Picking the Brains of Alessandro, Full-Stack JS Dev and Mentor at Salt & Pepper
Today we are putting our very own Alessandro Merola into the spotlight! Alessandro is one of the Full Stack JS devs at Salt & Pepper and a team lead. He left his home country, Italy, to explore different parts of the world and landed in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where we met him.
Alessandro has an incontestable drive to push his limits both as a developer and a team lead. Due to his charismatic persona, professionalism, and the overall joy brought by his presence, we are more than happy that he’s part of our team.
Let’s get to know Alessandro!
Why did you join Salt & Pepper?
I wasn’t actively looking for a job, but I saw the ads from Salt & Pepper on my Facebook feed. They were really nicely written, which caught my attention, so I decided to send my CV without any expectation. I thought this might be a good fit for me. After I sent my CV, Anda (the HR Manager) called me and it was kind of love at first sight with S&P, because the interview with Anda was quite pleasant.
The real game-changer, though, was the layout of the recruiting process, from Anda to Cristin (CEO of Salt & Pepper). I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I moved from HR directly to the CEO, so even if they don’t know me yet, I already feel valued.’ I never got the chance to talk directly to the CEO so fast in any other workplace, so it was something that I really appreciated! I felt like Salt&Pepper truly sees the value in people and is involved in every process.
It was love at first sight, then I had fun at the interviews, then I got to meet the CEO for my final talk before actually getting the job. I was very impressed by my first interactions with Salt & Pepper and had a strong sense it’s where I belonged.
How did you know this is an opportunity for you?
I have a set of questions that I usually ask at every interview to see if it would be a good fit for me. As I am not in my own country, interviewing is something that I’ve done and still do to understand each market I am in. I think it’s a very good way to learn about the domain and how it works wherever you are.
So, Salt & Pepper checked almost 100% out of all the questions I had. One question that I ask that might sound weird is “How old is the CEO?”. I do this because, usually, when you work with younger people, they have a different mindset, and the rules are more relaxed. I value flexibility, so this is important for me. It also means that the company is young, and you can give your input in a more meaningful way.
Usually, when I join a company, I want to leave a mark, a trace of me. I don’t want to be the kind of person that just works, executes, and will then be gone. I want to get involved and help the company grow. A young company offers you the opportunity to make your voice heard. I learned that 20 new people got hired last year, so I also wanted to be part of this fast-paced growth.
I have a lot of experience from many different countries, so I honestly believe that I’ve gathered some knowledge in vast areas, and I couldn’t wait to put everything that I’ve learned to good use.
You’ve worked in a lot of places across Europe. Is there something that you found in Salt & Pepper that’s different from anything you’ve seen so far?
I wouldn’t say completely different from anything I’ve seen, because I’ve worked for some great places, but I will name what I love about S&P. Peoplewise it’s a great place. Everyone is so nice and welcoming.
Being an ‘all Romanian’ company, I was unsure how I would fit in, but my colleagues made the whole process a smooth experience.
I was also impressed with how much the company invests in its people. After just three months in the team, I expressed my desire to obtain a certain certification. The reaction that I was met with was, ‘Sure, OK.’
I have many ideas that I want to implement in Salt&Pepper, and having the full support of our leadership team is precious. Here, people don’t just say, ‘do it’ and you have to make it on your own. Instead, you get a follow-up question that sounds like ‘Is there something that we can do to help you achieve that goal?’.
I also enjoy the culture here and the activities that are just for us, like Fresh Day, Lunch together. They are a big plus.
How does a normal day look like for you?
It really depends on the agenda. Right now, I am fully invested in a project here, and I am also involved in the Internship program for this year at Salt & Pepper.
The internship was actually a great opportunity, and it showed me that the leadership team fully trusts me to coordinate the activities and learning for future interns.
Usually, it takes a lot of time before I can put my trust in someone or an organization, but here, I’ve been greeted with trust, so I think it was a natural process that made me reciprocate that towards the entire team.
Therefore, my day now depends on the focus of the day. Sometimes I focus on the ongoing projects, sometimes on the internship, and sometimes the articles that I plan to get done this year. It’s either a lot of meetings and not much left for the development side, but other days, I just focus on code.
Being a team leader also involves a lot of meetings. I need to know what comes next, not only for my projects, but for the team as well. Meeting-coding-planning—that’s how it works for me.
What are some of the main challenges that you face in your position?
Generally, the main challenge for a team leader is the team. I need to make the best out of the team. At first, I figured they would need more training time and tools from me in order to get their jobs done, but that was not the case. Surprisingly or not, juniors and mids are extremely well-prepared to tackle their daily tasks with little to no supervision.
But basically, the challenge is to find the balance between the team, the project managers, and the clients. I worked hard on ‘protecting’ the team from outside interference and let them be at peace while working. On the other hand, I’m trying to find my own balance and juggle between all parties involved while delivering top-notch quality code.
Also, a personal challenge was in regards to one project in particular. We’re working with another team from the client’s side, which we’re adding too many changes along the way to the project. It was a personal goal to ensure that how we work and the quality of what we deliver is untouched by said changes, and everyone remains focused on the same goal.
I am the middleman between management and everything else, so I just work towards creating a balance for everyone involved and give my team the space to have freedom of expression.
Do you have any hobbies? What do you love to do in your free time?
This definitely depends on two things: my mood and the moment. I went through different stages in my life, and right now, I am in full career mode.
But if I want to disconnect and freeze my mind, it’s either sports, and my passion is actually mixed martial arts. I used to practice mixed martial arts, but due to the COVID-19 situation, I had to stop.
I also love reading. Sadly, I don’t do it as much, but if I do enter a reading rush, I can read 5-6 books per month. When the lockdown started, I wanted to learn a new skill, so I focused on speed reading.
Right now, I am all caught up on baking, and I make my own bread. Just look, (*lifts a baking pan with dough inside*) this is going to be my bread for a few days!
Alessandro, showing off his bread-making skills
Tell me about a guilty pleasure of yours!
My guilty pleasure is actually a type of music. The Neapolitan music of Gigi D’Alessio who’s one of my favorites. He is from the Naples area, and he used to sing in the market places before he was famous.
I share this guilty pleasure with some of my former colleagues. We actually used to come early to the office and play this kind of music while having coffee before everyone else came into work.
Name your top 3 pet peeves!
First, I will have to start with people that touch you when they talk to you. I utterly and completely dislike it (laughs)! I definitely care a lot about my personal space and of others. My personal space is also pretty big, as I don’t enjoy hugging or touching, especially with completely new people.
The second one is when people judge your work when they don’t have the knowledge or the skill to judge you. For example, this can happen in the kitchen. I worked in Italian cuisines for a while in order to put myself through college. Inevitably, I’ve learned a thing or two, so I dislike it when someone asks ‘why so much cheese?’, for example.
A third pet peeve would be people that call my phone for telemarketing and other offers related to that. In particular, after I’ve already told them to erase my phone number. That is also so annoying. Maybe the third would actually be insisting? People who keep pushing the same things towards you after you’ve already given them an answer.
Do you remember an exact moment in which you felt particularly happy?
I would say that COVID-19 actually brought me a moment of serenity. I had to ‘run away’ from Oslo and move to Cluj-Napoca, Romania, as fast as possible before the lockdown started.
This pandemic helped me realize that I am the happiest when I know that the people I care about are healthy and safe. It had a big impact on my life not being able to see my family. I haven’t seen my family in Italy in over a year, and I haven’t seen my brother in two years.
The moment I was able to go back to Italy and spend time with my family and friends for one entire month, I realized that that is what I needed, that was happiness, and that restored my balance. So yeah, thank you, pandemic, for making me count my blessings.
Sunny outing, for sure
If you could go back in time, where would you go or what would you do?
I am a big fan of mythology, and I still read a lot about it, any kind of mythology. I would go back and live back when people believed in Zeus. I would just like to observe how life was back then and how people related to being polytheists.
I would also love to be able to meet Leonardo Da Vinci. He impressed me a lot, and I just wish I could see his genius with my own eyes. There are actually two people I’d love to meet: Da Vinci and Pico della Mirandola. I’ve read that he knew tons of languages and that he was a true genius himself. It’s definitely these two guys that I would love to meet!
Get to know Alessandro and our team at Salt & Pepper
Alessandro is a great representation of our team’s spirit as he’s dedicated, self-improving, and open-minded. He’s also a great example of the talent we want to continue attracting to our team. If you’d like to know more about Alessandro or ask him any questions, feel free to connect with us and meet him and the rest of our team.
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