Tennis-as-a-Passion

In a previous article, we told you about our monthly meetups called Labors of Hercules. Last December, our guest was top tennis player Raluca Olaru and our questions to her, limitless :)

Who Is Raluca Olaru?

Raluca Olaru is a Romanian tennis player, currently ranked #54 by WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). She is one of the first tennis players sprouting from the ’90s generation to make headlines world-wide. Raluca holds 9 singles titles and 6 doubles titles won in various ITF (International Tennis Federation) circuits. She further holds 4 doubles titles at the WTA circuits.

Raluca told us about her passion for tennis like few can. Behind the glory and prizes, the life of a top tennis player is known for being though. Hours of dedication from a very early age, fierce competition, inevitable injuries, the high pressure on the body and the mind, traveling and time away from home, all these put players to the test.

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What is it then that drives Raluca to international competition grounds every year? How’s it like to play tennis at this level?

Insights from a Pro

Preparing for a Match

How do you prepare before a match? we asked Raluca. Tennis is, after all, a very competitive game, and each time different. There are 3 angles through which Raluca analyzes an upcoming match before hitting the ground. One is deciding what strategies and tactics would work best for that scenario, something she learns through practice. Another angle concerns the mental training – Raluca looks into herself but also reaches out to her coach in order to get mentally prepared for the upcoming game. Last, but not least, there’s the subjective angle. This mostly has to do with the other player’s style – the tennis world is small and Raluca knows her opponents well. Yet the subjective angle also has to do with little things, like the weather or the surface (she prefers clay over hard ground or grass). Each match has a myriad of factors that need to be considered, she concluded.

Improving the Game

How do you improve your game? was another question we asked her. Raluca answered that she’s in the habit of rewinding every match after it’s finished, in order to learn and improve her level. This is not merely an intrinsic analysis. Tennis players have access to video tapes of each confrontation they have at a big slam. She carefully watches these tapes and thus observes herself from the outside. She can then analyze her mistakes, missed opportunities, and where she needs to improve. Coupled with counseling with the coach and intense practice, she paves her way to the top.

Singles vs. Doubles

Raluca has played both in single matches as well as in doubles. What’s the difference between the two? Raluca explains that single matches can take up to 3 hours, which gives players more time to adapt their strategies. Even if the first set is lost, a player can recover in the 2nd and then win in the 3rd. Doubles last half the time but are much more intense. Teamwork is essential and players need to communicate all the time, not just during the breaks. Encouragement is also important: if one is feeling down, the other must encourage her.

An Inspiring Mentor

Our guest was only 6 years old when she first started playing. It was not love at first sight, because her first coach did not invest time and effort into her. Luckily, Raluca changed coaches soon after. The new coach inspired her and Raluca started playing with enthusiasm. Looking back, she thinks it’s very important to have a good coach, but the latter are hard to find. In her opinion, not only do they need to master tennis with all its strategies and developments, but they also need to inspire, to adapt to the player’s style and personality, to support them mentally, to encourage whenever necessary. Not so different from a mentor in any other industry.

Challenges and… Opportunities

To play tennis at its highest level is tremendously hard, Raluca admits. Tennis today is much faster and dynamic than 20 years ago. It requires quick decisions and the ability to adapt along the way. While talent is necessary, success never stirs from it alone. It’s a matter of intense practice and continuous improvement.

Here’s where we stepped in with scenarios of new technologies that could help athletes monitor their physical health and improve their techniques. It’s been done for F1, but can it be done for tennis – both a strategic and a technical sport?

How do you manage not to give up when it becomes extremely tough? What do you do when you come to ask yourself this question: should I give up? You must always go back to your passion and you will find the answer within yourself!

Life after Tennis

Becoming a coach is the most foreseeable career for top players after they retreat from tournaments. Surprisingly though, Raluca is not much passionate about the idea. She explained how living in the competitive world of tennis has left her with little time to explore other opportunities. It’s much like living in a bubble, not knowing what else is unfolding in other industries. Curious and open minded, Raluca fancies the idea of becoming an events manager. She also finds time for writing and would like to pursue this ability as well. While it’s great to have that one, big passion, it’s nice to keep the mind fresh with others as well.

Playing tennis and building products for the cloud might look like completely different worlds, but we’ve learned that they are governed by similar rules. We identified with Raluca’s imperative for practice and strategies, the need to cultivate team work abilities, as well as the importance of being inspired. 2015 will definitely bring even more inspiring people to share their passion with us, so stayed tuned if you want a piece of that for yourself!

The Company To Join In Order To Get Rich Fast

Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his son who will soon be a fresh IT graduate. His son received tempting job offers from three companies and he was kind of puzzled as to what company to choose at the start of his career.

After discussing with the young man for about ten minutes, I was a little puzzled myself, because he was not actually looking for advice, but for valid reasons not to join any of those companies.

Getting Closer To The Best Company

The first question to ask is – what do you want from life? A regular job where you do your work, get paid and that’s it?!?

In this case, the logical choice seems to be a large company. It’s easy to get “lost” and “choose” your level of involvement. It’s also reasonably safe if you do your homework. Obviously, it’s not bulletproof, even public companies can fail in several hours, but most of such events are usually exceptions. Do not expect to get rich either.

Let’s assume that you are extremely action-oriented. You want to matter, to bring a significant contribution to the company output.

In this case, a startup is a much better choice. Fewer people, more responsibilities, working directly with founders, maybe even becoming ridiculously rich or changing the world. Nothing is guaranteed, but it might just happen.

Is Public Image Important?

Company notoriety/public image is not so important as it might seem. This is good in estimating how efficient their marketing is, but most of the times it does not carry valuable information for you. Better invest your time on checking what they do. Try their products. Understand their market. Remember that even fast-growing companies become notorious after their first boom.

For example, there are many outsourcing companies in IT, providing services to lots of organizations. They range from startups to large public companies. Their customers might be startups as well, banks, utility companies, even governments. In IT outsourcing industry, it does not matter if you choose a large company or a startup – except maybe for job security, there is no fundamental difference between the two. Do not expect to get rich being the fifth joining an outsourcing startup. This will never happen.

Some industries are on their sunset, while others are in kindergarten. Pick an industry that extracts value from the market in an accelerated way. That’s why the most important thing you can do is to understand what the company does. There is no good or bad company – as long as you control the experience, you will learn in any situation. In fact, you may learn more things from a poorly managed business. While getting paid.

Outsourcing might work forever as a business (this is actually debatable), but it’s very cost sensitive and pretty bad in extracting value from the market.

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On Top Or Over The Top

My friend’s son didn’t want to join any company because he promised to his best friend that they would follow an idea. Yes, he wanted to start a new venture. We didn’t discuss much about their idea; instead, I wanted to scare him, explaining the type of sacrifices he would have to make, especially if the startup would be successful. He didn’t seem to be too impressed, which in fact shows just the type of character one needs for such an adventure.

The industry is even more important when you start your own company, as it will influence your success to a great extent. Markets are everywhere and some are easier to access than others. But this is another fairly complex topic.

My best piece of advice for those starting out is to never pick their future employer by name. Pick an exponentially growing industry that can teach you how to rapidly capture value. And if you want to grow at a rapid pace, smaller companies are usually in better shape for a fast run. Remember that you are your most valuable investment, so this is the only guaranteed way to get rich.

Make the Most of UC, Train Your Employees!

Workers today have more communication tools to choose from than ever. That includes Unified Communications, which integrates voice, video, instant messaging, conferencing, faxing, and more – all on one platform. However, employees often receive little or no training to reap the benefits of using these innovative tools. Many organizations end up removing training from their budgets when making such large technology shifts – believing that people should inherently know how to use and why they should use these tools. But this decision to remove training and consulting can be a costly choice for enterprises, as the technology won’t be used to its fullest potential. This could increase the total implementation cost ten folds.

In fact, almost 80% of employees say they have not been consulted before the technology was implemented, according to the findings of a survey of 250 IT managers and 750 line-of-business employees. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) said they were not consulted on a Unified Communications tool or on its usefulness after it was implemented. The bottom line is that there is little awareness of UC’s availability. And that’s not it:

  • One-third of employees said they don’t receive any training from IT leaders and, of those who do, half said they get trained for less than 30 minutes.
  • Almost 40% said they have access to communications tools that they don’t know how to use and thus don’t feel comfortable using.
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So, how will your company turn these numbers around? What should the plan of action be for involving and training your employees in the Unified Communications adoption process? Let’s explore further:

  • Gather employee input – It should go without saying that when your workers are not involved in a major decision affecting their day-to-day operations, they will not be pleased. According to the survey above, employees who are not actively consulted on communications tool roll-outs are twice as likely to be dissatisfied at work – as well as three times as likely to see their companies as temporary places of work. When your employees are consulted about your UC rollout, they will most likely feel confident in the tools they have been given to do their best work. As a result, they will be satisfied in their current positions, thinking of the job as a permanent or long-term career opportunity.
  • Invest in training programs that incorporate real-life, day-to-day applications – IT needs to extend its vision past the initial UC roll-out. Investing in programs that take training to new levels – that incorporate real-life, day-to-day scenarios for technology use – enable the solution to be more seamlessly integrated into an employee’s workflow, ensuring a greater level of overall usage and adoption. In addition, let your employees know about the opportunities UC will bring to their day-to-day lives such as time savings through increased productivity, more-timely interactions, and even BYOD if the company was able to save the security riddle.
  • Continue to measure the adoption rate – If your company fails to measure the adoption rate, all effort will amount to naught. By measuring the rate periodically, you will be able to identify “pockets of resistance” and help employees directly overcome whatever obstacles they have in using the new technology.

Has your business determined which Unified Communications solution best suits its needs? With VoipNow, you can have all the tools needed to offer business PBX features, conferencing, instant messaging, mobility, and more.

4 Ways In Which 2014 Changed The UC Industry

Now that 2015 has just started, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how Unified Communications evolved in 2014. And, as our co-founder put it, there are a lot of things to look back and even more to look for in the new year.

For one, Unified Communications is no longer considered an emerging technology. Throughout 2014, an increasing number of businesses, enterprises, and industries adopted such solutions. After all, UC simplifies business communication and collaboration by integrating voice, instant messaging, conferencing, fax, and so many advanced communication capabilities into a single, user-friendly interface. As a result, users can keep all their communications in one central location, which is essential as they go about their day, moving from one place to another.

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No Longer Avant-garde

The statistics evidence the fact that UC is no longer an avant-garde technology. Market research firm Infonetics Research reports that Hosted PBX and Unified Communications services are on track to grow 13% by the end of the year. What’s more, a majority of cloud providers have reported double-digit growth of their IP telephony and UC portfolios for this year, while premise-based systems’ growth remains in the single digits. While end-users better leverage the benefits delivered by mobility and even BYOD, IT teams become more and more aware that they need to simplify the deployment process for higher efficiency and cost reduction. They all need an easy to deploy, user-friendly replacement for the business desktop phones.

Proven to Strengthen Communication & Collaboration

Last year, by giving their employees the ability to stay always connected by using the UC tools, business owners no longer had to worry about hampered collaboration and productivity. UC provides a myriad of advantages that enable real-time communication which helps companies increase sales and improve their customer experience with every interaction. Unified Communications truly creates an environment where information is available instantly between all parties that have access to the technology.

Favorited by Millennials

Last year Unified Communications also played a pivotal role in supporting the emerging remote workforce – a trend that is not waning any time soon, especially with a millennial workforce steadily taking over the corporate world. Whether via instant messages on their smartphones or audio conferencing from a caffé, the next generation expects to be able to connect at anytime, anywhere. Companies that fail to adopt a UC solution are likely to fall behind in attracting highly desirable talent to their enterprises, which hurts their bottom line into the future.

Increased Awareness of Benefits

Moreover, 2014 saw a heightened level of awareness among adopters and implementers of UC tools. More and more businesses became aware that deciding to replace legacy communication with UC technology is just not enough. In addition to choosing to deploy the tools, you also have to assess your network to ensure that you have enough bandwidth to accommodate increasing traffic. You also need to make sure you have the proper security processes in place. After all, your communications are one of your most valuable assets. Finally, you have to make sure that your employees know how to leverage the power of the technology. That way, you’re able to get the most utility out of the new tools.

With the UC market expected to reach $75 billion by 2020, up from $22 billion last year, the no cloud can be the limit for Unified Communications as we head into 2015. Is your enterprise ready to adopt a UC solution in the coming year? Tell us your thoughts about the technology in the comments section below.

Happy New 2015!

As the end of this year approaches, everyone is making retrospectives of 2014 and forecasts for 2015. I’m sure you’ve already read a thousand times how great 2015 will be for communication and collaboration. Just a few thoughts I read lately:

  • most companies will (finally) understand and begin to leverage the power of the cloud.
  • business will explode as service providers are going to bundle amazing services with fabulous customer support.
  • BYOD is grand for efficiency and a true morale boost, but still gives nightmares to IT/infrastructure teams.
  • service providers would kill (don’t take it literally :) ) to extend their horizontals or even verticals with Unified Communications.
  • another great/amazing/supercalifragilistic chat app will be launched to take down WhatsApp.

Let’s add some privacy conspiracy theory and the picture for 2015 is complete ;)

We don’t know how great 2015 will be, but we can make one promise. We will continue to care about our customers, team, products, services and about all the small things that apparently are not important.
 
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For our partners, customers, blog readers, Clouders, ex-Clouders, and for all those who want to become Clouders


Happy New 2015!

How To Avoid Major Cloud Migration Mistakes

Can anyone deny that cloud computing has taken the world by storm? Savvy CIOs who have already adopted the cloud have been reaping the rewards of increased flexibility and scalability, faster time to market for new application deployments, and greater savings across the board. With cloud computing, all signs point to a more efficient and cost-effective technological future.

While the cloud computing industry has experienced tremendous growth and will continue to explode – the cloud communications platform market is expected to grow from $887 million in 2014 to $3.23 billion in 2019 – those interested in migrating to the cloud should tread cautiously. Failing to properly prepare your business for cloud adoption can be costly, causing company-wide disorganization, prolonged downtime, and loss of productivity.

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So, how can your organization safely execute a cloud migration? Steer clear of the following common mistakes that enterprises tend to make when moving to the cloud:

  • Failing to do due diligence: You must conduct thorough research before adopting cloud technology. For instance, determine what type of cloud service is the best fit for your particular organization. It’s essential to examine your current IT infrastructure, usage, and needs to determine which type of cloud computing can help you best achieve your goals. Moreover, write out a set of cloud expectations to discuss with potential vendors. Instead of rushing to adopt the cloud without really understanding what it means for your business, do your homework before a split-second, urgent decision brings about unfortunate results.
  • Choosing any cloud solution without respect to the business’s needs: Without prior developing a well-thought-out strategy for cloud adoption, your technology choices can come at a cost. Protect yourself by first defining your business’ requirements for deploying the solutions, including which software will best address your pain points. For example, ask yourself who is going to use the new tools and which ones provide the best fit for your team and processes.
  • Not leveraging the full potential of your solution: The cloud is a platform that opens up new possibilities for your organization, but you won’t be able to reap the benefits unless you adopt a new way of thinking. Don’t limit yourself by assuming that what has led to success in the past can and should be repeatable in the cloud. For instance, be sure that you are leveraging the on-demand aspect of the cloud to deal with the “bursty” parts of your application. Another major benefit of cloud computing is that it gives companies the ability to scale services on-demand and be charged only for services used – eliminating the need to make expensive capital investments for hardware that is underutilized to accommodate usage spikes.

What is your cloud migration plan? Because if you want, for instance, to benefit from a high-end cloud communications platform such as VoipNow, hosted in the cloud and not on your premises, you can always opt for VoipNow Cloud OnDemand. Backed up by our Professional Services team, this hosted version takes less than an hour to set up and requires no upfront investment. What’s more, VoipNow Cloud OnDemand comes as a pay-as-you-grow license, providing you with maximum flexibility and allowing you to reach the market blazing fast. VoipNow is a communications solution dedicated to service providers and organizations in need of enterprise PBX, instant messaging, contact center features, conferencing, faxing and more. Click here for additional information.

Verb Days 3, The Wrap Up

Verb Days 3 got us so hooked that we’re already missing it! The 6 teams turned the office space into the perfect collaboration environment and filled the air with their creative vibes. Jokes echoed throughout the day. There were moments of panic when an app wouldn’t work, but also ‘Eureka’ moments when obstacles were defeated. In the end, we had lots of fun and some cool ideas with big potential!

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Here’s what they came up with:

  • ThunderWild presented their idea furniApp. With this application, those looking to buy new furniture for their personal homes or work office can virtually recreate the space in order to see how furniture would fit in and what it would look like. Say goodbye to hours spent in the shop or the hassle of returning furniture that does not fit!
  • Long Live Your Family proposed an internal activity called Game of Knowledge – a VoipNow game. To make best use of a break, employees can take a 5-question fun knowledge quizz on VoipNow with their own phone extension. The results are registered and each participant competes with other colleagues for monthly prizes.
  • #padawans worked on improving the work of HR by building the tool  #Automation. The latter automatically updates internal data on (potential) candidates whenever they modify their LinkedIn profile, so that HR doesn’t need to constantly check it.
  • ∞ Infinity worked on integrating Google Calendar with a 4PSA product. The team highlighted the potential of this integration in better organizing the work of various industries, from healthcare, education to SMBs.
  • MIAO noticed that if they could combine the sales team’s CRM with the software engineers’ JIRA, both parties could have a clearer view on clients and their issues. So they set out to build this integration themselves.
  • Finally, WOW & Co. aimed to make mall shopping easier and relevant. Their app – Near Deal – uses Beacon technology that allows users to receive offers whenever they pass by a shop, based on their preferences. No more walking for hours to find the stuff you need! Apparently the team managed to make a good case for their app (presenting how easy it works for the shop owner and the end-user) because they won the majority of the votes!

Check out more pictures here. We ended the 18-hour hackaton in a cheerful mood, and can’t wait for the next edition in 2015. It will be even more awesome!

Verb Days 3: Live Updates

The Verb Days are here!
To help you get a glimpse of what we’re up to, stay tuned to this post. We’ll be sharing updates throughout the day.

1:30 AM We proudly announce that Verb Days #3 was a blast! Each application was different and so was each team’s presentation style. Laughter often ensued, but so did critical thinking, improvement suggestions and even new ideas. The winning team was WOW &Co. with their app Near Deal. Here’s a teaser of what the app does – can you guess? We’ll be back with details early next week, so stay tuned :).

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8:00 PM – Almost 12 hours into the hackaton, it was only natural we deserved some pizza! Its divine effects were noticed right away: the sound of swift typing echoes throughout the office. People are getting enthusiastic. Only a couple of hours left until the final presentations!

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2:00 PM – Time for a healthy lunch to boost the energy level. After enjoying the delicacies provided by Biomediterraneo, we’re ready to work some more!

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10:00 AM – Debates have ended and teams have divided their tasks. Everyone’s focused in front of their screens. A second round of coffee seems about right.

Verb Days 3

8:00 AM – It’s happening! The Clouders are in the house. Ideas start popping up. In big secrecy, however. You can hear enthusiastic whispering from various corners of the office. The smell of fresh coffee is in the air, helping us push the pedal of inspiration. In less than 15 hours, we will turn thoughts into reality. At least a beta one. :)

Verb Days 3: Teaser

Just a couple of days left until Christmas and everyone is getting all cozy.

Not at 4PSA though! We’re tuning our focus to the maximum, because it’s Verb Days again!

Verb Days, now at its 3rd edition, is an internal hackaton that we’re hosting every year before the winter holidays. In teams including both tech and non-tech people alike, we spend a full day to create and implement an application of choice. It’s an adventurous process that involves creative thinking, sharing ideas, laughter, coffee, healthy snacks and…coding. Lots of coding!

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The event lasts from early morning to midnight, but time flies fast when you’re having fun. At the end of the day, each team must present a running demo and convince others how awesome their app is. It’s not just coding, it’s also good marketing and presentation skills. :) Everyone competes for the big prize: eternal admiration and a super gift! Well, that’s until the next edition of Verb Days, where even cooler apps will be born.

The teams competing in Verb Days 3 are as follows:

  1. Thunder Wild
  2. Long Live Your Family
  3. #padawans
  4. WOW & Co.
  5. ∞ Infinity
  6. MIAO

This year’s edition is a bit special too: the hackaton welcomes outside guests to join and every team can have a non-Clouder member :)

To get a glimpse of what happened last year, check this out.

Curios to follow us in our endeavors at Verb Days 3? We’ll be live blogging tomorrow here and on Facebook. Happy engineering, Clouders!

Hour of Code, Our Way

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation on Facebook to attend Hour of Code Romania. I don’t usually pay attention to such notifications, but this one was somehow different, as the name got me thinking :) I know what you can do with a line of code, but what does an hour of code represent?! This was enough to trigger my curiosity, so I did a little research.

Long story short. Hour of Code is a global movement that takes place in more than 180 countries during the Computer Science Education Week, 8-14 December, when teachers, NGOs, and companies try to reach out to as many students as possible and deliver an introductory computer science class. This isn’t just about technology companies, as 67% of software engineering jobs are outside the industry, in banking, retail, government, entertainment etc. Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Why? Because computer science and computer programming enable algorithmic thinking, boost analytical skills, and drive innovation. It’s code demystified in a world where 90% of the schools don’t offer programming classes, nor count computer science courses toward graduation. While, in the meantime, there are a whole lot more IT jobs available than students and this happens everywhere in the world. According to code.org, by 2020, only in US the gap will be 1,000,000 software engineers.

Big names in the technology world, entertainment industry, and even politics (who else ;) ) support this movement by using their influence, delivering computer science classes, and making donations. And this is where 4PSA Clouders stepped in.

Clouders’ Way

We strongly believe that technology can and will improve our lives, if it’s used the right way. The future belongs to those who know how to control it and benefit from its ever-growing power. This might sound like a bad science fiction movie from the 90’s, but it’s actually not: learn how to control technology, so it doesn’t control you! This is already happening in our smartphone, Wi-Fi driven world.

Just picture this: an eight year old boy with the tablet in his hand. Tap here, tap there – everything’s at his fingertips. Now, imagine him at his desk, solving a maths problem. Not the simplest problem, but, still, doable. And yet, he needs a little time to think it over, to try various options and then, when it’s finally solved in his head, he has to put it in the mathematical form. Not instantaneous anymore! So, are you surprised that he doesn’t have enough patience for anything else but his tablet?!

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What if your kid knew what’s hidden behind those Angry Birds, Minecraft, Talking Tom games he enjoys playing so much? Or how many lines of code you need in order to be able to check in with your friends at the movies?! Or how much storage Instagram uses for all those like-able pictures?! I’m not even mentioning the miraculous instant messages that vanish into thin air inside Snapchat ;) No, most kids don’t know that, but we could make them curious. Cause this is how everything begins…

curiosity mood... on
tackle imagination... start
use your brain... restart
find the right path... --force
I made it myself... [ OK ]

If schools and the educational system don’t understand that, we, the community should open their eyes and teach them. As it is never too early, nor to late to learn!

#HourOfCode with 4PSA

This is how it all started. We found out about the world-wide Hour of Code movement and shared it with the team. A couple of Clouders volunteered to deliver an Hour of Code at a school in our headquarters’ city, Bucharest. Three and four graders.

We packed in our knowledge, chose several tutorials from http://ro.code.org/learn, unleashed our joie de vivre and off we went on a rainy December day to meet the young padawans. And everything that unfolded was way beyond our wildest imagination :)

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Our goal was to take the children for a journey in the beautiful world of algorithms and software engineering. We wanted to show them there is more behind tablets/smartphones/computers than just nice games and social networks. They had millions of questions and, had the class not been over, they would have stayed there for hours and hours asking us more. They were spontaneous, challenging, fast, full of joy, and extremely refreshing. And suddenly, the cold winter rain became a summer shower :)

They proved to us once again that the curiosity and desire to know more are great drivers for passion. And passion for software engineering can be awaken early and last for a lifetime. This is a precious lesson. Thank you, children!

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