Life@Squiz Q&A with Aleksandra Żołnowska, Office Manager

Szczecin-based Aleksandra ‘Ola’ Żołnowska tells us a bit about the family atmosphere at Squiz Poland, her role in organising the launch of the new office, and Squiz’s annual charity bike ride.

Squiz: What do you do in your role as an Office Manager?

Ola: I do a little bit of everything at work. I work closely with our Financial Manager, organise the recruitment of new Squiz staff, and generally manage the office. Every day is very different, with me doing anything from taking broken laptops for servicing to interviewing potential staff and organising office events. I could go on and on!

One of the best experiences I’ve had at Squiz was organising the launch party for the opening of our new Szczecin office. It involved more than 100 Squizzers from three continents, so it was a huge challenge but ended up being a great success.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The best thing about my job is the people I get to work with. When I first started at Squiz, the office was very small, so most of the staff here I helped recruit. That means I know everyone: their names, positions, birthdays – everything about them!

If I’m having a stressful day, being able to talk with the other staff in the office and laugh about something funny just makes the day so much better.

What makes Squiz different from other companies for whom you’ve worked?

When you’re working in such a large office, it’s very difficult to have the same kind of atmosphere that we have at Squiz. We don’t act like a corporate company. Instead, it really feels like a family in the Poland office. Everybody knows and supports each other. I’ve never worked at a company like Squiz before.

What can you tell us about Squiz’s Informatycy na Rowery (Devs on Tour) charity bike ride?

Five years ago, before I started working at Squiz, Raf Źróbecki (Managing Director at Squiz Poland) decided he wanted to ride from the Czech Republic to Szczecin on a bike – 500km in five days! The purpose of the ride is to raise money for children in need and also to bring together people from within Squiz and other IT companies in Szczecin.

Last year, we had about 40 people take part. All up, we collected about 30,000 zloty (approximately US$7600, or AUD$10,000) that we donated to twins Ania and Staś Zalewscy, who were born prematurely and needed money for their rehabilitation. When I told their mother we had raised this huge amount of money for them, she started crying – it was a really nice moment. She was so grateful and told me that because of us, she was able to help her kids and organise more activities for them.

The best part is that all the riders took time from their own holiday breaks to participate. And most of them weren’t regular bike riders – some hadn’t cycled since they were kids. They just wanted to do something not for themselves but to help the twins.

Does the staff in the Szczecin office organise many social activities?

Of course! We have pool and soccer leagues and play ping-pong with each other. We also meet outside work to play squash, go jogging, and cycle. But what I really love most is our Squiz weekend away!

Last year, almost 60 people went away for the weekend to Wisełka, near the Baltic Sea. It was a lot of fun! On the Saturday, we had a scavenger hunt; the guys visiting from the Australian office won the prize: a jetski ride.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

While all my friends wanted to be princesses, vets, or teachers, my dream was always to be a psychologist. I guess it was because I loved people, and I always saw myself working with and helping others. Now, in my role at Squiz, I get to work with and help people every day.

What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

It would be that you don’t have to be the best at everything, because back then, I always felt that I had to be. Not everybody is going to like you, and you’re not going to get along with everyone. It’s all about not worrying about that stuff and enjoying yourself. You live only once, so make the most of it!

What do you like to do outside work?

I have two sons, ages seven and eight, and I love spending time with them. During winter, they often stay inside and play PlayStation, but now that it’s getting warmer, we can head outdoors more. There’s a huge forest not far from my house, so in the afternoons, we like to go bike riding there.

I also love running. I’ve run distances from 5km to a 50km ultramarathon in the mountains. All my friends ask me how it’s possible to have time for myself while having a family and working full-time, but I do! It’s all about being organised.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I think that each of us has many talents that we’re constantly discovering. Every day, I surprise myself with things I didn’t know I could do before.

I think that within Squiz, my greatest talent is my ability to recruit staff who really embody what it means to have the Squiz DNA. I find the people who have the right chemistry and who I know will be a perfect fit for the Poland office.

Let’s say you won 30 million zloty in the lotto tomorrow. How would you spend it?

One place I’ve always wanted to go is the Maldives. Ever since I saw photos of it online, it’s been a dream of mine to stay in a bungalow over the ocean and spend all day lying on the beach. We have beaches in Poland, but they’re nothing like those in the Maldives. So, if I won the lotto, I’d definitely take my family there on the trip of a lifetime!

Ola will be tweeting her week at work at @lifeatsquiz from 3 to 7 April. Follow along to see what she gets up to on a daily basis in Szceczin.

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