Learn how this manager went from thesis student to technical leader in 10 short years – and the advice he has for others interested in growing a career at Intel Poland.
Meet Szymon Stepnicki. As Software Engineering Manager, he leads a team customizing data center solutions in the Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group in Gdansk. We recently spoke with him about his career journey. Below, find out what drew him to Intel, what excites him the most about coming to work every day, and why students just entering the workforce should have stronger confidence in themselves.
You have been at Intel over 10 years, building your career gradually. What made you want to join Intel?
While I was working on my thesis and preparing for graduation, I realized that my master-thesis consultant was working for Intel. Thanks to him, I found out that Intel was hiring and he advised me to apply. So, I applied for a software validation position.
To be frank, I studied telecommunication, not information technology, and I initially saw myself in the telecom field not engineering. However, I was bitten by the Intel bug. When I received an offer from Intel, I accepted.
What interested you the most?
At the beginning, I had no idea that Intel was developing such technology. I found out that Intel is immersed in topics related to storage, which is not only a forward-looking but a very interesting field. It is very specialized knowledge, so everyone who is interested in it, but doesn’t know much about it, shouldn’t be worried. You can gain this knowledge while working at Intel.
While knowledge can be gained on the job here, what skills should a future Intel employee have?
The most important thing is to be a team player. At Intel we collaborate all the time, with many colleagues from different parts of the world, on very complex topics that require constant consultation. Another important factor is knowledge related to embedded systems functioning. Regarding programming skills, if someone wants to work as a developer, we require knowledge of C language – and for validators, Python.
Although you started your career at Intel right after graduation, you are now a manager. Please describe your career path at Intel.
I started as a software validation engineer. After a time, I wanted to learn the other side of the coin. I approached my manager, who helped me prepare for a new role because Intel allows us to follow our interests. I took a software engineer role, where I developed my skills in software development. After this experience, new possibilities started to pop up as new teams were created and existing teams grew rapidly. Thanks to the knowledge I had gained as a software developer, I was able to switch from software to firmware development. It was the next level in my career – back then, firmware development was a totally new field. I was fascinated by firmware development and it helped me grow as a technical leader in my team. I’m now both a technical leader and manager, focused on team organization, engineer technical mentorship, and training.
Tell us more about your team. What technologies do your team develop?
We customize firmware, SSD drives to our client’s requirements. Our solutions are purely dedicated for data centers, so for servers.
What excites you the most about your daily tasks?
We solve our client’s real problems and challenges. It is great that our tasks are not theoretical, but tangible. Every day is different and exciting, because we don’t know what our client’s future requirement is until the very end. It’s never boring.
What makes your team enthusiastic?
My teammates are involved in many volunteer efforts coordinated by Intel. We prepared Christmas presents for children that require special care. We’ve also helped animal shelters by collecting blankets and food and donating to those most in need. We like to help a lot; it gives us fulfillment and joy.
Do you anticipate your team growing?
My current team was established November of last year and consist of 25 members. We are going to grow, and we will be looking for new engineers to join us, especially specialists with firmware-related knowledge. Intel is transitioning from a PC-centric company to a data- centric where storage is an integral part, and this is my team’s focus.
What’s also worth mentioning is that society needs a place to store more information – data centers grow at a fast pace. We see it especially now, when so many of us have to work from home due to Covid-19. Servers need to meet the challenge and answer customers’ needs. Storage field is extremally forward-thinking, as demand grows constantly.
What is your advice for people considering starting a career at Intel?
For anyone who is a student or has just graduated, first and foremost, don’t be scared. Don’t think that you are not good enough – the truth is that everyone has something they don’t know. Young people are too critical of their skills, especially when it turns out that they are fabulous engineers. Everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing is that you are willing to learn. It is obvious that a person immediately after studies won’t have commercial experience, so the most important thing is that they are able to discuss and present projects from their academy.
Regarding experienced engineers, because I’m present in recruitment interviews, I can tell you that it’s very important that you are able to describe real problems, challenges, and experiences that you’ve had. That you perfectly know some algorithms is not the most important thing. I don’t expect that someone will be able to perfectly write some code or algorithm during an interview. I’m more focused on the person’s way of thinking and how they solve complex problems.
Interested in launching your career or growing your expertise? Check out opportunities at Intel Poland.