In February 2011, on a cold winter day, a new junior PHP developer Alexey Romanenko came to his first day of work in Azoft. Today, Alexey is already the leader of Azoft web development team. In this interview, Alexey talks about his work, life, and what it takes to succeed in the software development industry.
Alexey, I recently stumbled upon some statistics on IT labour market. Apparently, the average period a programmer works for one company is 1.5 years. You just celebrated your second year here in Azoft. Do you feel like moving forward already?
*laughs* You should see my employment records! Before Azoft, my average time employed by one company was 1 year. In fact, I remember my job interview at Azoft, when my future manager asked, “You’ll leave in a year, won't you?”. I answered with something like, “We’ll see". One year has passed, another year has gone by, and here I am, definitely not leaving anytime soon.
Why? There aren’t any better options. I look through job listing from time to time and I can tell that Azoft is my best option. Other companies can’t offer me the things I have here, both in terms of my salary and my responsibilities.
What is so unique about your current position here in Azoft?
I'm a technical lead. I choose the right tools and methods for new projects. I help solve problems with implementation, fix SVN issues. I wouldn’t call my job unique, but it’s what I love doing. Also, I appreciate that here in Azoft my management is very supportive and my preferences are heard. To a certain degree, I get to decide with tasks I enjoy doing the most and take on those tasks. It feels great when my work 100% coincides with personal interests.
What is your typical day at work like?
I come to work around 10 a.m. I start by checking my email, reviewing code, and checking Jenkins for errors. Then, I move on my programming tasks (yes, I write code as well). That’s how it usually goes. You see, every day brings its own tasks and challenges, so each day is unique. It's hard to describe an ‘ordinary’ day. My day is definitely not a groundhog day, that's for sure.
What were your days like when you were a regular programmer? What did you lose and gain after your promotion?
I've gained more flexibility, more room for imagination and experiments. I like to integrate new technologies and right now I'm in charge of choosing new technologies for Azoft's project. It's really exciting: to explore and analyze what’s happening in the web-world, to dig for new frameworks, to use them. Although, it's not sheer experimenting. When you’re choosing the right technology, you have to be very careful, you can’t just think, “Wow, this seems cool, let’s use it in our project”. I research, search for alternatives, examine them, etc. Then our whole web development team gathers and we discuss and choose the technology that fits the project best. It's always a collaborative choice, but it's awesome to be in charge of the process. As for the losses, I lost some free time as I gained new responsibilities. But that’s my personal initiative, and that’s OK.
What are your future career plans?
Speaking of vertical career growth, I think I’m good for now. I don't want to be a project manager. I've tried, but I didn't like it. I love what I'm doing right now: search, learn, analyze, experiment. No plans right now. Let's see what future brings.
Why did you initially choose IT industry? Are you from a dynasty of mathematicians?
I'm from the dynasty of Pavlodar steel workers *smiles* The story of me becoming a programmer dates back to 2002. I lived in Kazakhstan then, went to school. Where I lived, computers were just starting to appear at homes and in schools. I played around with Windows 98, wrote in Visual Basic. It was so new, so interesting. A friend of mine studied in Novosibirsk. He came once and told me of Novosibirsk State University's computer science high school, where many juvenile programmers in Siberia studied. So, I applied and got into the high school, studied there for 4 years, after which I got into Novosibirsk State University. I worked as a programmer the whole time I studied. I just liked it, and I still do.
Speaking of universities, some people claim that computer science education today is useless. What do you think, having graduated from NSU, is your education useful?
Honestly? Not so much. Certainly the lectures have broadened my horizons, but I don’t often use what i learned at my university. Our institutions should be more oriented to practical issues, as I see it. But I'm not accusing our professors. They just follow educational programs which are approved at the “top”. And since our government does everything very slowly, the education system can't adapt quickly enough to the rapidly-changing IT world. So if you want to become a programmer, educate yourself.
What’s your advice to students specializing in computer science? To quit universities and start working to gain experience?
Why so harsh? Universities provide good, solid basics. As for practical advice, I'd advise not to spend money on books. Technology evolves so fast, that information often becomes outdated earlier than the book is published. The life span of IT-blog articles is a bit longer but it's still very "time-sensitive". The best literature are specifications. Read specifications, attend IT conferences, talk to smart people who do smart projects. That helps to evolve. If you want books, buy books on time management. Good time management skills are crucial to programmers as we need much time to work and to learn new tricks.
...and to spend your enormous salaries. Again, statistics says that IT specialists start making more money and get promotions earlier than specialists in other spheres. It is true?
I certainly can’t complain about my salary. But I can't compare working in IT with working somewhere else as I've never worked outside. But it sounds dubious to me. If you are a good specialist and love your job, you will go quickly through the initial stages of your career and start doing something important and awesome. My brother is a good example. He is a steel worker and made it to the team leader position much faster than his colleagues. He just appreciates his job. In a nutshell, speaking from my own experience and experience of my family, in order to succeed, you have like your job and you have to do it well. Focus on being a professional and you’ll get the reward.