There are multiple paths in our careers, and it’s so very hard to choose the right one from the start.
During our interview, Norbert Szabó, Technical Lead at Kinsta, shared with us the story of how he came to understand exactly what he wanted out of his career. He talked to us about the winding road that led him to Kinsta, away from it, and back here again.
Throughout his experience, Norbert has gained invaluable learnings about his desires and expectations, and he’ll certainly get you to ask yourself the same question he posed to himself: “What makes me happy?”
Who Is Norbert Szabó?
“My name is Norbert, but everyone calls me Norby.”
Don’t be fooled by my profile picture – I’m really more of a dog person.”
Norbert Szabó, Technical Lead at Kinsta, comes from Kazincbarcika, a city in the Hungarian countryside, but he’s been living in Budapest since 2013.
Norbert’s professional path started at a Hungarian chemical company, where he worked as a Programmer. He was there for four years. Then he moved to Budapest to be close to his friends.
Upon moving to Budapest, Norbert found a job as a Web Developer at a multinational oil company. He was promoted to Lead Web Developer/Web System Architect about three years in, and he stayed for almost four years after that! During his time there, he made many friends, and he realized that being surrounded by the right people has a huge impact on his happiness.
In 2020, Norbert started looking for a new opportunity at a smaller company as he hungered to face the challenges that only a dynamic environment can bring. He wanted to feel nimble again.
Norbert prepared for this change by gaining as much knowledge as possible about React. He was digging into back-end development and its more sophisticated techniques. He also often frequented the Stack Overflow forum, where he tried to answer questions from strangers – this motivated him to learn even more.
When Norbert Met Kinsta
It was on Stack Overflow that he found an advertisement for Kinsta, a tech company founded in Hungary that he’d never heard of until then. Something clicked inside of him, and he drafted a quick resume and sent it out.
Two days after their chat, András called Norbert, telling him that Kinsta was very interested in him. It was a match!
Norbert was impressed with everyone’s positive and upbeat attitude, from the Tech team to the recruiter he spoke with, Zsófia Hidas. “I chatted with her for a little while, and I was sold!”
The technical side of the job mattered to me too, but it was the right company culture that convinced me to join. And let me tell you, my gut feeling was spot-on – everyone’s lovely here! It’s definitely not your average company!”
A couple of weeks after starting his experience at Kinsta, Norbert was approached over Slack to see if he was interested in leading the Kinsta APM project. He had no previous managerial experience, but his outstanding soft skills made his potential shine through.
A few months in, Norbert was invited to an internal interview for yet another opportunity: he was then offered the Head of Developer Experience role. By then, Norbert had been in the company for less than one year, and it was a huge move.
A Meaningful New Chapter
Norbert was excited to try on this new hat and test his skills as a people manager, and he was proud to be offered the prestigious title of Head of Developer Experience, so he went for it. When he took the role, he was managing 30 developers. The main goal was to hire 40 more within a trimester. It was incredibly challenging, but Norbert delivered.
However, that didn’t mean that it was the right role for him.
As months went by, Norbert noticed he found less and less time to code, an activity that provided him plenty of joy. He hadn’t thought it would matter so much to him to be able to individually contribute to projects.
He loved people, but managing them wasn’t his cup of tea.
“Management isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But back then, I struggled to see my path forward because I was blindsided by this expectation that someone who’s accomplished should manage people. But a part of me urged me to find myself again,” Norbert says.
“What makes me happy?” He asked himself over and over.
Norbert took a hiatus from Kinsta and went back to a fully-technical role within a consultancy company.
After half a year, he was comfortable with his decision to not take on managerial roles anymore but go against the grain and remain a technical individual contributor. He felt grounded.
And yet, something was missing. Norbert was nostalgic about his ex-teammates, and he started wondering if he should go back to Kinsta. He couldn’t shake off the feeling that he’d left a unique environment that could not be replicated elsewhere.
That’s when András reached out to him. “Do you miss us yet? Come back as a Technical Lead,” he said, “You’ll get to do exactly what you love. No direct reports – just development and project management.”
Coming Back to Kinsta
During his time away from Kinsta, Norbert realized he sought a fast-paced reality. He loves to see things to completion and deal with a flat hierarchy.
“I realized that I’d had to leave to come back with a renewed sense of self and a clearer direction for my future. Management isn’t my cup of tea, and there’s no other company I’d rather be working at than Kinsta.”
I always appreciated how Kinsta embraces change and how fast-paced it is. It’s incredible just how much you can accomplish here within a matter of weeks!”
Norbert mentions how his colleague Előd Kúthy completed a database engine change within a handful of weeks – an endeavor that would be unthinkable at many other companies. “There’s so little red tape here, which makes it much easier to learn heaps and truly make an impact,” adds Norbert.
“Developers find it really attractive to work with fancy technology, and that definitely keeps people fulfilled here at Kinsta, but I believe that the company culture and the team play an even bigger role in ensuring they won’t want to leave.”
“I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to work on GraphQL – I’d never had any experience with it before,” Norbert says about his learnings.
“The biggest lessons I learned, though, would derive from my experience maintaining and dealing with a product impacting a major user base. Were there any issues with it, it would affect so many people. You get used to the pressure of it, though, and it’s endlessly exciting and rejuvenating.”
“It took a minute for me to get adjusted to being back as an individual contributor, as that’s a little bit of a professional plot twist,” says Norbert, “but being an individual contributor is what makes me happy. And it makes me happy here.”
Norbert is now responsible for the successful and timely launch of the product he works on and for ensuring the quality of the code. The level of responsibility has him feeling accomplished, and he can “get his hands dirty” on a daily basis.
Norbert’s path wasn’t linear. In turn, that helped him reshape his career in a way that fulfilled him. It’s a good reminder that the only definition of success that matters is our own and that experience is an invaluable tool in our pursuit of happiness.
Norbert is energized by coding and loves the level of responsibility that a strategic position entails, but, in spite of being a people person, he found that he isn’t fulfilled by people management. What about you? Have you found your path?
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