Episode 91 – Communicate Effectively to Produce Impressive IT Systems with Stefan Tilkov
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Stefan Tilkov who is a co-founder of, and the principal consultant, at INNOQ, a leading technology consulting company. Stefan and his team design large-scale distributed systems. Over the years, he has worked with numerous programming languages including C++ and CORBA over J2EE/Java EE and Web Services to REST and Ruby on Rail and several others. He is also a published writer who frequently speaks at conferences across the world.
(1.00) – So Stefan, you can I ask you to expand on that brief summary and tell us a little bit about yourself? Stefan said that Phil had covered what he had done over most of the past 20 years. Today, Stefan rarely gets the chance to program anymore. But he does get the chance to do many other things that he enjoys. Particularly, consulting with clients and talking to them about architecture and the design of systems. A lot of his time is also taken up with the company management stuff. When he can, he still does some of the technical work.
(1.54) – Phil asks Stefan for a unique IT career tip. Quite early in his career Stefan started public speaking. He feels that doing this has benefitted him greatly. It has helped him with client engagement, with meetings and with negotiations. The fact that he is very used to talking to people in his career makes all of these situations far easier.
(3.38) – Stefan is asked to share his worst career moment by Phil. Interestingly, it is related to public speaking. Early in his career he was working on a project where C++ was used. Things had worked out so that he was the only one on the team who knew anything about that language. So, when the project manager was unable to make a client meeting, Stefan was the only person with enough knowledge to be able to make the presentation. But he was very new to the world of work and had not had any time to prepare. Unsurprisingly, he completely “bombed” and felt really awful about it for quite a few days.
(5.09) – So, moving away from your worst moment, can you maybe talk about your IT career highlight or greatest success. Strangely, that happened when Stefan was working on a project that went completely wrong. It was a disaster on every level. Everybody had given up a little on the project. But various members of the business, including Stefan, pulled together and were able to turn the project around. The client was surprised they had managed to do so and went on to use it for a decade or so. Stefan felt better about this project than ones he has worked on where everything has gone smoothly from the start.
(7.09) – Phil asks Stefan what it is about the future of the IT industry that excites him. Stefan says there has never been a better time to be involved in IT. Since around 2008/9 the industry has gotten progressively more interesting. Technology now touches and influences every part of your life. Everyone is talking about it and understands how important it is. Right now, IT professionals influence so many things and are able to work in a much more connected fashion. Stefan would not trade his IT job for any other.
(8.59) – What first attracted you to a career in IT? Stefan said it was the amazing discovery that he was able to tell the machine what to do. He started using computers at age 10 or 11. At the time, computers were very rudimentary. Stefan loved the challenge of having to figure absolutely everything out from scratch. For him learning new things was like a detective story. Phil commented that he often forgets that, in the early 90s, when you bought a computer, there was nothing on it.
(10.43) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Early on someone encouraged Stefan to write documentation, proposals and to explain what he was doing in writing. Later he went on to write articles and books. Writing is an important piece of the puzzle. Being able to express your thoughts clearly is vital.
(11.35) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Stefan said I would look for fun stuff to play with. Building things is fun, so, if you have the time, play and learn. Use your skills to do things for yourself, friends, your community and maybe help society or do some open source work. Not everything you work on needs to be commercial and about making money.
(12.40) – Phil asks Stefan what career objectives he is currently focusing on. Right now Stefan is focused on the company. Along with his colleagues he is working to maintain a healthy company culture as the company continues to grow at a fast rate.
(13.24) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Being able to speak English and communicate effectively in that language has helped Stefan in his career.
(14.26) – Phil asks Stefan to share a few final words of career advice. Stefan says to make sure that you are having fun. The IT industry is one of the few in which you can have fun, so if you are not enjoying your job, look for a new one.
(2.56) STEFAN – “Try to get into speaking and then getting yourself into situations that may feel uncomfortable at first, but actually help you a lot in getting your ideas across.”
(7.19) STEFAN – “There’s never been a better time to be in this industry.”
(12.08) STEFAN – “Start playing out, playing with stuff and build things for your own purposes, for your friends, for your community, maybe do some open source stuff.”
(14.52) STEFAN – “If you’re in this industry and are not having fun, then you should probably switch your job.”
CONTACT STEFAN TILKOV:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/stilkov @stilkov