How does it feel to work in a customer’s office?

    In service companies, there are projects on which IT-specialists work not in their own office, but on the territory of the customer. This is called work onsite - on the client side. As a rule, large-scale projects require this approach, where it is important that team members can personally communicate with each other, and the customer maintains a continuous dialogue with business analysts, developers, and testers to avoid misunderstandings.

    Employees of the Moscow EPAM with experience on the client side told how it feels to break away from an old office and conquer new heights.

    Anton, development engineer:

    I joined EPAM in 2010, and my first project was at the client’s office. Since then I have been constantly working with the customer and I believe that the company is useful primarily as an onsite developer.

    Such work requires constant personal communication with several teams - those who represent the customer, and with colleagues from EPAM. Interacting with people is more difficult than solving the most complex technical problems. At first, working on-site is comfortable only for lovers of live communication, but over time, everyone develops communication skills. Based on my experience, I can say: it is always more efficient to spend ten minutes and discuss the problem personally than to write two or three dozen letters.

    The first time you have to live, as they say, in the wrong order. To a person who comes from the side, the customer’s processes may seem complicated, confusing and illogical. It is possible and necessary to deal with this, but not at first.

    Having worked on the onsite, you will see what causes these complicated processes, and make sure that it is not as easy to unravel them as it seems from the outside. Perhaps you will understand how and what can be improved in the processes on the customer side, without breaking them at the same time. On the current project, for example, I developed a tool for automated testing, which speeds up testing, allows you to keep regression under control, and now they are using it, it has taken root.

    Ivan, the leader of the testing team:

    The main advantage of working with the customer is constant interaction with him. We know what he wants, and he, in turn, always knows what and at what stage we are doing. When IT professionals work from their office, away from the customer, the risk that they will be misunderstood increases. You can work remotely, implement the next release, and suddenly discover that you approach the implementation a little differently than the customer. On onsite projects, the chances of fatal misunderstanding tend to zero.

    Andrey, business analyst:

    Working on the client side is a big responsibility. For the customer, we, onsite workers, are EPAM. They judge the company as a whole, they ask us any questions. I am a representative of EPAM and cannot leave them unanswered, even if they do not concern me as a business analyst. But do not be afraid that scary people sit on the customer’s side and ask complex questions - there is nothing extreme in such work.

    His hidden expectations are discovered in the customer’s office - things are so obvious to him that it never even occurs to him to say such things. Let's say that the bank has changed its security policies, and now all internal traffic needs to be encrypted. Sitting in the office of EPAM, the team may not know about it until the release. What this is fraught with, we all understand. For those who work onsite, it is impossible to miss important news. EPAM employees have mail on the client’s domain, where intra-company mailing arrives; news is discussed in the office. Another plus: the customer sees us, understands what we are doing, can ask us a question at any time and get an answer to it.

    The difficulties in such work are more likely to be domestic. Sometimes a client’s security policy doesn’t allow users to enter EPAM, Sharepoint, and our GitHub from an office computer. Access to the Internet may be limited, and then you have to use Yota-modems - they are given to us at EPAM. We cannot always personally participate in EPAM internal events, English classes - only if you connect online. But I still do not break away from the company and, for example, conduct interviews - this can be done remotely.

    Natalia, business analyst:

    On-site work does not always mean competition. I was lucky to spend five years in a place where employees of different companies were one close-knit team.

    While in the office of the customer, you need to make acquaintances, get used to the new rules; to figure out who and how can affect your work and project, and, funny as it may seem, test what you can eat in the new dining room. My life hack is to quickly find a person who is close to you in spirit, is related to the project and knows how the processes in the company work. It’s important that his sense of humor is similar to yours: jokes help build bridges and maintain good relationships. Such a person will introduce you to colleagues, share information, warn about the pitfalls of one or another solution in the project ... And about dangerous dishes in the local dining room.

    On-site work has unconditional advantages: it is easier to understand the needs of future users by being near them. Often the development is ordered by one, the other controls, and the third uses the product. This third one may be a key figure for us, and it is most often necessary to look for it in the customer’s office.

    Going to the client’s office is not worth the temper and impulsive. Even a highly skilled specialist, if he is restrained or rude, can harm the project, spoil the relationship between the customer and the contractor. Sooner or later, such a person will be replaced. Anyone who comes to replace him will have to work with the negative experience of the customer and re-gain his trust.

    Sergey, development engineer:

    Working in an EPAM office is like an experiment in a laboratory where all conditions are created for research. We have a flexible schedule, we don’t have a dress code, here we have a kicker and table tennis. Computers are powerful enough, good infrastructure for development (server, network). You sit and develop yourself, nobody pulls you. Working with a customer is akin to leaving a sterile laboratory in a large and much more complex world. Here you need to work on the client’s processes, and sometimes actively participate in their improvement, understand not only your specialization, and solve various problems. There you see how the client’s business lives, how it develops, what constraints you have to face when realizing new opportunities every day.

    Work onsite provides many opportunities for development. So, I came to the project as a developer, knew how to manage a small team of programmers, looked a little towards testing and analytics, planned small iterations in a limited time interval. At the client’s office I had a lot to see and learn a lot; I see that I’ve grown a lot. Now I am helping to build processes, organizing the work of all analysts, developers and testers of our application family, helping some places in our support team, interacting with business customers from our and other departments and contractors.

    I often deal with contractors, with colleagues from other departments, line managers and top managers. Do you know what I understood from this? That we are all human. Top managers are serious, nervous, demanding, but also people. Sometimes they come to us to talk about the project, to find out our opinion. Contractors are also people, and sometimes they also need to go forward, and not take the position "You promised - do it now as you want." Everyone can make mistakes, everyone has problems, and we can all understand each other - you just have to want to.

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