“You need to learn more than just how to code”

A four-year retrospect by former software engineering trainees of Prezi Jump

Companies aspire to hire software engineering talents with several years of field experience. Yet they often struggle to find them. The number of fresh grads, self-educated engineers and career changers are at their all-time high. Yet many companies tend to overlook them. How can these folks grow and demonstrate their skills without having the opportunity to work on real life projects and get mentorship? Who will develop the next generation of seniors? Who killed the junior developer, in the first place?

Prezi had launched Prezi Jump, a six-month paid engineering mentoring program back in October, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary. The intention was to give a chance for young talents interested in software development to work on real life challenges and learn how to collaborate with teams. And this wasn’t a charity project. Prezi offered a full-time developer position to many of the trainees after completing the program. Jump attracted culturally and professionally diverse set of talents. It gave an answer to the question many companies face: how can we increase diversity within engineering team? It created opportunities for existing engineers to practice mentoring and advance in their careers. Jumpers grew and senior engineers grew with them. Finally, once the trainees got hired, there was no need for additional onboarding. They could start contributing to their teams. It was a win-win-win set up by design.

Almost four years have passed since launching Jump. In the meantime some other companies kicked off similar initiatives to take the lead, such as SoundCloud’s DeveloperBridge and Babbel Neos, and even more coding bootcamps showed up across Europe — LeWagon, Spiced Academy, and Green Fox Academy just to name a few.

I was leading Babbel Neos this year. As the training program was coming to an end, I wondered what would indicate if a mentorship program has a long-lasting, positive effect on the trainees. I therefore decided to reach out to ex-jumpers and ask them to reflect on what influence their traineeship at Prezi Jump had on their engineering career.


Judit Ördög-Andrási

“It was the first place where I started to learn that making mistakes is fine.”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

I work as a team lead at Emarsys, a marketing automation company with the mission of delivering truly personal customer interactions instead of irrelevant newsletters and coupon codes. My team is working on a brand new flagship product of the company that has just entered into piloting phase and aims to make the life of marketers easier by providing them ready-made marketing strategies that can easily be applied to real world use cases. A good example is a marketing strategy that aims to convert the first-time buyers of a webshop into returning customers.

We practise eXtreme Programming (XP) at my workplace. XP is an agile methodology that aims to produce high-quality software while maintaining responsiveness and speed of delivery for an ever changing environment of customer requirements.

One of my main responsibilities is to make sure we follow our XP practices in my team. This includes daily standups, an up-to-date user story backlog, pair programming, following test-driven development, etc. This doesn’t mean that I’m doing all this work, we share responsibilities with my teammates. I code with them, but also work very closely together with our Product Manager to make sure we meet deadlines and deliver features to our users.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have?

After graduating from Jump, I joined one of the infrastructure teams at Prezi. I stayed at the company for 2 years altogether which I’ll always be grateful for. I picked invaluable knowledge about infrastructure and software development, but I also learned a lot about soft skills and just generally how to be a more open person.

I left Prezi because I was aching to try something I’d had in mind for a long time: eXtreme Programming (XP). I knew that Emarsys was following this methodology, so I took a leap and fortunately got hired. This happened a little over 2 years ago. XP as methodology fit me like a glove, I’ve been striving in this environment and started to aspire for a team lead position very early on. I got promoted a little over a year after I started working here. Delivering and releasing this new product with my team that I mentioned previously has been the pinnacle of my career thus far, this is the thing I’m most proud of.

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

I’d love to get better at being a leader and managing people. Growing up I was always told that I was not a people person, I was good at science and I should stick to it. Now I know that these are not either-or areas of interest at all, and I’ve got to say that I love the people management aspect of my job. I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn about motivation, leading and generally creating an environment where my teammates can grow and achieve their professional goals while staying motivated to deliver features to our end users.

How did Prezi Jump influence your career? What skills have you learnt during Prezi Jump?

The biggest influence Jump had on my career is the fact that I got to work at Prezi. It was a completely different environment from all the places I had previously worked at. I grew a lot in terms of hard skills as well, but for me the most important part of my time at Prezi was the way it helped me get better with soft skills. I do not exaggerate if I say that Prezi shook me to the core and changed me into the person I am today. It was the first place where I started to learn that making mistakes is fine. Failing at something is fine. Being a beginner at something is fine. It made me a more accepting person towards others and forgiving towards myself. I’ll always be grateful for the lessons I learned here.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

I’d definitely recommend myself to be less of a perfectionist. Make more mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to fail. Perfectionism holds you back from experiments and finding your true passion. It takes a lot of energy out of you completely unnecessarily and gives you a lot of stress in return. Perfection is unachievable anyway. Learn to laugh at yourself and don’t be afraid to show that you’re vulnerable.


Matyas Fodor

“I learned the importance of giving feedback and I had a chance to improve my mentoring skills.”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

Right now I am back to the university, pursuing a degree in AI. In my last, remote position I was working on DD-DeCaF, a European research project through one of the project collaborator SMEs, Genialis. I was responsible for the frontend web application which was recently rewritten from scratch into a newer framework. I had to report to my team and my company as well and I was mentoring two colleagues. Most use cases are non-standard but I think our deviated some more than an average one, since our HTTP request payloads regularly reached 1.1Mb in size, so we had to come up with smart solutions while ensuring consistency. The problems I tackled there also involved dealing with graphs (as in edges and vertices) on an interactive zoomable map (hello Prezi!). Besides this full-time position, I also started to work with Mindtech Apps, my friend’s prosperous mobile agency, as a consultant. I helped them to switch from native applications to react-native. I was the “last resort” guy there if they were out of ideas what’s causing a bug or how to implement something nicely I was there to help.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have?

After Jump, I was working for Prezi for over a year. Eventually, I felt I could grow faster in a different environment with more responsibility. I was restless at the time and my initial very steep learning speed has plateaued. I decided to join Johan Sports as the second developer. I was the owner of the frontend and later on the owner of the data processing pipeline. That was the first time I had to be able to talk about the feasibility of features with non-technical people, there was no safety net anymore.

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

Perhaps it’s the right place to explain why I decided to return to the university. Development is nice, it’s difficult, and you don’t really need a college education to be a stellar web dev. But I always felt that I would like to learn some more math (I know I’m crazy) and work with machine learning. And that’s probably something that deserves my full attention. Another reason was that I was working remotely for 2 years, which has tremendous benefits, but I started to feel that it was enough. Also, I had a bit of a problem managing my time as a student, stay focused on lectures and so on. I really wanted to prove myself that the attitude I gained 4 years working helps me to overcome these (I’m a sucker for turning my weaknesses into strengths). My thesis topic is improving the wake up mechanism for automatic speech recognition (Alexa, Siri, etc). After graduation, I would like to work in the US for a few years, perhaps I’ll do a PhD. My interests lie in healthcare, fitness and green technology. If I’d return Hungary, I’d probably freelance or start something new.

How did Prezi Jump influence your career? What skills have you learnt during Prezi Jump?

When I joined Jump, I was a capable coder, but with no discipline at all. I never really worked in a team before, since education in Hungary does not really encourage it. Seems like a small thing but I didn’t really like to admit I was wrong. I had to learn what clean code is, I familiarized myself with the idea of functional programming for which I cannot be thankful enough. I was laughing the first time I heard unit testing. I had a really bad first encounter with git, so that was another thing I had to learn there. As for interpersonal skills, I learned the importance of giving feedback, and I had a chance to improve my mentoring skills. I think Prezi and Prezi Jump made me a developer who’s not neglecting the social aspects of work, which hold back many skilled developers from further growth.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

I think I’d recommend not to panic, be more calm and mindful, try to become a better listener.


Balázs Danó

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

I am an engineer in a cross-functional team (product manager, designer, QA specialist, engineering manager and 4 engineers) at Prezi. Our projects usually involve both backend and frontend development, mostly related to the Prezi Next editor and a separate viewer applications. Nowadays, I also often take project tech lead role: I help with technical questions during the design phase, then create a technical plan and break it down to daily tasks.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have?

At Prezi, I have learned a lot about software engineering, e.g. backend and frontend architecture patterns, different ways of testing, continuous integration, monitoring and scaling services, and handling outages. I also learned about aspects of product development, e.g. validating ideas in UX interviews and A/B testing, building projects in iterations, releasing gradually, releasing on multiple platforms (browser, desktop, mobile).

Some major steps and adventures in my Prezi “career”:

  • Working as our engineering point of contact with a contractor company we hired to develop a new service component. It grew to a several months project.
  • Shutting down the above-mentioned outsourced development, after we reviewed our product plans, and found a simpler and cheaper solution for the needed service component.
  • The first big user impact of our team: Prezi viewer for mobile browsers. Soon after we released it, our traffic metrics showed thousands of page visits per minute.
  • Project tech lead of creating a new backend service, it is now an important component of Prezi creation
  • Mentoring new engineers in our team
  • Prezi fellowship in San Francisco
  • Taking the tech lead role in our team
  • Handling prio1-critical outages. One time, I got the alert call while swimming. I worked on it sitting with my laptop next to the swimming pool, for two hours.

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

I have shorter-term goals, one about helping product discovery and design, the other about making our engineering team more productive by fixing time-waster issues.

How did Prezi Jump influence your career? What skills have you learnt during Prezi Jump?

The technical aspects I learned most about: continuous integration, monitoring services and alerting on outages, test-driven development, functional programming with Elm.

JUMP also gave us experience working with other engineers and product people, pair programming, delivering projects in small iterations, and setting and working on personal goals with our mentors.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

Probably the same thing, to join JUMP, I’m happy with the last 4 years at Prezi.


Liana Lo

“Sometimes I wish I had chosen to study Hungarian instead of Haskell during some of my free time in Budapest.”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

After one and a half years in Budapest, I returned home to San Francisco and joined Square at their HQ. I was on the Cash team for a little over one year, then in June 2017, I joined the Square Installments consumer loans product team as the eighth engineer. (We recently GAed Square Installments on October 4th!) I primarily work with services written in Ruby and Java and do whatever it takes to deliver a pleasant customer experience, whether that’s working on our backend payments and accounting system, automating servicing emails, building an authentication flow for our external customer dashboard, or adding more functionality to our internal admin dashboard. On a given day, I perform some combination of the following,

  • reviewing/writing engineering design documents.
  • troubleshooting impromptu issues surfaced by on call alerts, customer support, or any other teammates.
  • meeting with our product manager, designer, and/or other engineers to discuss future releases.
  • heads-down coding.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have?

After Jump, I stayed with Prezi in Budapest for an additional year working on on sign-up flows, external admin UI, and payments for Prezi Business. With the company being ~100 engineers, ~200 employees total, work of every team was more visible and accessible. On a more human level, I could recognize every face at the company and felt that I could sit down with anyone at lunch, whether that person worked in design, customer success, the office team, or even if that someone was currently a stranger who had newly joined the company. I haven’t found that same feeling of closeness I experienced at the Prezi Budapest office, which harbored cross-team collaboration like no other.

Working in a presentation company, I felt encouraged to develop my public speaking skills as a way to share my learnings as an engineer and connect with others in the tech community. I still feel massive anxiety leading up to each time I walk onto a stage, whether it’s at a local meetup or an international conference. Every time I’m preparing a talk, I have thoughts of “Why did I do this to myself”, but also every time after I walk off stage and meet with members of the audience, I reliably feel that everything was worthwhile, seeing that someone found value in what I had to share.

As I neared my one-year anniversary in Budapest, I started to wonder when and how I could move back to San Francisco. Honestly, I was still happy in Budapest, but along the line of acknowledging my finite youth, I also wanted to work and immerse myself in San Francisco’s tech community while I’m still relatively young. When and where I will “settle down” is still very much in the air, and I sought to gather more data before making that decision. I didn’t have the opportunity to transfer to Prezi’s SF engineering team, so I joined my current company, Square.

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

I plan to continue delivering quality products backed by maintainable code, continue mentoring people both inside and outside where I currently work, and maybe one day get back into speaking at tech conferences and meetups.

How did Prezi Jump influence your career? What skills have you learnt during Prezi Jump?

I am grateful for the opportunity and encouragement to work in a different technical area every few months, from product, infrastructure, internal tools, etc. Joining an environment where I could have a holistic overview of an engineering organization was one of my goals for my first software engineering job, and I found that at Prezi.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

Sometimes I wish I had chosen to study Hungarian instead of Haskell during some of my free time in Budapest. Otherwise, I am pretty satisfied with my decisions during that period of my life. I had a goal to live and work abroad, and I’m happy I was able to achieve that at Prezi while still pursuing my career in software engineering. My original plan when I first arrived in Hungary was that I would be satisfied with a six month stay, allowing myself to be “irresponsible” by choosing a position that didn’t make the most sense if I were optimizing only for career development. That six months turned into one and a half years, and really, it could have extended longer if I didn’t feel that I had to become “responsible” at some point and make my way back to the tech hub that is the San Francisco Bay Area.

Perhaps some advice I would give to myself four years ago would be to emphasize more that it’s okay to redistribute some attention towards my career if it means gaining other life experiences, whether that is immersing myself in another culture or pursuing other skills such as music, dance, drawing, or language.


Khaled Badawy

“To be successful software engineer, you need to learn more than just how to code”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

Currently I work as Software Development Engineer at Amazon. I am part of the Global Talent Management team. We are on mission to revamp Amazon’s internal HR tools. Helping Amazon manage more than half a million people across the world (pssst… We are hiring). The scope of my role has grown tremendously since I joined Amazon 2.5 years ago. I started as a software engineer in a team of 4 engineers but in the following year the team has grown to be 30+ engineers which allowed me to exercise one of our Leadership Principles which is Hire and Develop the Best, so I helped a lot in onboarding new people, making sure new engineers understand our technical stack and mentor some of them until they get up to speed. My usual day consists of standups, code reviews, building stuff, meetings (some of them are system design meetings which I really love!) and pairing with other teammates.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have? How did Prezi Jump influence your career?

Joining Prezi as an intern through Jump program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Back then, it was a scary decision to leave my home country, my stable job and move to a startup in a country I don’t even speak its language! However, I always believed in “Step outside your comfort zone because that’s the only way you’re going to grow” so I didn’t think a lot when I received the offer and since then it’s been a roller-coaster experience! In Jump I met amazing engineers from all over the world which had the same desire to learn and grow. Together we’ve built amazing stuff! Learnt a ton and had lots of fun too!

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

I still believe that there are lots of things to learn on the technical side so I will probably stick to the engineering side for the time being.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

If I can go back in time and give myself a piece of advice it would be “To be successful software engineer, you need to learn more than just how to code” as the more I grow, the more I believe software development is very complicated process and coding is probably the easiest part of it. Engineers need to learn about the business side of the products they are building, they need to communicate effectively with each other, they need to embody the customers they are building products for, etc. There is a whole different set of skills engineers need to learn beside coding to be able to build a successful product.


Mykola Kokalko

“if you are surrounded by smart and awesome people you grow with them together”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

I am the CTO of a Python agency called UVIK. Because we are small company, right now I have multiple responsibilities. I work on public safety project (can’t give too many details, but in general it is a mobile team collaboration platform that delivers mission-critical command and control and incident management capabilities) as a backend developer. Also I am managing other developers, which mostly consists of daily stand-ups and regular 1on1’s. Also I am one of the guys who conducts interviews with new developers. My day usually is pretty straightforward. I come at work and start working on backend, at 1PM I do stand-up meeting to understand what is the status of each developer to see if there are any obstacles in their work. Afterwards it is usually lunch and then back to working on backend. Usually, I also have 1–2 sync-ups with our clients. Managing part is not taking too much of my time, because we are small right now, but when we grow more, I’ll most probably have to drop my developer’s hat and do managing full time. There are lots of days which are not that straightforward. There are plenty of times when me and two co-owners come together to figure out next steps for growing our company (hiring more people, organizing events, sponsoring events, office renting, improving processes, etc.)

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have? How did Prezi Jump influence your career?

After Jump graduation I worked for 1+ year at Prezi in a Security team. Thanks to awesome environment and high level of knowledge of everyone around in Prezi I was able to grow very fast in terms of both soft and hard skills. I got really motivated by all the things in Prezi and I decided to pursue my dream of creating my own company. So I left Prezi and came back to Ukraine to start UVIK. It took quite some time to start it. I really wanted to have a very strong team of awesome developers because I think that if you are surrounded by smart and awesome people you grow with them together (one of the things which I tested on myself in Prezi). But it turned out that it is actually a challenge to get such people into a new company. The same thing is with clients, they usually want to work with agency with tons of experience behind their shoulders. While me and my partners started working on these problems I started to run out of money, so I was working as a freelancer in parallel to be able to keep my dream alive :D. After a year of struggling we were able to match with our first client and we started expanding our developers team. Right now we have bunch of awesome software engineers working together and we don’t plan on stopping our growth.

Prezi Jump changed my career from Java developer to a Security Software Engineer. There are plenty of skills I’ve learned during Jump, but these are the most important:

  • I was introduced to super smart people who are passionate about technology
  • I improved my English a lot, due to working in multinational team environment
  • I improved my communication skills
  • And the last, but probably the most important for me personally is that I’ve met plenty of very good friends, who are very supportive and influenced on me very positively

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

In ±5 years my dream is to be the best Python agency in Western Ukraine.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

If you are stuck, zoom out, try to get bigger picture of what is going on. It is a simple concept, but takes tons of time to master.


Ferenc Murcsik

“We were constantly pushed to step out of our comfort zone and try out ourselves in new areas”

Tell me about your current role now. What are your responsibilities? What do you work on? How does a day of yours look like?

I am working in evosoft on a Cloud programming related project where I am a scrum master with a technical aspect. That means that I am leading the team but also take part in a development. This role has an interesting mix including mentoring team member and actually contributing to the project that we all working on.

How did your career evolve since your graduation from Jump? What adventures did you have? How did Prezi Jump influence your career?

I took part in development, QA and leadership roles, all that are special in their way. Being an integration engineer was especially challenging as there was the task to find out if something was not going according to the plans while still communicating it without creating a conflict. It was interesting to see that developing and integrating code are such a different thing: when something is created the goal is to see whether it can work but when it is integrated it has to be seen in a larger scale and influences from different components have to be detected.

And of course, leading a team is a very different cake :)

The mindset that I acquired was the most important. Sure, the using out-of-oven technologies is good but for me the most important was that we were constantly pushed to step out of our comfort zone and try out ourselves in new areas. It was nice that we got involved to actual issues from day one, the projects I worked on had technical challenges, the team culture was fascinating and I met wonderful people from all around globe. This was an experience that left a mark on me for sure.

What’s your professional goal for the next few years?

I find it very interesting to improve the people whom I work with, I definitely will work more on that. Also, I would like to get more into the requirement engineering.

In retrospect, what would you recommend to yourself 4 years ago?

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! Try out new stuff and if something goes wrong, it’s cool, if you learn from it. And of course, have fun, enjoy the moments. :)


This post was co-authored by Gabor Torok, program lead of Babbel Neos and Csaba Okrona, engineering manager at Contentful. They both worked at Prezi at the time of the Prezi Jump program.