When I walk the floors of freshly renovated CSHARK HQ in Wrocław, I don’t see almost 200 people, 5 offices and 5 years of hard work to get where we are today. I see a single man, a software developer working on a product for our client. His and Her comfortable working environment, physical and mental security. I see a passionate professional that creates value. This is what CSHARK is all about. Times might be changing, the company with them but we fit all times. That’s why we recently celebrated our 5-year walk.
My name is Marcin Krok and I’m a board member who likes to stride. This is my and hopefully your journey.
When I walk through our company today, I see Donata Rossi, our HR Manager, talking to a board member Kamil about an anniversary party for our employees. It will be held on a boat, swimming lazily on the Odra river, as our tradition demands. We do this every year – eat cake, drink beer or wine and sing songs together, while sailing through the heart of the city, under the cover of the night. It’s a sentimental moment. I always take an old guitar and take a trip down memory lane. We work together and spend time after work together because we simply like each other.
‘Together’ might be actually a good word to describe this company. If we are to explain CSHARK to our client, business partner or a new employee, ‘together’ would be at the top of the list, right beside ‘Expect More’ tagline. I remember when we started in 2014 with 23 people. Folks started the day with the ritualistic coffee, talking to each other in the kitchen or by the desks, laughing and dreaming of a big company CSHARK would become one day. Everybody knew everybody by name, their children’s’ names and shoe sizes then. At 8 o’clock precisely workers in our office space looked at one another, wondering how in the world people had this much energy and where they would be drawing it from. We casually exchanged smiles and nod at each other. Establishing a company with people you can trust is a special thing. If you let form a bond, people will stay with you, helping you grow. And I’m talking both about a company and myself as a human being.
This holds true for the next stop of my tour. When I passed Donata’s room, I remembered a struggle that she goes through every day just to work here. She travels 60 kilometers every day, spending over an hour and a half commuting to take care of our happy bunch. At first, Donata had a lot on her plate, taking care of recruitment, finances, administration duties. Just to name a few. She was able to do everything back then since there were only a few people. Over time, as we grew, we significantly reduced her workload and now she is our strong support as a HR Manager.
That’s how CSHARK works. We combine our knowledge and passion for people and knowledge of processes. We like to think that CSHARK is a well-oiled machine with a heart in the center. A ghost in the machine, so to speak. Personally, I have a development background but I thrive working on processes. I spend my time thinking about the growth of the company and ways to make it better. The process is at the core of everything.
Just like when I first met Bartłomiej Undak in High School. We were both young and hungry. We didn’t want to conquer the world, just the opposite. We wanted to make it better. Brighter. We want to improve it one Agile sprint at the time. And here we are, 5 years later, with almost 200 people, 3 offices in Poland and two visiting offices abroad: in Germany and Canada. It didn’t start with a bang, quite the opposite. I worked for a company called Ergo which changed the name to Fenergo. To this day it’s our biggest client. We founded CSHARK to support Fenergo, brought Polish developers from Dublin and started a company.
From the very beginning, it was something special. We have even made our own recruiting tool to find the best software developers out there. The team made it with juniors, we like to give young people a chance. Taking them under our wing was a great choice, they made an application that tested both candidates’ knowledge and practical skills. Although significantly refined, CSHARK uses this application to this day.
We soon understood this was a way to go. Back in 2015, we made a decision to diversify our portfolio. Profits from CSHARK were nice but we wanted more. We decided to invest in startups – young companies driven by passionate people who want to disrupt the market. Driven by hunger of innovation, they proved their professionalism. There are startups that have an idea, there are those with a plan, and finally those with a business plan. We prefer the last model.
Especially when we have the business plan ourselves. Investing in startups reminded us of the beginning of CSHARK. The stress and responsibility. It came back now, after 5 years of hard work. After the dust of anniversary party settled, we realized how much we have achieved. The amount of responsibility for financial results. The responsibility for the talents we have.
And when I was walking? through a corridor in Wrocław, it suddenly hit me. None of our three and ultimately five sites are the same yet all of them share the same values. We will be alright. We might not be a startup anymore, names, faces, and dates may get blurry but that’s alright. As long as each and every Shark on board feels at home, I’m happy. Responsibility for generating hard, cold cash is rewarded not only with loyalty of our employees but also the opinions of our customers. Just like this one of Fenergo’s CEO Marc Murphy:
CSHARK has been a fabulous partner for Fenergo over the past 5 years. Our relationship started when we were a small company of roughly 55 employees to now 700+ so CSHARK has been by our side through many successes. Over the past 5 years CSHARK has worked with Fenergo through many global clients go-lives as well as huge milestones for our product including our v7 – v8 upgrade. At Fenergo we have 26 of the top 50 Financial Institutions in the world using the Fenergo platform and with our expansion into other verticals we have a promising future ahead – we look forward to CSHARK continuing to join us on the journey to be the independently accredited, regulatory technology standard in Client Lifecycle Management.
There were months when we hired 10 new software developers, a record being 18 of them. It’s hard to track all new faces yet we still do it, remembering names. It’s probably because of our ‘open doors policy’. Over the years CSHARK has hired line managers yet still some people, especially the bunch from the early days, come to us for advice or approval. It’s because we always try to have time for them. Even when we don’t, which is pretty common.
When I write this piece, it’s getting late. Not many people are in the office, there are four of us. , Bartłomiej, Maciej, Kamil and me. When I showed the rest of the boys this text, we agreed we would put our names on it. Together, as always. It was hard establishing a new company but 8 o’clock coffee made this time special. It’s hard now when we have to coordinate multiple clients, projects, sites and people require coordination and quality management.
A year ago we went through a rebranding. CSHARK needed a clear explanation of its vision and mission. We did it, carrying across the message of expecting more from ourselves and ourselves. Customers can do that too; since last year we have worked not only with Fenergo but also with other clients across the globe. In 2018 CSHARK got out of its startup stage. Now we are not only running CSHARK and cooperate with few startups through CSHARK Ventures but also advice young startups as well. A lot has changed. We are providing beautiful software for partners in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and the entire Scandinavia, United Kingdom, and Canada.
How will CSHARK look in 5 years? It’s hard to say, the business environment is too unpredictable to know for sure. We will go the way Grzegorz Silarski, another 5-year old veteran employee, see for us:
From the very beginning, I feel the level of professionalism from everyone in the crew. The company invests in people and their development. The famous 8 ‘o clock coffee builds us as a team and it pays off to this day. Set of values I can get behind:
Collaboration over command and control Self-directedness over managed Honesty over impressions Support over blame Ideas over titles This is not a sandcastle, this is a company built to last.
That’s definitely what we want to build. ‘Sandcastle companies’ are sold halfway down the road to investors. We want more. In 5 years, we want to drive the change worldwide. We are setting up the stage to be one of the most innovative software providers in Poland, offering unique products and services. Values mentioned by Grzegorz are forged in fire. We use agile, we use technology, we don’t use people. This approach made people stick with us for 5 years and we believe they will be here for another 5. I often imagine CSHARK as a Sam from Lord of The Rings meme – we are going on an adventure and nothing will stop us.
When I was walking to the elevator through the longest corridor in the building, Donata was looking at yet another document that had to be immediately signed. Her natural and always present smile was there when she mentioned that we fit all times. You know what? We really do. Together.