Alexey Nikolayev, SVP of NIX, shares his experience of the journey from a system analyst to a top management position in a 2000 people powerhouse and tells how the software development industry changed over 18 years.
Thanks for asking! It’s always great to recall where we started and where we are now. When I joined NIX at the end of 2001 it was a group of 35-40 people who were trying to survive and restart after the dotcom bubble burst. Now we are a powerhouse of 2000 people with a solid portfolio and great expertise... To tell you the truth, there was no aspiration to reach any specific position. I just have been helping my team progress and deal with things that are new or challenging at the moment. It is always tough when we raise the bar, but it is also fun.
Initially I was looking for a place with smart and like-minded people, where I could make an impact and learn more. I was very keen about scalable delivery methodologies and how enterprise-grade software is cooked. NIX appeared to me as the right place. Here I met a gang of bright enthusiasts, who gave me a lot to learn, were open to learning from me, and set challenges we can achieve together. So it has always been a fun and driving experience.
From time-to-time we need to wear different hats to provide some clarity to people outside of NIX. Today my focus is our corporate clients and business development – I maintain relations with our key clients, provide guidance to our account leaders and delivery managers, help identify business needs and formulate a solution, and organically bring new business. I also contribute to talent development, building new capabilities, and closing new high-profile deals.
I came at a time when being a software engineer did not assume any specialization. From time-to-time I did whatever my project team needed to progress: requirements and prototyping, coding and coding conventions, test strategy, user documentation, whatever. Over the time we evolved from a boutique workshop to a factory with disciplined and managed delivery, and this change smoothly shifted my focus on methodology and mentorship. Eventually I switched to client-facing roles because communication and understanding of client’s business appeared to be key aspects of outsourced project development.
It's believed that software development is only coding, but that's incorrect. Сontemporary development processes include such stages as business analysis, design—including visual components and software architecture—writing code, testing this code, launching the product to the market, and often post-release maintenance.
For the modern business, software development is a multitasking, problem-solving tool, and holds great opportunities for growth, improving customer service, optimizing internal processes, and enhancing overall business performance
At the time, any business couldn't exist without software solutions in current realities. Look around—software systems are involved in all aspects of our life and all business industries. Nowadays, it's precisely the kind of gear that moves forward the entire business machine. If you want to make business successful and profitable and compete with market leaders, you must have the best and newest software in your arsenal. Those are the rules.
I am pretty sure there are different viable models. I will just share what I believe, and what in my humble opinion makes NIX so successful. Other people may find their own ways, which are not necessarily wrong.
I'm starting with the obvious here, but the first vital thing is aspiration to help your clients achieve their goals, help make their business successful in the long term, not just meet the contracted technicalities and invoice them. The latter approach will eventually lead to no win. The first will build you a strong reputation.
The second quality embodies versatility. The ability to provide a holistic software engineering process and continuous support is a strong competitive advantage.
I would also like to highlight the ability to learn and adopt emerging approaches. Technologies head forward and grow with insane speed. Disruptive changes emerge every day. A strong organization keeps on pace and absorbs and verifies all innovations – tools, methodologies, and techniques. It’s our mission to help clients navigate this ocean, identify the right approaches, and operationalize it for their business.
The first thing is, of course, the tech stack, especially its diversity. If, in 1999, you could know one programming language and be a successful expert, then today you have to have specialise in dozens of languages, frameworks, and tools. The second one is the expansion of the consumer market. Earlier, the implementation of software solutions was the privilege of large enterprises, manufacturers, and academic institutions. Nowadays, companies of any size from all business sectors can afford and leverage software solutions. Digital transformation is not just a buzzword.
Regarding the anticipation of a hundreds billion dollar industry, in those years, I didn't assume any numbers, but firmly believed that software would touch all aspects of our lives and be in great demand in the future.
I think that recognizing this fact has allowed us, I mean NIX, to keep up with the development of the market and technology for over 25 years. The ability to anticipate market needs and the ability to close these needs makes NIX one of the top 100 outsourcing companies, according to IAOP.
As I said before, app development companies should first care about clients' success, not just how to complete projects. The second one is tracking trends and innovations and harnessing them in work. Modern software development companies must be agile and follow the market. And you have to love what you do, be obsessed with it, keen to be the best in this business.
Nowadays, 50% of web traffic is generated from mobile devices. It isn't easy to find a company for which a mobile app will waste money. Virtually any business can benefit from going mobile. The main thing is a clear understanding of opportunities that the mobile app will address and the right technology partner that will help with implementation.
Sometimes, we recommend our clients abandon their idea of developing a bespoke solution and look into out-of-the-box alternatives if they can serve the same purpose. We may possibly earn less money in the short term, but our reputation costs significantly more.
As for the minimum requirements, first of all, you have to figure out the problems a mobile app will solve in your company, what benefits its implementation provides, and what specific features it must have to cover your business requirements. This basic concept is enough for an experienced engineering company to recognize what solution will be proper in your case.
Project management is a process of leading the whole team's work to ensure a project will be delivered on time and on budget. To achieve these results, project managers always stay on top of the development process to instantly solve any difficulties and prevent them at best. The primary value they bring in software development is saving all types of resources, including money, specialists' effort, and most crucial, time, by constant process coordination in each development stage.
NIX'll keep doing what we've always done well: being a rock of top-notch software engineering to help vertical businesses and product companies make our world a bit better.
The amount of daily data, communications and decision alternatives are so overwhelming that for some areas AI emerges as the only way to keep the mission possible. Every day, you and I interact with AI, using personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google search. Machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision and other cool rocket science technology is much more accessible for application developers compared to 5 years ago. With AWS Sagemaker or IBM Watson we can build applications with previously unthinkable capabilities. This opens terrific opportunities for AI-augmentation of many “conventional” jobs and businesses.
Blockchain is still a thing! The initial wave of speculations and buzz around this concept went away. But it is very promising technology to manage decentralized transactions protected from being faked or manipulated. Healthcare, intellectual property, DRM, real estate, digital ID – there are limitless possibilities. I believe, in the future, every mobile device will carry some component of a blockchain-backed system to enable various paperless processes, for example voting for a political candidate or safely transfersing your medical records to a hospital of your choice.
Coronavirus didn't leave any business domain untouched and affected all industries, and IT is not an exception. It was a sudden and significant strike for the world's business environment, and it needs time to recover entirely. Some sectors have been making their way through these trying times – travel and hospitality, sports, retail, to name a few. However, some other sectors had a massive influx of investments and demand: healthcare, telecommunication, digital learning, and delivery services are booming. After all, we knowingly say that crisis is a disruption for some and a springboard for others. So, overall the COVID-19 situation has barely affected NIX as a business. At the beginning of this pandemic, we switched to remote mode and continued providing vital services to our partners worldwide. But we couldn't stay aside and did the best we could: from donating medical equipment to hospitals to donating specialized websites for local communities that bring together volunteers and people who need help from everyday errands to legal assistance and financial and informational support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The future after COVID-19 is already here. We've adapted to doing business at home, solving problems through video calls, and keeping social distance.
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