'tis better to do and repent than to forbear and repent.
Are you from Moscow?
No, like almost everybody here. I came to Moscow in 2003.
How do you like Moscow?
Moscow was much worse in 2003. The former mayor Luzhkov was strongly focused on construction and thought less about the city’s development. In 2010, Sobyanin became a mayor. His success is based on 2-3 key things.
First, Sobyanin, as a protege, was able to agree with the federal government on partial financing of projects. In Moscow 15 new subway stations are being built per year, while in Nizhny Novgorod only 1 station in 15 years. In many ways, everything is built on federal money. In fact, the Moscow subway is built by the whole country. And all the big projects related to it.
Second, it seems that they set themselves the task to build a comfortable environment. Make Moscow as the European capital for which you are not ashamed. And any visiting foreigner will say: “Wow! Yes, it’s not worse here than in Vienna, in London or in Paris!”. And probably already better than in Paris.
I think they did a great job. As always, there is no limit to perfection. But now it’s much better. I like this progression.
Is Moscow a city of justice?
I don’t know what justice is. It really depends on, because everyone has their own justice.
Justice depends on norms. Norms depend on customs, traditions and culture. Therefore, by definition, justice is not absolute, but relative. There are age, social, cultural and religious differences. Different people want to build different justice. Is it fair to chop off a hand for stealing according to Sharia? No one knows. It seems strange to me, but I think someone could argue with me. Therefore, the word justice is an object for discussion.
Where did you come from?
I was born and raised in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It is quite an ancient city. As far as I know, the second or third oldest. All the time there is a competition for the title of the oldest there.
There are oases and mountains. The city is surrounded by mountains, and in the middle is a valley. The city is well closed on all sides from the wind.
I haven’t been there since I left. Perhaps I’ll be back, but as a tourist, because there is no one who I would like to see.
What is your education?
I finished school in Mozdok - this is North Ossetia-Alania, on the border with Chechnya. And then in 2003 I went to study in Moscow, as I originally wanted. I studied at MATI — Russian State Technological University, which is now a part of the MAI – the Moscow Aviation Institute and does not exist as a separate university. I studied as an engineer. I have bachelor and master degrees and even an incomplete graduate student diploma.
I gave up on graduate school at the moment when I realized that proposed dissertation topic was complete bullshit. The supervisor was 76 years old, and he chose “passing” topics – understandable to others 76-year-old. With such a topic, you were guaranteed to defend a dissertation, but then you would feel really uncomfortable.
In undergraduate school I studied to be an electronic engineer. I learned how to solder boards, how to design devices using the constructor and how to start producing them. I worked at Elektronika Central Scientific Research Institute. We made GLONASS satellites there. And some part of my work even flew somewhere and didn’t explode into the sea – it’s still flying! The satellites are handmade, because they aren’t alike. Some of them are even made by different teams.
The engineering is close sphere to me, known and interesting. But in 2010, I decided to stop working in this field. The reason, probably, was the understanding that I want to work more with people. And soldering the boards dulls me a little. I can solder, but this is futile.
I understood that there is another world in which life beats. This was a dynamic IT world.
I have a story about how I worked in the company for only a day. And it’s even recorded in my workbook. It was a factory with walk-throughs and a toilet outside the perimeter of the tariffed area. Everything was at its worst. I went to work and got a little lost. It was really funny. I was 3 minutes late, and I was fined 500 rubles. On my first working day.
I sat at my workplace. A man came and gave me an electronic board and told me to figure out how it works. I figured it out in 15 minutes. He just brought some pieces of shit like from a vacuum cleaner. I drew such boards when I was a sophomore. Everything was clear. One microcontroller and something else. He didn’t even have to leave.
I went up to him and said that I had already figured it out. And he said that this was my assignment for a week. He wanted me to figure this out for a whole week! And now he needs to assign something new for me.
In fact, after you were hired, it no longer mattered what you were doing. It is really demotivating. Perhaps this was the last straw.
I realized that this sucks. In 2009, I decided that something needed to be changed. And since 2010 I started work as a project manager in a web studio for any money to do anything with zero experience.
What is your favorite film director?
I have no one. And I have no favorite film. Different stages of life call for different aspects. Each stage has its own film. These films were supposed to appear exactly at the time to impress me.
I don’t really like the Marvel franchise. I understand why this is commercially successful, why the sequels or re-shoots are successful. Marvel has a budget, and the more films they make, the better. But in this way they take money away from sane movies, and it upsets me.
Of the latter, I liked Interstellar. And the greatest resonance was caused by Game of Thrones.
And what about books?
I read a lot in my childhood. But I read much more less now. I always liked science fiction.
In Samarkand I went to the library. I was a regular reader. Everyone knew me there and did not ask my number. I read the entire science fiction shelf. And I was waiting for somebody to return books that I had not read. It seems I could even get involved in looking for people who did not return the rest of the books.
I remember, I was very impressed with the trilogy of Vasily Yan “Invasion of the Mongols”. As far as I understand history now, there were historical inconsistencies there. The trilogy was not untrue, rather exaggerated. The main exaggeration is the number of Mongol-Tatars who attacked Russia.
Is there a book that you think is required to read? I find it difficult to advise any books and films. All the knowledge that I get can be represented as a library. Let’s imagine, one kind robot takes a new book, parses it into meanings and carries it to the library. He throws out the meanings which are already there - this is something already known. Those meanings that somehow enrich my knowledge - he puts in the appropriate cells. And I almost always forget what specific meaning was taken from. Just my network is enriched.
It happens that new knowledge does not fit into any cells. They don’t fit because I simply don’t have such a shelf - this is not in the context of my life now. Or they don’t fit because they don’t completely correspond to what I already know. Then a new fact is either completely eliminated, or it forces me to look for even more literature in order to understand what is correct. In fact, books and films remain at the level of some generalized knowledge.
Sophisticated books can well be splitted into thoughts, which can then be used later. And after you understand it, for some reason it becomes obvious to you. And since it is obvious, it is not clear how you can recommend the obvious things? In fact - advise nonsense. But this is not nonsense. It is really difficult to recommend anything when you do not know at what level of development a person is.
Do you use any methods from TRIZ or Lateral Thinking?
TRIZ is a good thing, I am familiar with it, but I don’t use it in my daily work and don’t solve these problems. There are many specific instrumental things in TRIZ. I read Lateral Thinking. But I won’t say that this book has changed something. It just once again enriched my world. This is surprising, but applied problems can often be solved without understanding the world at all.
There is such a term in HR called wideness – when a person has not one, but several skills. There is another term called T-shaped - when you have super skills for one particular job. Now it is considered useful for business for people to be T-shaped. But for the people themselves, it seems to me very useful to be wide, and know different things, and look at different angles.
I think that sooner or later we will reach logical things anyway, the only question is when it will happen.
There is no complicated nor simple. There is understandable and misunderstandable.
The problem with social interactions is that everyone should buy your idea. And this means that everyone should understand quickly. As long as everyone doesn’t accept this idea, the most intelligent one can explain it for a very long time, but they won’t buy it. He will have to wait until they see everything for themselves. Moreover, after some time he shouldn’t have to sell all of these, for them it will become obvious. At some point, everything becomes obvious.
Is it hard to speak at conferences?
I was preparing for the first conference for a long time. It was Agile Days. It took me 80 hours along with a trip to Agile Days. Because I’m a nerd of it. It includes classes with a coach. Preparing for the next conferences was easier.
I drew a presentation with designers. I painted on a piece of paper. I went to some conference just with scanned sheets. And it went even better than a presentation from designers. The only thing that is technically difficult to do is transitions.
In my opinion, presentations are almost evil. I don’t really like presentations. We are really used to them. I try to make presentations that you won’t understand without my speech. I do this on purpose, not to annoy others, but to prevent people from reading from the slides. Then they are forced to listen to me. This is such a manipulative method.
How do you relax from work?
I often walk around Sokolniki Park, get to Oleniye Prudy. I like the park, it is well decorated. At weekends, I can cycle far to Losinyy Ostrov park. I don’t go in for winter sports because of my Samarkand origin. Probably, I should someday try. But I really like summer sports.
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this question. I’m looking for it, but haven’t found yet. The most important what I came to is to listen to the body and not to get worked up.
I am a person with high demands on myself. High self-demands allow to demand this from the others.
I can force myself to do almost everything if necessary. Get up at 6, start doing something, go to bed at 11 and then get up at 6 again, etc. It’s ok when you’re on a roll. The key thing is to ensure that you’re on a roll. The greatest mental destruction occurs when something fails.
Physical fatigue is completely different. Sport helps to get rid of physical fatigue. In sports you almost never get tired physically. In total, you recover very much. Here is the balance in which I go to the gym for group classes almost every day. It’s not really stressful when you do it often, it’s almost a zero entry threshold. You just come at the right time and then they just tell you what to do. Perfect!
With mental fatigue, it is very important not to allow such an overload when you get the feeling that you work all the time through force and you don’t like what you do. At this moment you need to listen to yourself and do something. Find out why you don’t like it. Maybe you need to change jobs. Maybe you need to change your occupation.
Goldratt in his book called “The Goal” states that in order to change something you are to answer 3 questions: “What to change?”, “What to change to?” and “How to cause the change?”. How do you make your changes?
I would say this is the minimum set. Usually you are to answer even more questions.
How to change? This is a question to double check that:
- you are able to do it,
- you have enough resources to do it, and
- you have enough time to do it.
In my opinion, there are 3 resources in human life - money, time and energy. It’s hard to convert it one another, but it’s possible. You can buy time for money, buy money for time, buy energy for money, etc.
Now the main limitation (of my life and the life of people in my environment) is not time nor money, but energy. Not time, because it is the same for everyone - 24 hours. Not money, because I mean money sufficient for recovery, for a full life, etc. But what really hinders reaching big things is energy.
All changes must be based on something. And they are always based on people. In the end, both the object and the subject are people. This is a really important understanding.
Marx had the postulate that everything around us is labor. That is, this phone is essentially the labor of people who assembled it from parts. Some people made this electronics. Someone made glass, someone built a factory with which they made glass, someone mined ore, someone made trucks, etc. If you expand this chain far enough (it is pretty long in our economy today), at the end of any chain there will be not money, but a person. A person who invested his time in some kind of action. It means that the start and the end point of any change is a person.
In your changes, you yourself are the starting point.
First check if you have enough energy to make a change. If you don’t have energy, nothing will change. Then you verify that the system is ready for change. If the system is not ready for change, then it will resist. You are to understand what kind of environment is in the system and why this resistance exists.
Resistance usually comes down to a very small number of things. For example, people hold the status quo because, as it seems to them, they have a risk of losing their jobs. Thus, you find all these risks. In fact, you cannot find all the risks because they are invisible. The more experienced the person, the more and deeper he sees. I guess my depth of seeing the things is also limited and there is probably a lot of things that I do not see.
After that, you are to understand the objective function - this is the most important. And also, where are you now relative to the point that you need to reach and with what tools you are going to reach it.
For example, we want to change the effectiveness of people. There are two options in the simplest case.
- The same people do more work and achieve bigger goals.
- Achieve the same goals, but with fewer people, which means lower costs.
Both goals are actually good and the objective function is known - it’s efficiency.
But efficiency is really difficult to measure. I thought about it for a long time and found not any answer. What is the level of effectiveness now? Is it 5.6 or 6.2? And what was the level of efficiency yesterday? And what should be the level of effectiveness? And what is efficiency?
Efficiency is easy to measure when you have a benchmark. You pick a number, declare it 100%, call it efficiency and see how effective you are. For example, producing 800 discs is a lot or a little? Who knows? But if Toyota releases 1000, then 800 means 0.8 or 80%. So, guys, tense up and do more. But everyone who publishes benchmarks is always lying, because it’s really challenging to create a good benchmark.
Let’s say we need to compare people within the company. We publish a benchmark (our expectations) that the rating should be at least 3. Accordingly, we declare all people who get less than 3 bad, and those who are more - good. But as soon as we published this benchmark, questions immediately arise for such a rating system.
One person works in a team with high requirements, he is rated lower because the level of expectations is high. And in the other team, everyone loves each other and give you 4 simply for the fact that you sometimes come to work. And it is not clear how to normalize this. Using this benchmark, you declare a person bad, and maybe the opposite is true at all. This is very vicious. In fact, there are no benchmarks.
The benchmark cannot claim that the developer has to release 17 tasks a week. This benchmark very much depends on granularity, on the deployment process, on how the system is structured, etc.
I could not determine what efficiency is. After consulting with more intelligent colleagues, we also found nothing.
Therefore, I proposed to measure the effectiveness with known measure of inefficiency. That is, to assume from the opposite that there is an ideally efficient process, we cannot measure it in numbers. But we can understand that regarding it we already see a bunch of leaks, inefficiencies. And if we detail these inefficiencies, somehow weigh them one opposite the others, it will not be an absolute scale, which we have not found, but relative. We can find the weaknesses and begin to correct them consistently.
There is one dangerous trap in this approach. These inefficiencies cyclically depend on one another, like energy, money, and time. That is, you say, “I have little energy”. You’ll rush as much as possible to have a lot of energy. But in the end you have neither time nor money left. And you cannot move on. And all the time you fall into the fact that you give everything to only one thing, but in fact you go around in circles. The key fact is to ask yourself from time to time if you are in this cycle or not.
It is important to vote for such problems and solve them in working groups. This is not an ideal system, like any other democratic system. But as practice shows, it is much better to do something that everyone believes in, even if it’s not the most paramount, than the most paramount, which is unpleasant for everyone.
How not to be afraid of ambitious goals?
There is no answer to this question. How not to be afraid? The answer is obvious - do not be afraid. I think this is a wrong question. Need to be afraid. Because fear is some kind of emotion, you just need to be able to fear right. No need to panic.
I have it somehow internally built-in. I always create a discomfort zone for myself. I keep challenging myself artificially.
You can do well-known things for good money. It’s probably not a bad way to do it, but it’s all the same without tension, simply because you get the feeling that it’s all simple. You give answers right from your head, no need to prepare, everything becomes obvious, and this simplifies life well. Someone is striving for this.
For me it’s like a death. As soon as I feel it, I try to go back into the discomfort zone , artificially create it in any way. Through challenges, I guarantee that I am moving. I not only know it, but I guarantee it.
If you are under load all the time, you have only 2 exits. You either deal with it and that means you have grown. Or you burn.
Therefore, the question is not “How not to be afraid?”. The question is: “How to prevent fear from binding you?”. To be afraid is not scary. It is scary if you refuse to do something out of fear.
Once I parachuted. And there was a girl who did not jump out of the plane. She had come a long way. She arrived at the airfield, she waited for a gigantic line, she listened to a very long briefing, took off on an airplane – and did not jump out. She spent a lot of time on this. And the wait for the jump, it seems to me, was the most stressful. Because jumping out was easy for me. But waiting way of jump was stressful. And the climax ended in nothing.
After that, I’m sure she returned to earth, the fear disappeared, and she thought: “Why didn’t I jump?”