Growth in strange times: 2020 hindsight

Philip Sharpe

Business summary

We’ve all been more or less heavily impacted by lockdowns - different working practises, less opportunity to socialise in person and overall concern about our families, the economy and life ahead.

Despite the global economic impact, we are grateful to report growth of over 20% for the year. While some of our technology company clients in industries such as travel and retail were most affected, others consolidated in Q2 and then began to grow again in Q3. We also added some significant new clients, especially in the Fintech and Ecommerce sectors, and we experienced particularly strong momentum in our Telco client business.

Demand for engineering talent remained keen, together with a notable increase of interest in distributed engineering approaches as remote working barriers fell down. This is our domain, and we invested in growing our recruitment reach significantly across the CEE region, building support networks with people on the ground, while advising our customers on growing and managing engineering excellence across distributed teams.

An interesting side-effect in 2020 was an improved integration between all our locations. As a company that already specialised in distributed engineering, we nevertheless experienced changes due to the complete lack of in-person time. As we could no longer host gatherings physically, we started opening up our traditionally local events and rituals across offices, further breaking down borders associated with different locations and time zones.

However, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and many of us miss working together in our common office spaces, with the opportunities to meet, chat and work side by side. We look forward to some change of weather on the horizon as restrictions get lifted.


Full-fibre revolution hitting 5th gear

When Covid 19 struck and home working became the norm, the profile of our National Broadband Ireland (NBI) engagement was raised to an even higher level.

The National Broadband Plan is the largest capital investment in rural Ireland since electrification, designed to bring Gigabit broadband to everyone in the country. Sonalake is the central software partner responsible to make the infrastructure accessible to the public - so no pressure!

Our software plays a vital role in operating NBI’s infrastructure allowing services to be ordered, provisioned and billed, and for the quality of service to be monitored and analysed.

Fiber revolution is happening across Europe and we are also active in the UK’s telco market for example, including as a member of INCA (Independent Networks Cooperative Association) where we are working on standardisation initiatives to help open up market access between large ISPs and Altnets. We firmly believe in the importance of making fast and reliable broadband access available across national geographies and social divides, and we look forward to growing our presence in this critical sector.

Innovation & Technology Trends

We invest a lot of time analysing and updating our understanding of technology and software engineering trends. From the relentless advancement of front-end frameworks to the growing appeal of server-side languages like Kotlin and the implications of the fact that over half all applications deployed on AWS in 2020 were serverless, we have a lot to consider.

In 2020 we focused on managing our knowledge and capability development as a full-stack software partner in an integrated innovation framework while experimenting with new software tooling and processes. This is a fascinating ongoing challenge that we will continue to accelerate in 2021 and beyond.

We also leverage public research funding, and a strong example in 2020 was our first formal foray into Blockchain technology under a Disruptive Technologies Innovation fund (DTIF) project with our partners CeADAR and Exertis Supply Chain Services. We successfully delivered several software components and learned a lot about the utility of blockchain and where (and where not!) to recommend it.


Analytics Practice, VisiMetrix & Data Science

Our Analytics Team had a super year in 2020, developing depth of expertise in new technologies and delivering results for several clients across verticals, from embedding advanced analytics in established client products to delivering our VisiMetrix solution in service provider networks.

A big focus has been in the area of Data Science, with several projects in the pipeline and an active recruitment effort to secure more data-scientists to help us. We continue to engage with CeADAR where we are sponsoring a project in the area of Time-Series Correlation using self-organising maps, while we have also grown our partnership with AWS and are registering as a consulting partner in the area of AI and Machine Learning.


Multinational diversity

The Sonalake family has grown quite substantially and we now have 14 nationalities within the company. It's great to have so many different backgrounds and cultures come together, sharing experiences and perspectives while promoting acceptance and boosting creativity!


People and talent management is at the core of what we do and is the biggest determinant of our success. During the year we launched numerous workplace initiatives in areas such as work-life balance and engineering career pathways, while initiating a refresh of ‘The Sonalake Way’ and generally increasing the range and frequency of internal communications to compensate for the social impacts of the pandemic.


New office in Bratislava

Sonalake is finally up & running in Slovakia. During December we were glad to welcome our 5th team member in the Bratislava office and over the coming months, we’ll be looking to expand the team further, aiming to have the numbers locally for a football team by Springtime! So a big welcome to the expanded team - Vitajte, my na to mame! :)

Tech meetups and social responsibility

After a great end to the previous year, we started off 2020 by organising even more internal and external meetups, and as time progressed we moved online. Good examples of our contributions included the conference in Poznan, while we were again very proud to sponsor and volunteer at the TechSpace Creative Tech Fest! This event is an annual showcase for TechSpace, a technology in education movement and our top charity partner. To help provide a memorable experience, Sonalake assisted the organisers in building a Virtual Exhibition Hall! In this virtual reality world, visitors could browse the Videos and Images of the tremendous work done by creative young people.

You can read more in our latest post - A Celebration of Youth’s Ingenuity – CreativeTechFest 2020.

We also supported charity initiatives including Movember for Wicklow Hospice, children from the day-room “Razem na Głównej” in Poznan and Gatoto - our sponsored school in the Mukuru slums of Nairobi Kenya.

Party interrupted at the Shelbourne

Way back in December 2000 we started an annual Christmas tradition of hosting a fancy drinks party for clients and friends, and this has become a popular and well known event on the Dublin tech scene. The party is held in Dublin’s finest historic hotel - The Shelbourne, where the Irish Constitution was enacted following the war of independence from Britain.

This year would have marked the 20th anniversary of our annual seasonal party, but sadly we have to postpone till next year for obvious reasons. Boo hoo. I guess we can just aim to make it more special in 2021 ??

Well, we apologise if we left anything out, but wanted to keep it brief! Please check back with us from time to time, and keep an eye out for new posts on things keeping Sonalake focused in the ever-changing world of software!


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