Andreas Pørtner Karlsen, Manager, Denmark
As a manager, you have to be able to walk the talk
When Andreas was around 15 years old, he used to play Warcraft III at a semi-pro level. This was a time long before professional gaming teams, back when the best gamer in Denmark earned less than 500 € a month. At that time, coding wasn’t really part of Andreas’ life, but this changed dramatically in 2009 when he applied to study Information Technology, and later a Master’s in Computer Science at Aalborg University.
As soon as he got the coding bug, it was something he really enjoyed. “From that point on, it became kind of a creative exercise really, because you can do things in so many ways. And because it’s a digital universe, you’re not limited by anything physical. You can build exactly what you want!”
Inspired by revolutionary IT heroes
Andreas’ passion for coding has always been combined with an interest — and solid understanding of — the business and social aspects surrounding IT. “While I was studying, my heroes were these very, very talented consultants from the 90’s and 00’s. People like Martin Fowler, Kent Beck and Eric Evans, who transformed the way we write software. They had a business perspective on IT and basically revolutionised the entire IT industry. In fact, their theories underpin Netcompany’s method of building software, such as domain driven design, for example.”
During his studies, Andreas had a job at a smaller company, where he was the only developer. This meant that he was both the best and the worst at what he did and didn’t really have anyone to learn from. That’s why Andreas applied for a job at Netcompany. “To be part of a company where people are so dedicated about what they do and so talented – that’s really inspiring!”
Clear priorities: Family first
Andreas has two sons: Bertram (7 years old) and Villum (3 years old) with his fiancé Line, who he’s marrying this summer. They live in a small town on the outskirts of Aalborg, and Andreas commutes to Netcompany every day by train.
Through his entire career at Netcompany, Andreas has been a father has been and is able to combine his role as a dad with an ambitious career. “There’s a lot of flexibility at Netcompany. As long as you show up well prepared for meetings with your clients and colleagues, it doesn’t really matter if you work those last hours in the afternoon or the evening. I’ve taken great advantage of this so that my children don’t have to spend long days at day care.”
But it’s a juggling act between Andreas and his fiancé — who also has a career of her own — to find time for hobbies, seeing friends etc. ”I have clear priorities: Family comes first. Then work. And then I try to squeeze in whatever else I can find time for.”
Contact with clients was unknown territory
Given his strong technical background, client contact wasn’t something Andreas had any prior experience with before starting at Netcompany. However, through the Netcompany Academy learning programmes, and by continuously being pushed into unknown territory, he has become much more comfortable in this space. And he’s gained valuable insights along the way, too. “A client might be happy when you say ‘yes’ to doing twice as much as originally planned, but I’ve learnt that will quickly change if the result is a project that becomes twice as long and twice as expensive.”
After about a year at Netcompany, Andreas was officially given lead responsibility for the first time. Netcompany was to develop a new online shop for the B2B wholesaler Solar, a company that has a turnover of more than DKK 11 billion a year. “If you talk to any electrician or plumber in Denmark, they know them!”
Andreas started off as developer, quickly became team lead, and a year later he was given the responsibility of Solar’s entire commercial programme, which consisted of a few projects. In total, there were 25 consultants and developers from Netcompany on the project, as well as the client team. This gave Andreas the opportunity to get to grips with management – both of Netcompany employees and the client.
Ask Andreas what he thinks the most important skill for managers to have is, and he’ll tell you one thing: You have to be able to ‘walk the talk’. “If you ask someone to do something, you must be able to come with input as to how it should be done. That’s much easier to do if you’ve got coding experience!”
Developers in suits
At Netcompany, IT people lead IT people. This makes it possible to build trust and respect amongst team members, as well as with the client’s in-house developers. “They might think it’s a bit strange that we always show up in suits, but when they realize that we are developers just like them, we’re able to establish a really great collaborative team.”
Andreas has always found Netcompany to have a very ‘flat structure’ approach to management, where everyone is valued equally. When he started in 2015, he was a little nervous about making suggestions – he was afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes. “I took what I felt was a chance back then and came up with a suggestion on how we could do certain things differently. When I showed up for work the next day, my manager said: That was such a good suggestion! Let’s do it!”
Because of this, Andreas soon realized that if you want responsibility, you get it. “Throughout my career, I have always found that you are valued based on what you bring to the table – not on how long you have worked here, what you wrote your thesis on, or what your last name is.”