Squares Conference (feat. Alex Zub) Part 2
Today we continue the interview with Alex Zub, founder of Handsome.
Today's episode is sponsored by Fuse! Build native iOS and Android apps with less code and better collaboration. Head over to spec.fm/fuse to learn more today!
Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Building a company is more than just writing code. And it's more than just getting clients. A lot of what you do when you build a development company is you create connections between the people on that company. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Most likely most of you are working on development teams that have these kinds of connections. In today's episode we're continuing our interview with Alex Zub and we talk about these kinds of topics. In today's episode how Alex is doing this at Handsome. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to challenge you to give you the insights and information, the interviews and the coaching that you need to become the great developer that you want to be. That's my goal here. If I'm not succeeding at this, let me know. You can reach out to me and let me know what you would like to hear about and what things are working and what things are not working. You can reach me at developert.gmail.com. The goal of this show is not to make things easy on you but instead to help you when you encounter difficult things. Becoming better at what you do takes some sacrifice. It takes some pain. It may take a lot of really intense thinking, maybe some really intense practicing. A lot of iteration. But in the end, you will become better as a result of it. Thank you so much for sticking with us. If you are not dedicated to becoming a great developer, there are other podcasts that you can probably listen to or other things that you can do because this is not going to be an easy road. It certainly is something that you have to dedicate yourself to. Thank you again for listening and thank you again to Alex for stopping by and talking with me. This is such a fantastic interview. I hope you enjoy the second part of the interview. By the way, if you miss the first part, make sure you go back and listen to it. A lot of what we talk about in this interview won't make sense unless you've already heard that first part. I hope you enjoy the second part of my interview with Alex Zube. The first freelance work I've got. Getting back to your question about where I realized that web development, software development, something I like, I think it was in high school. In 10th grade, I have actually started to do some little projects just for myself and I enjoy that. Then it met somebody, his name is Alex Zube, who kind of was a mentor to me for a couple of years. He was and he is a more of a back-end engineer. I was always inclined to front-end engineering. We had a good team. He brought in a couple of local clients from our city and they've built something. I had to build something without having to acknowledge about it. I could make it till you make it think. I spent 16 hours a day trying to build something again. The first two projects were really intense but really valuable. I was using my English to find clients from overseas to us. Finding clients based in the US is my English. It really helps. Looking back at it, all those points connect so well. I'm like, what if they've been having it? What did it be different? I had a dream of moving to Czech Republic and getting into university there. I wanted to learn the Czech language first for a year and then check the educational language first. Thinking about it, what would happen if I did that? I wanted to move to Moscow to get the university. I had a really high school on my SAT, impressionary SAT. Because I started working at the end of high school, going forward, I was getting more and more work. To the point where I made a decision that the university doesn't give me enough value to spend so much time on it. I switched to another type of education where you don't have to come into the university. You don't get assignments throughout the year. You only get assignments in the beginning of the year or in the beginning of semester. By the end of semester, you have to prepare for the exams. That's what I've started to do. I would get assignments in the beginning and then I would have two very intense weeks before the exams to prepare for them. It worked out. I didn't have great grades. But it allowed me to have so much time to dedicate to something I really loved, which was a software development. We've been working with my mentor on some of the projects for the clients we found overseas, which is here in the US. It worked out well. It led to me finding that client who is the CEO of our company that led me to creating that relationship that eventually allowed me to well first found an office in OMSK. So not work just as a group of freelancers, but actually make a team. I'm sure you had the exact same experience. Like bringing people into the team and making it so they work together in a team better than they would work individually. It's so fulfilling. It's great. It's great. I mean, challenging. And then just allowing people to come to a job that they like, do some cool stuff. And it's just really good. I mean, there's so many companies in OMSK that aren't really great. A lot of them would build. A lot of them would get things thrown over the fence to them. Here's the design. Just code it. Whereas in HANSA, I'm having the two offices and having them so closely connected to each other. And having our own design and very, very strong design user experience, it allows us to make a smooth transition from design to development, whereas developers feel very engaged. They have access to the tools where they can see how and when the certain decisions are made. They can see where the designs come from. They can see the wireframes before the designs are even done. So very engaging. And they can see that the things they do, they matter. So it's really fulfilling to provide that opportunity to people. And I moved to the years, two years ago, to be a part of the FHRTQWR's office here in Austin. Was that a big transition for you? Yeah, really missed the team. And I see them not as often as I would like. But what's fulfilling is doing things here that grow our business and allow the office there to grow. So that we can give really smart people really cool jobs. That's really, I mean, that's... It's very cool to be able to say, okay, I came out of this place in Russia, Omsk. I'm not saying that right. I came out of Omsk and found a way to create a business connected to halfway around the world. And then now I'm feeding value back to Omsk to people like yourself. Yeah, a few years prior and helping them grow, you're growing the economy there in your hometown. Yeah. But you're also growing the economy worldwide, right? Yeah. Very interesting opportunity. Yeah. But you said before we started the interview that the two offices were not always as connected. Yeah. As they are now. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah, so that's... I mean, when we started, when we just, you know, officially started the business, we didn't have an office in either Austin or Omsk. We've had the four other partners in Austin who work out of a house. I guess you can call it an office. Yeah. But I was, you know, I was a remote developer. That's what I've... That's what I was always doing. Like, I've never had experience before working in an office in a very... In a team that works very closely and together and very engaged. So, that's what... That was what I was used to. Yep. So, what I did is I hired more freelancers. Sure. And I was very comfortable with that. Like, I hired... I think at one point we had ten freelancers that had different places. Yeah. That... Worked well together. I mean, we... We have built products. Uh-huh. It worked. Yeah. We started to travel to the Yess and the guys here eventually founded the office. They hired people. So, they had about, you know, ten, fifteen people here. And as I come to the office, you can feel the culture. You can feel like... Yep. You can feel how well... How good it is for people to be in the same place, to share the same... You know, share the same culture. Yeah. Share the same knowledge. Working the same project and, you know... We did the same place for lunch sometimes. Yeah. You know, multiply the value just by being, you know, close to each other. It's something... It felt really... You know, interesting and... Kind of almost unique to me just because you have that experience. Yeah. But then, as I come back to OMS, in end of 2013, I decided to actually open a, you know, brick and mortar office. So, I started to slowly replacing the freelancers with, you know, on-site developers. Full-time, yeah. Again, it's... There... It took a lot of time for it to become really, you know, a team that works very closely together. Yeah. Just because, you know, for the first few months, all it was is, you know, developers sitting together under who? But they were still, you know, individual freelancers. So, there wasn't much of engagement going on. Yeah. That's... That's where I learned and appreciated the power of, you know, culture. And of, you know, this unified... You know, unified culture. Right. And this, you know, consistency in how people in the same company think. Yep. And that's how I started to integrate things that help bring... You know, that help bring offices together. I've used to be the bottleneck for all of the projects. Like, I've used to be the technical project manager. Yeah. It would be kind of an umbrella, which is good. Kind of an umbrella, but all the communication would go through me. Yeah. So, to all of the engineers in our arms office, I would be the one... The gateway to the... gateway. Yeah. So, they would not even know who is that, you know, sitting there in Austin office and being the design to them. Wow. Yeah. So, one of the changes we naturally had to make is, you know, create direct communication channels between all of the engineers and all of the designers, you know, have the actual unified communication tool. We set up Slack. We had, you know, we had the, you know, channels where everybody would be at. So, everybody would be in the same channels and talking about things and talking about, you know, project and non-project. They had, you started to have Developer Talk to designers when they have a question. Yeah. Yeah. Which is a really big thing. Yeah. Kind of felt uncomfortable just because the... Not everybody was very comfortable with English. Sure. And for many people, it was the first experience actually speaking English with a person who is, you know, native English speaker. Yeah. So, we've hired an English mentor. Oh, very cool. We've hired somebody who would be interested in... Oh, that's so interesting. Yeah. Almost full time. Uh, given lessons. Yeah. You know, getting through some basics and that stuff. But more importantly, being involved in everything that is going on in the company. Kind of a culture person. Yeah. Effectively. So, being involved in all of the company wide events, being involved in, you know, you know, quarterly town halls being involved in, you know, some of the other, you know, project activities. Understand everything. Like, have the understanding of the, you know, some of the technical things that are going on there. Being immersed in the culture. Mm-hmm. And through that, no, and define where some of the things that she could, you know, provide to the engineers. So that they could communicate better. Exactly. Yeah. That was really big. Yeah. And so now, now she's actually the one who defines some of the new activities. Oh. As we have a new person, you know, when we hire somebody, either in the arms or in Austin, we have to get to no meetings. So we have to get. Yeah. And that's where, you know, if you hire somebody in Austin, you know, everybody in the arms could talk to the person. Very cool. And then the person would each of you use themselves. And everybody would ask questions. So there's, you know, replacing things that would otherwise happen in the office when people are together with some of the, you know, virtual activities. We are having, right now we are having the, on a two-week cadence, we have WhatsApp Club, which is pretty much, you know, 20-minute meeting to talk about something. Yeah. So the participants sign up and they choose the theme and they just talk about it. And it's something, it helps. It helps to have some of those activities be outside of project work. Because people need some, you know, engagement. Just normal human communication that is not necessarily, you know, project related. You know, app development has basically gone unchanged for perhaps decades. Some things have changed, little things here and there. But largely we're looking at code and then entirely separately we're looking at the product that that code is contributing to. This disconnection, the, the dispritness between these two parts makes it very difficult and really time consuming to make changes and to move quickly through your product. And really it ends up making you focus more on the code than you do on the product. This is a bad thing. And I would recommend that you check out FUSE. FUSE is today's sponsor. FUSE has created a tool that is essentially like Unity for game development. If you're familiar with Unity, if you're not going to check it out so you can kind of understand what this process is like. But it's an all in one system. Basically a single package that doesn't really require a lot of setup at all. And it's available for Mac and for Windows. And the app that you build is a real native app and it works on both iOS and Android. Go and check out what FUSE has to offer to Developer Tealisteners by going to spec.fm slash FUSE. That's spec.fm slash FUSE. Thank you again to FUSE for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. I'm going to give you a charge. I think you need to talk about something like this, some of these cultural elements. Because I feel like you've gone through a lot of the most common problems that people go through. And also a lot of uncommon problems that especially as the world becomes more and more global, especially in this industry, becoming more and more global, people are going to face this stuff all the time. Culture is absolutely unavoidable. It exists whether you create it or not. And shaping the culture can be the linchpin in creating a huge amount of growth, both at a personal and emotional level for your workers, but also at a financial level. Because now, for example, making a decision like hiring an English mentor, a lot of businesses would evaluate that and think, well, there's not any direct profit from that. It's entirely a cost center and that's on the last list at the end of my priority list, basically. But what you've found, I assume, is that that's basically unlocked a lot of much better communication between the team. It's created much more potential for the team. It's done a lot of things that otherwise you wouldn't have been able to do on your own without a lot more overhead. Because people who don't have that mentorship, they can't just find it. They aren't going to find it through an online channel or something like that. It's very interesting that you've figured that stuff out out of necessity rather than somebody saying, yeah, culture is important. And you're saying, well, yeah, okay, I'm going to create a good culture. You've created it because you had to and very interesting lessons to learn. Yeah, and I mean distributed teams are their hard. They do require a lot of overhead. That's something to always keep in mind. People think that the overseas team is something that is very cheap and it's always hard. There are a bunch of people and it all happens in a safe whole bunch of money. But the reality is, you do get access to a market with a lot of talent. But it does require a lot of time to be invested in that, to get it set up. It's not... There's a lot of pitfalls there. And it's easy to mess up. It's easy. So this has been really enlightening, a great talk. I feel like there's so much more to talk about and maybe we can talk further and another interview in the future. Learn a little bit more about what it means to grow from two people to 50 people and all the steps along the way. There's so many hurdles that you face. And every time you add another team member, you're talking about exponential number of relationships. And those being overseas relationships even is that much more complicated. So I feel like a lot of the experience you have can provide a lot of value to people. So thank you so much for sharing your story. Yeah, thank you. I have two questions that I like to ask all of the developers who come on Developer Tea. All of the guests really who come on the show. The first one is if you could have people ask you about one thing, what do you wish you could talk about more? And this doesn't have to be related to the company or anything like that. It can be anything at all. So, and something that I like to ask people, you know, do do the other people what you would like to be done to you. Yeah, yeah. So it's kind of like asking the other people what you would like you to be asked. Sure. So something I like. Well, again, coming back to the different cultures and experiences. I really like talking to people who are of a different culture or who have different life experience. Yeah. Who are from another country. Sure. So something that I like to ask to those people is, you know, about their life in the other country. And a lot of those people move to the US. Yeah. You know, talking about the reasons of going to the US and talking about the some of the things that they maybe miss. Yeah. Some of the things that I think more importantly, more each is to be things that they would bring from their country here to the US. Yeah. Because there's, even from my experience, there are so many things that, and kind of like even surprisingly, there is a number of things that are, you know, implemented in done in Russia. On the country level, on the higher level, like higher quality that they are done in the US. So I could imagine that, you know, every country has some of those things that are done differently than the US and probably better. Sure. So it's interesting to me to learn about that. So answering your question, if somebody asked me about that, I think there would be, you know, few things to talk about. Yeah. The insight we can gain from the different structures in different countries and really the fact that we can take advantage of the different structures in different countries by simply working with people from those countries, you know, learning from each other is. You know, there's been statistics that, you know, like 40, 30, 40% of successful profitable startups in the US are founded by either immigrants or children of immigrants. The reality is, person that comes into the other country, they naturally think outside the box. They are forced to think outside the box because they are put in a new environment. Yeah. And they put in an environment that is so different. Yeah. That, you know, it's different from when you are born here. Uh-huh. And that's the only way you know, you know, it's the same for us. Yeah. And for somebody who comes from another place, it's just, it's, you get a whole new experience and you mind things in, you know, some other way that makes you make some decisions that other people would not make sure. And sometimes maybe often maybe not those decisions are, you know, the right decisions that make them that makes you a company business or any kind of venture successful. Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting. And so the idea being that, you know, if you, not everybody has, it has the same experience. And everybody has the same background. In fact, you can experience some of the same value out of simply somebody from a different state, somebody from a different city. Yeah. So I think a lot of people push against the idea of working with someone who is very different from them because it's uncomfortable. It's not the easiest thing, right? To work with someone who has extremely different experience from you. But what I think you'll find as you've clearly found is that as you work with those people, new and exciting opportunities come out of no, seemingly nowhere, right? Because they just have a completely different perspective. Yeah. Very interesting. So take advantage of your differences. Don't, don't view them as, as obstacles, but as opportunities. It's very good. So the second question I like to ask everyone who comes in the show. If you could give all developers 30 seconds of advice, what would you tell them? So the, the advice I would give is, the advice I would give is, think outside the box. And when you are asked, like, don't take instructions for face value. Always things think beyond that. If you're asked to make a website, always think about what is it that is going to accomplish? If you're asked for some kind of tool who's going to be using it, what are they going to be doing with that? Make sure the experience for the user is where it needs to be. And there's so many, like, I think that's what defines a really great developer from a good one. He really, really great developer. He solves a problem. He doesn't just make, make a thing. He, he really solves a problem. So he thinks about the solving problems is really what we do as, as our job, right? I think a lot of people get this wrong, especially young developers. They think that their job is to write code. Or they think their job is to architect something, right? Yeah. And what I found is ability to create, you know, good, you know, great good code is only at 40 to 50% of success with great developers. There are so many soft skills that come with that. Sure. And I think that's the ability to communicate, ability to explain some of the, you know, technical things, ability to explain it like I'm five. Yeah. Yeah. The ability to understand the ask, the ability to know what questions to ask, the ability to manage expectations, the ability to, you know, you got to, as much as you have to do it in the enjoyable experience for the users, you got to make it enjoyable experience for your client. So who, in your communication with the client, or, you know, with your communication with whoever the stakeholder is, even if it's in your own company, your goal as a software engineer is a developer is to make sure the, this experience of working together is enjoyable for both. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, I think it applies to any job really. Yeah. Absolutely. It's up to our development. It's something where there are many opportunities to easily make that happen. It's such a, you know, modern, you know, field that moves forward so fast that it's not hard to introduce, you know, some different process or a different way to do things in order to make it, to make it, again, to make it better, a better experience for everybody. Right. Really, it's, it comes down to, and this is a, this is kind of a stretch, but it comes down to thinking about your job more in terms of customer service than in terms of the product, right? Yes, exactly. The best way for me to serve the customer is not to frame their problem through my own lens, right? But instead to approach the problem as outside of myself as I can and to, and to look at it from the perspective of, you know, I have a tool set, but that tool set may or may not be, or my, my predictions may or may not be the best thing for this client. Yeah. Even to the point that sometimes you may find that you're not even the right person to solve that problem, right? Yeah, that's not something that you need to build, like there's something else that you need to do in order to accomplish the same goal and, you know, maybe way faster. A lot of them are not necessarily digital world, if they're not very familiar with some of the practices. But it's not just about the things that, you know, share your knowledge, yeah, make sure, again, make sure it makes sense to your client, yeah, make sure you, you know, you provide this, like you said, customer customer service. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. This has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate it. I'd like to be on the podcast and if people want to learn more about handsome or they want to maybe follow you on Twitter or something, handsome.is correct? Yes, correct. And then your handsome.is and your Twitter account is my Twitter account is AZ morph m or f. Handsome Twitter account is handsome made. Handsome made. Perfect. All right. Thank you so much, Alex. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. My interview with Alex Zub. Alex is such a fantastic person. A really enjoyable person to be around incredibly humble, such a kind person as well. Go and check out handsome handsome.is. Thank you again to Alex for sharing his story with us and all of this information about how to provide the most valued customers and the ins and outs of starting a company such a fantastic. Thank you to Alex. Thank you so much to Fuse as well. Today's sponsor. If you're an app developer and you've been doing the same things the same way for years on end and you want to try something different, go to go to spec.fm slash Fuse and check out the incredible tool that Fuse has built for app developers. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. We have more great content that's coming out at a very fast rate. Three episodes a week. This show comes out. So we're going to be having a new episode pretty much right away. And if you don't want to miss out on this great content, go ahead and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.