Interview with Elena, Head of R&D
As the new Head of R&D at Devexperts, Elena Alshevskaya is eager to lead a new direction for the department. In this issue of dxSpotlight, Elena will be sharing with us her professional journey, her take on the remote working revolution, and why she describes herself as someone who creates order out of chaos.
Could you describe to us how you started your career in IT and what drove you to this field?
Mathematics came naturally to me, and IT seemed like a logical next step for someone with my abilities and interests. I graduated from Moscow State University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in IT, but, from the very beginning, I understood one curious thing: coding was not for me. I was never a true programmer, to be honest. Writing code was not where my heart was.
One day, when I was still studying at university, I took a taxi to go to class. The taxi driver asked me what I studied, and when I told him, he asked me “So, you’re going to be a system administrator?” When I told him that was not the case, he suggested that I became a manager of system administrators. I found it a strange thing to assume, but somehow it got me thinking. I wondered about IT management and how it would fit my needs.
Congrats on your recent promotion as Head of R&D at Devexperts! What are your goals as the new leader of the department?
Thank you! Yes, I have several goals I want us to achieve. First of all, I want us to be extremely efficient. I want to perfect our processes to the fullest so that we deliver to our customers with the highest degree of care and quality. My main goal is to make our customers so happy they won’t even think about looking for alternatives.
What is a normal day in your job as Head of R&D?
I like to start my day by working out for an hour and a half to two hours every morning. After that, it’s time to start working and I usually have 6 to 8 (or even 10) meetings every day. Most of my work boils down to communication. My job revolves around meetings, negotiations, and problem-solving. I am constantly assessing issues that arise and finding solutions and the right people to solve them.
We can say that your job requires you to be a master coordinator of teams, projects, and decisions. What strategies do you use to be successful at this demanding task?
I am not sure if I have any strategies per se, but I do have some tips, yes. For starters, I always write everything down. In meetings, I make a point of taking several notes as well as always coming prepared with information to make sure nothing important is left out.
Another key part is to know how and when to delegate. I try to do it as much as possible, and I try to only focus on things that only I can do. For this, you need to have trust in your colleagues and know who to delegate things to.
Above all else, it’s important to show your team that they can come to you whatever happens. If there are problems to be solved, show them you can solve them together.
What kind of leader do you see yourself as?
Employees need to feel that they are in a safe environment, and they should feel comfortable in coming to you with their issues or mistakes. They need to know that you will work it out together as a team, correct the situation and avoid similar issues in the future.
I suppose this is somewhat of a flexible style of leadership. I am not really great at management theories, but I know there is a lot written on this subject. My own style of leadership comes more from a common sense thing, listening to feedback and keeping on learning every day about my colleagues and other real-life examples and experiences.
I’m a listener. I listen to people very carefully and I seek to always have a personal touch with my coworkers. For me, it’s also very important to give clear feedback and to do so with proper settings and timings. This means, for example, that I think it’s crucial to praise publicly someone who did a good job. It also means that whenever someone conducts themselves poorly in their work, you should deal with it privately. There should never be public shaming, I am strongly against it.
What do we do differently at Devexperts that sets us apart from competitors in the industry?
We really care about our developers and our staff. We are always striving to be better, to push ourselves forward, and go above and beyond our clients’ expectations and the needs of our employees.
Devexperts has become a very big company but we are always willing to change and evolve.
You have worked remotely for a long time, even before joining Devexperts. What do you love the most about working away from the office?
I started to work remotely when it was considered something really unusual. My first experience wasn’t very successful though, and I decided to establish clear boundaries in my work routine back then, such as having one room to work in and another room to relax, for example. As a workaholic, I need to have a clear switch from work mode to home mode.
At Devexperts, it was much easier to find the work-life balance I was looking for. Our work environment is one of trust, which allows us to deliver our best work wherever we are.
Much has been said about remote working ever since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Do you believe that remote working will be more than a current trend?
That’s a good question because I have noticed a change in opinions for the past few months. When the pandemic started, a lot of people were happy to be able to work from home. After a while, many came to realize that while this is an idea that sounds great on paper, it does come with a few problems that you need to be aware of.
The key thing is to understand what best works for you. Most of all, people are happy they now have a choice and the opportunity to work away from the office. It’s truly great that we now have options and possibilities that can be more aligned with our preferred way of working. I hope this right to decide is here to stay.
You describe yourself as someone who creates order out of chaos. What makes you say that?
It’s just what I do. It’s something that was always a part of me.
As someone who is naturally focused on problem-solving, I want to help people to reach their solutions. I enjoy the process of looking at something chaotic, envisioning a solution, and guiding people in the right direction.
When you shut down the computer at the end of a hard-working day, what are you looking forward to doing next?
I am eager to spend time with my family, watch movies, paint something with my son or simply enjoy a meal together. I am happy taking long walks in parks, that’s where I find my ideal resting place.
I miss traveling so much! I used to travel a few times a year to different countries and there are a few places I miss dearly. The Netherlands, Czech Republic (especially Prague), and Barcelona are my top picks. I hope I can go back there sometime next year.