Greetings and salutations, dear DevriX blog readers!
So far, we’ve presented our:
Today, we have the pleasure of presenting to you our front-end team lead, and full-stack architect – Tony.
A front-end team lead has many responsibilities, on top of the technical work they have to do. Part of the job is to help out newer team members, provide solutions, synchronize with various departments, and keep good organizational standards.
Today, we meet the front-end team lead of DevriX, who is also a full-stack architect – Todor Manoilov. In this interview, we’ll be talking about how he started at the company, why he loves martial arts, and what it’s like to handle so many responsibilities.
A Day in the Life of a Front-end Team Lead
Greetings, Tony! Thank you very much for accepting my invitation for this interview. For starters, I would like to ask you to share a little bit about yourself – education, hobbies, etc.?
I first got involved in programming when I was in the 5th grade, which was quite some time ago. I started out, similarly to a big percentage of devs, thanks to some game, for which I had to create a server, which needed a website. From there, it turned out to be kind of interesting, so I continued with some other stuff.
As things evolved, there was a site – uroci.net, which, I think, doesn’t exist anymore, but there were some lessons in it about Visual Basic. In 2005, when this happened, it was a semi-adequate way to write Windows applications.
Respectively, I was working on Windows then, and I started creating some very basic applications – things like a calculator. When you make an app, it has some buttons, it works, and you actually create something, which was inspiring.
Eventually, I decided, this is what I wanted to study. In the 7th grade, during exams, school applications, and so on, I had decided to go to “John Atanasov” high school. Some time before applying there, I realized there was another school – TUES, and despite finding out about it quite late, I decided to try out there, as well.
The school was behind some trees, in an unknown district, it looked like it was falling apart on the outside, and I was very suspicious regarding the whole thing. In the end, I did study at TUES (laughing). It turned out to be the best decision. The schedule was a bit different back then, everyone started out studying more general things, then you did a specialization. From thereon, I chose programming, I graduated… with an excellent grade.
Great. We’ll surely come back to the topic of programming later. However, I can’t resist asking, as I know you’re interested in martial arts, could you tell me more about that – what did you take, do you have a favorite style?
I’ve done karate and kickboxing for about 5 years. Kickboxing was my bigger passion, it’s a little more intense, and not a sport that focuses directly on strength. Actually, that’s debatable. Karate has a lot of technique, in terms of executing and placing your hits, while in kickboxing, the technique is in beating up your opponent (laughing). In general, martial arts help develop self-discipline, set goals and healthy attitude towards things.
Would you say that generally this discipline helps you at work as well as in life?
To a certain extent, yes. I also think that this is the way I was raised to be when I was a kid.
So, kickbox is your favorite style?
Yes. Unfortunately, though, I cannot train anymore due to health issues.
Do you watch MMA?
I prefer participating, instead of watching. A fun fact about my time training is that, in the end, I was an assistant coach.
Nice! You’re an active person. Okay, you’re one of the longest serving DevriX employees, you’ve been here for almost 5 years, can you go back and tell us: how it all started, and how do you think you’ve developed during your time here?
The story of how I began here is quite entertaining. In reality, almost 5 years ago, I was working at another agency, unrelated to WordPress, we were developing a custom CMS. I had been working there for around 3 years, and a former classmate from TUES contacted me and asked: do you know PHP? The aforementioned custom CMS was using PHP, and I was like: Of course, I’ve been working with it for 3 years, it’d be bad if I didn’t know PHP by now. Then he explained that a colleague of his was looking for someone to work for him. At some workplace, I didn’t have more details.
My classmate and his colleague, respectively, worked for IBM. I was quite confused as to why IBM would need PHP, I expected them to have an engineering crew. Anyway, I got the contact details of the colleague of my classmate, and I sent him my CV.
After that, I didn’t hear anything for about a week. I had already sort of forgotten about the whole thing, because I wasn’t actively looking for a new job. I didn’t care enough to look for information or some kind of feedback. Then, I received an email from Mario Peshev. I knew Mario from before, since he was a teacher of mine at TUES. Accordingly, the name rang a bell, so I opened the email, and it said: “Hello, Laura sent me your CV…” Now, Laura is not the colleague of my classmate (as the name implies), so I became even more confused. First, Mario, and second – who the hell was Laura?
In the end, it turned out that, (and as of this date), we went to a lot of hookah bars, and back then there was a popular bar, and the owner was named Laura. It was the same bar that the colleague of my classmate frequented. A very distant connection, I know.
It’s probably destiny, I would say, but since I personally don’t believe in coincidences, sometimes, I have to admit that people and events just align somehow. Overall, did you have any doubts about starting work here, and to what extent did Mario influence your decision?
My previous job was my first job, so, naturally, I had the usual doubts. Also, I’d never quit and changed a job before, and you never know what’s going to happen. So, yeah, I had my doubts, but I thought about it long and hard, I talked to a couple of people, and in the end, I made the decision to start here.
Next is a question that will probably sound unrelated, but, what is the thing you hate the most? Be it at work, or life, in general, what always makes you angry?
People that lie.
No. Not lies, but liars, themselves. You can lie for something and have an adequate reasoning to do so, the so-called white lies, but the opposite category of lies, is not something I find okay. I’m not strictly against lies, more so against liars.
Right. Could you guide us through a day in the life of a front-end team lead? Of course, you’re also a full-stack architect, and lots of other thing, which you’ll, hopefully, share with us as well.
A working day passes by chaotically, in most cases. There are a couple of things that are certain, though. When I come to work, I synchronize with the PM team, before everything else, to take a look at the global scale of all projects – what requests there will be for me, and what is mandatory for the day. The next step is to prepare a hookah. More or less, these things are a must (laughing). After that, I start working on tasks, which is often interrupted by other urgent synchronizations, questions, help requests from the different departments, etc. Maybe around 8:30 pm, when the office empties, I can do some of my own work, which is why I leave work very late most days.
You’re a mentor for a lot of the colleagues here, especially the newer ones, be it for WordPress, technical aspects, or organizational. How much satisfaction would you say you get from helping and sharing knowledge, and how much does it interfere with your own tasks and projects?
It’s surely one of the things, in general, I want to do with my life. Being able to help someone out, regardless of what it is. I’m always willing to help or lend a hand at work. Moreover, having the skill set and knowledge to do so, that’s priceless.
Sounds really cool, and it’s sort of connected to the next question. One of our core values is to own accountability, and you’re no stranger to that. To what extent is taking on responsibility for something hard, tiresome and time consuming for you? Or is it more energizing than tiring?
Both simultaneously. If I have to summarize in one sentence, it would be something like: with great responsibility, comes great stress. It’s true that the stress is huge, simply because a lot of things are dependent on you, regardless if it is development, client updates, emergencies, organization. With my team lead responsibilities, I take care of my people, too, and once again depending on the situation, it is stressful, but truly I think stress lets you develop.
Yes. I mean, something has to take you out of your comfort zone, so you can progress.
There’s some logic to that, yes. You’ve been with the company for such a long time, and you’ve obviously achieved a lot. However, on a personal level, have you thought about setting some goals, or taking a look at other things you want to achieve or learn such as a skill or qualification?
There are a couple of things, actually. One of them, which is, perhaps, funny, but summarizes a lot, is my goal is to conquer DevriX from the inside. I started as a backend developer with PHP, as mentioned. During that time, I developed skills in the front-end, and after I reached a certain level, I got the title of full-stack developer. After some time, I took over the front-end team. At the moment, I’m also involved with our design team, but I’m also interested in marketing and sales, so I’m generally taking over all the teams internally.
You’re quite the colorful personality, with various interests, which is excellent, especially in a company like DevriX, which offers overall solutions for business, not just one-time help or maintenance.
Last question: if you could go back in time, five years ago, to the moment where you started at DevriX, is there something you would say to your younger self, or some advice you would offer?
I haven’t thought about it. But I’d probably ask for feedback more frequently.
Thank you once again for this interview. Is there anything you would like to share before we wrap-up?
Stress is temporary, the glory of Rome is forever.
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What Is It Like to Work With Tony?
“Tony is one of those people that everyone seeks out when they need help. Not just because he will help you out, but also because he will do his best to make you learn in the process. A team player, valued by colleagues… Even when he acts grumpy, we know he loves us.”
“One specific thing about Tony is that his knowledge is very broad in quite a lot and different fields. So, working with him, you almost always end up learning a bunch of things on the spot. He’s an amazing individual! It’s always a pleasure and an experience to mess up something with Tony by your side.”
“Working with Tony is, before everything, very fun! He’s a good leader, a mentor, and you can learn a lot from him. He is always ready to help you, and knows how to encourage you to overcome difficulties.”