InsideArachnys – Q&A with Andrey Zotov, Engineering Director
Welcome to InsideArachnys, a series of interviews where we speak to the people behind the Arachnys platform. This month, we caught up with Andrey Zotov, our Engineering Director who heads up product solutions, design and delivery.
Hi Andrey, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position here at Arachnys?
I enjoy creating anything that helps other people; and can exist and operate by itself – i.e. software. I went from being a computer geek in school and studying applied maths in university, to, later in my career, learning business administration and being able to close the gap between customer needs and engineering. I’ve worked for some larger financial institutions, but the attraction of entrepreneurial spirit got me involved in several startups on the way here. My role at Arachnys is to ensure that the products and solutions we build are designed to go-to-market fast. I also have to maximise the re-use of our technology, protect our investments in technology, but also allow the engineering teams to have space to innovate.
You have had quite a varied career in IT so far, working across Europe from Prague to Moscow, and now the UK. What skills would you say have been the most important to you in your engineering position at Arachnys?
I’d say it’s the ability to speak and understand many languages, pun intended – first of all I mean engineering and business, where it helps me to ensure that as a team we are all aligned towards the same goal. However, knowing human and programming languages helps too ????.
What are you working on at the moment and what languages/technology are involved?
I’m involved in the design and architecture – operating with a high-level view of components – of services and APIs. The most recent exercise was designing a high-frequency monitoring solution using microservices in Python, AWS SQS, SNS, ElasticSearch, NoSQL database (not selected yet) and pre- and post-processing ML framework. We (jointly with our tech leads), designed the solution and its main moving parts, broke down the domain into several bounded contexts and let each team work out their detailed approach. My direct exposure to coding is unfortunately limited to automating the integration of our bug tracker and product portfolio management tool, which I use Google Scripts for.
What advice would you give to software engineers who want to become more senior in their careers, especially when it comes to the people management aspect?
As you progress to a more senior role and are entrusted with high impact initiatives, it’s not only about code and design anymore, it’s all about people, and drive and motivation can make a huge difference. Empathy, humbleness, understanding others desires and strengths helps to build a high performing team.
As much as people, it’s important to understand your customers, the direction and strategy of the business and your team’s role within it. You have to be absolutely clear on this, if you don’t get this clarity from stakeholders, your peers in other teams and managers, then be insistent – in the end, we all want to do what matters.
We know there is still some reluctance for large companies such as banks to use cloud-based technology. But what would you say to someone who has these concerns?
New generation banks, like Monzo, successfully run regulated financial services business fully in the cloud. That lets them focus on improving service for their customers, reaping the benefits of cloud-based computing – flexibility, ease of scale, native-cloud services offering, a rich ecosystem, as well as access to a talent pool of engineers familiar with cloud stacks.
The largest concern we hear is about the security of data in the cloud. Most cloud providers have mature instruments to isolate and secure data and workloads, and cloud technologies provide the best protection of investments. I don’t think security concern is a valid argument for not moving to the cloud any more. Those who put off migration, risk losing to their competition.
We’re apparently living in the age of the “API economy”. Another buzzword perhaps, but what are your thoughts on how powerful and useful APIs can be, especially for financial institutions?
At Arachnys, we both provide and consume numerous APIs. APIs are the cornerstone of any technical strategy in the modern world really, and the compliance space is not an exception. In compliance, an open and secure data exchange can increase trust, reduce costs and time to onboard new customers and suppliers. While APIs make integration possible, data models and quality can vary significantly which can hugely impact the cost of any integration project. Large organisations spend vast budgets on master data management, this challenge in a world of distributed data is a blocker to the true “API economy”. Arachnys is working on several initiatives to solve these problems, which go beyond just APIs – so stay tuned!