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ISsoft Ukraine: Interview with General Manager Dmytro Sennikov

March 26, 2021

ISsoft Ukraine development center began its operation in late 2020. The company employs both specialists relocated from Belarus to Ukraine and local IT specialists. The General Manager of ISsoft Ukraine is Dmytro Sennikov. He told us his IT career path’s story, about company development plans, his impressions of ISsoft Belarus, and his hobbies.

– Dmytro, could you tell us about your career path? How did you start and develop your career?

– I started my IT path with computer games; I often played them at my parents’ workplace. When I was a schoolboy, I decided to design and build my game and study Pascal and C++ programming languages. Games were exciting, but I wanted to develop applications and products that would be useful to people. In the 10th form, I entered Lviv Small Academy of Science, and the first application I created in the academy helped me teach students. I defended the project, which was a kind of thesis, and went to the All-Ukrainian Olympiad.

After finishing my first year in “Computer Science”, I understood that studying is excellent, but I need to earn money and apply the knowledge working on real projects. Therefore I began to look for work, which was successful. I was hired full-time, and I didn’t think about how I would combine university and work. I just dived deep into it. That’s how my career started.

In my first job, I was developing software that users needed. The users sent bugs and suggested changes, and I saw that the application was used and demanded. I also began to improve my soft skills. I learned how to work in a team, write letters, communicate with customers, etc. My manager was my mentor; he was very persistent and patient in giving advice and reviewing my letters. Watching him work, I realized that I wanted to help people with their work and career growth. Looking at my current job, I believe I’ve succeeded. 

Numerous tech abbreviations, including C++, Java, Linux, JavaScript… and endless strings of symbols. People joined and left teams, newbies learned; I introduced the project, its architecture and answered their questions. Clients called and expressed gratitude; sometimes they were angry, etc. I worked with various issues that always involved people. I prefer working with people, helping them, organizing their work, which makes the project. That’s how I moved into project management.

Then I worked on large projects from different countries and domains, including oil, sales, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. Each project is unique with its ups and downs; each project is about people and the time you spent with them solving problems. The most vivid impressions are probably the first impressions of a large project I remember with great affection—for example, the development of the BMW on-board system. I remember how they told us that they drove the car equipped with our system across the center of Munich. We felt proud. There was another project I am proud of. While working on it, we went to the client’s side, Novopolotsk, Belarus. We installed an oil metering unit at the Druzhba Oil Pipeline. I was interested from the technical point of view. Besides, this work was connected with an actual client, real problems, and real millions flowing through the pipeline. 

Later I had experience in different companies, including big and small ones, and kept working with people. At EPAM, for example, I was a resource manager. I was in charge of developing the focus on scripting languages. The goal was to build Lviv’s competence and prove that we can solve issues with these technologies, and provide our customers with the solutions. Everything turned out well.

Besides work, I have to think about vacations, and I have a sabbatical every 5-7 years. At EPAM, I had almost two months of vacation time saved up, which I wanted to use in one fell swoop. This acted as a trigger for events that gave me some great time for my family and hobbies. Thus began my new “job” as Happiness Manager. Of course, there was the world quarantine, closed borders, low demand, and many other factors that were incredibly nice to wait it out in calm conditions, but more on that later.

– How did you choose ISsoft?

– After a year and a half, I woke up with a feeling that makes me love your job. It was time to get back to work and find a place where I could combine working with people and solving corporate business tasks. So I heard from my friends that ISsoft was looking for a General Manager in Ukraine. It was essential for the company and me that the candidate should live and work in Lviv (and I was born, grew up, and live here), understand the market, market conditions, and solve such a task as opening a company office.

During my 20 years of experience, I solved a significant number of tasks. I’ve worked in HR, Resources, Delivery, and Training. So, my experience came together in one position, and I liked it. I decided that I could handle it and apply all my knowledge. Thus, I decided to join ISsoft. There were many interviews and negotiations, and “the umbrella was drawn”. Now I am working on bringing it to life. As a true Lviv citizen, I should have an umbrella😊

– What do you think about ISsoft after one month in the company?

– What I see right away is that ISsoft is a friendly company with a core that gathers people who try to help each other in their work. I had a chance to visit an online corporate party. I feel that the employees know and love their company and like to talk about it. For example, I remember one employee who wrote “My favorite Issoftushka”, which is very warm and pleasant. I want to take this friendly and good from ISsoft Belarus and bring it to Ukraine.

– That’s great; we’re sure you’ll succeed. Could you tell us what you plan to develop ISsoft Ukraine?

– We are planning to make a footprint of ISsoft in Lviv and further develop it in Ukraine. We’re also going to expand the recruiting geography to find people who can work on our projects and solve problems. We also plan to create remote workplaces throughout Ukraine and look for opportunities for those who would like to move to Ukraine from other countries. Besides, we are aimed at growth, the opening of training centers. Now we need to build a team of professionals who aren’t afraid of uncertainty and join us to create a core team.

 – How will WFH be organized for ISsoft Ukraine employees?

– We have been working remotely since the lockdown started. Many companies announce that they will work only from home or come back to offices when everything is over. I wouldn’t take either side. Overall market conditions have changed; managers have understood project teams can work productively working from home. WFH has its pros and cons, but the pattern has been established. Of course, there are restrictions on clients when we work with sensitive data or work in a protected area under some conditions. Sure, we’ll have to go back to the office to work with such things. On the other hand, if the project doesn’t restrict it, why not work from home. There is no single recipe.

In addition to the company side, there is also the employee side. Some people have children; some don’t have comfortable housing conditions; others need to work from the office, as it’s their way of getting out of daily routine and concentrating on their work. We’ll have an office for those people. Others may live far away from work, and it’s more comfortable to work from home; we’ll strive to help these employees create a comfortable home environment so that they don’t have to travel to the office.

As far as the office is concerned, I have an idea of implementing a hoteling system. According to it, you can reserve a space for tomorrow, and you’ll have a workspace waiting for you where you have to plug in your laptop. I see the workflow because part of the office is at permanent workplaces, and the other part of the office is hoteling. This concept means having workplaces that aren’t permanently assigned to anyone. An employee reserves a workplace when they need to come to the office.

The question of joint team building and other events remains open. Hopefully, the vaccine issue will be resolved soon, and we’ll be able to see each other more often. However, online parties have become the norm during the pandemic. The world has changed, and we have to accept this and keep up with global trends.

– Dmytro, how can you describe the IT market in Ukraine?

 – The traditional phrase is “the IT market is overheated”. Companies realized that they could do business during the lockdown, and they need to continue providing services. Companies traditionally need many programmers, and now some companies have staffed their team with recruiters who will look for programmers. Unfortunately, this does not increase the number of specialists. Companies are in search of talents throughout the country, and our company is no exception. We have focused on hiring employees all over Ukraine. In some cases, it’s WFH, even after the lockdown is over.

Overall, the market is competitive. Customers need local IT specialists; there are good universities and an excellent training program in Lviv. We will open our Training Center at ISsoft Ukraine to train programmers, testers, and other IT specialists. I think it’s our next horizon; we shouldn’t just create new jobs and train people who’ll work there.

– Can we say that Lviv has formed its own IT community with hackathons, meet-ups, and conferences, or does it need to be developed?

– Sure. Even twenty years ago, there were communities, then they were called “points,” today they are “meet-ups. They mean the same, only the name has changed. On the whole, community, or I’d rather say communities, has long gone through its creation, maturity, disintegration; there are already new communities, idols, and outcasts. The main thing here is not to interfere, the process takes its course, and people need to talk, without the pressure of “only this week, you’ll get an iPhone and a good salary”.

At ISsoft Ukraine, we solve our customers’ problems and need people who can think and make decisions. Employees who think about the need to learn technologies and understand that they can help clients with their expertise or come up with a startup. The startup culture in Lviv is mature enough; many engineers try to create solutions, develop and support them. I think we should develop and support this direction.

– Now, let’s talk about your hobbies; you certainly have a lot to tell after your sabbatical.

– I used to be crazy about strike ball. It’s a great hobby that involves the outdoors, collecting things, sports, teamwork, and winning. Besides, strike ball incorporates reconstruction elements to assemble your image if you want to look like a real soldier in a real army. I’ve been doing strike ball for about five years; I was also a team captain, my team took part in games and competitions with 1500 participants. But in 2014, all those games remained games, and people went back to real life and got involved in solving real problems.

After a few years, I wanted to dive back into the hobby atmosphere and do something besides work. I had never ridden a motorcycle or a bike, and somehow I decided that I would take up riding an enduro motorcycle. It’s a lightweight motorcycle designed to overcome obstacles: downhills, climbs, woods, fields, etc. Enduro motorcycles are a sport; there are competitions and training. For me, it’s more fun and exercise; despite its lightweight of 110 kg, when you lift it several times standing on the mountainside, it’s something more than a barbell in the gym. Since I didn’t know whether I would like it or not, I started paragliding simultaneously. I enjoyed both hobbies, and I am still combining them. Paragliding depends on the weather and wind, so if the weather is terrible and I have time, I take up the enduro motorcycle. My friends and I ride enduros in the Carpathian Mountains through fields and off-road. We fly near Lviv or go to other countries on a paraglider.

The weather is not often suitable for flying, so I always keep an eye on the weather reports, take a paraglider up to the hillside, choose the right moment, and we are ready to go. Flying on the wing is very exciting; you begin to understand air and how birds fly. They don’t flap their wings; they try to use the air and fly above the ground. So we, too, look for warm air currents that rise and move on to the following current, and so on. In this way, you can fly great distances. My record is only 40 km in Ukraine, but you can fly up to 500 km. There is a feeling of absolute silence in the sky; you are alone in the air, you look around at the flying birds, at the rustle of leaves on trees, your brain is constantly working. You are continually looking for upward air currents to spin around their center and gain altitude to fly to the next point. 

I had planned to travel a lot during the sabbatical; even before the lockdown, I visited Spain, Colombia, Peru, and Turkey. But 2020 made some changes, and the borders were closed. So, I discovered Ukraine, traveling by motorcycle, flying whenever the weather was nice. Today the situation is improving, you can go to the open countries, but in Ukraine, there are still many beautiful places where I want to go first.

I also have two children, a six-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old son. I have been lucky enough to spend an incomparable amount of time with them. Among other things, it’s too early to take them on a motorcycle, and it isn’t worth it. But they’ve already flown a little in a paraglider.