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SQL Means Business - The Way of an Engineer

Have you been wondering why some companies fail and others achieve success? It's not a matter of luck but of the right people. Łukasz Kubicki at Vertabelo deals with business and product development. I asked him how he started his adventure with programming, how an engineer got into business, and if he liked playing computer games. Here's what he said.

If you were to write one sentence about yourself, what would it be?

Łukasz Kubicki

Uh, I thought we’d start with something easier. It seems, however, you’re not going to give me any space to warm up. But seriously, I would say I’m just a very curious guy with a pinch of a talent to connect the dots in business.

Do you remember how your adventure with computers began?

I don’t think I’ll surprise you here. I was born in the 80s, and my story is pretty common to that time. My family couldn’t afford to buy a computer back then, so I used every opportunity to visit my friends who had been lucky enough to have one. We spent hours playing video games on ZX Spectrum and Atari XT.

Commodore 64

In 1989, I got my first computer, a brand-new Commodore 64. I remember that day because, for a nine-year-old boy, it was the best thing all the money in the world could buy. The next day, I spent half of my savings on video game tapes.

Tapes? Can you tell younger readers about them? I don't think they know what they are.

Commodore 64

Sure... A lot of people probably don’t remember that there were also floppy disks and if they do, only associate them with the "save" button in MS Office suite.

Back then, we used to have games and programs on audiotapes. A special player that read data from a magnetic tape was connected to the computer. It took ages to load a game. However, it did not bother me. The games were awesome!

After some time, I started wondering who made all these games and how they did it. There was no Internet to check, and the people I knew couldn’t answer my questions. Eventually, I found some answers in the school’s library, in the magazine called “Bajtek.” It was one of the first Polish newspapers about computers. It appeared in kiosks every month.

For a little kid, what I found inside was like it was from another world. At the age of ten, I wrote my first super simple ASCII art program on C64. I felt proud of myself.

A few years later, I bought my first PC, IBM 386 SX. Here started my more advanced adventure with computer programming. I taught myself Borland Pascal and tried to code any thought that crossed my mind. Those were great and funny times.

You said that you liked to play video games? Do you remember which were your favorites?

I played a lot of video games on different platforms when I was younger. Right now, I don’t have time to play, but sometimes when my children persuade me, I play with them.

My favorite games across different platforms and times are Rick Dangerous, Scorched Earth, Diablo, Mafia, Call of Duty, and Need for Speed. My top picks, however, would be Heroes of Might and Magic and Starcraft.

After high school, did you have problems choosing a university?

I didn’t precisely know what I wanted to do after high school. Actually, when I was in high school, it was when the Internet began in Poland.

In 1998, a classmate showed me HTML and told me he’d been developing websites for companies for a while and was making good money from that. He had many orders at that time and asked me if I wanted to try to create a website for one of his clients.

Although I knew nothing about designing websites and had only a vague idea of HTML, I agreed. It was a turning point in my life. I realized what I wanted to do.

HTML code

After my high school graduation, I told my parents I wanted to develop websites. They told me to stop kidding and suggested I go to university to get a real job in the future. I ended up at Kielce University of Technology where I studied Telecommunication and graduated.

However, I never gave up on website development. During my freshman year, I started working for e-point SA, a Polish software house, as a front-end developer. Today, twenty years later, I’m at Vertabelo, but e-point is its parent company.

You didn't finish your career development with programming and engineering. You got interested in management and business. Why?

I think it evolved out of my curiosity for all new things I touched. At first, as a FED, I often worked with system architects. I envied that they got to design software. I wanted to do it myself, and a couple of years later, I became one of them.

Łukasz Kubicki

As a system architect, you have to communicate with clients a lot and understand their businesses really well. This is the only way you can help them solve their problems in the most effective way.

Being a software architect was a great experience. I learned how to communicate with people and gained a lot of knowledge about models, dependencies, and processes in different businesses.

Becoming a manager was kind of a natural next step for me. As I mentioned at the beginning of our talk, I think I have some intuition when it comes to connecting the dots in business.

Why Vertabelo? What prompted you to take part in this project?

Vertabelo was an internal project of e-point SA, originated by Jarek Błąd (current CEO) and Rafał Strzaliński (current CTO). When these guys were starting, I was closing another project I’d been running at e-point, which didn’t turn out to be a success.

The goal of the Vertabelo project was to create a global product. It was a vision I wanted to be a part of. I already had some experience in product development, and we decided to combine our skills and experiences to make this project successful.

What do you do on a daily basis at Vertabelo?

I’m responsible for the business and product development of LearnSQL.com, LearnPython.com, and Vertabelo Academy.

You have a lot of business successes. Which one are you most proud of?

I’m proud of our team. I believe that in nine out of ten cases, sustainable success in business depends on great teamwork rather than on individual skills. At Vertabelo, we have a great team that’s fully committed to what we do.

To point out a single success of Vertabelo as a company, I would refer to our case study with Uber. We’re providing them with a global SQL training platform. The unique value of this platform is we’re teaching their users SQL on Uber’s data using real-life business scenarios.

Uber

One of Vertabelo's newest activities is LearnSQL.com. Who is this website for?

I’m totally convinced it’s a great resource for everyone willing to learn or practice SQL. It doesn’t matter if you’re an SQL newbie or an advanced user, we have course offerings for every skill level.

LearnSQL.com is an online SQL academy built around the concept of learning-by-doing. I believe that practice is the most effective way of gaining new skills. With LearnSQL.com, you’ll solve hundreds of real-life SQL data problems you will encounter in the vast majority of companies.

In the previous question, I mentioned our case with Uber. I’d like to get back to that for a second because it reveals a superpower of LearnSQL.com that can be highly beneficial to any data-driven company.

I’m referring to our SQL course development framework that we provide with our business account. The framework allows us to design and create private custom courses that are totally based on the company's database or warehouse structure.

Such courses are extremely useful when onboarding new employees or upskilling existing ones. The courses not only teach SQL but, more importantly, they teach the company’s data landscape and give practical experience in solving everyday data business problems.

It sounds really good. Do you have a favorite SQL course?

I recommend our SQL from A to Z track. It’s a complete path to master the SQL language.

SQL from A to Z

What's next? What are the plans for the company's development?

In short, LearnPython.com. We just launched this platform to help people learn the world’s most popular language. In the upcoming months, we’ll be adding more and more new Python courses. The good news here is that the platform is available to everyone totally for free until March 2021.

You work a lot, and you must have a lot of stress with it. Do you have a way to relax?

Oh yeah, when I can, I spend time in my workshop restoring cars. I also love sailing and snowboarding.

You are a co-creator of a great e-learning platform. Have you learned anything exciting lately?

Because of the pandemic of Covid-19, we moved the entire company to home office in March of this year. Since then, we’ve all been constantly learning how to work in this mode effectively. I have to say it’s been a challenging but also very interesting time.

Thanks for the interview.

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