“Get out of your comfort zone – for the benefit of the customer”

Working at ZEISS

Senior Product Engineer Michael Schieszl shares his insights on developing software at ZEISS Digital Innovation Partners.

Michael, what has changed in the software development landscape since you started working professionally and what is your viewpoint on it?

I started in a very strict and traditional software development environment. Meaning, multi-year specifications, requirements engineering, architecture diagrams, sequence charts. A lot of work upfront before the coding would even start. Today, with the agile transformation being in full effect almost everywhere we follow a very lean and agile approach. Instead of aligning internally for weeks we focus almost entirely on what the customer needs, determined by interviews and methods such as Design Thinking. We then build something extremely fast and start testing with the customer right away. Continuing from there we iterate fast until we’ve addressed all customer needs.

I just recently experienced first-hand from our customers in the US that this shift is very much appreciated – we had great interactions with customers of our Medical Technology business group in the bay area. Having even a 1-year software release cycle is just too long for today’s world – we are working to change that.

Tell us about the tools and frameworks you use in your day to day business?

I am a total Microsoft Azure fanboy. I never worked with Azure before joining ZEISS in 2016 but the Microsoft cloud offering in terms of Software as a Service (SaaS) is just the best in my opinion. For coding, I use Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, the open source editor. Nowadays we are mostly working with Javascript based libraries and frameworks, like NodeJS, Angular and React. I cannot imagine going back to developing in Java or C++ anytime soon.

What is the most challenging part about your job and why?

I take the role of the Digital Innovation Partners as the catalyst of digitalization very seriously. I also consider myself an advocate of the customer. Transforming a company with such a profound technological background and such a rich history as ZEISS is a lot of work. As the catalyst, we have to push barriers to encourage every ZEISS employee to get out of his comfort zone, to take risks, to be okay with failure, to iterate together with the customer instead of relying on internal insights. But we cannot just brute force change. We have to develop a rich understanding for existing processes and technologies and we have to use compassion and patience while being persistent about change. Finding the right balance between pushing and being respectful to tradition is so important.

Describe a person that you would say fits in your team.

Most importantly: Be passionate and vocal about your opinions. Always fight and argue for what you think is right. Have a customer first mindset. Be open to learn new stuff, to do things differently. Be fine with a quickly shifting focus and an environment that grows just as you do. I’d appreciate someone who will chat more than email and who’ll embrace cloud based co-working. Fancy, colorful socks are a bonus.

What do you like particularly about working at Digital Innovation Partners?

Two things: The talent that we have in our team. Honestly, I consider some of my colleagues coding rockstars. The best part, everyone is so humble to teach and share even the most common basics.

Secondly, we get to use all kinds of cool technologies. We are not limited to any existing stack – which would be wrong in today´s world where technology is changing so quickly. As soon as there is some cool new thing out there in the community we will try it and find a way to apply it for the benefit of ZEISS customers. Naturally those solutions have to be validated in terms of safety and security. Since the Digital Innovation Partners are very well connected to the ZEISS legal and corporate IT departments we are even able to accelerate those processes as well.

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