Alexey Voskresensky, Head of IT Department
“I truly believe that my subordinates should be smarter than me because then they make me and my team stronger!”
How did you end up at Ornament and what did you do before that?
— It’s a coincidence that I joined Ornament just in time for my anniversary — I celebrated 10 years of my career as an IT specialist. I started 10 years ago as a trainee of our CEO and back then we also developed mobile applications — software for terminals, which were carried by the staff of the book warehouse. At that time there was no mobile application boom, and the iPhone 4S had just appeared, which to me was something cosmically expensive!
I had a very interesting career: I participated in the Olympic construction in Sochi, I made software for stadium security, and I led the development of software in a startup that created smart tools for heart surgeons. I then ran a big team at a prominent green bank. We were making a product that determined the bank’s entire pricing, from interest on deposits and loans to the volume of the liquidity position.
Was it scary going to work at a startup?
— On the contrary! When working in a bank, I realized that I wanted to get back into the atmosphere of the “movement” of a startup. This is probably the key benefit for me. I really like the fact that I can influence the product through words and deeds, and the results of my work directly affect our users. Of course, this is a big responsibility, but it is a challenge and motivation to get up in the morning and go to work.
Is it easier to work in a corporation or a small company?
— There is a lot of bureaucracy in corporations — you often don’t even know who you are communicating with, there is a lot of email correspondence, and tasks are often done “off the books” because people use them to earn political points. In startups, it’s the other way around. But there are also disadvantages to startups: the cost of mistakes is higher, you often have to understand related things or perform several roles at once, and losing one person can lead to big problems for everyone. However, I can definitely say that in smaller teams there is always a friendlier atmosphere.
Was the need to move to Montenegro a plus or a minus for you?
— Definitely a plus. I’ve lived all my life in Moscow and every winter I thought I would like to spend the winter somewhere. It became especially unbearable when COVID-19 started and traveling abroad was complicated by vaccines, PCR tests, and the like. Montenegro has a mild climate, and most importantly there are mountains nearby and I go snowboarding every weekend. Of course, I just could not imagine doing that while living in Moscow. The trip to the ski area is the same amount of time as to the small mountains near Moscow — the difference is the roads are picturesque and don’t have potholes.
How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about IT?
— I manage a team of programmers, testers, analysts, machine learning specialists, and support people. There are many of us, but we all have the same simple task — to make complex things simple and convenient. I explain this to my grandmothers this way: I’m implementing something that a while ago was impossible. For example, in the past, it was impossible to imagine that you could call from Moscow to Budva and see your grandson against the background of the sea or the mountains. But now it is an everyday occurrence. I very much hope that at Ornament we’ll make a service that will also change people’s attitudes toward their health and become something unique.
What skills, other than technical, should the head of the IT department have? And in general, does he or she have to be a super programmer?
— Well, a weak technician will simply “eat” his own subordinates. There are hard skills such as knowledge, technical skills, mathematical and structural thinking. And there are soft skills such as empathy, charisma, the ability to communicate and make friends, and leadership qualities. So, to become a good manager, it is very important to have strong soft skills. I truly believe that my subordinates should be smarter than me because then they make me and my team stronger! My job is to make sure that they interact effectively with each other and feel comfortable.
I’ve seen many teams where it’s the strong technicians who become managers or leaders. As a rule, it did not lead to anything good. Writing good code is one art, but managing people is quite another. Not every great writer can become a Minister of Culture. It’s the same story here.
How is developing a mobile app fundamentally different from developing, for example, a website?
— During my career, I have worked on desktop software and sites, and even on terminals and embedded solutions. Of course, the most difficult is embedded software — these have the most peculiarities, nuances, and the most difficult process of development and debugging. But mobile applications also have a lot of challenges as there are many different devices with different screens, hardware, etc. And the main nuance is that you can’t just put out a new version for all users as you do with websites. First, you have to get a review from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, and then you also have to wait for your users to update. All in all, you can’t fix a mistake in one fell swoop. And, of course, the coolest thing is that a huge number of people have cell phones! I looked at UN statistics and found that there are 7.83 billion people on the planet currently, and there are 8 billion active smartphones — which means that there are already more smartphones than people! I hope we are not in for a machine uprising — but until then, the market for mobile app developers is incredibly large.
What areas in IT do you consider the most promising in terms of careers today?
— When I was a junior developer, I thought programmers were the most important and coolest people who made the world modern. Over time, I realized how important analysts and QA specialists are. It seems to me that in the mid-term horizon mobile developers, DevOps, and Data Science engineers will be in high demand. And if I was thinking about where to send my daughter or son in an area close to IT, it would be something to do with biology such as DNA programming. I absolutely believe that molecular biology, the technology around stem cells and DNA is the next round of humanity’s scientific and technological revolution.
What career advice would you give a high school student who wants to take your place one day?
— Well, if I’m right in my previous answer, the position I have now won’t exist or it will be transformed in some way. In order to succeed in IT, you have to love technology. That’s key in our industry. Technology changes almost every year and you need to keep up with it.
To start with, I’d advise you to write something in Python. It’s a simple language, very concise, and easy to understand without having to read a thousand pages of complicated books. When I was in school I really wanted to have a robot that I could program, even if it was just to move around the apartment. Now it’s a piece of cake! I would start with something like this so you can quickly see if you are interested and ready to study the program and the hardware all day long.
What mobile apps do you use yourself?
— Ornament, of course! I used it before I joined the company, and it’s even more important now. Those who play computer games will definitely understand this: it’s important that developers use their own applications — otherwise, they just don’t understand what they’re doing. And by the way, that’s why I like our corporate practice — every year we turn in checks and put them in our app. I even know that some of the guys have discovered their health risks that way, and they’re working on them now.
As for other apps I use — I think half of my life is spent on messengers, and I use a lot of apps for notes, organizing things, and email.
I have an app for dancers that picks up music for improvisation, I have a tracker for snowboarding, I used to have an app for the Rubik’s cube, and, of course, a whole bunch of different music services!
What’s after work?
— I adore dancing. I dance social improvisation dances and have won Russian and Moscow championships. I think I was even in the top 35 partners of the Russian ranking. I love music very much — I listen to everything from Vysotsky to electronic music, hard rock, and ethnic female vocals. I love it when colleagues give me some new releases or little-known artists.
I also love technology, IT, and hardware. I have a Raspberry Pi and NAS at home, and I used to set up things like Kodi, my own music server. I love it when new formats come out, like foldable smartphones or noise-canceling headphones. I’m always itching to get my hands on something new.
I also really want to get a skydiver’s passport (I think that’s what it’s called) so I can jump and, what the hell, take part in a formation. But I feel that every year it becomes more and more difficult to overcome my fear.