Islam Temirbek – iOS engineer at Sberbank in Russia, nFactorial Incubator alumnus, and a winner of multiple hackathons.
I got inspired by the story of Islam’s career growth. He will be moving back to Kazakhstan later this year and his ambitious plans to create a community of iOS Engineers, organize meetups and start his podcast channel from developers to developers.
What led you into programming?
I have always been passionate about solving problems by participating in many different school competitions in Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. My mum wanted me to study dentistry as one of our relatives is a dentist and he makes decent money. I remember my talk with my brother about my future and he told me that studying medicine is about being responsible for people’s lives. At that time, I was not ready to take this huge responsibility.
I decided to study at the IT University in Almaty. I didn’t know anything about writing codes, building software programs and how is it even possible. At that time, I had a very low functioning laptop that I couldn’t even write codes on it. My brother borrowed me some money to buy a Mac. That shifted me from being an Android developer to iOS.
I admire the work of software engineers as you have the freedom to build anything you want. You have the entire internet to explore and build what you want without having huge investments. You are not dependent on someone else’s opinion. When you have this freedom, you can build great products.
What was your first product you’ve built and your key learning point from it?
My first product was the b1 App, a marketplace of influencers and bloggers in Kazakhstan. My brother and I managed entertainment platforms with over 2.5m subscribers. I saw the pain of the advertisers to find the right blogger or influencer based on their needs.
I’ve built this app within three months at the nFactorial Incubator* in Almaty in 2016. I wanted to make a perfect App, I had so many features that I didn’t notice the time constraint. My main key learning point is to build an MVP product first, to test your hypothesis, build a prototype and make an analysis about any feature you want to build.
*nFactorial Incubator – an intensive 7-week training program to grow high-end mobile developers.
What is your alma mater?
I am so grateful to get practical experience at the nFactorial Incubator. I strongly believe this incubator and its founders are the catalysts of the current software engineers community in Kazakhstan. Within for years, over 300 engineers were graduated from the incubator and 400+ mobile applications were built by them.
The community there drove me to strive for excellence. My batch was very diverse – different levels of expertise, educational background. Many of my peers motivated me to challenge myself, become a better developer.
After nFactorial Incubator I got an offer from ZerotoOneLabs, a software development outsource company. I worked there for two years and got an offer from Kolesa Group. At ZerotoOneLabs, I worked on different products whereas at Kolesa on one product. It’s a completely different scale as you are creating a product for millions of users. I carried a huge responsibility and aimed to make quality work.
During my work at Kolesa, I’ve been receiving multiple offers from different companies, not only from Kazakhstan. In the fall of 2019, I received an invitation to the interview with Sberbank in Russia, the leading bank in Russia, that has the biggest mobile software teams across Russia (400 mobile developers work on one product).
I had an HR and Technical interview with the recruiting agency first. They validated my candidacy and sent my CV to Sberbank. I have passed the first round which is a test from Sberbank where I got 70/100, however, to pass this test you need to get at least 75. I had my last interview with three iOS developers, HR, and product owner. That was my hardest interview by far. Before I thought I well versed in iOS development, but I realized I don’t. I got an offer and moved to Russia.
How to get offers?
I believe I got an offer from Russia as I am active on LinkedIn. I always post there my achievements, gained skills, and link to the GitHub. So, if you are a developer, keep your LinkedIn active!
Have a mindset of having constant interviews, even if you are not looking for a job. During the interviews, you will get FREE feedback from the industry experts, and you can find your weak points and understand the trend and company needs. I’ve built the habit to have at least one interview in a month. It helps you be more confident and stay calm during interviews.
What’s your setup?
Do you know, if you are distracted during an average workday, it takes 15 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption? To stay focus on my task, I practice the Pomodoro technique.
What music do you listen to whilst programming?
Difference between working in Kazakhstan and Russia
The main difference between Kz and Ru is the scalability of the region. I am an extroverted person and one of the sources of me getting inspired is through the network. The IT community in Russia is way bigger, lots of conferences, meetups for developers where you can seek for the solution for your problem and ask for feedback.
I cannot say that developers in Russia are better than in Kazakhstan. I am glad to see that our developers create unicorn-like products and have value in a global market.
The most important skill every developer should have
It’s finding a balance between making a quality product and being on time. Most of the developers are either doing things fast but with poor quality or slow but with the best quality. It’s hard to find the golden mean. At the beginning of my professional career, I over-engineered. When I had a very simple task to do, I wanted to understand the internal process that slowed down my work. Find the balance between making a quality product and being on time.
What would I say to myself 5 years ago is to do competitive coding. Competitive programming is solving well-defined problems by writing computer programs under specified limits or constraints. At first, it can sound boring as you are solving problems versus industrial programming. If you want to work at GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft), knowing competitive programming would be useful to you.
Arman Suleimenov once shared how to do what you love and make it profitable. First, find what inspires you that makes you wake up every morning to do it. Second, you are an expert on it. Third, there’s a demand. If one of these intersections cannot be fulfilled, most probably you’ll find passion+usefulness.
To find what you love to do, you need to try and experiment with doing many things. Many people look at others and try to replicate by doing the same, however, each person has its uniqueness to follow. They do what they don’t like and it’s harder for them to achieve some results.