Interview with developer Alex Seleznov

Interview with developer Alex Seleznov

Published 29. jan 2019 06:55

Who are you and what do you do for a living?

I live in Ukraine, in the suburbs of the capital. At this point I code for TabIt full-time.

Half a year ago I have left university on the stage of receiving master's degree in physics. I studied Computer Engineering for two years at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, then transferred to the National University of Kyiv to study Quantum Field Theory, where I received my bachelor's degree.

Prior to the start of TabIt, I have experienced a decrees in my efficiency in studying physics, I felt like taught material has split ways with my interests and the staff only suggested to keep collecting marks that I didn't even deserve in order to receive papers that I never targeted for. I didn't want to suck the government's tit for the rest of my life, and make tax-payers pay for my hobbies. And I think, I wouldn't be able to. I decided to do the right thing and joined the relatively-free market, and maybe some day will pay for my hobbies myself.

What's your morning routine like?

I do like mornings with their sunrises more than evenings with their sunsets) And it used to be important to have a morning routine and be somewhere by 9:00am. But, all it did, was make the feeling of duty overshadow sleepiness, and not last long through the day. Today, I judge by the number and value of accomplished things. Say, when I just had a non-stop 8 hours of coding marathon, I'm not exactly concerned, at what time I got up this day.

What's a typical day at work like for you?

When I involve myself in a project, I believe, that my job is to take actions to make this project better off, making sure, that it will bring bigger, longer-lasting value to the world. To do so, the single most common thing you do is 'think'. You think in order to figure out 'what' and 'how'. The next common thing is 'try', then goes 'fail' and then 'succeed'.

More precisely, with TabIt these days: - I can be busy adding new features to programs. Normally, I dedicate time to make either lots of little improvements or to have some 'big news'.
- There are times to spend 2-14 days, rewriting a big piece of program, changing its operation logic. That's either to make program faster, or have a more reusable/clean code, so that your program survives future changes. Once, I took two weeks just to bring modular structure to the code, and once, two weeks just to 'draw a line' between the background and the foreground of the program.
- The word is never spread enough. So, after another version of the program is out, I can take time to do some marketing. Once, I took two weeks setting-up social-networks pages and a personal web-site with landing-pages. Then, for four days I would be adding programs to the listings of nearly a hundred of repositories.
- Preparing various images normally eats a lot of time while I don't particularly enjoy it, nor that I'm good at it)
- One day I decided to write an article on Medium. That took me another eight hours. Answering questions for this interview is another dedication to complete today.

If I can suggest you more details of the work-process... I used to go to the local coffee-bar a lot, sip coffee, not have a break for lunch and have this view out of the window:

What do you do when you're not working?

That not-working time, that consists of small breaks during work, I would fill with reading books/articles, watching YouTube, going through e-mails, thinking about the next task.

Other than that, I've started to pay attention to the development of my young sister, trying to deliver lessons of rational thinking, reason and honest relationship. I help her with various school homework, started attending her dancing competitions, recently we went ice-skating and also, we've been collecting this puzzle with 4000 pieces for a year already and will finish soon)

I am keen about mountain-biking and have had a great joy collecting a bike, piece by piece through the off-season. So I ride it a lot during summer. On occasion, I go to the local tennis-court to practice.

What does your office and desk look like?

At some point I decided to cut spending on coffee in the cafe and have it at home. However, that does reduce one's efficiency. The biggest distraction is a video content in the background, but it's also responsible a lot for my English knowledge) Anyway, here is my desk at home:

BTW & FYI: I pay here, in Ukraine, only $5.53/month for a 100Mbps of unlimited internet + unlimited mobile phone calls inside the network + 300 minutes for calls outside the network.

What challenges do you often run into when you're working?

- Here, in Ukraine, some important payment systems are not available for merchants. I'm talking Google Payments Merchant, PayPal and Stripe. So I went for a domestic one, called LIQPAY, and was absolutely happy with it. But the whole situation was a little frustrating.
- Developers will always be the first to blame on the lack of users of their products. But surely, the second has got to be a distribution platform. In my case, it's Google Chrome Web Store, and it sucks the most of all of them. Arguable? Sure. But just try using its search engine and judge the relevance of the results. Sorting options are very limited. Featuring lists are basically carousels for the same items: sometimes they don't change for years!
- Figuring out a Business Model is a hard one. Especially at the beginning, when you only have some skills, initial vision of the product and a negative feedback from people you rushed to tell about it) Half way through to this moment, I think, I had already rewritten the whole program twice, had split it into two separate ones and had no idea, what to charge users for. And that's okay, because when you succeed, you then know exactly, why, and it's harder to assign it to luck.

Do you have any good productivity tips?

I think there is one fundamental - self-knowledge. It helps you to preset conditions, when you tire less, when you are more efficient and prevent mental breakdowns.

Other than that:
- Do not share your intentions with unrelated people. It is a big motivation killer, either for the lack of support or for the feeling of satisfaction due to the dopamine release. If you really want to tell about something, tell about things, you've already accomplished or wait for it)
- Do not let the lack of experience scare you away. If you've decided to be your own boss, then be it. Don't be afraid to pick up new knowledge, when you need to. And, meanwhile, there is no need to keep something in your head, if it's available at your fingertips, one Google search away.
- Collect feedback from your users ASAP. That means, release first version of your product ASAP. Not saying to go along with everything you hear from them, but it is indeed the most valuable information you will have. And it's a productivity tip, because it saves you a lot of time.

What tools do you use at work to be productive?

I never go near having an important file, if it's not on my Google Drive. Its PC version is a tool #1. Then it's simple: Atom - for coding; Trello - for planning; Photoshop - for raster images; Babel - for code obfuscation.

How do you get inspiration to get up in the morning and kick ass?

Honestly, I'm not always inspired to kick ass, but when I am, I can expect to make a difference. Practically speaking, I realise, that some ideas are to be implemented either now or never. And you only have them because they seam relevant today and may be not at all relevant in, say, ten years. And, if so, good for us! If that implies, that we're developing, moving forward, than be so!

Imagine that you have a vivid idea, clear vision for the outcome of some project. And you work on it for unreasonably long time just to be proven right. What a boring story! Wouldn't it be better if you could have it as soon as possible?

The source of my inspiration is a desire to know the answers to the questions, I find important. I want to be either proven wrong or have a confirmation and move on to the next question. I want to have my life going and have lots of positive results. So, when I wake up to the 'kick-ass' mood, that means, I'm not going for delay.

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Stein Ove Helset

29. jan 2019 09:05

Thanks for the interview, Alex!

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