"CTO in Focus" Artur Ashyrov, GR8 Tech
Welcome back to our CTO in focus series, where we have the opportunity to dive deep into the careers and experiences of some of the top technology leaders in the industry. Our next guest is Artur Ashyrov, CTO of GR8 Tech (formerly Parimatch Tech). In this interview, we will be discussing Artur's early years in his career and how he adapted to the ever-changing technology landscape. We will explore his process for building a company's engineering culture and designing it to align with business objectives. We will also delve into how he balances ensuring the company's technological strategy resonates with key stakeholders. Additionally, we will gain valuable insights into the GR8 Tech academy and the criteria that goes into building its course structure. Join us as we continue to gain valuable insights and learn from some of the leading CTOs in the industry.
GE) You’ve been a web developer since 2006, talk me through your early years of learning as a Java developer and then transitioning into Casino Engineering. How has back end technology changed and how have you had to evolve in your approach in different areas?
AA) I have tried many technologies and stacks in my career. Indeed, at first, I worked more with web technologies and then switched to the back end. Looking back, I understand that this switch gave me more consistency, as back in those days, the front end wasn’t as systemic as it is now; not to mention PHP which just made me sick.
From a back-end developer’s standpoint, betting and casino engineering provides a ton of interesting tasks. For example, when I switched to the casino domain, I first encountered such engineering problems as highly loaded systems where transactions must be reliably processed in real-time.
All in all, engineering approaches haven’t changed much over the years. I would probably say that the biggest shift for me personally was the transition to the DevOps culture; by its magnitude, this change can be compared with the first transition from waterfall methodologies to agile. Aside from that, it’s not all that different. There are new stacks, and new levels of abstraction, such as hardware, but the essence stays pretty much the same. It’s the scale that changes. Things that used to be possible to do single-handedly, are now much more complex.
So, my approaches to engineering haven’t changed much as well. It’s just that earlier I had to solve low-level tasks like why doesn’t my project compile for a specific processor architecture, and now I do higher-level tasks like how to organise continuous deployment without downtimes. Which I think is cool!
GE) As a CTO, what is your process in building a company’s engineering culture and design inline with business objectives?
AA) It’s a great question. I think the ability to align engineering culture with business goals comes with a certain maturity. For me, it happened quite naturally. When I got a lot of knowledge in engineering, I became interested in business. When I understood the business, I understood how to combine these two aspects. So, you could say I've learned to balance an engineer who wants to try new exciting things, and a businessman who wants to monetize specific solutions and prove their effectiveness.
My recipe for aligning engineering culture with business goals is to involve business in technology as much as possible, and vice versa. For example, our CEO knows what idempotency, SDK, API, and SLA/SLO are. And techies know what PnL is and how architecture can influence it. When there’s understanding, there’s a responsibility, realistic expectations, and much more effectiveness all in all.
GE) Sitting on a leadership team as a CTO can sometimes be challenging as subject matter is highly specialised. How do you ensure technological strategy resonates with key stakeholders?
AA) I have the superpower to explain complex things in simple terms. I never try to explain complex technical solutions to my stakeholders in terms that they don't understand. If I feel that I need to use such terms, I first prepare the ground - explain some complex terms using various business-friendly examples. When I feel that we are on the same page, I sell my technology or strategy. It's not as easy as it seems because sometimes I'm limited in the time necessary for such preparations.
The key, I guess, is not thinking that you are smarter than the stakeholders. Not being able to communicate your ideas is your problem, not people’s. I was taught at the university to explain complex ideas to my grandmother first - if she gets it, everyone will, and most importantly, you will understand what you’re talking about. So I always try to run my ideas on my family before taking them to stakeholders.
The main thing is to understand stakeholders’ true needs and connect them to the capabilities of the solution you’re presenting. It’s not so much about engineering as logical thinking, psychology, and empathy.
GE) With the GR8 Tech academy, what criteria goes into building the course structure? And since its inception what individual successes or achievements have you witnessed so far?
AA) When building a program at the Academy, for me and my fellow engineers the main thing to include is the information that we would like to be given when we were students. I took part in the development of one of the programs of the academy. And I remember how I removed a bunch of items related to multithreading from the program draft. Why? Because it’s difficult to explain this quickly and without specific examples. At the same time, we used the freed-up time to go deeper into the basic theory of DevOps. As a result, we got the highest quality engineers at the end of the course.
Also, a feature of our academy is that we do not just read the material and give some kind of homework. Mentors code a lot with students right during lectures. It seems to me the most effective and engaging way to give knowledge in our field.
I have a lot of examples of achievements related to the Academy, both my personal and the achievements of my colleagues and even the students. The greatest and most touching achievement was the resumption of the Academy lessons at the beginning of the war. At that time, we volunteered a lot with the company (for me personally it was 24/7 with breaks for work); the Academy became not even the second but the third priority, considering all the events. However, in April things got sorted out a bit and I realised that we have an unfinished course! For me, the Academy is a very important, value-level project, so I didn’t want to leave it like that; yet, I wasn’t sure everybody felt the same way. So I prepared an inspiring speech to encourage the mentors to finish the course, gathered everyone for a meeting… and I didn’t even have to persuade anyone. Everyone was eager to resume the lectures even despite the craziest circumstances. And it was great!
About our contributor
Artur Ashyrov is a CTO of GR8 Tech. Artur is responsible for developing GR8 Tech platform solutions, supervising all company engineering teams, and designing product architecture. Since 2019, Artur's vision has been integral to Parimatch's brand technology background development. As keen on technologies, he establishes an engineering mindset in the company. Artur participates in GR8 Tech Academy and shares his knowledge and experience with the students on the academy courses to help them begin a career in real projects. Visit https://gr8.tech/