COFFICE STORY: Aleksandar S. Sokolovski, Co-Founder of Science for BI
One of the perks of running a coworking space is the opportunity to constantly meet new, interesting people and be surrounded by brilliant minds. These people are what shape our space and make this job exciting and unusual. In just over a year of Coffice’s opening, we’ve met so many people from different sides of the world. We’ve had members from the Netherlands, Germany, UK, France, Romania, USA, Canada and even India be part of our vibrant family. Each and every one of them unique in its own way with its own remarkable story to tell. So we thought why not share their amazing stories with our community and try to capture a bit of the magic that makes Coffice such a special place to work from.
Our first story covers the journey of a brilliant software engineer and founder of data science solution startup with headquarters in London and a branch in Skopje. Aleksandar S. Sokolovski is a graduate of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University with degree in computer science and a master degree in software engineering. Here he talks about data science, things that influence his work on daily basis and tools he uses to constantly learn and improve.
Coffice: What made you do what you’re doing today? Tell us your journey
Aleksandar: Hi I am Alex, Co-founder of Science for BI (data science solution startup), based in Europe.
From my alma matter I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Master of Science in Software Engineering and later on I got my Master’s from the University of Sheffield (MSc in TIE — Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship) it was a hybrid programme in Computer Science and Business Administration, intended for future manager of tech / service / internet based companies. Later on I got few certificates including my pending certificate in Executive Leadership from the University of Cornell (eCornell since it is officially online certification programme). From my work experience, I got my first job one week after my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science as a teaching assistant at the University in Macedonia (I was the first generation of Computer Science students in my country) I worked at the University for about 5 years, then I went to work for a telecommunications and internet provider for about 3–4 years. We officially started our company Science for BI in 2015. From my personal life I am techie, MMO gamer and Sci Fi geek.
2. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from reading tech, data science (data native) and AI articles, from research papers, and from talking to people and exchanging ideas. I still write research papers and still visit online courses to learn all that is new in my field of work. While I was at the University I worked on many science and research projects (and still do), most of the certificates are because I found something interesting I go to the course, and I find that when you know you are going for the certificate you study more. Most of the certificates were for me not because I need it for some project or work application. The latest Coursera course in 2015 for R programming and data science toolkit I only took it to see how much that course will help my team to better understand data science, and Coursera and other educational platforms are great I believe. I personally believe in knowledge sharing and my business degree thesis back in 2009 was investigating the value and potential of web tools in educations. It was my believe at the time that online educational platforms that offer blogs, forums and access for everyone will become major educational contributors in the next 10 years, I was wrong they became popular sooner (Coursera,MIT OpenCourseWare, etc).
3. Who has influenced your work the most?
My work is mostly influenced by trying to create 99%-100% open source solutions, because of my personal motto that knowledge should be free and shared. We are trying to have 99–100% open source solutions and all will be on git. The application I most use is Slack and our own build task manager SOPHIE, plus Git and its wonderful management webadmin page and the git slack integration. We do use MEAN JS this is mostly used for our parnters or customers frontend apps, our backend apps that do the data science AI part use R (The R Project for Statistical Computing) with BSD and few times Ubuntu servers. I find BSD and its file system is one of the best, since Ubuntu started using it in the latest versions I like what I see. We started using Ubuntu server and CoreOS cause of our partners, but Linux compared to BSD had the advantage of having bigger and more active community at least in the last few years, but BSD especially PC BSD will always get my “vote” even compared to any Linux distro. I used GNOME as main Desktop env, but when I started using Linux Mint I moved to Cinnamon with PC BSD ver. 10, but I respect what BSD is doing with Lumina desktop, I guess people will say it is still buggy, but it can become a great PC BSD desktop environment in some later version of 10 or version 11, I use Lumina on the PC BSD Virtual Machine for testing. In the past few months I am kinda looking for a good data visualization tool, but it must be open source, so I can change it however I like. For now good options we use are SVG, D3.js (under BSD Licence) and Dygraphs charts. JS (last two under MIT Licence). This web page is a great source for information related to Open Source and Open Source Solutions and how to use them.
I can say R on PC-BSD with Firefox Browser since that is what I use daily for 90% of time, but my favorite open source system has to be our own slack add-on task manager named SOPHIE. We named it after my sister and Dena’s favorite cousin Sophie. We used slack to do managers for few years, but after new years we moved to SOPHIE, it is still in beta, but we plan to put the entire code or 99% of it on github, it might not be the exact version we are using, but the version will work and anyone can download it and use it and change it for themselves as they want. We use Slack for everything ( for most of our internal and partners communication) and SOPHIE is the greatest and most useful tool we had ever build. My dev team also uses Github and the nice integration with Slack, I get progress report on Slack, about recent project without the need to logged in to Github. And SOPHIE puts it all nice and tidy together so I can see the progress the way I wanted when I wanted. I personally have a MacBookPro 15 2014 model (Apple has superior hardware compared to other vendors for laptops I have MBP from 2008 that still works) I used OS X (I prefer open source operating system always), but I have dual boot with PC BSD. At work as everyone else I use System76 Oryx Pro laptops with Linux Mint (but I have PC-BSD as well). Linux Mint is very easy to use even for the non tech people, plus it has great support for games, games are great when you have some free time at the office. I personally believe as team leader that it is not how much time you are at work that counts, it is important how much you work and how much you can get done. I don’t want people sitting at the office 9 to 5 doing nothing, it’s better to work only 4 hours but really work, and play games for the next 4 hours if you have the time of course. We don’t have official policy for work hours, except when we have meetings, and everyone is responsible for his / her time, if you don’t do the work in the morning do it in the afternoon or later. In the past year I did a lot of traveling across Europe I spend more the 50% of the time in different city so I feel like Entire Europe is my home.
4. Proudest moment to date…
When I build my first personal AI (or some form of narrow intelligent AI), because it reduced my time that I had to spend on everyday repetitive tasks and it increased my personal free time.
5. If you had the chance to collaborate with a brand or an individual, what or who would it be?
The Open AI company and the entire team lead by the Founders Elon Musk and Sam Altman.
Open AI is developing 100% open source solutions and knowledge sharing. For me they are the coolest company currently and I have great respect for the work they are doing at the moment.
6. Best advice you’ve ever received.
The best advice I got was to: Look for a great group of people to work with every day, not just a company with a big name. It turned out great for me at least, I would always trade a great job offer for a chance to work with innovative people who like what they do, not just because they have to do it.
7. Personal motto
My personal motto is: “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life”, and from my personal experience in the past few years while being data scientist I would say that this is so true.
8. Experience with Coffice :)
My experience with Coffice is a great one. It is one of the best places to be as an entrepreneur, freelancer and techie in Skopje. You can always meet new people exchange ideas, it is very inspirational for me as data native, plus it reminds me of the university days when you meet new people every year. In the years to come even if we get a big team of 50-100+ that would not fit in Coffice I probably would still come in Coffice and still use it as an inspiration and to meet the new techies in Skopje.
As we embark on this journey of ours, we hope that Coffice stories will be able to inspire, connect and motivate you. We’re so lucky to have the privilege to create a community where everybody thrives and collaborates with each other.