My name is Nataliia Horova, and I continue to share the inspiring stories of our teammates. Today I would like to introduce you to Eugene Kurylenko, Android Team Lead at Innovecs. Eugene is the first among our talented teammates to participate in our newly launched series, “Career Stories,” where we delve into the triumphs and challenges that shape professional growth.
The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding your life story. When choosing tech as an industry to develop in, Eugene didn’t realize how it would change him and his mindset. Initially, Eugene only considered upgrading his hard skills and learning new technologies.
“Lifelong learning is vital to me. Throughout my life, I have been inspired by people around me — Team and Tech Leads, Advanced Engineers and great personalities outside the tech industry, speakers, and business people. Aside from hard skills, they all had solid soft skills. Motivated by leaders, I focused on personal development and grew from Middle engineer to Team Lead, — shares Eugene. — After all, professional advancement comes with strategic thinking, consistency, and responsibility.”
Get The Ball Rolling
When picking a university, people divide into two categories: the first group knows exactly what their plans for the future are, so they don’t have any problem choosing the right university and specialization. As for me, I belong to that category of people who pick a university based on instinct and the subject you like the most. In my case — English. So I thought that trying myself as an English and foreign language teacher would be engaging.
Therefore, during my 1st year at university, I quickly realized that eleven years were enough for me to spend at school, and I didn’t see any prospects for me being a teacher. So I started browsing job sites, explored trendy and demanding positions, and as it turned out, tech was becoming an increasingly popular industry.
I tried to enter the tech field some time ago, but because of a lack of information online, I barely understood what engineers do.
Besides, you give up quickly when you learn, try, and fail to achieve any results in a new sphere. So when I noticed that tech was gaining popularity and becoming increasingly reclaimed, I decided to try one more time to tap into this dynamic world.
I studied everything on my own and learned things from videos and articles all over the web. At first, everything was quite chaotic since it was new territory for me with many directions. Once, my friend Myroslav, who was working at Innovecs, told me that he was developing applications for Android, and then the idea of growing in Android came to me. People use their phones every day, and there are a lot of opportunities for development and knowledge. I never thought about the fact that someone creates apps for the phone; I thought it was a built-in option. Thanks to Myroslav, I received my first freelance task, which was the crucial point that boosted me as a developer. And after that, mastering software engineering skills and programming went quite organically.
Focus On What Won’t Change
I believe developers beyond Middle level have no right to have only hard skills. The truth is that no one needs ninja coders anymore, although there used to be plenty of them. Despite their strong technical expertise, I’ve never heard of, e.g., Tech Giants hiring toxic ninja coders. Clients choose us for our work and professionalism, and they have every right to ask, “How long will your work take?” or “What technical impact will this feature have on the project?”. A narcissistic ninja coder will simply not be able to satisfy the client’s need for communication. To evolve as a pro, you must focus on developing both professionally and personally.
As for hard skills, they are specific to each technology; that’s why I would instead emphasize build knowledge in depth. For example, if we’re talking about a Middle or Advanced Android engineer within a project, they will both need to know Coroutines, Kotlin, Dagger 2, and Room and learn how to use them. The fundamental difference is that a Mid-level engineer may not understand the nuances of interaction with other technologies or in a particular context. Hard skills development, both in breadth and in-depth, is essential to professional growth.
Moreover, when you’re an Advanced, especially Team Lead or Tech Lead, it’s a must to progress as a person too. Therefore, I include the following soft skills in the list:
- Having a certain level of self-awareness and self-control at work.
- Being open-minded and understanding the emotions of other people.
- Being more empathetic, focusing on the interests and needs of others. This will also help transform the client’s needs into technical tasks.
- Critical and strategic thinking will help analyze how a new client’s task will impact the project in the long term.
- Setting boundaries. I can only open Slack on the weekend in case of a new release, but in general, I give myself time to relax and tune in to the upcoming week. I advise my team to do the same. When you force your team members to work overtime or don’t give them time to rest, they can quickly face burnout or even leave the project.
Work Your Way Up
I joined Innovecs as a Mid-level engineer. I had a rather weak interview because I had no commercial experience with the technologies used on the project at the time. Despite this, Innovecs gave me a chance because my knowledge was enough to start. The Senior Developer, Petro, created a development plan and advised me about what to focus on. I accomplished self-development and followed Senior Developers’ work, significantly boosting my experience. Code reviews also helped me improve technically. I genuinely thank Petro for his guidance, support, and mentorship. He has been incredibly helpful in developing my technical skills.
Later on, I started conducting technical interviews, which helped me to dive deeper into understanding certain things on our project. When you conduct interviews, you must ask the right questions and know the answers, so I prepared by reading and studying a lot.
Once a week, our Tech Lead organized various activities – we did Chapters, talked about patterns and technologies, made presentations, and developed together as a team. I made substantial progress on a project when I had to create an architecture from scratch. I remember working hard together with the Senior Developers, paying attention to every detail.
Anyway, when I was a Middle, I just worked, developed technical skills, coded, tried different technologies, improved my resume, and that was it. I didn’t think much about how my decisions could affect users and the project. As I grew, I realized that developing tech skills would help me move forward as an engineer, but if I wanted to grow vertically and embrace more advanced positions, I must also work on my soft skills.
Communication is essential to business success and healthy organizational culture, especially in multicultural companies. This will help build trust and long-term relations with the team and the client. Given that Innovecs is a global technology company, it operates in a multicultural environment.
As a Team Lead, I not only listen to people, but also hear them, constantly monitor conflicts, and if they arise, I discuss them with the team and look for ways to reach a consensus. I realize that sometimes you must go through understanding rather than trying to change the other person.
Working hard on myself, observing the people around me, developing my tech and soft skills, self-studying and attention to detail, has allowed me to transform from a Middle to a Team Lead. I gained all this experience within one company because everything went naturally from the very beginning. I like my project, Innovecs, and the direction the company is heading in general.
Only Change Is Constant
Continuous development and self-improvement make the only sense to exist. Of course, I can find myself in a comfort zone and even stay there for a while, but sooner or later, I will feel uncomfortable and depressed. And here, you have to decide whether you like the domain you’re working in and, if so — set new goals. If not, look for a new path to develop.
For my successful professional development, which is a mixture of people management, leadership, tech and soft skills, I need to follow several criteria at once:
- Expand my potential and increase my value as a professional with the knowledge I gain.
- The ability to use what I learn. Everything I’ve memorized I will forget in one month without practice. So, don’t set goals just because you have to.
- Interest in the area I am developing in.
- Solve someone’s problem.
For example, an engineer wants to use a technology that won’t be on a project for some reason. To solve this problem and get engineers involved, I develop code standards and specific activities for the team.
The inability to use technology on the project is not a reason for stagnation. Engineers can focus on patterns, code standards, code reviews, overcome challenges, and develop even without using the desired technology.
These intra-project activities meet all the criteria: I am interested in them, we will implement them in our daily work, they are helpful for team members, and valuable for business because the project becomes much better. Such activity broadens my experience and, on top of that, improves retention and makes work more attractive and exciting for developers.
Surprisingly, Andrii Poddubnyi, Software Development Director at Innovecs does the same thing — he creates a core team that fits perfectly into our internal project plans and plans for an Engineering department.
By the way, Andrii is a perfect example of an Engineering Leader for me. I have always been impressed by his management and leadership style. Everyone who works with him is bound to embrace certain traits from him. His major virtue is his direct, frank, and honest management style. If there is a problem, he talks about it. He knows which words to use to be heard. Straightforwardness is the basis for an Engineering Leader.
Advice To The Future Engineers
- Trust your instincts
The worst advice you can get is to hear the phrase, “Such a case will never happen.” But I already know this is a statement of fact; if you are sure such a case will not happen, it definitely will.
- Bring value
When I started to grow from just a tech engineer to a Team Lead, I realized that besides my own, and the team’s, interests, there is also the client’s point of view. Every technical solution should bring value, solve a particular problem, or improve the business. Communicating with the client is an essential part of the work that helps you understand where to go next and how to improve the project.
- Learn and deepen your tech knowledge, but don’t let technology make you a robot.
I am immensely grateful to Eugene for sharing his invaluable insights and captivating story with us. Undoubtedly, his words will serve as a beacon of inspiration for tech enthusiasts. Stay tuned for more empowering stories from our teammates!
This article was previously published on Hackernoon.