If you are a fan of dystopian sci-fi cinema, you will recall that Neo did not hesitate when opting for Morpheus’s red pill and choosing to leave The Matrix.
Marta Jasinska, comic book geek and chief technology officer at Bloom & Wild – Europe’s most successful online flower business – has no regrets over a career-defining choice of her own.
“I call it my blue pill, red pill moment: I had the choice of a more senior engineering role or going into management,” Jasinska told BusinessCloud at the Digital Transformation Expo (DTX) in Manchester. “I chose management because I really enjoy working with teams and I can have much more impact in a business with a team of people rather than on my own.”
Poland-born Jasinska spent the first half of her 15-year career as a software engineer working in hands-on development for eCommerce and gaming companies.
“What I miss from the coding years is the feedback loop which, in retrospect, is quite short: I can start the day with a problem to solve, write some code, run a test, send the code for review, you have a back-and-forth… and at the end of the day, it’s like ‘wow, a job well done’,” she says.
“In management, the feedback loop is much longer – and the more senior you are, the longer it is.”
After serving as director of web development at Photobox, she was appointed CTO at online print and design company MOO before joining London-based Bloom & Wild in 2020.
“When I was a manager, I might plan out a two-week sprint, I’d have priorities set and two weeks later – sometimes a bit more – I would see those priorities being delivered,” she expands.
“These days, the strategy pipeline is six months and beyond, which is mostly about where we are going as a team, what our platform’s going to look like… sometimes it takes years for me to look back and be like, ‘oh, yeah, look at us…. we achieved that milestone which we talked about years ago’.
“You need to develop ways of tracking progress which keeps you and other people around you reassured that you are still on the right path – and find a way to celebrate other things as well, such as working with other people.
“I really enjoy being exposed to working with people in domains where you don’t have hands-on experience: test engineers, scrum masters… people who are not just about coding.
“Management is not for everybody: some people are really attached to coding, being hands-on and learning new technologies. I totally respect that: we need people who have vast and long experience with different technologies who can maintain that over time.”
She credits CEO Aron Gelbard’s focus on data on attracting her to Bloom & Wild, which now operates in eight countries.
“Internal operations technology doesn’t always get the love it needs, especially from CEO founders, who are usually all about customer-facing features and products,” she explains. “[Aron] talked a lot about data: what data do we collect, and how do we use it to make better business decisions? What does the future look like if we use machine learning models?
“I felt like there was enough technical complexity and challenges for me to get my teeth into.”
The company already had an “excellent” 35-strong tech team in place, she adds. “What they needed was for somebody to sit down with the executive team and board and have time to think about the future and then translate that back into the platform strategy.”
Bloom & Wild made two acquisitions last year – French firm Bergamotte and Amsterdam-based Bloomon – and Jasinska is in the process of integrating them to combine the strengths of the businesses.
“Since the acquisitions, we are investing more in in-house manufacturing alongside third-party partners, operating our own warehouses for fulfilment for Bergamotte and some of the Bloom & Wild orders as well,” she says.
“That comes with a platform that’s needed for perishable goods management, making sure that we are focusing on buying the right components, things are flowing smoothly through the warehouse and at the end the right product is dispatched to the right customer with the right label.
“Flowers are very delicate. The hardware solutions are very interesting – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a conveyor belt made for flowers!
“My goal is to have a multi-brand platform that allows for localised and personalised experiences without compromising the scale and efficiency of our operations. Bringing those two things together is the vision.”
Jasinska came to the UK in 2008 upon completing her education in Gdansk. Despite discovering computing at school through gaming and friends – and an aptitude for maths – she had never coded before embarking on her software design and architecture degree.
“I didn’t know anything! It was very scary. I barely passed my first six months of university,” she recalls.
“It was really tough and tiring. My mum told me I didn’t have to continue, I could go back and do something artsy or become a teacher… I was like, ‘mum, I’m really enjoying it. I know it looks horrible, but I really don’t want to stop!’
“I spent five years there with my master’s degree. I was super lucky because I got my first job when I was at uni, in mobile gaming.”
The amateur illustrator adds: “I’ve been making my own comic books since I was three years old. I actually made my mum pay for them!”