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A Day in the Life of a Tech Lead [Bobby]

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Greetings and salutations, dear DevriX blog readers!

Today, our guest is the tech lead of DevriX – Bojidar Valchovski.

We’ll be talking about his path in DevriX, the lessons he learned, cybersecurity, and much more!

Before you continue reading this one, feel free to check out the rest of the interviews:

A Day in the Life of a Tech Lead

Hello, Bobby, thank you for accepting my invitation. For starters, can you share a bit about yourself?
Hi, Denis, I’m glad we managed to organize an interview. Some personal background – I’ve been into programming since I was very little. That’s due to the fact that my brother is a programmer, and he’s 15 years older than me. As an annoying little brother, I was always bugging him and wondering what he does. At a certain moment, I was around 11 or 12-years old, it happened to interest me – what he was doing – and he started giving me some tasks and exercises. He gave me all the necessary instructions, and it sparked my interest. As it would turn out, that happened to be the thing I wanted to do in my life, or at least gave me a general idea of what I wanted to do.

I started delving deeper into programming – began reading, looking for information, and in the following years I managed to get some experience. That experience was very valuable in school afterward.

I began working at DevriX exactly 6 years ago. It was actually before I had graduated from school, so initially I combined work and school. That’s a rough overview of how things went for me over the years.

Cool. As you mentioned, you started working here before you graduated from TUES (Technological School Electronic Systems) in 2017. How did that happen – was it a friend’s recommendation, did you know someone working there, was it pure coincidence?
It was an interesting story, actually. Some people know that at TUES, after the 11th grade, in the summer, you have to choose a company to have a mandatory 2-week internship. Usually, there are a few listed companies to pick from. In reality, I didn’t do my internship here, but I have a friend, who is an ex-colleague, that did his internship here.

Eventually, I started 12th grade, and in the spring, I started wondering what I wanted to do with my life after I graduate. Then, the aforementioned friend of mine told me that there was a Facebook post by Mario, (CEO of DevriX) and that the company was looking for programmers. It was a spontaneous decision. I applied for the position, not being 100% certain that this is the thing for me, but when you’re 17-18-years old, I guess, it’s normal not to be certain.

I tried, though, I went to an interview at the old office, and I started working at DevriX. Initially, I was still at school, so I was combining both – going to work after school. The funny thing is that my friend wasn’t actually working here then. He had just gone through his internship at the company. So, I was here for a year or two, and actually referred him to come work at DevriX. More or less, that’s how it all started for me here.

So, he referred you here, and then you referred him…(laughing).
Yes, without working here, so then I brought him back.

Interesting plot. You started here as a developer, but rather quickly got promoted to the role of tech lead. Tell me, how did you manage to deal with this transition, and which aspect of the role do you prefer – technical or business?
That’s an interesting question. First, regarding technical or business, both are very different, and it’s hard to compare them. To be honest, both are opposite directions that a person can decide to follow, and develop himself. The technical part is definitely something you’re drawn to, as a programmer, and you don’t want to completely detach yourself from it.

Plus, you have to keep track of new technologies, and software, if you want to stay on top of your game. In recent times, especially, with the progress of AI, you’ll be left behind, if you’re not following. What’s more, you need to have the applicable experience, so you shouldn’t stop practicing. You want to constantly freshen up your knowledge, and look for ways to improve.

The business way of thinking is in a completely different direction, and not in the same time. Both (business and technical) work together, but are hard to combine, at the same time, since we know what’s the typical mindset of people in the IT industry (focusing solely on the tech stuff). Still, the business aspect is definitely something that I’m drawn into, so I try to balance both.

Recently, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the business side of things, since it reflects on everything else. Not just professionally speaking, but it also helps me in my personal life, to develop myself, and I believe that it is very impactful on my entire life.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other. It’s just very important to keep on, don’t quit, plan accordingly, and try to balance everything, because it certainly becomes overwhelming at times.

Starting here, this is my first job, so I didn’t have any professional experience beforehand. I hadn’t worked with PHP, neither in school nor in other side projects. I knew the basics of WordPress, having creating some sites with it when I was little, but I didn’t have any professional development knowledge.

So, I started with little-to-no work experience. Combine that with the lack of experience in aspects like communication with the team, talking to clients, understanding the tasks and the company processes… Still, that didn’t stop me.

Luckily, my level of English is pretty good, which gave me a head start initially, since it allowed me to start communicating with clients earlier. I had the opportunity to start talking to one of the clients here directly, with the help of colleagues.

The big transiting in my professional life in DevriX started around a year after I began working here, when I had already invested myself fully into the job, since before that, as I said, I had to think about graduation, and so on. I had a meeting with Mario about a new project. It was me and Tony at that meeting, and Mario told us about new projects, related to the digital advertising, publishers, etc.

We had a couple of new clients to work with, and we had a deadline of about two weeks to finish what we had to, and sign the clients long-term. There was a period where we came to work in the late afternoons, and went home early in the morning, so we can fit the US working hours, and be able to communicate effectively.

I would say that to this day, 80% of the things I’ve learned, I learned back then, because I was in a situation where I had to figure out some things on my own, and find solutions for tough situations. Several months later, I realized that I had really learned a lot in those couple of weeks.

Later on, we managed to sign the clients, and we had a couple of new projects. Respectively, someone had to lead those projects. By leading, I mean both from a technical perspective – to be able to give estimates, to know what components needed to be developed, how to plan, and so on, and combine all this with the business perspective, so you can also think about things like: are those estimates realistic, is the cost of the project the same that you think it is, how and when to give information to the client, when to organize meetings, how to plan and outline roadmaps, etc.

Overall, the transition was hard for me, because I was around 21-years old, and I had no business management experience. I had to somehow learn how things happen, and thanks to our colleagues – Mario, Stanko, Yulia – I managed to learn the basics, what is expected from me, and how I can contribute to the company. I realized that I became a key element of the entire process. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’m doing things right, and whether my job was good enough, but thanks to the fact that I didn’t give up, I got invaluable experience, both on a professional and personal level.

Thank you for the detailed answer. Now, my next question follows your line of thought, and is connected to one of our core values – never stop learning. What would you say are the top 3 lessons you learned for your time here?
The first is, undoubtedly, to never give up. I wouldn’t place any lesson above that one, since that is fundamental for everything else. If you give up on something you want, or dream about, that means you’re not capable of achieving it.

The second lesson would be that you’re not alone. There are always people that will nudge you in the right direction, give you advice, tell you how things happen, or simply listen to what you have to say. On one of my birthdays, I said that this is my second family, and I really believe that – the people here are more than a team, we can talk about everything, and support each other.

The third lesson is that if you want to be good at something, you have to spend more than 8 hours doing it. That’s something I learned here, since when I started here, as a student still, my working days were shorter, then I started on 8-hours work days, and then there came a time when I was investing 10–12 hours.

I see other people, in general, that don’t want to invest time outside of working hours to develop themselves. Sure, that’s their decision, but I think that if you want to develop yourself at something, and you’re passionate about it, then it doesn’t matter when you spend the time in it – whether it’s during work, before or after – you’ll always find the time to do it.

Practice makes perfect, and sometimes your efforts can skyrocket you way ahead in terms of knowledge.

Bobby, tech lead at DevriX

Yes, I think you’re right. Plus, you’re supposed to be passionate about what you’re doing, so it shouldn’t be a problem to invest more than 8 hours into it, and learn new things, or practice in your free time.
We all have 24 hours a day. From thereon, it’s about time management and prioritization. If you really want to achieve your goals, you can – it’s entirely up to you.

I’ll use “time management” as a hook to smoothly transition to the next question – what does a day in the life of a tech lead look like? What usually happens in your work days, acknowledging, of course, the fact that emergencies can happen?
Emergencies aside, my days are different due to the various types of meetings we have. In practice, though, a standard working day: I come to work, I review my emails, Slack messages, Asana updates – I go through everything. It’s very important to be on top of things, because it can influence your decision-making. After that, I create a list for myself with the daily tasks I have to get done. Sometimes I do that list at the end of the previous day, depending on the circumstances, and then review it again the next day.

Based on my list, I judge whether I’m blocking someone, and if that’s the case, I try to immediately unblock them, so I can influence the team’s productivity. Then I look at the tasks that can be completed quickly with maximum efficiency – a bit like the 80-20 principle. I leave the tasks that aren’t that urgent for last, but I still like to do them, because they can become urgent tomorrow.

That’s my way to avoid missing important tasks. Of course, sometimes I have to slow down some things, but it helps me to properly prioritize. Naturally, I also regularly communicate with the team – how significant something is, what is the urgency of a task. I talk with the PM team on a daily basis, being in the same room, so they also help me to manage my own time. So, to repeat myself – you’re not alone, there’s always someone who is willing to help you, and you can help other people.

Otherwise, in the days when we have meetings, my schedule is more or less the same, I just adjust accordingly.

Bobby (middle center) and the management team of DevriX

I know you’re a big fan of World of Warcraft, but would you say the game has taught you something about real life – human psychology, patience, persistence?
WoW is such a popular game that you meet all types of people around the world – different mindsets, different languages, nationalities. I started playing World of Warcraft when I was little, around 2005, 2006. Going back to the topic of being a little brother, my brother used to leave me his game account to do the boring stuff, while he was at work. At one of my birthdays, he gifted me an account of my own, and even paid for it for a while. So I started playing on my own.

In the beginning, I had almost no knowledge of English. I’ll always remember the one situation, where someone challenged me to a duel. I didn’t know what “decline” and “accept” meant, so I wanted to decline, but accepted it, and the countdown started – 3…2…1, and they started beating me up, so I had to hide in the houses (laughing).

The game has taught me a lot of things. Actually, maybe around 80% of my English knowledge comes from there, since you have an in-game chat, where you communicate with people. I would really say that my command of the language comes from the game. For example, I went to private English lessons when I was in the 3rd grade, and the other students were in the 12th.

WoW also taught me to be patient, although at times not so much. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, depending on which part of your human development the game catches you in. When you’re little, you’re usually patient, but when you’re a bit older, and start to understand things more, you can be more short-tempered, when the item you want still doesn’t drop after days and weeks of farming.

Anyway, it teaches you about communication, it builds character. Games have a great influence on people, especially multiplayer ones. By the way, WoW has also helped me to pass exams. For instance, I had Geography, and didn’t know what tundra is, but I remember a map in the game, which was called Borean Tundra, so I made an association about how it looked, and somehow managed to answer correctly.

To summarize, the game helped me in a lot of ways, but it also hindered me, because it took away from my time, after all.

Gamification truly is a great way to learn new things. I know that another passion of your is online security, or cybersecurity. Can you share some of the most common mistakes people make online, and how they can avoid them?
Password security. To be honest, I won’t even talk about other mistakes, as this one is the biggest mistake one could make online. Some people use phrases that seemingly don’t mean anything to others, but for someone who has a malicious intent, it’s actually very easy to guess. Some people use the birthday or year of birth, some use their name and last numbers of their birth year…

I once read about another popular game – League of Legends, where you can enter the forums, and program a bot to take the usernames, as they are visible. From there, the bot tries to log in using the username as the password, as well. It turned out that a lot of accounts were accessible this way.

People are using the same thing for a password and username?
Yes. So, the security of your password is above all, for me. It’s the human factor. You might think your password is very secure, while it’s not, in reality. It’s not about how long it is, or the amount of symbols you use. If the password has any kind of meaning, then it’s not secure.

Okay. Last question: if life is a big, open-world RPG, like WoW or Diablo, and you’ve developed various skills up till now, what skills/stats would you develop in the next levels?
Every RPG requires you to focus and decide where you want to be at the end of it, as there are different builds. Of course, there’s another scenario where you test different things, and develop a balanced build, but from my experience I know that that can be bad, because, sure, you have general knowledge in a lot of different aspects, but you’re not specialized in any of them. It’s much more effective to pick what you want to become, and focus on that.

In my eyes, I would rather continue developing my character the same way I have so far. And who knows… in the games there’s typically an option to respec your skills.

Unfortunately, life, perhaps, doesn’t have one of those.
Perhaps, yes, but some people manage to do that.

That’s a tested build. Alright, Bobby, thanks again for the interview. Is there anything you want to add?
Thank you for the interview, as well. I hope that I’ve given some food for thought to the readers regarding the lessons I’ve learned, and the examples I gave. I think they can be useful for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a programmer, business person, or unemployed. If you’ve found them helpful, I would be really glad, if not – then there are other lessons more valid for you.

Did you know that working with DevriX can really help your business grow? That’s right, check out our services, and let’s unlock the potential of your business together!

What Is It Like to Work With Bobby?

“Bobby is one of the first people I met when I started working here. While being quiet at first, I think we developed quite the friendship. Obviously, he’s very smart and talented, but also very emotionally intelligent and super funny. He makes the job more enjoyable and fills the room with good vibes.”

“An absolute pleasure every time! Always willing to help while being extremely reliable even when facing unknown matters.”

“Bobby has always been reliable, hard-working, and fun. I’ve known him for a very long time, and I can say he’s never let me down.”

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