Three years at Qobo

Today is my third birthday as the Qobo CTO.  Here are the summary posts for the first and second years, if you are interested.

I haven’t had a boring year at Qobo yet.  And this last one was the most eventful and interesting, both business and technology wise.  Let’s have a quick look at the business side of things first.

Since last August, here are some of the things that happened:

  • In October 2016 we opened the Limassol office.  It’s mostly used by developers and for developers.  But we had a few client meetings in there too.  If things go as fast an good as they are going, we’ll need to either expand it soon, or move to the new premises.
  • In December 2016 we closed the deal with our first angel investors.  That was quite a lengthy and tedious process, during which we spoke to a lot of organizations and individuals, went through a variety of checks and audits, and figured out answers to many questions that we’ve never asked ourselves.  As a result, we found partners who not only brought the money in for the company growth, but a wide range of business expertise.  Personally, I’ve learned a lot during and after this process, and hopefully will boost my understanding of the business world.
  • In March 2017 we received the confirmation that our application for the Research and Development grant from the Cyprus government and European Union was approved.  This process also took quite a bit of effort and time and is far from over.  This money will help Qobo to grow even further and once the tender is complete we’ll have quit a thing to show for it.  That’s about as much as I can say now.
  • In May 2017 we opened the London office.  This one is mostly for our sales force and the expansion of business into the UK market.
  • Over the course of the whole year, we have grown our team quite a bit as well.  We are now about 15 people, but it’s not the quantity that matters, but eh quality.   We manage to bring in some people that I worked with in many previous jobs (Easy Forex, FXCC, Tototheo Group, FxPro, and even as far back as PrimeTel).  And by the looks of it, the team will continue to grow.
  • And much like in previous years, we have signed more clients, did more projects, and delivered more solutions, both locally, here in Cyprus and abroad (primarily United Kingdom).

Now let’s have a look at technology a bit more.  Last year I mentioned Qobrix, but I could give you any more details.  Today, Qobrix is a real thing.  It’s our own platform for building business applications rapidly.  We developed it to a very usable state, and built quite a few applications with it, anything from custom processes, Intranets, and all the way up to the CRMs.  The platform is being actively developed and is maturing every day.  We have also started building a new website that provides plenty of information for it.

Big chunks of our development effort are being released as Open Source software – have a look at our ever-growing GitHub profile.  We have also contributed to a number of Open Source projects in both CakePHP and WordPress ecosystems.

We are also getting much better at this whole cloud computing thing.  Our knowledge of Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing and improving.  We have more servers now, use more services, and planning to expand even further.

Overall, as you can see, this was quite an intensive year, and it doesn’t look like things are slowing down.  Quite the opposite.  After three years at Qobo, I have to say that this is hands down the best job I ever had (and I had some pretty amazing jobs in the last couple of decades).  I’m learning a lot every single day.  I see the impact of my effort on the company as a whole, on the team, and on our clients.  And I am still humbled by the expertise and virtues of people around me.

I’d like to thank everybody around me for all the wisdom, tips, hard work, and joyful moments during the last year.  I’ll be raising my glass tonight for many more years like this one.  Cheers!

London Trip

Swan Pub, London, UK

As some of you already know, I’ve spent most of this week in London, UK.  My first and only time in London was back in 2009, when I went there for a PHP conference (see this post, and this post).

This trip was very different.  I stayed longer than the last time.  I was mostly for business.  I had much less time to explore the city as a tourist.  So I thought I’d write it up, in case I case I need to remember some of it later.

Continue reading “London Trip”

Togliatti, Russia – home sweet home

I came across this awesome collection of photographs of my home town – Togliatti, Russia (June 2017).  By a lucky coincidence, even the house that I grew up until I moved to Cyprus got into one of the pictures.  It’s the building to the right of the tall building in the center-right of the above image.  Second floor, left window is the kitchen of the apartment where I spent almost 18 years.

The building in the center-bottom is the kindergarden, which I went to.  And the large building on the left is the school, where I studied for the first three years.

Things look quite different from how I remember them, cause it’s been years since I’ve been there (last time in 2006).  The neighborhood changed, memories faded, and the high altitude perspective is not how I’ve used to look at it.

Why I don’t answer most phone calls

The question of the phone call etiquette has been coming up more and more often recently.  Is it polite to call without a prior message or agreement? What time should one call? What’s the decision point for opting for the phone call versus some other communication channel?  These, and many other questions are popping up frequently.

I came across a nice blog post – “Why I don’t answer most phone calls” – which discusses some of the reasons why this particular person doesn’t answer phone calls.  It’s a good quick read, but here is a summary:

  1. Because I’m busy.
  2. Because my agenda and tasks are also on my phone.
  3. Because a call leaves no trace.
  4. Because your communication is worse.
  5. Because repeating yourself is costly.
  6. Because it’s awkward.
  7. Because my memory sucks.

And I do agree with these points.  Call do interrupt and are rarely timed well.  Most people suck at communications, so calls drag on forever.  Whenever something is discussed or decided, there is no trace of it.  And my memory is horrible.

However, I do still answer phone calls.  But my personal expectation is that a call is:

  • either about something really urgent,
  • or I’ve missed a text/message and left it without response for longer than the caller expected (beer for lunch? and it’s lunch already),
  • or it’s from a good friend or family, who I haven’t heard from in a while.

If it’s none of the above, I tend to get irritated and think much lesser of the world around me in general, and a person calling me in particular. :)

Two years at Qobo

Today marks the completion of my second year at Qobo Ltd.  The first year was quite a ride.  But the second one was even wilder.  As always, it’s difficult (and lengthy) to mention everything that happened.  A lot of that stuff is under the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) terms too.  But here are a few generic highlights:

  • Vision and strategy – most of my first year has been spent in putting out fires, fixing things big and small, left, right, and center.  The technology boost was necessary across the board, so it didn’t leave much time for the vision and strategy.  I feel that we’ve made a huge progress in this area in the last 12 month.  We have a clear vision.  We have all the stakeholders agreeing on all key elements.  We have worked out a strategy on how to move forward.  And we’ve started implementing this strategy (hey, Qobrix!).  In terms of achievements, I think this was the most important area and I am pretty happy with how things are shaping up.
  • Team changes – much like in the first year, we had quite a few changes in the team.  Some of them were unfortunate, others not so much.  The team is still smaller than what we want and need, but I think we are making progress here.  If our World Domination plans will work out to even some degree, we’ll be in a much better place very soon.
  • Technology focus – we’ve continued with our goal of doing fewer things but doing them better.  Our expertise in WordPress, CakePHP and SugarCRM grew a lot.  We’ve signed and deployed a variety of projects, which resulted in more in-depth knowledge, more networking with people around each technology, more tools and practices that we can reuse in our future work.
  • Open Source Softwareour GitHub profile is growing, with more repositories, pull requests, releases, features, and bug fixes.  We’ve also contributed to a variety of Open Source projects.  Our involvement with Open Source Software will continue to grow – that’s one of those things that I am absolutely sure about.
  • Hosting, continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), and quality assurance – again, the trend continued this year.  We are using (and understanding) more of the cloud infrastructure in general and Amazon AWS in particular.  We have a much better Zabbix setup.  And our love and appreciation of Ansible grows steeply. Let’s Encrypt is in use, but we’ll grow it to cover all our projects soon.  We are also experimenting with a variety of quality assurance tools.  We are using TravisCI for most of our Open Source work.  And we are on the brink of using recently announced BitBucket Pipelines for our private repositories (sorry Jenkins, we’ve tried you, but … not yet).  We’ve also jumped into ChatOps world with HipChat and its integrations, to the point that it’s difficult to imagine how could we have worked without it just a few month ago.  Codecov.io has also proved to be useful.
  • Projects, projects, projects – much like the previous year, we’ve completed a whole lot of projects (see some of our clients).  Some were simple and straightforward.  Others were complicated and challenging. And we have more of these in the pipelines.  Overall, we’ve learned how to do more with less.  Our productivity, technical expertise, and confidence grows day-to-day.  I hope we keep it up for years to come.
  • Website – one thing that we wanted to do for ages is to update our website.  Which we did, despite all the crazy things going on.  It’s not a complete redesign, but it’s a nice refreshment.  And we’ve also got our blog section, which I promised you last year.  All we need to do now is to use it more. ;)

There are a couple of major updates coming soon, but I am not at liberty to share them right now.  But they are very, very exciting – that’s all I can say today.  Keep an eye our blog – we’ll be definitely sharing.

As I said, it was quite an intense year, with lots of things going on everywhere.  There were tough times, and there were easy times.  There were challenges and there were accomplishments.  There were successes, and there were mistakes and failures.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

After two years, I am still excited about this company and about my job here.  (Which, looking at my career so far, is not something that happens often.)  I hope the next year will continue the adventure and by the end of it I’ll be able to proudly show you a few more things.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Today Russia and a few other countries celebrate Christmas, so I’d like to take this chance to wish Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone still in the holiday mood.

I usually take the time around these days to review the year gone and to make a wishlist for the upcoming one.  But the year gone was mostly spent at work, which I summed up in the post “One year at Qobo” back in August.  Since then nothing much changed – it’s just been work, work, work.  And most of the out-of-work stuff was personal enough for me not to share it online.

So that’s about it.  My three wishes for the 2016 are:

  • I wish for everyone I know (and don’t know) to stay healthy.  Being sick, getting injured and being kicked out of life aren’t fun things to experience or watch.
  • I wish the momentum that we were building up at work starts picking up.  We’ve done plenty to get this thing rolling, and it feels like it’s about to. It would be awesome if it does this year!
  • I wish to travel a bit more.  I’ve done plenty of travels in 2014, visiting 4 countries in summer, but I haven’t been off the island since.  It’d be nice to go to a conference or something.

That’s about it.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New 2016! Cheers!

Jetpack annual report for mamchenkov.net in 2015

This year’s Jetpack annual report for this blog is ready – have a look.  Here’s a teaser:

blog stats 2015

It’s been a busy year, so I haven’t been blogging as much as I wanted to, but overall, I think I did good (have a look at 2014 and 2013).  Just to give you a quick comparison:

Metric 2013 2014 2015
Visitors 58,000 81,000 96,000
Posts 560 628 541

I blog mostly for myself, but it’s nice to see a slight grow in traffic. Although the fact that the most popular post in this blog throughout the years – how to check Squid proxy version – is a little concerning, yet funny.  Well, at least people still find my “Vim for Perl developers” useful, even though it’s been more than 10 years since I wrote that (and probably five years since I promised to update it soon).

But as I said, I’m quite satisfied with my blogging this year.  Hopefully I can continue to do the same in 2016.

 

Sailing the Optimist dinghy

Today I came across a nice picture that shows the parts of the Optimist dinghy.

Optimist parts

I’ve never knew the English terminology, and I pretty much forgot most of the terminology in Russian as well.  But it’s a nice reminder of my childhood.  I’ve spent years sailing this boat when I was a kid.  Here are the a couple of pictures of me doing just that.

Sailor

Sailing

Fun times!

Upcoming Android devices

The touch screen on my Nexus 4 is dying.  There’s a strip right across the center, which doesn’t work anymore.  The device is still alive, but it won’t last long.  In fact, I’ve already borrowed an old Sony Xperia from my brother, for the day when the angels will take my phone to the Android heaven.

With that in mind, I started looking for what’s going to be my next device.  I’m planning to get one closer to Christmas maybe, so not exactly in a rush.  The official Google blog’s post “S’more to love across all your screens” from a couple of days ago came just in time.

Android devices

The line-up covers upcoming tablets, phones, and Chromecast devices.  On the smartphone front, there are two devices – 5.7 inch Nexus 6P built by Huawei, and a 5.2 inch Nexus 5X built by LG.  Nexus 6P starts at $499, which I’m not yet prepared to pay for a smartphone (even though I use it heavily on a daily basis).  Nexus 5X starts at $379, which is much more reasonable.  Both phones feature a fingerprint scanner (finally, away with all those passwords and patterns), and a 12.3 MP camera for better pictures.  Nexus 6P comes in an aluminum body, which sounds nice.

Nexus 5X seems like an excellent option for me.  Of course, I’ll have to wait and see when it gets released, real-priced, and reviewed.