A new unit, a new CTO – an interview with Alex Thissen

18 May, 2021
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Meet Alex Thissen. Alex has been part of Xpirit from the get-go and recently took the next step in his career, from Lead Consultant to CTO of Xpirit’s new Cloud-Native Software Development unit. In this interview, he talks about leadership, his ambitions, and the growing importance of cloud-native software development experts who can ‘make it happen.’

Every group needs a leader

Alex describes his new role as ‘CTO plus’ – besides managing technology, deciding which trends will be part of Xpirit’s strategy, and setting guidelines, he also leads his team. Alex adds: "At the core, it feels like I am the ‘primus inter pares’ – the first among my equals – or the ‘pater familias’ – the head of the family. Every group needs a leader to define the course of action and make work fun. The group is like a team. It has a voice of its own and everything it does takes team effort. Being part of it is both an honor and a privilege. In return, I want to offer people a great experience and help them grow by being a catalyst for learning. Although my role is mostly about technology and strategy, I will also need to make team decisions and have the difficult conversations. But most of all, I want to help people realize their ambitions."

Leading by example

As a lead consultant, Alex excelled at leading by example and intends to continue to do so in his new C-level role. Talking about leadership, he shares his take on it: "People will follow who they consider the natural leader, regardless of job title. Marcel (de Vries, CTO of Xpirit) is such a leader. Since the start of Xpirit in 2014, he has been a role model to me. I feel honored that he gave me the opportunity to be at the start of Xpirit’s new unit. I believe that the circumstances are right to take this leap of faith and venture into the unknown of a new role and mission." Alex continues: "Marcel and I form a great team. We have built a great understanding of and respect for each other during the past six years of starting, growing and living Xpirit. We challenge each other and learn from our differences. To me, he is a great example of a technical person who became a leader of a company and an entrepreneur."

"While presentations often include a ‘one word says it all’ or inspiring pictures, mine consists of diagrams, bullets, arrows, and code. I am a techie at heart, and this role fits me well. I appreciated being a consultant, and am pleased to use that experience to create new services for Xpirit’s Cloud-Native Software Development unit." – Alex Thissen.

At Xpirit we help people grow

Over the years, Xpirit has cultivated and maintained a people culture. Although Alex’s new role focuses on technology, he explains why focusing on people is equally important: "I have a clear vision of where I want to take Xpirit’s new unit. With regards to our clients, we need to understand how technology transforms the way a business operates. Within our team, we want people to find what they are passionate about and help them become an authority in that field." One of the ways Alex plans to do so is with a ‘Tour of Duty’ – encouraging software developers to take on consultancy jobs or consultants to gain hands-on experience with developing software. "I want to create a ‘hive mind.’ A shared understanding of the way we work and what we stand for. The story of how we create modern cloud-native applications on the Microsoft platform using DevOps practices should be the same, always, regardless of the role of the person telling it” Alex adds.

"Cloud gives us a factory that we can use for building factories!" – Alex Thissen.

Cloud-Native Software Development

In software development, cloud-native is ‘the new kid on the block,’ gaining popularity as we speak. Alex explains: "Cloud-native is state-of-the-art software development. The traditional approach assumes you know what you want and you have a plan from start to finish. Cloud-native development requires you to let that go and move from rigid and monolithic to flexible and easy-to-maintain solutions. As the world is constantly changing, adaptability and agility should be part of your software and its design." About the benefits of the cloud, Alex says: "Instead of filling your data center with servers, you can now start developing within seconds. If the application is successful, you can easily scale. If it isn’t, you can get rid of it just as easily. Moreover, taking care of overhead distracts you from why you develop software – to create differentiating IT. Cloud is becoming a commodity, like power from the socket. It’s there, so use it.”

Doing Epic Shit by making it happen

When asked about his ambitions, Alex answers with the well-known Xpirit phrase: “DOING EPIC SHIT!” He elaborates: "Consultants cover the ‘how,’ but we make it happen. For example, when confronted with legacy software, or vintage as I prefer to call it, we do everything we need to offer you the right functionality from the cloud. We rebuild, refactor, re-architect, and migrate to future-proof your existing solutions. Additionally, we take care of Identity and Access Management (IAM), a complex part of modern applications that focuses on accounts, single sign-on (SSO) in the cloud, and centralizing capabilities for authentication, including synchronization with on-premises account directories." Alex finishes with: "If your application is business-critical, but it’s hard to evolve or maintain, it probably doesn’t meet modern standards. We will gladly help you investigate your options and help modernize the existing application or envision and create a completely new solution, all cloud-native and optimized to your requirements and situation."

Do what you do best

At Xpirit, we enable businesses and people to do what they do best. Alex: "When we work with clients, we want to get to know their domain, understand what sets them apart from others, and help them create unique solutions that make a difference. We are extremely passionate about cloud software development. If you are an IT professional who shares this passion, feel free to reach out for a chat or a coffee."

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