"A true developer, like a writer, must be able to communicate their idea with the code".
Interview with a Senior PHP developer at an international IT company and IT Business Partner
Today we have an amazing guest at Lucky Hunter blog. The specialist we have interviewed has a unique experience. Our guest has passed the way from a junior developer to a technical director, and today he occupies the position of Senior PHP developer in an international IT company, works as an IT business partner in a startup, and manages his own IT project!
We are glad to introduce you to Mikhail Necheporenko! Read the interview now and get plenty of useful information about the IT world.
Mikhail Necheporenko, Senior PHP developer at an international IT company and IT Business Partner
— Hello, Misha! We are very grateful to you for this interview! And the first question is about your experience. How many years have you been engaged in development? Where did you start from? What companies did you work for?
— I have been working in IT for about 15 years. It is hard to give you an exact number of years because I got acquainted with the IT-sphere when I was a student. At that time we organized a computer network for a veterinary clinic in Pskov.
DSL technology came to us in Pskov at that time. It provided an amazing speed (for that time), and I've ordered the fastest possible service for myself – 2 Mb/s. Some of my friends at once became interested in the network, and we started to run cables between floors, and then between blocks. Two years later, more than 50 people were connected to our network.
It turns out that being a student, I was an administrator of a small cable network called D31, according to the number of the block where I lived. The cable network is still there, hello guys =)
Programming is a very lively profession
There, in Pskov, I graduated from the Faculty of Informatics at the local Polytechnic University. Even though originally I was going to become an economist, since I was good at mathematics, I decided to become a programmer. I made this choice because programming is a very lively profession. You can check the results of your work for years after its completion. This is not only a creative, but also a contemplative profession, and this fact is amazing: the more projects you have implemented, the bigger is your contribution to the industry.
— When I graduated from the institute, I moved to St. Petersburg and immediately started looking for a job. Finding a job was quite a challenging task, like any fresh specialist, I had no work experience.
Therefore, during my interviews, I decided to highlight the key dominant for choosing me – prospects. I said that I was proactive, active, had good organizational and leadership skills.
— Besides, I noted that despite the lack of practical knowledge, I was ready to master any technology very quickly.
I was ready to pass any test to show what I was capable of and immediately indicated that I could not give more skills than I had at that time, and this was ok.
— I remember that my first interview was a failure. The interviewer, as it seemed to me then, wanted to save money on me as a young specialist. He asked me to assess my own knowledge of technologies by myself ranging from "1" to "5", and during the interview, he asked only about the technologies which I've estimated as "1". It was a little strange considering the fact that I immediately showed I was not good about those.
By doing this, I suppose, he wanted to decrease my value as a specialist. As a result of this interview, the employer offered me a salary of 15,000 rubles. I refused this offer because I realized that it would not only be difficult for me to live on this money, but I also realized that my skills were somewhat more expensive.
It is very easy to frighten young professionals and convince them of insolvency
It was the moment when I decided that I should have a clear position. Yes, I had no experience, yes, I had not enough knowledge, but I had a lot of energy, ambitions, and time. It is very easy to frighten young professionals and convince them of insolvency, so I decided not to be shy about what I had there and now and "sell" the things I had at that time.
— As a result, I got a job at a travel company. The main problem of my work in that company was a very short list of tasks, which I completed in two weeks. At that time, I realized that I could be fired as an unnecessary specialist, so I decided to act.
I came up with something to do, inviting this company to refresh their website. Their managers loved my idea, and for two next years, I have been developing their website, adding various new features.
— That web-site turned out to be not the best one in terms of architecture: after all, at that time I did not have many skills, but my main feature was as follows: I was not just an executing programmer.
I started my work by examining the needs of people or businesses, trying to make not just a product, but a product that will bring as many benefits to a customer as possible. Working at the intersection of technology and business still helps to stand out in the market and be a sought-after specialist.
By the way, years have passed, and the company is still using this website :)
— When my job at a travel company was completed and I did the best I could, I switched to another company. It was an American firm that was one of Google's competitors in the 90s. After losing this competition, the company turned itself into a private search engine.
The search engine developed by the company provided the ability to search through research documents, simplifying the task of collecting scientific information.
The work in this company was rather controversial: I did not like both the company's technologies and the lack of teamwork. So I decided to change this work pretty quickly.
— The new company impressed me already during the employment process. The test task, which I completed in one of the stages, was smashed to smithereens by their team. But this was not the most important thing. More importantly, they explained to me in detail what I did wrong and how it should be done in an ideal case.
I really liked it, because I felt that I could seriously improve my skills in that company.
— I was hired because the team had the resources to train a young specialist. After working for six months, I got an offer to take the vacant position of team leader. I agreed, and thus began my long journey of collaboration with this team. Thus, for example, together with the CEO of this company, I began to work at a startup.
I worked in a startup for quite a long time, starting my career as a developer and ending it as a technical director. And even today, I still cooperate with this startup, but now as an external contractor. Besides, I work as a Senior PHP developer for an international IT company and also manage my own IT project, KNBattle.
— Misha, thank you for this great story! In your story, you mentioned that you left the travel company because you had decided everything you wanted was done. Tell me, please, are there any other reasons making you decide to leave the company? For example, did you receive a more interesting offer? =)
If you let a thought into your head, even not a mature one, there's a risk that it will start "walking around" your head and eventually result in a decision to implement this idea.
If we talk about "headhunting", there were no stories like that. There is an expression: "to hammer a rusty nail into the head". If you let a thought into your head, even not a mature one, there's a risk that it will start "walking around" your head and eventually result in a decision to implement this idea. Unfortunately, this step is not always successful in all cases. The same thing is about suggestions. Any job offer can be tempting and interesting. You both overestimate the advantages of work in a new place and paint the disadvantages of working there with brighter colours. Considering the fact that I am quite a gambling person, and such offers can scramble brains I try not to consider new offers until I really decide to change my job.
— If we talk about the reasons why I change jobs, in 99% of cases this is due to the lack of understanding of the next steps of cooperation with the company. It can be both a career ceiling and different vectors of movement for me and this company.
It's perfectly normal to change jobs if you go separate ways. You shake hands and move along while keeping a warm relationship.
— What do you pay attention to when considering a new job offer? What are the key aspects?
I don't like to work in outsourcing companies, because in most cases the team does exactly what clients want. There is no flexibility and sometimes you have to implement far from the most inspiring customer's ideas. Therefore, I always work in tech companies. In IT, most often the market shows what is great and what is not. And that's cool.
By creating products for end-users, we can see how useful and relevant they are for the audience.
Secondly, I take a look at the team. I enjoy working in a team. It is particularly attractive if the whole team works together, without dividing people into departments. This approach helps to broaden the horizons and more fully see how the processes are arranged in the company.
Such an "agile" style of work organization allows a single team to create a completely ready-made product, and not just do some part of the work.
Thirdly, this is about finances. We can't ignore it. With the help of finances, you can solve almost any problem, simplifying and improving the quality of your life.
But still, I have to note the following: in my opinion, the benefit that you bring to the company should be slightly more than your salary. Otherwise, the company will no longer feel the benefits of cooperation and may be looking for a specialist with lower salary expectations.
— And what about the popular remote work, VHI, IT-perks, a personal massage therapist for instance? What do you think about it?
The easier it is to get a service, the higher is the chance that you will use it.
You can solve all this by having enough money. If you have enough money, you can, attend your personal masseur, visit your favourite clinics, and so on. For example, I have never used VHI, because I do not need it. On the other hand, we cannot say that these are useless bonuses. For some people, these are very important advantages, because the easier it is to get a service, the higher is the chance that you will use it. So, having access to a free massage therapist, many will use it, simply because there is the opportunity.
— What kind of employment do you prefer? Remote or office work?
— At the moment, I work only remotely because it saves me a lot of time. I have a pretty dynamic life and I don't want to resist it. I do not need a clear plan for the day, I am more comfortable building processes in a real-time mode. Plus, telecommuting generally gives you more room to manoeuvre. If I want to go somewhere or take a break of 15 minutes to put my child to bed, I can do it.
Besides, we have organized working processes in such a way that telecommuting turned out to be more effective than working in an office.
— Working remotely as a team leader can you work as effectively as in an office?
— Remote work significantly differs from work in an office, and this is an important thing to understand. It is impossible to transfer the processes typical for offline-work to the online mode. This will definitely affect productivity. It is important to understand how to organize the work of a remote team, and then everything will work out, and sometimes even much better than in an office :)
The great thing about remote work is that it removes many of the disadvantages of office work. Distractions disappear, there is an opportunity to work in comfortable biorhythms, it is better to alternate the period of rest and work.
The secret is that you do not need to continue the old processes of the offline world in the online world, but accept new rules of the game and learn to adapt.
— Cool! Thanks! Now let's talk about recruiting processes. Do you pay attention to how a recruiter interacts with you? Does the communication with a recruiter affect your consideration of this offer?
HR is the company's face.
Yes, it does. I can even say more: I know how the processes are arranged both from one side and from the other one. My slogan is as follows: HR is the company's face. The hiring process is an indicator of how things work in a company. If the process is notgood enough, the impression of the company turns bad, even if it is a very cool company. If HR processes are built well, it is great for the hiring party.
Once we refused a developer, but he liked the communication process with our team so much that he spread the information about the job offer among his colleagues and acquaintances, thus helping us to find the right specialist.
Therefore, the recruiting processes and the way they are organized are extremely important. Poorly organized processes can ruin the company's impression.
— What do you mean by "poorly organized processes?"
— Poorly organized processes are about different negative interaction stories. For example, they promised you to call back and never did, or they constantly postpone interviews and thus show disrespect to you as an applicant.
Besides, these are unnecessary requirements, such as a formal test assignment or primitive questions, as well as unpunctuality.
It is very important to keep the "labour balance"
Also, it is very important to keep the "labour balance". If a developer is required to complete the test task in a day, a company must spend the same amount of time for this developer. It seems that this is not possible, but we found a solution to this problem in our company.
— We send a solution to each developer who has passed the test task, regardless of whether this person passes to the next stage or not. In that solution, we point out the weaknesses, show how one should solve the problem, provide the links to educational articles so that the developer's time, in any case, is not wasted.
— Given your vast experience, how do you feel about being asked to complete a test task?
— In general, I'm ok about test tasks. However, it all depends on what a company wants to see as a result. If a company wants to see the quality of my code, maybe I can provide a ready-made one, and that will be enough.
A true developer, like a writer, must be able to communicate his idea with his code.
If a company wants to look at something else, I am ready to do the task if it takes a little time to complete it. A test assignment is a good way to test the skills of an engineer, but more importantly, it shows how a person solves a problem using code. A true developer, like a writer, must be able to communicate his idea with his code. Code in the IT world is a language of communication between programmers, a means of communication. And it is extremely difficult to check how a specialist talks about his/her own solution with the help of code, helps to immerse himself in the problem and its solution without a test task.
Still, I would like to note: test tasks should be interesting, not "dry". It's great when you want to complete a task because in this case the creative potential of a specialist is revealed.
— Thanks a lot. Let's go back to the recruiting process. What can scare you off during the initial communication with a recruiter?
First, the wording may scare me away. How the email is written is what really matters to me. I am very worried about the bureaucratic side of the issue, and if I see an overly loaded and formal text, I would be really careful about such an email.
These are not grammatical mistakes but rather professional ones. I would like to feel that I am communicating with a competent specialist.
In all the other cases, I am a very loyal person. Even the things that I have mentioned will not stop me from further communication.
— What communication methods are the least and most preferred for you?
— The worst way to communicate is by phone :)
—And what about Vkontakte?
— Yes, please :) I rarely use it. If we talk about other channels, any of those is suitable for me, since they all work in asynchronous mode. Unlike the phone, they do not require an answer here and now, they give me time to think and accept the information when it is convenient for me.
— What is the most preferable communication method?
— Probably there is no most preferable one, but I can name the second non-preferable one after the phone. This is an email. This is due to the fact that a letter can easily get lost in your mailbox. The third one in the list of unwanted channels is LinkedIn. It is blocked on the territory of the Russian Federation, and, to be honest, I never considered this social network as a daily communication channel. All the other channels are more than acceptable.
— Superb! Thanks. And talking about the number of interview steps, do you have a comfortable number of those?
— Three is the normal number of stages for me. The first stage is the initial communication with a recruiter. The second stage is a technical interview. The third stage is the final one. During this stage, you can talk about the business, competitors, the future of the company, and its goals, learn about some exciting moments.
— Great. I have two questions left. The first one is related to the mistakes that recruiters make during the communication process. Tell me, please what are these mistakes in your opinion?
Even if the specialist is not good for you, it is important to end the conversation in a friendly manner.
I've practically no negative experience, so it's hard for me to answer the question. In general, there should not be any poorly-considered things, for example, a sudden stop of communication if a specialist is not good for the position. This should not be the case, since the IT market is narrow, and most likely in the future, a recruiter will have to contact the specialist again. Even if the specialist is not good for you, it is important to end the conversation in a friendly manner.
— Thanks. And the last question for you. Please, name the TOP-5 needs of a modern IT specialist, except for salary and the project.
It's great when you can develop within working hours. Not every employer can afford it, and it is normal since the company has no intention to train you.
I like when processes are based on good communication. It's great when you have an opportunity to ask something, discuss, consult.
I will not name you all the TOP-5 needs, because everything else is secondary.
— Misha, thank you very much for this interview. It was great to talk to you.
— Me too. Anytime! =)
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