5 questions for… Heiko Braeske, Senior Software Architect at valantic supply Chain Excellence
Heiko Braeske, Senior Software Architect at valantic Supply Chain Excellence, celebrates his 20-year anniversary. What does the former doctoral student of process engineering experience think about 20 turbulent years, what were his personal highlights, and what tips does he have for today’s talented young programmers?
Heiko, congratulations on your 20-year anniversary. Looking back over the last few years, what motivates you every day?
Thank you for your congratulations. Yes, on the one hand, there is the mixture of consistency and change, which has provided variable, exciting challenges with which I have been able to develop further. On the other hand, mutual trust has given me freedom and personal responsibility and strengthened my staying power even in difficult times.
So, to summarize in hindsight: My colleagues, their support, their inspiration, their conviviality, and their recognition were the daily motivation for me to work for this company – whether it was called Wassermann, swisslog or valantic. The culture of collaboration is very pronounced at the company.
How did you actually come to Wassermann – now valantic?
In 2000, I was working on my dissertation in the fluid mechanics department, when technical problems forced me to stop. The finalization of the dissertation would have taken years and finding a job would have become more and more difficult over the years. The answer to the question “What do you actually want?” was actually quite easy when you took a look at what I had been doing: I wanted to develop software. It was a time when IT companies were springing up everywhere – an exciting start-up. I simply took the best opportunity and joined what was then Wassermann AG in Munich.
At first, I programmed in Java and worked on the waySuite module wayMES, a manufacturing execution system. Then came the advanced planning software wayRTS in C++, which arose from a project for a specific customer. Gradually, we have developed the entire waySuite for production planning and control; it has been marketed successfully by valantic Supply Chain Excellence for many years. By the way, the Outlook Planner was created from an internal project. We were able use it to replace an Excel spreadsheet for the consultants’ deployment planning and provide data on their calendars via Exchange. This product was developed under .NET in C#.
At Wassermann I worked under the then-owner Otto Wassermann. It was already a very good team back then, and it is still almost the same today. A very stable team, many colleagues like me have been around for nearly 20 years, and some even longer.
And then came valantic, and from the beginning I had the feeling that things just fit and that something big would come from this. Joint appearances by various competence centers are very well-received by customers and joint projects are being acquired. In the wayRTS customer environment, for example, it turns out that a customer is also planning to swith to S/4HANA, so we have recommended valantic’s SAP Services to provide support.
Is there a favorite project you’d like to highlight?
There is. In 2009/2010, we developed an app for the iPhone, which was relatively new at the time – I had a 3GS – and was very popular with marketing and businesspeople. The app was supposed to display project metrics and make them available at any time. It worked very well.
However, there were fundamental reservations about including smartphones in the company’s network. We were probably just too quick with the app on the market. People were not yet prepared for solutions that everyone takes for granted today. Nevertheless, I consider it a positive experience and have learned from it: It is important to be ready at all times to blaze new paths and change.
My current favorite project is to provide waySuite functionality in a web front end and integrate it into the wayCloud Platform (former Connected Chain Manager) on the wayCloud platform.
How would you advise young software developers with your experience today?
Software development is much more teamwork today than it used to be because the processes have changed and projects have become more complex. The focus is no longer on the programming language, the individual software developer, and the source code. Today, software arises from the interplay of various options and languages: Many services work together, sometimes in the cloud, and are developed in agile fashion in close collaboration with the customer. DevOps has established itself, i.e. the developer must also perform IT operations tasks. Software developers thus urgently need knowledge of system architecture.
But what’s most important: Software architects can no longer choose a software project that they work on alone in a quiet room; they have to arouse the team’s interest and bring all stakeholders on board.
What do you do in your free time?
I was born in Erlangen and came to Munich for the mountains. Cycling and mountain biking in the areas around Munich and in the Alps are still a great thing for me.
For many years, my second hobby has been photography. It’s great fun for me and so in addition to my job as a software architect, I’ve become the in-house photographer at valantic. That’s just how things turned out. I take photos at meetings, and at the visiondays, and I take portrait photos of the participants, the guests, and the speakers – with my Canon EOS 6D.
Yes, I know that smartphone cameras are getting better all the time and I might be tempted to leave the heavy camera at home. However, if you look closely and in extreme situations, there are still significant differences between smartphones and professional cameras.
Heiko, thank you very much for the conversation.