support each other’s talents, watch something new, skate and SUP together, spend time cooking, celebrating birthdays and just meet for no reason. If possible, our team loves to work together in the office. Even working together in the same room makes the process more cheerful.

Polina Trofimova, Digital Design Project Manager

How is your working day going now?

Most of the time I devote to communication with project teams, customers, other departments. When I am out of office, my family members are amazed by the fact how much time I spend on the phone. The rest of the time is ordinary routine work of a project manager: summing up, planning, calculating resources.

Could you please tell us a little about your hobbies? Do they help you in your work?

Sure! Marathon race, skiing and cycling can teach patience, overcoming yourself and comprehensive training. Canoe slalom and water tourism teach us teamwork and maximum mutual assistance in extreme situations. You must trust other team members and do your best in case of an unforeseen situation. We do exactly the same while working on projects. I am proud to say that many of my friends from sports teams and hikes worked at Digital Design at different times, and my colleagues at work became real marathon runners. When I want to take a break from sports, I play the piano, paint and travel. Fortunately, my family shares my passions and understands my love for work.

Polina Trofimova, Digital Design Project Manager

Can you advise any motivation and self-development areas?

As for me, the best management development area is the experience of my MBA colleagues. We often meet and share with each other not only achievements but disappointments. It is known to be the most useful experience in the management sphere. Moreover, the history of Ancient Greece and Rome is a very valuable area of knowledge. Fools makes feasts and wise men eat them (proverb), so if you want to learn from other people’s mistakes you can easily refer to history.

Could you please share with us tips for an effective organization of a working day?

I have to say that everything is individual. As for me, I love jogging or cycling in the morning. For example, today I jogged 10 kilometers. Without jogging in the morning, I start thinking slower and get more pessimistic.

Polina Trofimova, Digital Design Project Manager

I cannot imagine my day without daily planning as there are always lots of things to do, and they are all so diverse. According to my experience I can surely say that any small forgotten task today can easily grow into a huge problem tomorrow. I try not to spend too much time overthinking and exalting. Another important aspect is smiling while talking remotely and I am absolutely sure that a good mood helps not only the person I talk to, but me as well.

Teamwork is extremely important and it can bring results much faster. You can spend time thinking alone for a long time and present the result, or you can think together and spend 10% of this time, and you’ll get a result much faster. I am a team player and I believe that personal achievements cannot come without team victories!