Oh, My Code: How to become successful in IT

    What you need to succeed in IT? We talked about this and many other things in the new issue of the Oh, My Code talk show with Dmitry Grishin, co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of Mail.ru Group, founder of Grishin Robotics.

    I can not begin our conversation with football. I saw in your Instagram and Facebook photos how you went to the fan zone. Tell about impressions.

    It was a super sensation. I think I have not seen so many people in the MSU square. There were so many foreigners. To my right were three Frenchmen, and they tried to speak broken English. It was very funny. Of course, the energy is prohibitive. Imagine when the MSU searchlights began to let the rays into the sky ... this is one of the most emotional moments in the past few months that I had.

    This year is special for Mail.ru Group, because we are 20 years old. I would not like to ask you trivial questions, I want to ask about the 30th anniversary of Mail.ru Group. How do you see this company?

    There are big, titanic, global changes. If we talk about the previous 10 - 20 years, these were the years when the Internet appeared, when we understood what the services are, where we are going. The next 10 years are the years when the Internet will enter all areas of our life. This is the decade when real life, the Internet and high technology will become one. I see Mail.ru Group as the leader of this direction.

    One of the projects, which is engaged in Grishin Robotics - "Business Ring". This is a very good example of how high technology and robotics will work in our apartments. Can you tell us more about the project?

    This is an example when Internet technologies become the invisible environment for the real world, and thus radically change the world itself. Take a taxi "Citymobil": on the one hand, apparently it is the same car as it was 20-30 years ago. On the other hand, this car is now fueled by very powerful high technologies that allow you to determine where potential passengers may be and calculate routes for moving cars. We are using huge, complex technologies through the taxi service to the living world.

    The “Business Ring” example is very similar. This is a doorbell: a visitor presses a button, and a notification appears on your smartphone. And then the magic begins. With the help of facial recognition technology, you can find out who came to you. You can analyze what is happening behind the door, for example, “the courier arrived from the Delivery Club”. If many residents in the area have a “ring”, then if one of the apartments is robbed, you can track the way the criminal escaped - a real network effect.

    The company's market valuation is more than a billion dollars?

    We cannot name an exact number. The company was bought by Amazon.

    For what period she was able to increase such capitalization?

    We all used to hear in such interviews how everything was simple and great. In fact, it is not. The developers have changed the product for a long time, modified it, something didn’t work for them, they completely reworked it. It lasted long enough. The company entered the market more than five years ago, but before that there was a lot of inventive work. For any great success is always worth a lot of work.

    If previously only technology was important, now marketing success increasingly determines the product. This is true?

    The same “Business Ring” is famous for a very aggressive, powerful advertising campaign. They interact with the stars, they launched a lot of different programs, the main of which was aimed at working with the police. Thus, they tried not only to call you, but to make the place where you live — the city, the street — very safe. This is a great job, not only in terms of marketing, but also in terms of social responsibility.

    Perhaps marketing has always been important. But now, when technologies are increasingly entering our ordinary life, of course, the role of marketing has grown. Previously, Internet products did geeks for geeks. Basically, our customers were the same programmers as us. But now we serve more than 100 million people. This is a huge audience. In many cases, you need to somehow correctly explain what this product does, communicate, build a brand and show how it can affect you. The trick to digital technology now is that many of them continue to look ordinary, especially the latest new projects, but behind them are very complex things.

    In order for these everyday products to be explained and improved, it is often necessary to resort to marketing. The word “smart” is increasingly entering our world. The doorbell has become “smart,” just like a taxi, and delivery. It seems to me that the term “smart” will be extremely important for another 10 years.

    What does the trend of growing importance of marketing mean for the guys who are now choosing the profession of a programmer, for those who are engaged in technology?

    If we talk about the situation in the field of Internet technologies, the main trend is the ability to create technologies that people use every day in everyday life. If 20 years ago you created some cool program and your friends and acquaintances used it, it was great. When I was in the hostel doing some kind of regular program and five of my friends were glad that she was doing something, for me it was a huge success. Now the guys who create complex technologies can create what millions, tens or hundreds of millions of people use. This is truly a unique opportunity. We live in a cool time.

    The first program you mentioned was a game?

    Yes. The first, for which is not very ashamed. I had a computer BK-1001, and the game was called Alfa Romeo, because at that time inserts with cars from Turbo gum were popular.

    What did you use as a monitor?

    At first it was a TV, and then there were simplified TVs, which were essentially monitors. I wrote the game on the octal code, it was not even a programming language, it was necessary to write not commands, but codes assigned to them: 011 is one operation, 010 is another, etc. For my parents, it looked like an incomprehensible letter.

    Every week you have to make a large number of serious decisions that affect the business and a large number of people, both users and employees of the company. What influenced your technical experience and education in life, in the work that you are doing now?

    One of the important properties that helped me a lot in business is the ability to learn. To master new technologies, especially at that moment, was new, there was not enough literature. Much had to be taught for some foreign articles, for pieces of information, because the environment was still in its infancy. So the most important thing I think is the ability to navigate in an unfamiliar, incomprehensible environment, the ability to systematize it, learn and understand how it works. I think this distinguishes good tech-managers from all the rest.

    Technology is changing. The learning cycle is so long that the term constant learning appeared. That is, life becomes a constant learning. If you want to be competitive, if you want to understand what is going on around you, you need to constantly learn. Someone from the readers will be gladdened, upset by someone. But learning is not necessarily taking a textbook and reading. Learning means understanding how new principles work, learning new environments, understanding how people think, because people change too. Sometimes it causes negative emotions for students, but in fact it is very exciting, it is a way of learning about the world.

    I know that you have an inquiring mind, you are interested in everything that surrounds you. What is interesting not from the professional sphere that you learned lately?

    Probably the biggest thing that aroused my interest was vertical farming technology: growing plants indoors without natural light. The idea is that you can build huge buildings in cities and grow fresh fruits and vegetables there and deliver them as quickly as possible. It is amazing how actively this direction is developing. And you will be surprised, but this is related to IT. One of the most important factors in growing plants is light. Over the past 10-15 years, there has been a real revolution in the sources of illumination. There are energy-efficient LED-lamps that allow point to send light, which spurred a new kind of farming. I have seen such farms, these are huge rooms in which there are practically no people, robots drive and arrange seedlings on huge walls, and then harvest.

    You were the author of the idea of ​​a wonderful office in which we are now sitting. What is he for you?

    This is one of the emotionally iconic projects in my life. I spent a lot of strength and energy. We did not just build an office, we tried to build a house. A place where we will be comfortable to spend time, which will become the center of attraction.

    I am very pleased that in the process of building this building we spent a lot of time studying the offices of various companies. Most of the western Internet companies are located on campuses - usually one-two-three-storey buildings, spread over large areas. We went up.

    One of the fundamental ideas that guided us in the construction of this office is flexibility and constant modification. The main problem of many companies is that they do something, and then they realize that it does not suit them, they need to be changed. Therefore, we have been thinking very long about building a transformable space, which can simultaneously be a football field, a tennis court, a skating rink, a place for conferences and rock concerts.

    So you want to say that the ice is poured?

    Yes, ice is poured. We have done this several times already. It's great.

    When Mail.ru Group launched educational projects, what task did you set? What should a company get in the end?

    The idea was quite simple, but very hard to implement, as it turned out. There was a huge gap between what a company needs and what universities prepare for. There are mechanisms where business and universities work much more closely, and it is beneficial for both parties: universities have the opportunity to teach students new, modern technologies, and we get high-quality professional personnel. I am very grateful to the rector of Moscow State Technical University. Bauman, because he heard us and we were able to start the first educational project. He was one of the most successful. Today we cooperate with a large number of universities throughout Russia.

    These are the largest federal universities, but there are also talented guys in the regions. Are there any programs, some kind of educational and social elevator, so that these guys can come to our place of work?

    We constantly hold various hackathons, events, competitions for programmers. Therefore, the best way is to take part in them, to show yourself in some way. We will try to notice you.

    In your opinion, what characteristic describes our country in the field of IT?

    Perhaps the brightest impression among people is that Russia is the world champion in programming. Around the world, a lot of people follow such competitions. I am glad that our teams not only create cool services, but also perform well at world championships.

    What product Mail.ru Group do you consider one of the most advanced?

    If we talk about those that cause me the most vivid emotions, these are games. Computer graphics have progressed so far that you can build a three-dimensional world as close as possible to reality that you will manage, live in and develop. Even 20 years ago, one of the professors said that sometime there will be a moment when computer technology makes cinema and graphics indistinguishable. In fact, we already live in this moment.

    Do startups often turn to you, young guys with an offer to invest in them?

    Yes, quite often.

    Is there something interesting? You see a trend among startups that they have changed over the past 5-6 years.

    In the past five years there has been a powerful breakthrough in the field of neural networks. And the second huge breakthrough - a huge amount of hardware sensors appeared. Now you can inexpensively do a lot of gadgets, which was impossible 20 years ago. Guys who are addicted to Internet technologies often ask which projects may be promising, especially in the future? I continue to believe that computer games are one of the examples of technology that will only develop. But a huge new layer of technology relates to changing the real world through computer systems. For example, today in South Africa, drones deliver blood for transfusion to remote villages.

    This is one of the projects in which Grishin Robotics invested.

    Or imagine that you press the button and in 30 minutes bring any food that you have chosen, and in five minutes a taxi will arrive to you. Many things today seem very mundane, but 10 years ago they did not exist. And how much more can you change, for example, in education and medicine.

    Are you watching the Silicon Valley episode?

    Of course. Very funny series.

    What is your favorite character there?

    It is trite, but the main character. I wonder how he gradually transformed from a geek into an entrepreneur. I can not say that all the difficulties that he goes through completely coincide with my experience, but very many moments are close to me. I was more of an introvert, and entrepreneurship makes you turn to the external environment, communicate with people, change.

    Was it hard for you? You broke?

    I was not easy. I always wanted to program people, write some kind of program for them so that everything was clear, understandable. But people are a much more complicated mechanism than algorithms. It is clear that in the film it is shown comic, but in fact the main character grows and develops, begins to understand how the team interacts, that people are different. There are successes, there is betrayal. Communicating with a large number of startups and entrepreneurs, I see that a lot of people went through this transformation path. And although many people perceive the film as a comedy, but there is much to learn in it.

    We turn to our traditional rubric, to a blitz survey. Mac, Linux or Windows?


    Office or work at home?


    Favorite superhero?

    Iron Man.

    Postpone the case for tomorrow?


    What is your main superpower?


    Favorite music band?

    I have many loved ones. From the classics like the Beatles.

    Human or robot?


    What was the last book you read?

    “Sapiens. A brief history of mankind. Cool book Now the big problem with business books is that they put some kind of one idea in them. This book surprised me with a number of interesting, diverse facts about humanity.

    Buy or sell a crypt?

    Good question. I would not buy and sell.

    When will the robot replace you?

    There are some things in which, I hope, the robot will replace me as soon as possible. But I believe that there are cases in which the robot for a very long time will not be able to replace a person.

    Favorite sport?


    Dogs or cats?


    Tea or coffee?


    About 10–15 years ago, the guys who studied as programmers had a very acute question about where to work, in Russia or abroad. How would you answer now?

    In the 90s it was believed that all high-tech, mainly in the West. This was objectively so. Literature in Russian was not enough. I think that now the situation has changed dramatically. In Russia, there are very strong companies that create world-class technology. On the other hand, despite the negative trends, the world is becoming global. I believe that the future belongs to the guys who create cool new world-class technologies in Russia, while actively traveling, learning, and learning in other countries. You never need to close and assume that you are better than others. Now we, undoubtedly, are world champions, are creating cool technologies, but we must constantly study and study what is happening in the world. If you combine these two properties, we all tear.

    What would you like to say to those guys who are planning to work for this company in the next 20 years?

    It would be great if we created such technologies that the previous 20 years would seem to us some kind of garbage. All the guys who read us, who do not work in the company, I urge you to join this exciting, exciting future.

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