We talked to Stefan Dirnstorfer, CTO at Thetaris about the key to handle and understand the enormous amount of data generated daily and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: We are doing pretty fine so far. Schools closed again today. That will cause some minor stress, but we have a public park directly at our front door. So it’s easy for us to get a daily dose of exercise without meeting people.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Thetaris.
Stefan Dirnstorfer: I’m one of two cofounders at Thetaris. We started in 2007 with a small software solution that we created out of a university startup accelerator. Our risk management solution has met demand in a niche market after the financial crisis. However, in 2016 the market changed and could not keep up. Now we moved into test automation. First, we did it only as a service for other software vendors. We are now turning things into a commercial solution.
How does Thetaris innovate?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: We always start with identifying a real pain, i.e. to formulate the problem from the user’s perspective. We try to stay neutral on a technical solution. This only works in a team by watching and permanently challenging each other. Everyone is in danger of getting attached to one’s own solution. After prototyping or implementing a solution, there comes the hardest part: Validation. We easily fall in love with our ideas and ignore signs that it might not resonate with real users. We are fans of the lean startup approach with strict measures when a hypothesis gets invalidated. It’s hard and feels slow, but we are still here. So I think it’s a good approach.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: It’s hard to tell actually. We moved into a home office quickly, and all our projects continued. Initially, we even benefitted from falling prices on the freelancer market. Now we too feel a slump in project activity. With our new focus on test automation, we are rather late in the food chain. I guess we need to prepare for some less busy times and put more attention on internal innovation.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: When we moved into a home office, the team dynamics changed radically, and we realized that some team members had real problems staying focused and motivated. We had to rethink our communication pattern with more frequent meetings. It took some time to get everyone prepared. With much more media sharing and screen sharing, I even prefer the online meeting now. However, we had to realize that some people were not prepared to change their habits, and we had to make tough choices. I do think that there is a permanent change in the required skills of IT workers.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Thetaris in the future?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: I think we are pretty well prepared for the future. Every planning is now done with an extra portion of uncertainty. Ultimately we expect IT project intensity to return to previous levels. I think it will pay off to stay calm and be confident.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: There is heavy competition in the test automation business. With less pressure on the customer side, we use our time to improve our skills and train, team members. I’m personally a big fan of online courses (MOOCs). We made a plan for team members to follow courses and get certifications. Our current focus lies on technical skills, DevOps technologies, but also data science and AI.
Your final thoughts?
Stefan Dirnstorfer: I hope all your readers are doing fine. Let’s look forward to a successful 2021.