A company is like a ship sailing through a storm of competition and neverending challenges. Everything depends on the captain and team: efficiency, skills, mindset, etc. Will they reach the next milestone or get lost in the waves?
To learn more about entrepreneurship, company management, team supervision, and business planning, we decided to interview Alexander Chaly, Shakuro’s Chief Technology Officer. He has more than 20 years of experience in IT, leading different teams in multiple positions. At Shakuro, Alexander is responsible for developing general and technological strategies and mentoring the project teams.
During this interview, we dwelled on Alexander’s career, pointed out interesting projects, and discussed plans for developing the business further. Here, beginner entrepreneurs will find valuable tips, while skilled managers might discover new opportunities worth trying out.
Entrepreneurial journey: 50% management, 50% developement
Let’s start with my carrier path in general. I started 20 years ago as a C# .NET developer. I kept polishing my programming skills and broadening my tech knowledge, so I quickly became the development team leader. After some time, I realized that negotiations were more appealing to me than lifeless technologies.
So I decided to be both: a team manager and an idea transmitter between ordinary people and geek programmers. I dived into the management field and started working more on various projects.
Gradually, I got into the business, gathered my team, and began creating custom projects. Seven years ago, I joined Shakuro together with my people. Soon we outgrew a small group of freelancers and became a medium-sized company. Like in the old times, we care about further expansion and do our best to create a well-thought workflow in both technical and business fields.
Notable challenges on my career path
We are facing one of the biggest challenges right now — a noticeable lack of skilled IT specialists. Since 2020, it has resulted in $390 billion in losses worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the release trigger for this situation. Many offline businesses rushed into the online world, turning their products into mobile or web applications. Such projects require professional developers for creation and continuous customer support.
After the pandemic, many companies still allow their employees to work remotely. They even prefer hiring people from outsourcing agencies rather than inviting them to the office. Professionals can find jobs in enterprises worldwide, leaving small and local businesses behind. 82% of organizations cannot hire and retain pro-level programmers they need to implement innovative technology.
The number of digital projects grows day by day, while the resources, including human ones, don’t grow that fast. As a result, companies have to retain pro-level specialists to keep their projects going.
Junior specialists are left in the cold
Despite the lack of IT personnel, this statement is true for startups. They have a small life cycle and require skilled specialists right here, right now. 10% of such projects fail within one year. Such teams can’t spend a month or two mentoring people because they won’t be able to achieve any milestones for their investors and simply fail.
I have a first-hand example. Recently, a startup team reached out to us and asked to find suitable executives for their project. We quickly gathered several middle-level specialists, and the work began. Three weeks later, the client contacted us again and canceled the project. The outsourcing team was too slow to pick up on the product concept and had little knowledge of that niche.
A neverending quest for perfect executives is not a good strategy because you may never find them.
A three-week period is too short for making any assumptions. If your business has a specific niche requiring specific knowledge, people will need a few months to understand everything. However, time costs money, and most startups want immediate results. From my point of view, a neverending quest for perfect executives is not a good strategy because you may never find them. This is still a waste of time in the eyes of the investors. The statistics support my views: around 23% of startups fail because they lack the development team foundation.
Junior specialists need at least a year of good mentoring. You need to invest in their skills and loyalty; otherwise, they might leave you once they have enough experience to become a middle specialist in another company.
Time race is an upcoming trend
No doubt, making assumptions in just three weeks is nonsense. However, few startup companies will be eager to spend more than a month mentoring a junior during an active development phase. It is about time race: if the team doesn’t show any results within a month, they will likely be out of the game.
Tips for potential entrepreneurs
Let’s see how people can stay afloat in challenging times. Of course, you need certain luck to survive as an entrepreneur and a passion for keeping you motivated. Your business should ignite a spark in your heart.
However, to be a successful entrepreneur in the sphere of mobile application development, you must also apply a systematic approach. Especially when you analyze your concept, like its niche, advantages, and disadvantages compared to the competitors, this will help you predict the results and plan your next move.
You can not foresee some events — for example, the crisis after COVID-19, where many development startups have become extinct. Still, a cold-minded analytical approach used by famous enterprises will help you avoid making simple mistakes. Start by taking a closer look at the idea, test your hypothesis, launch it on a small scale, then switch to expansion if the product is viable.
To become successful, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I know many startup businesses that won the game by improving an existing idea. For instance, people kickstarted food delivery projects and gained lots of money by setting a certain timer for couriers. It wasn’t a unique concept, but the timely delivery was a key advantage. In other words, you need to find your strengths and use them to build your business.
If you can’t come up with a cool concept, you can buy it. Many beginner entrepreneurs are full of ideas but don’t have enough money or resources to launch them. If you are resourceful, you can collaborate with others to launch an innovative product.
Skills new IT professionals should learn to make a great industry career
One of the must-have skills for a professional developer or manager is to be a quick and constant learner. Everything in this world changes quickly: approaches, trends, user preferences, popular programming languages, etc. If you don’t keep learning, you will fall behind and won’t create any viable projects. 95% of entrepreneurs have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Also, this is why young specialists are often the most promising — they are eager to discover new things. They adapt on the fly and remember small details easier. When you get older, the memory starts to let you down, the fire in your eyes fades away, and you think more about getting some rest rather than studying something.
All programming languages are useful
When learning, don’t rush for popular things. There are no ‘bad’ or ‘good’ programming languages. All trier lists you can find on Google are subjective and primarily based on the number of users worldwide.
Every tool has its ups and downs and cases of use. Even today, there are tasks that modern programming languages can’t solve. However, a good old C++ can cope with these issues easily. This language was popular 15 years ago and is still suitable for some unique applications or web development tasks.
So, as I said, it depends on the tier list theme. Sometimes you can put C++ at the top, sometimes – in the last place.
Expanding business to new markets: yes or no
Explored markets are those that underwent globalization. Working there is relatively simple — both companies and their clients know the rules. The best example of such a global market is the USA. Many mobile application developers sell their products in America, and the competition is sky-high.
That’s why many people are getting attracted to new markets. Here, the competition is lower, and clients aren’t that picky. However, there is one huge problem called mindset. For example, let’s take Asian markets. There are different rules, business traditions, and project requirements.
In Shakuro, we work a lot on UI \ UX design projects. Design is a field where you and the client must be on the same page. You need to transfer their words into colors and lines. To do that correctly, you need to know your client’s mood, their feelings, and what they like and dislike.
Most of us have ever watched European or American movies. The characters and roles are familiar to us. However, few people know k-dramas. Few are interested in Chinese or Japanese films, books, and music. That’s why working with the Asian mindset will be hard for European businesses. They can’t fully understand the pains and issues of local people. It’s much harder to deliver good results when developing mobile or web applications.
Nevertheless, I think exploring these markets is worth the time and effort. All the pain will pay off.
Good karma helps business growth
Your company’s codex also influences all working processes, including expansion. In Shakuro, we have a thing called karma. We always try to place it above money or benefit. This approach will eventually pay off if you are honest, friendly, and open-hearted with your clients. You need to treat them as business partners, not just contract owners. Their success is your success.
Treat your clients as business partners, not just contract owners.
Some people will call this approach old-fashioned, but it brought many customers back in the days. Even now, people recommend us to their colleagues, friends, and partners. This helps to improve business growth, maybe not that fast, but at a stable pace.
The karma system also works for the company’s staff. All our team members are like friends or family to us. Of course, keeping close connections in a company with 160+ people is more challenging. That’s why our HR managers occasionally reach out to the staff on our behalf. If something bothers the team, we will provide help when possible.
Future of the app development industry and plans for upcoming opportunities
The IT industry is evolving by leaps and bounds. Five years ago, few of us could access the Internet. Now everyone can watch YouTube in HD quality any time, anywhere they want. Mobile phones and web applications are also perfect examples of huge hardware progress. It’s like a portable computer you have at hand for work, video games, and other hobbies.
Projects connected with artificial intelligence, AR/VR, and the Internet of Things are gaining popularity. In the future, these technologies can boost our everyday spheres like education, medicine, sports, etc. Intelligent devices might become viral thanks to higher connection speed and new Internet standards. People can use them not only in smart houses but also in farming, city street lighting, surgery, etc.
Together with cloud computing, IoT technologies are already bringing agriculture to a whole new level. We are currently working with an Israeli company that provides local farmers with out-of-the-box solutions based on innovative mobile application technologies. These are intelligent sensors for temperature, soil quality, humidity, and other parameters to ensure getting heavy crops.
Our company also specializes in e-learning platforms that are in high demand after the pandemic. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work together with AI and AR since these technologies open new learning opportunities. We are already experimenting in this field.
Survival guide for a newborn IT company
It’s hard to make solid plans when your application development company is relatively young. I think there is no magical recipe for a company to enter a market and instantly win the game. Everyone has a unique path that they must take on their own.
There are some tips I can share based on the Shakuro karma. It’s vital to get things done well and be honest with others no matter what. You need to become a professional in your field and learn constantly. Since it’s impossible to be an efficient jack-of-all-trades, finding like-minded, skilled people for your team is better. As a result, you can rely on their knowledge and loyalty when necessary.
If you have found a suitable niche, gather a pro-level development team with passion in their hearts, and you can try winning the clients’ hearts.
Best way to choose a programming language or design framework for your project
As I said before, each tool, like library, language, or framework, has its field of application. The primary responsibility of a team or project manager is to know their ups and downs. It’s not efficient to master one programming language and offer it to all clients. The disadvantages might be crucial for this or that project and lead to many issues.
For instance, some projects must make billions of operations in a second, which significantly depends on the tool’s performance. Another characteristic is maximum scalability. A small project can be a foundation for larger products, provided the process will be cost-efficient and risk-free. It’s easy with cloud computing, where services allow you to keep growing without almost any limits.
In other words, a team manager must compare all familiar tools, check out the possible risks, and select a suitable solution according to the project’s non-functional requirements.
Sharing ideas between technically illiterate clients and tech-savvy programmers
Our project managers are the ones responsible for this task. The main idea is to be a ‘translator’ between a client and the developer team. The contract owner may not have any technical knowledge at all. Sometimes they add requirements based on their emotions, like, “I saw this, it looks super, I want it too.”
Project managers make this idea informative. They talk with the client a lot and ask them questions to turn these emotions into a logical system with use cases. It is a set of precise instructions for end users to which the application system will react. A person clicks here, sees this and that, swipes here, a window pops up — something like that.
With the help of these use cases, the team of professional developers and UI / UX designers can grasp the client’s idea and start working on the project.
Evolution of my team management style
There is an evolution each manager goes through on their career path. The easiest method of team management is authoritative. Many people tend to use it in the early stages. However, this way is not viable in the application development sphere. Yes, you will get specific results when giving orders, but you won’t find out the team’s opinion on the project. In the long term, this method will lead to massive issues. People who don’t understand or share your point of view will likely make mistakes.
During the evolution, the team manager will gradually notice the communication mistakes and switch to a collaborative control style. At this stage, you make decisions together with your team. The final word is still yours. However, you need to convince other members to accept your views. There are many little steps before the primary goal, and motivation is key to all of them.
The project manager should also keep the spirits up of every team member. Everyone should be passionate about the project and know their task pool and why these tasks should be done.
Collaborative team management is the wisest, in my opinion. Your team enjoys the work, and you are pleased with the results — it’s a win-win situation.
Example of ground-breaking changes I’ve implemented in a project
Shakuro has completed many projects that I’m proud of. We helped small and medium-sized businesses to bring their ideas to life and earn more money.
The project I want to share, however, was done for charity. Ten years ago, a few people from Montgomery, USA, contacted us with the idea of making a hockey club for children with disabilities. The parents required help with process automation, meaning they needed some kind of social network where they could chat with each other, create children’s profiles pointing out their challenges, and invite professional hockey players or volunteers for matches. The web application would also assist people in team building, registration, and event organization.
Surprisingly, the project turned out to be very popular. The teams were playing regularly in the American leagues. More importantly, parents and their children with limited ways to get positive emotions could finally break free and enjoy playing hockey.
The web application is outdated now, but it’s still working. I still receive thank-you messages from the parents. I’m glad this platform keeps functioning and making people happy.
Balancing budgetary limits and all technical requirements
Each project fits into a classical triangle limiting its possibilities: budget, deadline, and task scope. The project manager needs to understand and tweak each side if necessary.
For example, with unlimited money, one can quickly finish the project and attract pro-level specialists. When there is no deadline, the team can take time to complete all the tasks on the list and search for cost-effective solutions. As for the scope, the application developers can decide if they need to implement all the features. By manipulating this triangle, the project manager can support a stable workflow and get solid results.
Of course, there are cases where a client wants everything: a short deadline, a pack of top-notch features, and very low costs. Such projects are not viable.
Summing up, well-thought team management can bring your company to new heights. Although the main goal is earning more money, viable projects can’t be built on pure wealth. Trust and loyalty of like-minded professionals around you will be more profitable in the future. To ensure the best result, apply a systematic approach together with motivation.
Contact us if you are looking for opportunities to turn your idea into a viable product. Our professional team of managers, application developers, and UI/UX designers will carefully transfer your vision into reality.
Written by Mary Moore and Alexander Chaly