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Expert Interview with EPAM’s Delivery Head, Robert Fejes

Expert Interview with EPAM’s Delivery Head, Robert Fejes

Head of EPAM Hungary Delivery, Robert Fejes, has worked in IT for 22 years, 13 of which at EPAM. Robert began his career as a developer and later worked as a team lead, scrum master, project manager and delivery manager (DM). While it appears to be a clear and direct career trajectory, Robert says his career was achieved in small steps. In this interview, we asked him what is unique about the Delivery Manager (DM) role at EPAM. How do recent trends, like Generative AI, influence this role? What to expect when working as a DM at EPAM and more.

How would you describe the role of a DM in our unique EPAM context? 

When the DM role was created at EPAM approximately a decade ago, we had a person in our mind who could understand the client, grasp their pressing issues, help develop a solution for this problem and own the full delivery. For this, a DM must be a solution architect — understand a technical solution and implement a proposal. A DM must also be an account manager, as our proposed solution must be visible financially (for EPAM and the customer). And they must be a people manager; as they work with people, they must be able to motivate them and unlock their intrinsic motivation. And finally, they must be a project manager who knows how to make an idea a reality and how to execute a project. 

How do recent trends, like Generative AI, influence the DM role? 

First, I am not an expert in the field of AI. Hence, it is a game changer. For me, this is something similar to the introduction of digital photos. Before the time when you were able to create (and store) almost infinite pictures on your phone, you thought twice while taking a shot. Today, photos have become a commodity. The same is happening with software code now. So, we must learn new things, pioneer them and find the way to benefit the most, as they will change our lives. 

There are two significant areas on which we must focus. One is how can we make our work more efficient? How can we automate repetitive tasks or simple tasks? How can we free up more of our time for creation? Another area is how our clients can benefit from it. So, both areas must be investigated and understood to enable us to be more efficient and faster in helping our clients to improve their business. These tie back to the core of the DM role: to own the problem and find better ways to solve it. 

Do you think a DM is needed on each project?

I cannot answer this question because we must understand the context first. At EPAM, the role and the title are two different things. The title helps others to understand your primary skill set. For example, a project manager (PM) is strong in project execution, while a DM’s best capabilities are around solution creation. The role is the function an individual performs on the project. So, someone with a PM title can play a DM role on the project. 

On the other hand, I prefer to see it practically. There are different challenges during different phases of the project. Sometimes I must focus on the execution and make it more efficient; sometimes, I tumble on an opportunity while doing daily work on the project and play a DM role. All managers must have a DM mindset, but a given role needs PM skills. So, in that sense, I cannot say that every project must have a delivery manager or a project manager. Every project must have a leader who can play different roles when the circumstances need it.

As DM, do you need to be available 24/7? 

I heard an expression at one of the conferences that being busy is a bug, not a feature. So, being a DM, you must set up your work in a way that you have time for immediate requests as a manager, for your primary responsibility — to enable your people and help your people to deliver, and, of course, one of the most challenging tasks is to deal with uncertainty. Uncertainty is the manager’s bread and butter. So, a DM should always focus on what they can do instead of what others should do, on the things in their circle of influence instead of complaining or lamenting about facts outside their power.

What’s your favorite myth about the DM role? 

Sometimes, a DM is viewed as a higher rank than a project manager, a scrum master, a developer, etc. And it’s not true. Everybody has experience, knowledge, and skill set, which should be used correctly. There is no qualitative comparison that this role is better than any other role; each role has its purpose within the company.

Our North Star, or core value not for DM but for all EPAMers, is a humble, hungry, smart attitude. Humble in that we must understand that we are working in a very complex environment nowadays. Our challenges are so complex that we must collaborate and admit: “I don’t know everything in the given context, and I need someone’s help.”  On the other side, we are working with clients, and we must be empathic with them. We must understand their problem, know how to solve it, and be able to listen. It would be best if you had this humbleness to step back and forget that you have solved this problem multiple times and know the perfect solution. You must understand why it’s not fit for the current client and how it should be changed in the given context. 

Hungry in the sense that we are driven to make the world just a little bit better every day. All EPAMers have such an attitude: “I want to create something. I want to improve things.” And the last one, smart, the proper expression, is people smart. We work in teams in a diverse environment and must understand each other to work together. We must be mature enough to accept that someone sees the world differently; we must be people smart.

Based on those three pillars, we can create great things. This is what’s happening within EPAM, and this is where delivery managers are helping to enable teams to achieve great results.

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