«I am kinda crazy when it comes to my brain» Head of Mobile at Dodo Pizza on productivity and finding the drive in a routine

Mikhail Rubanov is a Head of Mobile at Dodo Pizza, one of the largest pizza delivery franchises of recent years. We spoke with Mikhail about productivity, finding your drive amid daily routine, and why it is important for an iOS developer to have a personal blog.

This interview is brought to you by Veer ― earplugs with stepless noise control, created for those working hard with their heads. Veer helps you concentrate and keep things productive even in the noisiest of environments.

Micha shared his thoughts on using Veer earplugs over the last two months. We also spoke about personal productivity, searching for a motivation in routine, and why you need a personal blog as an iOS developer.

Micha, as a developer you are working both from your office and from home. Why did you decide to try out Veer earplugs?

I’m kinda crazy when it comes to my brain: I like my work to be productive and efficient, just as I like my free time to be fulfilling and resting. Back when I started my career in college, I was working on my projects, doing a lot of after-hours work, and from there I knew ― having your brain running for 8 hours consecutively is extremely important. Now that I am a team player, I realize that not everybody is like that. For many, 5 hours a day is the maximum amount of time they can concentrate.

Actually, I work in the kitchen. So it turned out more solemnly than in life

Controlling this constant noise in your head is why using Veer was interesting to me. Personal productivity is something I am very much interested in ― both as a developer and more globally as a team leader.

Why is personal productivity so important for you? Is it something that keeps you motivated during your job?

When I first started as an iOS developer, I quickly realized that a multi-tasking environment is something I thrive in. It’s the ability to assign tasks related to both product and its design, and how you then resolve them. You’ve got a lot on your mind, but at the same time, you realize that 70% of your job could be planned consecutively for other times, while certain smaller tasks may not even require your attention.

This selective approach does not mean I’m warming a chair all day, quite the contrary. There are lots of smart and professional developers out there on the market, and they are constantly getting better at their job. If you want to keep up you need to find that one thing that you enjoy and that would keep you ahead of the race.

I started at Dodo Pizza two and a half years ago as a mobile developer. Back then I already knew my weaknesses: I was into UI design but couldn’t do unit testing, which is something you can’t get past in any long-term projects. We spoke with the CTO on what exactly I need to improve and work upon. I am constantly trying to find additional benefits in any task ― those benefits could make a routine task more engaging and useful. This something that would drive me is exactly what I am looking for in my routine.

Mikhail Rubanov is a Head of iOS development at Dodo Pizza. Dodo Pizza is a franchise that includes 611 pizzerias in 13 countries all around the works ― from Russia to the UK, China, Nigeria, etc. In 2019, the company made $314 million in profits.

You talk about ‘drive’ a lot. How do you get this drive from your routine?

1. Dissect your task. Is it boring because it is monotonous? Maybe you can automate it? Is it boring because it takes too much time? What can you do to make it faster?

2. Remove the ‘boring’ from your routine. I see a lot of that on YouTube with bloggers and video editing. They make it fun by combining editing with the process of creating videos. Once they finished filming, they already have an entire video on their hands.

3. Add what’s missing. Think outside the box ― what is the problem that you solve with your product? Is there even a problem? Can you solve it in some other, simpler way?

4. Balance your involvement, short-term, and long-term. Any video game is combining your short-term involvement and long-term involvement. In the short term, you clear a dungeon, in the long term, you level up your character. When you develop software, short-term cycles are important. “I finished a task, that’s cool”. But then, your long-term involvement comes into the picture: “Last week I significantly improved our analytics, that’s very cool”. If both aspects are balanced properly, you can work much longer and with much more interest.

5. Do it tomorrow. I try not to complete every task as I get it. I make sure that smaller tasks don’t distract me from my plan for the day. Otherwise, you’ll never get things done, and some tasks are much more important than others: sometimes orders can’t get processed, deliveries aren’t coming through. By the time you’ve finished, you realize those minor tasks weren’t at all important, to begin with.

6. Treat your job as your project. When you work alone you have to do everything: you design, you manage your product and code, you test. Treat the business as something of your own, it’ll help you. This is the approach that I have at my job; it makes me more responsible, more self-aware.

7. Switch focus: from mental to physical, from loud to quiet. Make sure you filter out the information that you’re getting.

Besides programming, Mikhail has a Telegram blog Dodo Mobile. His Habr articles have thousands of views, and in 2019 one of them won a Habr award in Mobile Development nomination.

Does your blog affect your productivity?

There are different skills at play when I create articles. What I publish on Habr is pretty much public documentation of our projects, from articles to graphics. You form a text, you keep the important things, and edit out the junk. You use visuals to add more information ― pictures, graphics, gifs. When you create those texts for others to read, you become much more involved in your work.

Not many people are comfortable with having a blog. They think that the know-it-alls will come to bomb you with comments and questions, and then you have to fight back. A lot of communities are considered toxic because of it. In reality, it doesn’t even matter what people will say ― breaking down the process is the most important thing. When I was using Veer plugs I also documented everything ― how it felt working both in a busy office and working from home.

Coding and publicity are often considered incompatible, though.

That’s the thing, they are considered incompatible. When you interview people for a job, you see some of the best projects out there under their belt, but they just can’t ‘sell it’ during their interview. You can be a first-class specialist and nobody would know about you, which is why if you have a cool project ― let people know! Don’t focus on the result, talk about how you do it. Numerous steps take you to your end goal, so your approach becomes a part of the overall process.

Let’s look at another example ― I like working with professionals, and I see two ways to involve them in my work. You can create a good product ― and people will come to you from that alone. Or, people can come because they like you and they’re interested in your approach. I remember an article that I wrote ― it was about fake resumes of the industry, back when job interviews were a hot topic. I asked a question ― how come the salaries are so promising, and yet developers are nowhere to be found? Perhaps, they just can’t present themselves properly.

And can you?

Sometimes I ask myself: what will be in my resume a few years down the line? This question puts a lot into perspective. What can I tell about myself after a while, what will be the result of my job, what will I accomplish? It also works in reverse: what have I been doing for the past six months?

Each birthday I write down highlights from the year. It is a great analysis tool ― what did I do, why I did it, what did I accomplish? What else can I do, where can I grow? Each task that you take on must bring you closer to your end goal. Your growth brings disoriented tasks together. So, your growth also becomes your drive.

Now that you are a Head of Mobile, did your productivity change?

At the company, we have numerous smaller entities. As a result, we break every single task into multiple different tasks. For example, our app is now running in 8 different countries, so we always have to keep up with Dodo’s growth. One way or another, this brings us to the end location; by us, I mean developers, testers, designers, product managers, analysts.

And this is where it gets different for me. In my opinion, your location is one of the most important things when it comes to working from the office. You sit next to your developer and that’s extremely convenient for you. But then you have testers at the other end of the room, so your communication is now harder. People are lazy, and we want everything to be simple. I try to locate myself in a place where I could both reach everybody and be an intermediate for people. I work like a ‘glue man’ who knows how everything runs here.

Our open space is small, so things get noisy quickly. The efficient work lasts for 5 hours, on average: other times you spend in communication. By the end of the workday, things get louder, people get tired and the productivity goes down.

Right now, the Dodo Pizza app has 5 to 8 people in each team. Add developers, and you get roughly 20 people per team.

Let’s talk about Veer. How did you like them?

As I was saying, by evening the office is usually loud, so I had to do something about it. I thought Veer would help me, but more than that it turned out to be a cool brain experiment, too.

So what was the aha-moment?

I think I’d rather call it a pew-pew-moment: when I put earplugs on and started adjusting them, the entire soundscape around me changed. I started playing with different noise levels, accompanied by ‘pew-pew’ sounds. The brain has realized ― things are different around you, from keyboard clocks to phone notifications. The brain is now interested in it. When I realized which sounds are blocked by these plugs, I started adjusting them to each specific situation.

Earplugs bring a different level of comfort in your life. It’s like the distractions are gone, and whatever you deem important remains. For example, I like it when I know what’s going on with current tasks, can hear when people know what to do or learn from them, and if I could help them out. At the same time, I also need to concentrate. It’s that middle ground between not wanting to hear everything, but having to know what’s going on around me ― it happens on my commute just the same. It’s great when you can take care of that at the turn of a small wheel in your ear.

You tried Veer earplugs both at your job and at home during the quarantine. What about house noises?

I like working from home: I see my child, I spend more time with the family. However, when the kid watches cartoons or plays with loud toys it gets harder for me to concentrate. I also have a neighbor who’s in love with drilling his wall. It’s unbearable ― when we had our first Zoom meetings, my team couldn’t believe how loud it sometimes got.

After a while, I got used to using earplugs at home. It was weird knowing I can regulate the volume of everything around me with just one turn. I keep Veer near my workplace and use them to remove annoying noises that sometimes come out of the hardware. When I’m outside, they’re in a tiny case ― it’s convenient.

What do you think of productivity when working from home?

When we first started working from home, everybody was this close to working until midnight. Some of our guys spent entire weekends in front of a screen. Taking a rest is important, though, especially with how much information we have around us. Once you finish coding at work, don’t rush to your subway ride to read an article ― take it easy, get the noise to a minimum, and rest.

I remember when I was working from home, every day we would go outside for at least an hour. My workday is finished, time to switch things up. And that’s great when you have something to switch to ― your biggest insights come to you when your brain is fully at rest.

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