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  • Guest: Chavi Bonchev

  • Company: ETI Software Solutions Bulgaria

  • The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch

    In this episode of the Broadband Bunch with we speak with the Branch Manager of ETI Software Solutions’ Bulgarian division, Chavi Bonchev.  Chavi explains how ETI, a small telecom software vendor based in Norcross, Georgia gained a division based in Kardzhali, Bulgaria.  He shares his personal and professional journey to establishing and managing a 24 x 7 Technical Support and Quality Assurance team.  He tells us how the team works as well as how they keep their skills fresh with continuous training.

    Craig Corbin:

    So glad that you could spend some time with us on the Broadband Bunch. You’ve spent the last week here in the U.S. in your capacity as the Branch Manager of our Bulgarian division here at ETI Software Solutions. Give us a quick overview of how it’s been this week and your meetings with the team here in Atlanta.

    Chavi:

    It has been great. I’ve had my days almost fully packed with meetings and very, very successful meetings. I’m exploring different possibilities for our Bulgarian team to get more and more involved with the work that we do here.

    Craig Corbin:

    Before we get into exactly what you and your team are responsible for, give us a bit of an overview of yourself and your background, where you’re from and your training, your education, and how you wound up where you are now.

    How did ETI Software Expand Globally?

    Chavi:

    Geographically the area that we live in is a city called Kardzhali, it’s in the South Eastern part of Bulgaria. In the Eastern part of probably, what we like to call it the most beautiful mountains, called Rhodope. It is generally in Southern Bulgaria, but it goes through Greece.

    Chavi:

    It’s a very picturesque place, that’s the biggest reason that we tend to stay there instead of moving to a bigger city. But I’ve lived there, I’ve grown there, and kind of got in a relationship with the place. So, when there was a time to decide how to develop my future, one of the things that I had in mind was if there would be a possibility to do it there, to do it without actually relocating. I’m glad that I’ve managed to gather a team of young people and we manage to do this for 15 years now.

    Chavi:

    Other than that, all of my career was in the IT sector. I’ve been in IT in education, then in the local municipality, then I moved to the banking sector for 12 years, and after that I’ve been doing this offshore branch of the UK company [Netmania] that created it together with me 15 years ago, and is now ETI.*

    *ETI Software Solutions acquired Netmania IT in 2014

    Craig Corbin:

    Let’s talk a little bit about how that all came into being, when the relationship first began and some of the responsibilities of you and your team as a result of that.

    Chavi:

    It all started in the mid-90s when I was, as I mentioned, working for the municipality. After the communist regime in Bulgaria fell there were a lot of democratic projects with foreign governments helping the Bulgarian government, and the local governments developed the democracy basically. As part of this, there were projects with a UK municipality that sent people working on projects for housing, transportation, and budgeting. So, I took part in some of those including an IT project where we basically created the IT infrastructure of the Kardzhali municipality, and even UK people were nice enough to gather some old computers, which we donated to a local schools and colleges in Kardzhali.

    Chavi:

    So that’s how I get to create a relationship with the people who would later create Netmania IT, which was the original name of the UK company. And when they needed to expand cost efficiently, they started exploring possibilities for outsourcing, but then kind of recollected that Bulgarians already have good level of technical IT skills, so they’ve called me and said, “How about we do this?” And it was exciting and challenging for me, so I decided why not. And that’s how we started 15 years ago.

    Craig Corbin:

    Let’s talk a little bit about exactly the type of work that goes on with you and your team. I know there’s a level one support, data processing, integrations, walk us through exactly what your team does.

    ETI Software Customer Support & Quality Assurance – 7 X 24

    Chavi:

    Over the years we’ve been quite flexible and we’ve been part of different projects and developments that happened, so we have worked together with the UK company and later with ETI on a development QA (Quality Assurance) and QA Automation, but together with that we’ve managed to develop certain skills that predominantly now form most of the volume of the work that we do.

    Chavi:

    And as you mentioned, level one support where we have a 24/7 team of technicians receiving requests over phone and email for our customers’ problems, and they’re working on solving these problems. We also provide 24/7 QA support mostly for testing webpages and web widgets and how they behave. We have very good experience in the data processing as we do what we call data migrations, transforming the data, sending it from one platform to another platform, and different associated tasks around this project.

    Craig Corbin:

    Today, everything that is involved in QA, QA Automation, and integration processes, is constantly evolving and there’s a challenge to keep up with those changes. How do you and your team approach that aspect of what you do?

    Keeping Pace with Change – Refreshing Skills with Continuous Training

    Chavi:

    You’re absolutely right. One of the biggest challenges to the IT world today is that it is constantly evolving and also in a very fast pace. So, one of the problems that managers in IT face daily is that need for new talent, new skills, and building more and more experience in this constantly changing world.

    Chavi:

    What we have done a few years ago is we actually appointed a training manager in our branch so that we can manage this process of training and constantly adding new skills internally. So, we’re not dependent that much on an outside training or even direct recruitment of people who are hard to find. Because today there is basically a battle for talent all around and especially in Bulgaria as well. Having an internal training process on knowledge sharing and documentation available allows us to develop our people higher and higher and have them ready for new challenges when this occur.

    Craig Corbin:

    With all that you do, you and your team, what would you see as the biggest challenges that are faced on a daily basis? With any organization there are aspects of what you do that is seamless and very easy, and then other things that might be a challenge. What would you put in that category?

    Embracing New Opportunities

    Chavi:

    Well you said it yourself, so the biggest problem is when your IT daily work becomes the routine. Then you feel scared, should I say, about taking on new challenges. You may get frustrated when there is a need of some, rather considerable, change within the work that you do. But what I’m trying to convey to my team is that this is the nature of our business and we have to be able to be constantly flexible and definitely taking on new opportunities immediately as they arise because that’s how you can expand and how you can progress in the future.

    Craig Corbin:

    One of the biggest things that you provide, you and your team, is the 24/7 aspect of your services. I know that that is something that requires great coordination with your team. How do you approach being able to cover the 24/7 aspect of your work with the team that you have?

    Great Teamwork and Constant Support

    Chavi:

    Absolutely. I wouldn’t be able to do that without the team itself constantly supporting each other. The thing is that we’ve been supporting global organizations, so as Bulgaria is seven hours away from US Eastern side, 10 hours from US Western side, you may imagine that the majority of work coming from US comes to the Bulgarian night time, so there is actually not a light time in the cycle of rotation of our 24/7 team, but the guys have been motivated to share information to help each other. They are always at least two technicians present on shift even during the night. We managed to having the proper documentation, what’s most important, a proper process in place. We have managed to keep our work quality to a very high standard.

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