Lily Ashikova - SharePoint Team Lead

What do you do at Melon?

I’ve been a part of Melon for 7-8 years now. I started as a .NET developer for around 3 years, after which I switched to SharePoint and stayed there. I am now in charge of the SharePoint development team.

Did you work anywhere else before Melon?

Yes, I was working as a .NET developer in another software company where I spent around 2 years. This was my first job as a programmer, as well as the first job ever.

How did you become the team leader?

I can say that I’ve had a finger in creating the team, because while I was working as a .NET developer I was nagging Tony (Melon’s CTO) about introducing SharePoint at Melon quite a bit. We were waiting for the right opportunity to come along. When a client came to us with a project without specific requirements in terms of technology, we suggested SharePoint. They were OK with the idea, it was a Bulgarian company. We completed the project successfully, although perhaps not in the best possible way. Of course, now we are much more experienced.

What type of clients do you work for at Melon?

We work with clients who are different and very much alike at the same time. Different because they come from various places - Bulgaria and abroad, mostly US and Europe. And similar, because they are more or less equally eager to see what they are going to receive at the end of the project. All of them have serious expectations. The size of the projects also varies from small to big, although in SharePoint we deal mostly with large assignments.

What would you consider a large project?

One that we either spend more than 6 months developing or we work with a team of five developers or more.

What would you say is your favorite project you’ve worked on?

Well, my favorite project is the one that we are working on at the moment, because we’re using the latest version of SharePoint which is SharePoint 2013 and also because it’s quite challenging. The deadline is tight, the scope is sizeable. It’s the largest project we’ve taken on up to this point. It involves 9 people in the team and took us around 3 months to implement. Which really is quite demanding, working on a tight deadline with a large team.

What would you say is the most useful or unexpected thing you learned working here?

Probably the most useful are the soft skills that I’ve developed. Being patient, explaining things. Working with clients as well, because most of the time they aren’t technical people who can understand all the specifics. You need to translate the technological context so that it doesn’t seem neither too scare, nor too easy. (Laughs) If you make it sound too easy, you’ll suffer for it later on. The most unexpected skills I’ve learned are probably related to foosball, which is also something I’ve acquired in the past few years… Also, I’ve developed a love for board games which I’ve never considered playing before, which also involves talking to the people around you in a new way. Before that socializing involved mostly eating and drinking. Now we use tables for other things too. (Laughs)

What would you say is the unique quality required to become a team leader?

Being positive and patient, most likely. If you really think that something can happen and work for it, it actually will happen in the end. No matter what that something is.

Do you think this is a skill one can learn?

Being positive? I think rather not. More likely you either are or aren’t positive. You can’t force this onto yourself.

What would you say are the most positive and negative sides of working at Melon?

The positive thing is that if you have an idea and would like to do something useful for yourself or the company, people will listen to you and allow and help you do it. Even if it’s just your first year here. This is what made a very strong impression on me in my first year. I had some suggestions, which – although small – when I saw materilize really surprised me in a very pleasant way. Another good thing about Melon which I’m sure I’m not the only one to mention is the team spirit. There are lots of diverse people and you can find a group of people interested in just about anything – sports, hiking, music, even cooking. All sorts of people. The negative thing is the color of the logo. (Laughs) Just kidding. The things I miss the most are a fitness room and a bathroom. But I guess we can survive without them for the time being.

If you had to describe Melon to a friend very briefly, what would you say?

I would say that we are now a relatively large company with various teams involving different technologies. If you wish to work, no one will stand in your way and tell you how to do it. They will let you do it as you yourself think is the best way. You get a lot of freedom, which is important.

What achievement are you most proud of?

The fact that I’ve managed to build a team of so many people who are so nice and love doing what they’re doing. The specific thing about our team is that we are quite spread out. We have four people in Veliko Tarnovo, a person in the UK and, since recently, a team member from Macedonia, most of us are in Sofia though. Having people in four different places is very distinctive attribute of our team. However, we are now so used to working together that it really doesn’t bother us any more.

Personally, what has been the favorite journey that you’ve taken on?

The most adventurous journey I’ve experienced was a two-week trip to Spain. We spent the first week visiting the south of Spain by sleeping in a different town every night. After that we spent the second week in Barcelona. We traveled and experienced quite a bit. We visited a lot of vineyards, as well as a Formula One race. It wasn’t planned, but I am a big fan of the sport. However, I was really looking forward to going to a football match, but we couldn’t get tickets. It probably would have been a grand feeling, because the stadium looked huge. Another travel destination which I visit regularly, almost every summer, is a Turkish island. I will not mention the name, because I don’t want to many tourists to flock over and create a crowd. (Laughs) This is where I enjoy windsurfing the most.

What’s your favorite past-time?

Oh, I have a lot. I like skiing, windsurfing and cooking. I also love to dance!