Interview with a Lead Data Engineer at a German IT company

"The work of a team leader requires conscious heroism and
complete dedication."

We at Lucky Hunter have a new interview and this time our guest is a man with a unique story. During his professional life senior Big Data engineer Vasiliy Avdiushkin has gone through a move to another country, once he was fired, and worked on a project that was seriously "hit" by the pandemic.
Senior Big Data Engineer
at a German IT company
Vasiliy Avdiushkin
Such a rich, unusual experience cannot but grab. Read the interview, get inspired, get some valuable information, because this story can really motivate us to try something new and not be afraid of changes :)
— — Hello, Vasiliy! Thank you for taking your time for this interview. Let's start with some common questions: How many years have you been in software development? Where did you start from? What companies did you work for?
It all started when I was given a PC in the fifth grade. I not only played computer games but also wrote various programs in my computer science lessons. In fact, I did love the process, since there was a balance between entertainment and useful pastime. And I really wanted to prove to my parents that a computer was not only an expensive "toy".
So such a long-term relationship with the world of computer technologies originated from this protest against my parents, and the desire to prove something to them :)
—I entered the university with technical specialization, and I can say that by my fourth year, I was quite able to work.
Even though I already had some programming experience, it was quite difficult to find a job. I've passed a lot of interviews, but often I just failed them.
— After several unsuccessful attempts to get a job as a Java Developer and the final conviction that the threshold was too high, I decided to go a little bit different way and got a job as a SysAd. I was required to write scripts and to have some basic backend. I worked as a SysAd for three months and went on vacation with the money I earned :)

When I returned, I started my graduation project, so I found a company that dealt with RFID Tags for my graduation project.
At that time, it was very interesting to me, and I was sure that I would connect my future with this direction, but things went the other way, and after graduating from the university I started working in "common" IT companies.
— The first company I worked for after my graduation dealt with micropayments. It was a small startup that was simultaneously engaged in various government tenders for different types of processing. Unfortunately, it was rather hard for our company to win tenders, due to lack of personal connections.
This was frustrating because I wanted to make high-quality national products and felt that our work would be appreciated.
— But still, the work in this company gave me a great experience: I started to work with Erlang, and I am very grateful to my team for that. At that time, there was no infrastructure around Erlang, and it was doubly great to do things that no one else had done before.
Even if you are engaged in projects that do not bring significant benefits, still they give you a lot of experience.
Surely, looking back to those days, I understand that most of the things we did at that time were not that unique, but when you are a young developer and have just entered the industry, working on such a project is a great success. Even if you are engaged in projects that do not bring significant benefits, still they give you a lot of experience. And, of course, there is always an opportunity to mess things up in such projects, and that also develops you greatly as a professional :)
The more such projects a company has "for growing young developers", working on which the guys can make mistakes and grow really big, the better specialists they can become in the future.
— After that, I worked in several other companies. At that time the market trend changed a little, the race for high-load projects started, and there was a direct correlation between the application rate and the profit of the business.
As a rule, the results of your work are not so noticeable in large companies.
This physical metric was very motivating because I could see the direct result of my work: the more features and improvements I made in the project, the more money the company received. Due to this opportunity to feel a direct impact on the business I prefer small companies. As a rule, the results of your work are not so noticeable in large companies.
— So, returning to my career path, I would like to note that already while working at a startup that "successfully" lost tenders, I was thinking about moving.

Therefore, having got quite good experience in Russian companies, I decided to look to the European labour market. There was no specific country I would like to move to, so my wife and I were open to any options. Having looked through the vacancies a little, I got several offers from European companies.

There were offers both in the UK and Ireland, but eventually, I accepted the offer from a German agency and moved to Hamburg.
By the way, the choice of Hamburg was not accidental. I have always liked this city: it is somewhat similar to St. Petersburg in terms of weather and people's mentality :)
— I did not work at the agency for a long time, and there were a number of reasons for this.
1
First, the tasks for working with Big Data they offered, as a result, turned out in a little interaction with the data.
2
Second, the atmosphere in the company was not very friendly.
3
Third, I was not very happy about the company's policy in terms of interns.
Being open about the company's policy was a decisive factor: a week before the end of the probationary period, they asked me to leave the company.
The Dismissal was an "explosion", but at the same time it turned out to be an explosion of productivity and drive.
This was the first and last time in my life when I was fired. To say that this was huge stress is to say nothing: my wife and I were in a foreign country, we lived in a rented apartment, and I was sure that I would definitely stay in this company :) In terms of emotions and sensations, it was an "explosion", but at the same time it turned out to be an explosion of productivity and drive.
— Now I understand that there was nothing to worry about. Still, I was a demanded IT specialist, I had my visa and knowledge. And, as it turned out, later, it was not difficult to find another job. Within two weeks I went to a new company.

The company I got a job in was a small startup, but it was under the aegis of a large company, Zalando, and that was the most pleasant thing: you work in a small, friendly team, you get goodies from working with a small team, and at the same time you understand that within arm's reach you have a company with a lot of resources, infrastructure, cool processes, support.

This was work in a company with a startup spirit, but at the same time with strong support and a sense of stability, it was the best that could be thought of :)
A valuable employee is the one with whom you make ready-made products within a month.
I know that the ability to master new technologies quickly and after a short time be completely immersed in the product is the quality they appreciate in the market. A valuable employee is the one with whom you make ready-made products within a month. This was just my case: at that time I was already officially engaged in the big data sector, and within a month I was making full-fledged IT products.
— Thanks to my work in the company, I have learned a lot. Gradually, the team that was engaged in what today we call "data engineering" appeared in the company, and without realizing it, I became a Data engineer, and then grew up to a Senior-level specialist and as a result came to the area in which I am now in.
Speaking about the future of the company, I can say that a year later, everything changed dramatically. When large corporations get small start-ups, a "corporate machine" falls heavily upon them.
— Besides, the director with whom I had certain agreements left the startup. The company started to implement its own rules, which, of course, were not entirely to my liking.
The managers you work with play a very important role.
The new director, let's say, made a real mess of things, and half of the team decided to leave the company. I was among those. At that time, I realized even more deeply that the managers you work with play a very important role. Also, as I have already said, I had some sort of career and salary advancement agreements and my new director did not agree to them.
At that time, I was upset that the company did not satisfy my needs, but today I understand that I am not working for a specific company, I am working for the market.
The more you are in the IT field, the more you know people, you build up your connections, and your career looks more like work in an entire industry rather than a single company.
— At the moment I work for a transport company. It was interesting to do something with real people. Besides, again this is big data, but you have not only CTR clicks or financial transactions, you have GPS points, areas, polygons, etc.
— Thank you very much! Your career path is very interesting and unusual. From your story, I can see that the reasons causing you to leave a company were very different: it was the inability to realize your potential, the closure of the company, and the change of the team, and even dismissal. Were there any other reasons why you left a company?
— Never in my life have I left a company for some single reason. Most often it was a complex of factors. Let's consider the story with tenders. Perhaps I am now shifting my modern life position to experience from the past, but it seems to me that then I was not only upset that I could not realize my potential. Lost tenders also meant a lack of salary growth, for example.
The work of a team leader requires conscious heroism and complete dedication.
Besides, when the company goes through difficult times, the team becomes less motivated, the atmosphere becomes more disturbing and tough. During such periods, it is important for a leader to maintain the team morale, and to be able to "drag" it through these hard times. The work of a team leader requires conscious heroism and complete dedication.
— For example, for a year and a half, I have been in a leadership position, I have a team, and my task is to keep the spark in the eyes of these specialists. The pandemic period was not easy for us, given the fact that we work in the transport sector. My task is to keep a positive atmosphere in my team when you yourself know that it may never be better, and there is a high risk that things will only get worse. There is now a complete lockdown in Germany, and no transport systems are working.
— Let's talk about your life in another country, tell us please, how have you dared to move? Did you first find a job or did you get a job after your arrival?
— I found a job when I was still in St. Petersburg. Having received the offer, I moved to Hamburg. The first month I lived on Airbnb in a very funny area of Hamburg. It was a very youthful, rebellious place :) But we realized the charm of life in this area when we moved to a quieter place.
— Were there cases when someone lured you from one company to another?
— To tell the truth, I am currently in such a situation :) The company is going through difficult times, it is getting harder and harder to motivate my team. For the past six months, I have tried to change the situation very hard, but it works only if your company also invests in motivating the team.
For example, I am not allowed to expand the staff, although we need new employees with a fresh look. Besides, it would help to stir up the staff.
Even though the company has a lot of interesting projects now, two of those I "bargained" for my team, nothing interesting remained for me personally.
— Therefore, after opening LinkedIn and seeing a job offer, I became interested in it and decided to consider the vacancy.
— If everything suits you in your current position, would you consider a new offer?
When I see that recruiters have taken the time to study my CV, I will consider their offer for me
It is hard to speak in a subjunctive mood. But according to my experience, I can say that on the rare occasions when I see that recruiters have taken the time to study my CV, I will consider their offer for me. In cases where I see that recruiters did not spend time studying my experience, I will most likely ignore the offer.
On the other hand, I understand that if the thought of considering an offer has arisen in my head, most likely on some subconscious level I have already made a decision to leave, and there is no point in fighting this.
— What attracted you to the new company? Project? Money? Or something else?
— I would say that this is just a notorious match in all respects. This is a team, a project, and a salary. Besides, the tasks that I will have to solve are fully consistent with my experience. Already at the stage of studying the vacancy, I realized that my competencies will give a huge boost to the company. With my experience, views, background, I will fit in there so well that I just have to try.
You no longer want to be just a "cog" in a complex machine, you want to be the machine itself.
Having serious experience, you no longer want to be just a "cog" in a complex machine, you want to be the machine itself. The area of responsibility and the impact on processes that the company can offer me is perhaps the main reason why I decided to consider this particular proposal.
— Great! Thank you so much! Let's talk a little about recruiting now. You said that you try to respond to emails from recruiters if you see that they have studied your CV. What is the most important thing for you when communicating with a recruiter?
— The most important thing for me, perhaps is the recruiter's involvement, some kind of openness, an attempt to understand your experience. When you feel a human attitude, you feel that there is your personality, and not just the programming language you use, it's great.
— And what deters you?
Detachment deters me. When you communicate with a person, and during the conversation he asks something like that: "Do you know Docker?", the following thought immediately arises: "Well, is this really all that interests you?!"
— What about lack of competence, politeness, excessive familiarity? How about these things?
When you can communicate with a person outside the accepted framework, it turns out to be quite effective and productive communication.
Having lived in Europe, I have come to the conclusion that politeness is a too universal language. Being polite to people all your life, you will never find yourself in a difficult situation in terms of communication. It's nice to expand the boundaries sometimes, to communicate more informally. When you can communicate with a person outside the accepted framework, it turns out to be quite effective and productive communication. You can compare an interview with a recruiter with a date: if I feel that a recruiter wrote the same thing to a million other candidates, I quickly lose my interest :)
— Yes, indeed, work and personal life are often similar in terms of some ongoing processes :) and if we talk about the channels through which recruiters contact you, are there the most convenient and most unacceptable ones?
I would say that Telegram is not very convenient for me, just because for me it is a purely personal social network where I communicate with my friends. Speaking of acceptable and unacceptable channels, it seems to me that there is a "gold standard" of working channels, like HeadHunter or LinkedIn, where it is customary to write with a job offer, and it's logical, probably, to contact by them.
— What is the most preferred communication method for you?
I would say that these are email and working social networks. I do not like it when they immediately try to call, without any prior agreement.
— How many recruiting stages are optimal for you?
When I interviewed in Berlin, there were six recruiting stages. They were intended to eliminate recruiting bias. It was necessary to make sure that recruiters are not hiring based on gender, skin colour, etc. Various people must look at you from the most different angles. From a company's point of view, this is cool, but from a candidate's point of view, it's very difficult.
Such a number of stages, of course, is too much.
— How do you feel about test assignments?
—I'm okay about that. You just have to understand that a test task is not a test. This is a reason for conversation. Verification is the interview itself.
— Doesn't it deter that you are asked to complete a test task, even though you have a lot of experience?
A test task helps to understand more how a person thinks, rather than how he/she solves some problems.
No. Rather, on the contrary, I do not understand people who come to work for a position, for example, team leaders who start talking about their rich experience, refuse to fulfil the test task, emphasizing the fact that many other companies offer work without any test task. As for me, I won't feel happy to work with such a person. Besides, a test task helps to understand more how a person thinks, rather than how he/she solves some problems.
Besides, a test task doesn't need to be some kind of problem. An essay is also ok :) The main thing is as follows: it should not be a formal reply like it happens in a cover letter, but something sincere, "from the bottom of my heart". Germany, by the way, is very "sick" with different formalities. Even the size of your photo in a CV means here.
— By the way, you have mentioned an interesting topic. Do you see any differences between Western recruiting and Russian one?
The main difference is the speed. In Germany, everything goes very long. The day before yesterday I signed a contract, but I will go to work only in August.
— Vasiliy, thank you very much! There is one more tricky question. Please name the TOP-5 needs of a modern IT specialist :) Please do not mention a salary and a project in your list :)
These top 5 are people, this is the most important thing in a company. If there are 5 good people in it, they will cover all other demands :)
— Thank you very much, Vasiliy! It was very interesting to hear about your experience, it is really very unusual and unique.
— It was a pleasure for me too!
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