Twenty years in Growens: an interview with one of our first employees
“At the beginning of my career I did not have a chair to sit on. Now, I am part of a multinational company, listed on the Stock Exchange, which has just completed a significant acquisition and which employs about 400 people” . Daniele Lazzari, Engineering Associate Manager at MailUp, this year celebrates his twentieth working anniversary at the Company, and this is what he tells us about his very first days at Growens, in 2002.
Over the years Daniele has witnessed numerous changes, starting from the first acquisitions, to the rebranding and to the listing on the Stock Exchange, up to a complete evolution in the role that he covers within the company. Daniele Lazzari tells us about his journey inside the Group, highlighting how despite the changes that have taken place, the spirit of the company has always stayed the same: a friendly environment, where people are free to speak their mind and follow their interests. This is the environment that welcomed him twenty years ago and where he still works today.
What do you do at Growens?
Today I am Engineering Associate Manager at the MailUp business unit. I am in charge of managing a team of two people (which will soon expand to four). Our main tasks are to take care of the MailUp infrastructure & platform and to enable other development teams: we provide the other teams with all the tools they need to be able to operate at their best and in the fastest way.
How has your work changed over the years?
Originally, I managed technical assistance on customers’ personal computers, especially with regard to software – installation, configuration and so on. After 2008, I shifted to internal IT, mainly configuring servers and managing the infrastructure of the MailUp platform.
At first my job consisted in physically putting my hands on the hardware. Later, it went abstract: I worked on the cloud and generated the necessary code to manage the MailUp platform infrastructure.
I can safely say that my job has totally changed in these 20 years. This continuous change is also a typical feature of the information technology field. In technology, evolution happens quickly and it requires a spirit of adaptation. You cannot remain anchored to what you used to do before.
When you joined the company, what was the work environment like?
My experience at Growens started in 2002, just after its foundation. I still remember the day when we were given our company badges and I asked for the number 007, because it reminded me of James Bond.
At the time, the company did a completely different job as opposed to today: it included a web agency and a personal computer sale & assistance services, which I was in charge of, together with three other people.
Initially, the team was small and the atmosphere very convivial: we were a group of peers, all about thirty years old, and we formed a close-knit group that worked and had fun at the same time.
Together with us four technicians were the founders: Matteo Monfredini, Luca Azzali (whom I already knew from the early 90s, having played at different times for the same band), Matteo Bettoni and Alberto Miscia – who took care of the development part. Only a few months after I was hired, Nazzareno Gorni also joined, who lived in Milan and commuted every day to Cremona to work with us.
Has the corporate culture changed over the years?
The corporate culture has not changed, it has simply been formalized [in a series of values, behaviors and guidelines, Ed.]. I have always had a great time with all my colleagues, not to mention the founders – we have known each other for 20 years!
Despite Cremona not being a big city, the business thrived: how did it develop?
Initially our business started as a web agency, under the name of N:Web. In the early years we developed a series of products: a newsletter sending software, a website backend management product and other similar ones.
After a short period of time, among all our products, the newsletters sending service achieved considerable success and so, in a short time, it became the only business of the company. This quick development was also facilitated by the fact that the internet market was in its very early stages, and so the supply was lacking but the demand was high.
The 2000s saw the spread of the internet with all its services and products. How was that technology perceived, especially in a city like Cremona?
At the time, in Cremona we were regarded as aliens. Not because of the assistance to personal computers, which was a job already practiced by a few companies, but because of the web agency activity, which was an entirely new business.
Not everyone could fully understand what we were building and what services we were offering. Even today, it is still difficult for some to understand what our business really is about. But surely everyone knows who we are: Cremona is a small city, with about 70,000 residents who in one way or another all know each other.
In your opinion, has Cremona had an impact on the company and vice versa?
I believe that the company has certainly had an impact on the city, especially when it began to grow and achieve important results. As for me, I am very proud of the Group’s development, also because I know where we started from.
At first “I did not have a chair to sit on” (literally), now I am part of a multinational company, listed on the Stock Exchange, which has just completed a significant acquisition and which employs about 400 people.
You have witnessed the entire evolution of the company. Were there times when you felt you were risking it all?
2006-2007 was definitely a difficult time, but we gritted our teeth and despite the difficulties did not stop believing in our project. The shareholders kept investing and fortunately the results were not long in coming.
Another challenging moment was the first attempt at internalization, around the mid-2000s. We did not manage to achieve the desired results, probably also because the times were not yet ripe enough. Later, we tried the international market again – this time with success – and from there we kept growing.
What were the turning points?
In 2007-2008 our growth began to be significantly greater than in previous years. That was a really good moment for me, just like when our IPO happened – an operation of significant mastery, considering that we started from a limited liability company. How far did we get!
What is your favorite memory from the first years in the Group?
I remember the first technical assistance call at a customer’s with Matteo Monfredini, near Brescia. It was a foggy November morning and with his Golf we found ourselves in a queue on the motorway, with virtually zero visibility. We spent the whole day with the client, and then we returned to Cremona in the late evening. It was a tough day, but certainly a memorable one.
What made you stay in Growens for 20 years?
I think that what made me stay for so long was the opportunity to express myself, to evolve and to be able to follow my interests, which fortunately have always coincided with the interests of the company. Of course I had my ups and downs, but I never thought: “enough, I’m leaving”.
Tell us about yourself, your studies and your passions.
I studied Computer Accounting and right away I started working. I am married, I have a wife, a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old cat. My interest in music is still there, although nowadays I only play on my own from time to time. On the other hand, a passion that I certainly keep pursuing is that of information technology, which has always been a part of me.
Today I just about exercise at the gym, but I was a rugby player up until ten years ago. I was the founder and first president of the first rugby team in Cremona.
How do you keep up with these evolutions?
My passion is information technology: I like to stay informed, to study, to find new solutions and to learn new things. This is also helped by the training and the upskilling that the company allows me to do daily.
Growens gives a lot of freedom under this point of view: I have always had total freedom and trust, such that I could do what I was interested in, following my inclinations and being able to express myself even on the most strategic choices.
For those who do my job, such an environment offers a great opportunity to study, expand one’s knowledge and learn many things.
Were you to go back in time, would you start over at Growens, once again?
Before I started working here, my jobs didn’t last more than two or three years. When I joined Growens, I had no idea how long I was going to stay – and here I am, 20 years later.
So yes, I really think that if I had to go back in time I would still choose this company, it was a choice that I am happy with. I suspected from the start that the company had potential and that it would not end there.
What does the future look like?
I really don’t know, things change so quickly. A few weeks ago I would have talked about some projects and objectives, then the acquisition of Contactlab took over and everything completely changed.
The future is unknown to me: it will surely bring new challenges but this is also the beauty of my job, you never get bored. Maybe in a few years we will also acquire Mailchimp! [laughs]