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How a sci-fi fan has grown to a robotist in Visma

Since my childhood I have been influenced by sci-fi novels related to the future of humanity, robots and AI such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and Robot Series and various movies including the Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams. I was always fascinated by the possibility to create machines that would take away those hard and boring jobs that none of us wants to do anyway (including ones such as cleaning and laundering ?). I simply wanted for all people to enjoy life, have fun, pursue their dreams and let the robots do the work. Such a naïve kid, wasn’t I? ?

I guess that was also the main driving force for me to take a study of cybernetics & AI at Technical University, where I finished both master and doctoral studies. This is where I have learnt how to teach robots to do the same job as humans would do. And I think I had some success in this area.

But somewhere along the way I realized that it is not just robots that are important. In order to ensure continual advancement of our civilization and humanity we need to care about people around us to the same extent as we care about technology, if not even more. That is probably why I have taken a pedagogic minima course and started teaching computer science in high school.

During my studies and activities in both academy and education I had an opportunity to work on dozens of projects with different people. I have managed to lead hundreds of pupils and students through various coding classes ensuring success of their career in software development.

Even though I have always recognized the importance of both academy and education, something was missing for me there, in a personal way. I had a really hard time of finding projects that I could consider having a real and visible impact on the world around me. In academy we often got carried away by basic research (you know – scientists are kinda nerds ?) and in high school we have been stuck with quite simple game-like projects (since it is not always a good idea to push children hard towards really serious and complex projects, that sometimes could discourage them from even trying to work on them). The added value of these projects and educational activities was always in there, but the fruits of the effort were simply way ahead of my current time. And on top of that, there was a serious lack of support from both the school director office and teachers of other subjects regarding necessary updates to school curriculum.

That was probably my reason to look for other opportunities and try a new job.. At the beginning of the last year, I was really lucky to get accepted to Visma’s Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) team. I could not believe that I got an opportunity to do the same stuff that I have used to be doing before, but on an entirely new level of application to real problems and situations. Since my onboarding to the team, I have already created a couple of software robots that are doing some really useful work saving up not hours but whole work-days of boring jobs such as invoicing and accounting. One robot helps the finance department to save multiple hours on sending out invoice copies to customers. Another one is managing project reports and automating accounting tasks where these reports are used. The entire process has been transformed from one or more days of boring manual table-to-table-copy activity to just 15 minutes of waiting for the robot to do the job. It is great to hear the gratitude of our customers whose valuable time has been freed up so that they are able to focus on activities that are more productive and more to their liking.

In Visma, it is great to have an opportunity to work with passionate colleagues who really care about the work they are doing. You know, for me, it was really hard from time to time to motivate pupils and students who were always stressed from exams and tests and sometimes even discouraged from the study due to many pointless and obsolete subjects that they were forced to go through (and I could write several additional articles on this topic). This is definitely not the case in Visma, where people have meaningful goals that are personally stated by them, and they really love what they are doing. My colleagues are always accessible and ready to help, and there is no need to push them in doing great things.

In addition, I like the opportunities to participate in educational projects in either Visma Tech Academy or local activities such as internship programs, university presentations, Girl’s day organization and possibilities of collaboration on the local academy of software development.. And most importantly, I am recently working on at least three additional automation and robotization projects including automatic approval of expenses and travel claims. We are using cutting edge serverless cloud technologies which enable us to create instances of robots that emerge and work on-demand, anytime they are necessary. Imagine that you can have your expenses repaid in a matter of minutes instead of what used to be a several month-long annoyance. I truly believe that that really shows promise of making the life of many people easier.

Author: Michal Puheim, IPA Developer

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