As Emmanuel Gravino celebrates his 15th anniversary at GFI’s Malta office, Angelica Micallef Trigona catches up with him to learn more about his career – from his initial apprenticeship to his leadership role today in systems development.
Emmanuel Gravino is Director, Systems Development at GFI Software. He heads a team of developers and testers who produce software to support the company’s business operations. This includes systems related to product license issuance and control, leads processing and relevant information-sharing between different departments within the company.
He first joined GFI on an apprenticeship scheme.
“It was part of my diploma course, as we were required to gain practical experience in the field. GFI was already regarded as one of the top software houses in Malta back then and I was thrilled to have achieved a placement here.”
Once his apprenticeship came to an end, he was offered a fulltime role, as one of roughly a dozen employees.
One of his first tasks quickly introduced him to the world of startups:
“I was hired as a Software Developer but the first thing I was asked to do was to wire some network cables, as we were changing the office layout to accommodate more people.”
Another early memory of his involves a creative solution applied by one of his colleagues.
“I remember this one time when the lead developer of our antispam product was crouching down by the server. We wondered what he was up to. Suddenly, it started bleeping and he paid great attention to that, as we watched on,” he recounts.
“We were dogfooding the latest version of the product at the time and it turns out he had come up with a novel way to locate an issue that had emerged. He thought it would be easier for him to trace the issue by making the application beep through the PC speaker. His plan was to identify the location of the problem by recognizing the pitch of the sound. So there he was, in the server room waiting for those beeps. And us with him – not knowing what the beeps meant,” he chuckled, added that the method did help his colleague narrow down the problem to a particular module.
Always one to raise a smile, Emmanuel has similar tales of his own, among them a learning experience that was painful at the time.
“In the early days, I performed various roles – from testing a new product related to the flow of email, to authoring product installers, and more. But one role which I was never asked to do again is frontline support,” he confessed.
“I was still relatively new at the time, with limited knowledge across our product set and even less experience in customer service. Well, in one of my replies to a customer query, I actually blamed the customer for the problem. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a lengthy email from the customer explaining just how wrong my reply was. Sometimes, you learn things the hard way!”
Apart from his colossal strides forward in experience, skills and professional know-how, another thing that stands out as Emmanuel looks back is the sheer rate of change.
“Technology changes and one would expect that. But the way it changes and the way you use technology to support the business changes too, even though you mightn’t immediately notice that,” he observes. “You really have to be ready to embrace change.”
One constant, however, is his love of software development. This has remained at the heart of his career through the years. “I love the process of creating software, from the design, to the implementation and testing,” he affirms, pointing to the great sense of satisfaction the team shares each time a project is successfully rolled out.
Asked about key sources of inspiration though his career, Emmanuel replied that he has learnt something from all his managers – and still does so to date. The potential to continually learn and grow is always there and he makes it a point to tap into that.
He is particularly appreciative of IT professionals who gladly share their experiences and know-how online, through blogs, forums and other sites; and is happy to form part of that community:
“Without us sharing our experiences online, software development would definitely be harder and far less exciting.”