Here we are with yet another blog post in our interview series. This time, we'd like to introduce you to one of our consultants, Emal Sakwall.
Name, Company, Title, City
My name is Emal Sakwall. I live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I’m a consultant at Infinity, and I’ve also done release management, QA, and project management at Infinity. I have a number of hats and wear them as I need to.
When did you first work with Infinity?
January of 2012
What are six words you think of when you think of Infinity?
People, Possibilities, Software, Decisions, Actions, Solutions
What does a “consultant” do at Infinity?
Here is how I see it: a consultant works in the space between our partner/client and development team. When a partner comes to us with an idea, we work with them to find out what’s driving the idea, all that’s possible about their idea, and what they ideally want. We refine the idea by shaving off what’s unnecessary and suggest improvements. The design, technology and business needs are considered, and we work to balance these. We work out the risks, constraints, measures, and all the rest. We break down the idea into concrete tasks that define a path to delivery, laying out a plan that works for both the partner and development team. We also work to keep perspective and manage the inevitable changes that come as the idea becomes software. And, we rejoice when Infinity delivers working software on time. (I am sure much more could be said, but I’d like to end with rejoicing.)
What have you been asked to do at Infinity that stretched you most?
In 2015, I managed a large complex project that had to be built from scratch within a very tight timeline. We started from an idea and built a mobile app, two web apps, and a website. During that time all information from the partner, our internal team, the design team, and the marketing team flowed through me. (I never counted the channels of communications I was dealing with, but I should at some point.) Dealing with the firehose of information had me stretched and the pressure nearly flattened me. But I had support and stamina. The project was completed on time, went live, and the partner was thrilled.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current job?
I think I would be a tailor. I don’t have any experience in tailoring, but I used to love this craft as a kid. Any time my father wanted a new suit made, he would take me to his tailor’s shop. I enjoyed watching the entire process, picking the fabric, thinking about the color, measuring. Then, after a few weeks, there would be at least one remeasuring before the suit was almost ready. Finally, the suit would be ready, and I was always amazed to see a piece of fabric be transformed to a great looking suit. Curious to see what I could do, I attempted modifying some of my clothes. The end results weren’t really that great, but the process was fulfilling.
What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Pretty much all of them, except for some. Why don’t I tell you about those? I like washing dishes by hand. When I was around 10 or so, one of my chores was to wash dishes in the evenings. We didn’t have a dishwasher, so it was a manual task. At the beginning, I was frustrated. Big plates would slip out of my hands, and I hated washing bigger pots and pans. After a few months, I want to say, my hands learned to wash dishes. All I had to do was to show up in front of the kitchen sink. As a productive distraction, I still practice this.
Another chore that I like is threading needles. I know it’s uncommon. My grandmother used to sew all the time, but her eyesight was weak, so she would ask me to thread needles for her. I loved that tiny yet intense sense of fulfillment I used to get when the thread made it through the eye. I still do this sometimes, for the satisfaction and as an exercise for developing patience.
How do you act when you are stressed out?
I write longhand. Not exactly journaling because I don’t keep what I write. The ritual is the point. I see stress as a kind of pressure or strain that jumbles the order of my mental and emotional content, what keeps me balanced. The process of writing about the stress I have helps me get rid of what is extra (I relieve myself) and reorder things. In turn, I make more room for that stress so I can hold it, live with it, for as long as I need to, and I stay with it till it disappears, dissolves.
A while back, I came across, I believe, a Winston Churchill quote that read: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” I adopted it. I just make sure I have pen and paper with me while going through hell, and I make sure I recover once I make my way out.
Now, there are different types of stress. The one I am talking about is manageable stress. This is the kind of stress that makes you stronger. We seek this every time we go for a run or any workout. The unmanageable kind is a different beast.
If you could know the answer to any question, besides “what is the meaning of life?”, what would it be?
Answers are funny; they always produce more questions. Maybe questions are more interesting than answers. I don’t know. I’ll play along. I would love to know the ways in which I can widen, bend, shape, and stay in the space that is between stimulus and response.
Not long ago, I came across a quote attributed to Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” I love it. I want to find this space and have control over it.
By the way, I know what is the meaning of life: it is to be alive. That is it. Don’t know why we make a mystery of it.
What is one thing you think people might not know about Infinity, but should?
I find Infinity to be a place where you can grow while supported by people who know a lot more than you do. We deal with different kinds of projects and all aspects of a project. What are you interested in? How can you make a contribution? There is room. In my time at Infinity, I’ve been guided through and seen all aspects of a software project and feel richer because of it.