Interview with Kirk Syvret, Product Owner

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

The POSSE product has undergone tons of changes, updates and overhauls over the years, to the point where there’s very little code that’s the same now as when it was first created almost 25 years ago.

However, perhaps the biggest update to POSSE came between 2011 and 2013, with the Winchester project. This involved migrating POSSE from a client-server environment into a web-based environment, while still trying to keep all of its functionality intact, making sure it was backwards compatible so that current clients could upgrade to Winchester without losing any of their data or processes.

It was a huge undertaking, but the Computronix staff responsible for the project took it on and achieved it, and ultimately renewed the POSSE platform. “Most of our growth and success since then is tied to that renewal,” explained Kirk Syvret, the POSSE Product Manager.  One of Kirk’s first projects as a Product Manager was this very influential Winchester project.

Kirk leads the POSSE product team and is responsible for shaping the future direction of the product. As he says, “in order for a product to survive, it needs a long-term vision of how it will be maintained, how it will fit all of our clients, and how it will stay current in the marketplace.” This can mean adding new features, updating old ones, or in what Kirk says is the toughest part of the job, removing features that are no longer relevant.

In contrast, one of the most exciting parts of the job is something called “solution discovery.”  Solution Discovery is a collaborative process where members of the team “look at a problem and review it by looking from different angles, trying to find the simplest possible solution.” This is a very open process, where “anyone can question anything, anyone can bring an idea forward, anyone can contribute.”

And when that solution is finally found, it’s an amazing moment. There is absolutely “a euphoria when it falls into place, realizing that it’s going to serve our clients well.”

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

Interestingly, although Herman Leusink is the founder of Computronix and led the company its first 34 years, he has been passed up as the longest continually employed member of Computronix by Jim den Otter. Jim started with Computronix in the early 80’s, and has been a fixture at the company ever since. One could hardly publish a series of interviews with Computronix employees and neglect to talk to Jim, so we sat down with him to hear his story, and the story of the company along with it.

In the early days of Computronix, Herman taught programming classes at the office on evenings and weekends, providing a rare opportunity for young people to gain experience with computers prior to attending university. Jim was recruited out of this crop of young programmers. As Jim describes it, “it’s almost like Computronix chose me…it was just a very natural fit.” For many years, he stayed in his initial role, doing contract work on-site for clients. As the company steadily grew, there was a need for more leadership, so Jim’s role changed as well. He is now the Chief Technical Officer, leading research and development, guiding the company’s technical direction and product direction, as well as a wide range of other responsibilities. And he still gets the chance to “write a little snippet of code every now and then that makes its way into our products.”

Perhaps Jim’s most significant, impactful achievement at Computronix was the creation of the POSSE software, our award-winning flagship product, which, “20 years later, is still innovative and being pushed forward all the time.” He was the leader of the team that developed the software, and even did some of the programming himself. While that in itself is more than worthy to be a source of pride, he says that “I’m actually more proud of the impact that the software has had on our customers.” Because of POSSE, clients are doing better business, their staff are better equipped, and thousands of people have been positively impacted.

The impetus for POSSE was, essentially, just a really difficult problem that needed solving. However, what Jim and his team did at that time, and what Computronix continues to do, is “solve classes of problems rather than individual problems.” This means that, instead of building unique solutions for every single issue encountered, we create a solution that can be used for similar issues that come up in the future – solving problems before they even come up!

When talking to Jim about Computronix, there are two subjects that come up over and over again. The first is problem-solving, and it’s obvious that he relishes, and even seeks out, interesting and difficult problems to solve. The second is people. He clearly believes it when he says that “every person is intrinsically valuable.” Each person’s health – physical, mental and spiritual – is important to Jim and the rest of the executive team. He takes issue with the classic idea of “work-life balance,” because sometimes work just isn’t as important as other things that are going on in life, such as in cases of medical issues or family emergencies. Instead, the term that Jim (and others at Computronix) uses is “life balance – because work is just a part of life.”