How did you end up at airBaltic? 

Before then, I was working at the Riga City Council. My work responsibilities and the technologies used there were very similar to what I’m doing now, but the business environment and demands were completely different. Three-and-a-half years ago the airBaltic IT director invited me to apply for a job as the head of system administration. Already at my first interview he warned me that the dynamics at airBaltic are probably unlike those at any other business in Latvia. I had been looking for a new challenge around that time, but it turned out that the challenge found me instead; all I had to do was accept it. Already on my first day at work I knew this was the right thing for me!

What are your responsibilities? 

My team is responsible for ensuring operations of all the centralised IT systems. We provide for the public systems, the most important of which is the airBaltic website, and also many of the internal systems, from accounting to flight planning systems, but we also manage the network and Internet connections and communication channels used 24 hours a day by our dispatchers, load controllers, technicians and many others. Almost every department has something specific, and we’re here to ensure that these systems work. We’re the people no one sees as long as we’re doing our job well. If everything’s going well and our colleagues ignore us, that means everything is in order. But as soon as something goes wrong, we always need to be ready to react.

How important is IT to a company’s growth and development?

I believe the importance of IT in a business’ development is rapidly increasing. Even now it’s hard to find a business process that doesn’t use IT systems. Mobile devices are playing an increasingly bigger role in our everyday lives. Almost all business systems now need servers to provide data. And the users themselves are demanding more, too. If in the past IT systems used to be just supplementary aides, today we cannot imagine daily life without them. Most of our systems still have backup procedures that can be performed without computers, but that would mean major chaos and flight delays. The significance of IT is felt most when it doesn’t work.

How does IT differ in the aviation sector?

At first, my job was very exciting, because I had to learn a lot of new things linked with aviation, from the countless abbreviations to how data is transferred between the many branches, like airports, airlines, air navigation services, travel agencies and many others. The systems differ, too. Some systems need to work 24 hours a day, while others are used only during working hours. If maintenance is needed on a system, we need to find the right time to do it, for example, when all the evening flights are finished and the morning flights have not yet begun. Plus, we need to do it in a matter of a couple of hours. We have IT people on duty 24/7 and who are available at any time. I’ve also been woken up in the middle of the night and had to go in to work to solve problems. My colleagues and I have worked out an “on-call” system amongst ourselves for weekends and vacations. When I began this job, one of my goals was to streamline and coordinate everything so that any member of our team could take a whole month off and go on vacation, turn off his or her phone and be sure that his or her colleagues could take care of any problems that arose during that time. The desire to rest and relax on one’s time off is a powerful motivator to work conscientiously and ensure that all the systems work smoothly.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I really like going away and turning off all technologies. That could be hiking, boating or bicycle riding right here in Latvia. There are so many wonderful things to do out in nature here in Latvia – the forests, the fields, the rivers. Of course, if we’ve got more time, my friends and I like to travel further and experience “a different reality”. For example, take a couple of weeks to boat the rivers of the Far North, where you don’t meet a single other person and there’s no cell phone coverage. All you’ve got is what’s in your backpack and in the forest – fish, berries, mushrooms. I really like the wilderness and nature. However, it’s hard to return to the reality of technology after a vacation like that.

What did you do on your last vacation? 

A year ago my friends and I boated the rivers of the Ural Mountains. That was really beautiful. The rivers there were a little different than the ones we’d been on before – there were lots of cliffs and rapids. Some rapids were up to Class IV in International scale and were a real test for our skills. We also met a bear while walking in the mountains. We had stopped to drink by a stream and heard branches breaking. Then we saw the bear, which began running towards us. Such experiences make one reevaluate not only one’s specific actions, but life in general.

Why do you like that sort of vacation? 

I’ve also gone on regular guided tours, but, to be honest, I like more freedom. It’s hard for me to accept someone putting time limits on my vacation, say, how long I’m allowed to take a walk or look at a landscape. I prefer to plan my own time and not adhere to a strict schedule. Of course, boating on a river presents its own time limits, for example, we have a week to travel 200 km on this or that river. We, too, have days when we don’t feel like doing anything, but then that’s our own responsibility, because we know we’ll have to row twice as much the next day.

What do you think are the biggest advantages to travelling that way?

First of all, you really get to know yourself well. At such moments you sometimes surprise yourself when you discover what you have inside of you, what you like and don’t like. You’ve got time to contemplate things, arrange your priorities and then return home and to work with a completely different level of energy and outlook on life. And, of course, all those experiences! Sometimes I like to pack up my bicycle, hop on an airplane, arrive at any destination and just spend a weekend riding around there. Georgia is great for that. I take my tent and bicycle and fly airBaltic to Tbilisi on a Friday evening, I spend a couple of days riding my bicycle around Georgia, and then I get back on the airplane early Monday morning and am back at work by 8:30 a.m. Trips like that sure make the weekend seem longer and fuller. If you’ve got a little more time, another great destination for something like that is Cyprus, because the island is fairly small and easy for bicycle riding. Ride just a few minutes beyond the beach resorts, and a completely different landscape opens up! BO