This week we were able to speak with Max Ignatyev, the founder and CTO of sympli.io. Max sheds some light on his experience building his team while still working a demanding day job, his motivation for building the product, what every founder should make sure they know before they expand, and much, much more. Enjoy!
Max is originally from Siberia and worked for many years as a software engineer, including 2 years at The Washington Post, before developing his product and his team. He worked nights and weekends before moving full time, and now helps manage his remote company of over 15 people from his home in Maryland.
This episode will be particularly interesting for you technical founders and software engineers looking to build a business around sophisticated technology, as Max has some really important insights. One in particular is their approach to accountability and ownership.
Used by some of the world's top companies, Sympli (sympli.io) is a collaboration tool for UI designers and developers that streamlines design handoff and makes design implementation easy. Also, check out their new "Versions", a top version control tool for designers.
Max's book everyone should read: Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker.
Matt Hollingsworth: Hello everyone, my name is Matt Hollingsworth, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening.
Matt Hollingsworth: The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world, with over 220 thousand unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.
Matt Hollingsworth: My guest on today's show is Max Ignatyev. Max is the Co-Founder and CTO of Sympli.io, a collaboration and design ops tool used by Netflix, Visa, and many other great companies. Previously, Max worked as an app developer for the Washington Post, and has over 15 years experience as a software engineer.
Matt Hollingsworth: Max began his entrepreneurial journey and worked full time for over a year at the Washington Post before moving to Sympli full time. He is now building the business and managing a fully distributed team from his home in Maryland.
Matt Hollingsworth: Check out Sympli's new tool called Versions, a top rated version control and collaboration tool for Sketch.
Matt Hollingsworth: Max, thanks for coming on the podcast, we really appreciate it.
Max Ignatyev: Thank you, Matt. Thank you for having me.
Matt Hollingsworth: No problem.
Matt Hollingsworth: So, I think a good place to start is just a bit about you. Can you go in a bit about your background, and how you go started with Versions? Then, we can talk about the business itself. Why don't you start out with a little about you?
Max Ignatyev: Sure.
Max Ignatyev: My name is Max Ignatyev. My background is in software engineering. I've been doing this all my professional life.
Max Ignatyev: I began with the background development and web development, and at some point I switched to mobile when the mobile was on a huge rise. Before I started Sympli, was working as a Tech Lead at the Washington Post, and I was working on their mostly Android applications.
Max Ignatyev: It was an amazing experience. It was probably the biggest scale project I ever worked on. We delivered a brand new newspaper that has been shipped to all Kindle Fire devices over the year, in a few nights. I still remember this feeling, looking at the install charts going up at such a crazy rate. We were spectating how our app is being installed on millions of devices, basically, overnight. It was great.
Max Ignatyev: I was doing Android mobile development, mostly Android. Duringmy work for the Washington Post, I came up with the idea of Sympli. That was a direct segue to it, actually.
Matt Hollingsworth: Nice.
Matt Hollingsworth: How did you get started with the web development, and then working on mobile? Was that something that you studied in school, or was that something that you picked up on your own? How did that start for you?
Max Ignatyev: You can probably call me a professional trained engineer, in this case. I graduated from [North Siberia 00: 02: 39] State Technical University, which is in Russia, in Siberia, actually. It's quite stereotypical thing.
Max Ignatyev: I graduated from computer science faculty, so I'm a trained software developer. I have a pretty good math and computer science background.
Matt Hollingsworth: So, you are from Russia, is that correct?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah.
Matt Hollingsworth: Nice.
Max Ignatyev: I'm from Northern Siberia, in Russia.
Matt Hollingsworth: Wow.
Matt Hollingsworth: Where are you located now? Are you in the US?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah, now I live in the US. I moved here eight and a half years ago. I live in Washington, DC.
Matt Hollingsworth: Nice.
Matt Hollingsworth: You moved over to work for the Washington Post, is that right?
Max Ignatyev: No. I came here for work, but not for the Washington Post. I came here to work for another great company. This company's called [EastBanc 00: 03: 21] Technologies. It's a medium sized consulting company here in DC. They do a lot of great projects for their customers. Among their customers are Washington Post, Intelsat, Washington Metro, companies like Kroeger, and many, many others. We do custom software for them.
Matt Hollingsworth: Nice.
Matt Hollingsworth: Tell me a bit about computer science and the culture of software engineering, if you can speak to that in Russia, and specifically Siberia where you are from. You're the first person I've been ableto talk to from that area, so I'd be curious to know if that's something that's encouraged to go into as a career choice? What was the culture and environment of learning software engineering for you in Siberia, specifically?
Max Ignatyev: Oh, that's a great question.
Max Ignatyev: I think we should begin with the education system in Russia, which is to a large degree inherited from the Soviet system. Soviet education was heavily based on the natural science and math, and historically in Russia there is a strong mathematical school. Math, physics, and computer science is something relatively new. I would call it this way. Most of the people I know ending up working as a software engineering, they come from math or physics faculties.
Max Ignatyev: That's a relatively new field that is being developed at a really, really high base right now. Speaking about technical expertise, or technical capabilities of Russia as a region, I think that we have great scientific base, and there are a lot of really talented people. Speaking about Siberia, mainly in the place I graduated from, the University, there is a small city called [Akademgorodok00: 04: 57], which can be translated, like, Academy Town. It's a brand new city that has been built at about second World War, inlate 40s, early 50s.
Max Ignatyev: During the second World War, many of the universities from Moscow and Saint Petersburg were evacuated to Siberia, to keepworking during this difficult period. That became a foundation for serious scientific center in Siberia.
Max Ignatyev: For instance, companies like Intel used to have their offices in [Akadem Town 00: 05: 27], starting from 90s.
Matt Hollingsworth: Wow.
Max Ignatyev: You can find people who graduated from universities from in [Akadem Town 00: 05: 32], when I was [inaudible 00: 05: 34], from Russia, in general. Many of the huge technology companies, like Google, Facebook, Apple, you name it.
Matt Hollingsworth: Very cool.
Matt Hollingsworth: Have you found that the majority of those people that were in your cohort, or in your field of study, did they leave, typically? What is the trend for people studying computer science, do they typically stay in Russia, or do they leave and go pursue other opportunities elsewhere? What do you there?
Max Ignatyev: Well, I think it depends on the personality. I don't have the stats in front of me, but from people that I know, I think it's probably 20 to 80 relation. 80% of the people I know they stay because inRussia there are plenty of local technology companies. They're both Internet and just technology companies. The demand and the market for software engineers in Russia is pretty high.
Matt Hollingsworth: Right.
Max Ignatyev: So there is no problem with finding job, and the jobs there are usually better paid than most of other jobs.
Matt Hollingsworth: Right.
Matt Hollingsworth: It's fascinating to talk about the culture of engineering and that sort of thing within Russia, because, like I said, I haven't been able to speak to anybody that's from there.
Matt Hollingsworth: I'd love to talk a bit about how you got started with Sympli, and then how you transitioned away from the Washington Post and became full time within your own business. Can you speak to a bit about how you came to be, or how you found the idea and then maybe moved into working full time on Sympli?
Max Ignatyev: Sure, I would be happy to.
Max Ignatyev: I will begin with an idea, and how I came up with it. It wasn't sortof a synthetic thinking about what should I do, what would be cool to do, or et cetera. Actually, we had an issue ... I figured that there is a big issue in collaboration between designers and developers at the Washington Post.
Max Ignatyev: We had an amazing design team, but we had been sitting on different floors in the office building. It was really challenging to figure out what we, as a developer, should do, how we should implement the specific screen. It was requiring, to my mind, excessive amount of back and forth communications between usand them. Us, I mean engineering, and them I mean designers.
Max Ignatyev: I started to work on the tool as a side project that will take PSD files, because Washington Post, at the time, was 100% Adobe shop, and all the designers used either Photoshop or Illustrator, mostly Photoshop, for UI design. The tool would take a PSD file and turn it into a clickable HTML page, with a preview of the screen image where you can select any element on the screen by click and get the specification for it, or get the specs, the redlines for this particular element.
Max Ignatyev: The problem was that most of the developers either didn't have Photoshop installed on their machines, or they didn't know how to use it because Photoshop, it's not really everyone's cup of tea, let's put it this way.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah.
Max Ignatyev: Sometimes, you need to have certain skills and certain expertiseto be proficient in Photoshop.
Max Ignatyev: So, it took a while. I'm a father of two, and I had a full time job atthe Washington Post. I was working nights and weekends on this tool. By the time I had something working, I figured out that this is probably not only our problem here that I'm solving, it's probably a more global thing than I thought initially.
Max Ignatyev: I started to work on the prototype on the web app that will automate this process. Uploading PSD files, processing them on the backend, and then displaying stacks. By the time I had the working prototype, I figured out that this could be, actually, a separate product that can be monetized. I had been talking to my friends who were in any sort of UI development, either for websites or for mobile apps, or for desktop apps. It became clearthat pretty much every single team has this problem, and they would love to have some sort of a solution for it. If anything can do their life at least slightly better, that would a great help for them.
Max Ignatyev: I started looking for ... There's no way I could continue working on this alone. I started to look for investments, I started to look for money. I already mentioned this company here, the companythat I used to work for, EastBanc Technologies. They are really great people. I stopped by their office and talked to their management about my product, showed them the prototype, and asked them if they wanted to chip in, if they wanted to join me on this venture.
Max Ignatyev: Luckily, they were happy to get on board. We are working together ever since.
Matt Hollingsworth: Wow. That's fascinating.
Matt Hollingsworth: When you first started, and you were working for the Washington Post at the time, and you were building the product, did you have that in your mind that you were going to build that for the Washington Post at the start? Was that a tool that you wanted to use as a part of your day job? Was that always the idea, to start a company and then try to monetize and build a team?
Max Ignatyev: I started to build the tool that will help me personally, and my team, to communicate with designers.
Matt Hollingsworth: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Max Ignatyev: It was really necessarily the Washington Post case, I just look back and I figured out we had been having this problem. We'd been experiencing this over and over again, with different teams, too. With my previous jobs, too.
Matt Hollingsworth: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Max Ignatyev: I just thought that it's going to be a development tool that will help developers to better understand designers.
Matt Hollingsworth: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Max Ignatyev: I never thought about it as anything big at that moment.
Matt Hollingsworth: Hm.
Matt Hollingsworth: When was that? Approximately how many years ago did you start that?
Max Ignatyev: I think it was, maybe, September 2013 that I started working on this utility.
Matt Hollingsworth: Then, you moved full time into working on Versions shortly after that?
Max Ignatyev: It wasn't really shortly, it was about a year and a half.
Matt Hollingsworth: Okay.
Max Ignatyev: I was still working at the Post at the time. I was working nights and weekends with a small team that we were able to hire with the investments from our partners.
Matt Hollingsworth: Hm.
Max Ignatyev: I switched 150% to Sympli, maybe in January 2015.
Matt Hollingsworth: Okay.
Matt Hollingsworth: How did you decide to make that switch? Was it a matter of revenue numbers, or how did you decide to leave your full time job, and move full time into Sympli?
Max Ignatyev: We raised enough capital to switch to a full time job in Sympli, first of all.
Max Ignatyev: Second, it wasn't possible at this time to combine those two efforts. One of those would suffer.
Matt Hollingsworth: Right.
Max Ignatyev: It's either your day job or the company, so it was a pretty easy transfer. It was one thing or another, and I just had to choose. I came with Sympli.
Matt Hollingsworth: Right.
Matt Hollingsworth: How has the product and team evolved since then? Can you tell me a bit about the process of iteration, or has there been any iteration over the past seven years or so?
Max Ignatyev: Well, I think that we had first, two people working with us, with me being full 2014. Since then, we grew to 15 people.
Matt Hollingsworth: Wow.
Max Ignatyev: We do have several folks here. We have three people here in Washington, DC. The rest are remote, and spread across the globe. Some of them in this part of the world, in Mexico. We have people in London, we have people in Turkey, we have people in Russia, apparently.
Max Ignatyev: Another funny thing is these people keep traveling, they keep migrating from one place to another. They can spend the winter in one country and spend summer in another country.
Matt Hollingsworth: Right.
Max Ignatyev: So you basically never know where everyone is, which is great.
Max Ignatyev: Yeah, we started small. We started with two employees. Since then, we've been adding features and modules to our product, and it wasn't possible to carry it on with such a small team, so we started to hire more engineers. At some point, we started to hire QA engineers because it became a problem. That was the most interesting part. We started to hire other roles, and new roles that I was not really familiar with at the time.
Max Ignatyev: Hiring technical support people was extremely challenging for me.
Matt Hollingsworth: Interesting.
Matt Hollingsworth: So, you mentioned you're mostly remote, I would say. Was that aconscious decision from your side to hire remote people, or was that just, you fell into it as a result of hiring people that you wanted that were maybe not in the location that you were in? Was that something that you thought about beforehand, or it just happened naturally?
Max Ignatyev: So, we started as a completely remove company. It was only me here, and two remote people. These guys, they were referred to me. They were not hired on the open market. It was two great referrals.
Max Ignatyev: It wasn't that we were looking specifically for someone remote, it was just two great referrals that we hired immediately.
Matt Hollingsworth: Hm.
Max Ignatyev: By the way, these two people are still with us, and I'm happy to work with them for so many years.
Matt Hollingsworth: Tell me a bit about the process of learning how to manage a team of this size. Was that something that you have always been comfortable with, and had experience with beforehand? Is that something that you had to learn along the way?
Matt Hollingsworth: Maybe, as a caveat to that, what has been the biggest struggle and challenge for you, as a CEO and a founder, now that your team has gotten bigger and things are a bit more scattered thanwhen it was just yourself?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah.
Max Ignatyev: I used to manage teams before. I've been managing teams up to20, 25 people in my life. I even had a small consulting business, back in the day, 13 years ago.
Max Ignatyev: With Sympli, it was slightly different because years ago, but was slightly different because I used to work mostly in consulting before and I never did my own products from scratch on my own. So that was the biggest challenge for me because I didn't have this product experience before and I had a little bit of a different mindset from people who've been doing a lot of products in their life before.
Max Ignatyev: In my case, the biggest thing was that the things that work for the team of three or five people, it doesn't work for a team of 10, especially for a remote team of 10. It's not that we came up with some sort of a silver bullet process that works for whatever size of the team we have. We're always fixing this, we're always fine tuning this process and we're always finding the ways to make it work effectively as our team grows.
Max Ignatyev: But the most challenging thing, I think, in the beginning was to first find the vision, the right vision, and second to communicateit well across the team. Because when you are working remotelyyou have to be like really, really specific about the stuff you are working on and about the stuff you're thinking about and you have to probably over communicate a lot of things that you wouldn't normally do if you are sitting in the same office or if you are working close to each other. So, yeah, this mind shift had to happen and it took probably a few months to figure this out for me.
Max Ignatyev: Another challenge for me personally was that in the very beginning, because you have a working prototype and we have a pretty sophisticated technology under the hood and there were, and there still is, plenty of technical challenges that we are constantly overcoming. And being an engineer myself, it wasa challenge for me to switch to higher level tasks, let's put it thisway, to think more about marketing, about business, about hiring, about things like this. Because as an engineer I used to put the technological challenges as the first priorities and everything else on other priorities. It took me some time, and, yeah, that was also, I think you can call it, a challenge.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. And so how early on did you realize that you needed to have help in those areas outside of the specifications of the engineering that you're comfortable with? Did you hire somebody right away that was trying to find the right hires and dealing with the marketing side of things and the technical support? What did that process look like in building the team or is that something that you took on for the original few years andthen hired out as a result after that? How was that process of building the team?
Max Ignatyev: As I mentioned, so we do have a company who is our primary investor, so they are part of our board and they were really helpful pointing me to the right directions when it was required. [inaudible 00: 17: 40] responsible for the hiring in our companies. So we hired a marketing person quite soon, probably too soon. So we've hired an absolutely great [CMO 00: 17: 50] and probablywe were just too small for such a high profile people at the moment. So we actually, as every single startup, we should probably start a little bit smaller and test the waters and et cetera. But it was a great experience.
Max Ignatyev: So almost immediately we start to receive great coverage. So we had a few articles about us on the Next Web on Smashing Magazine and a few other big media do the publications about us. And we started to experiment with different channels of acquisition of new users. We started to experiment with the pay channels, we started to expand with community channels and etcetera. Yeah, so apparently you cannot, in the startup environment, you cannot wear too many hats. Like people tend to say that they are wearing many hats, you cannot wear too many hats effectively.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. And I think that's probably one of those very common mistakes that people make as to when, or maybe not mistakes, but just learning experiences as to when is the appropriate time to hire which roles. I think it was the people at Base Camp that say that they only hire when it hurts. And when you're starting to feel overwhelmed in one area, that's when you maybe should start looking at hiring. So I think that's pretty good advice.
Max Ignatyev: Yeah, I never heard that about Base Camp, but that's what we do now. The most recent hire is a dev ops person. Like dedicateddev ops person. And we hired this position only when it became like so painful that we couldn't live with it anymore.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. And so just going in the startup environment, I'm always curious to hear about what advice somebody would give to somebody who wanted to be involved in a small startup. What would be a skill or something that they should be aware of before they jumped into a startup, especially a small startup? Because I find that it tends to be sort of romanticized and peopledon't really understand the day to day of a small startup. So what advice would you give somebody who wants to be involvedin a startup before they jumped in?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you that this whole idea of being instartup is over romanticized. Well, that was my learning experience, let's put it this way, that if you think that you built a great product, everything going to be picked up automatically bythe market. It's not always true. You should always think in advance on how you're going to promote and how you're going to sell your product, how you're going to monetize that. Becauseif you don't think about it, there are odds that you're going to bepicked up by some sort of a hype, and these things they happen and the companies who got into this wave of hype, I think they are doing extremely well because what they get, they get marketing channels for free. They take it as a given, right?
Max Ignatyev: From my experience and experience from people I met during my journey, it's 99.9 of other companies. They have to think about this and they have to think about marketing channels and they have to think about sales and they have to work on this. And this is something that you can build. And if you don't think about how people will learn about you, how people will know about you ... And it's not a onetime thing. Like one post on the [inaudible 00: 20: 59] is not usually the solution, and it's a continuous process, I would say. So this is something that you should be always thinking about. If that would count as an advice, I will tell it in one sentence: Think about how are you going to market your product and how you're going to sell it.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah, for sure. And I wanted to talk a little bit about hiring because you mentioned that you were involved in the hiring still for your company. How has the process of hiring changed since you started? And what have you learned along the way that is important for hiring the right people? And maybe these things are an ongoing process, and I'm sure that you're still iterating onthat, but I'd be curious to hear about what lessons you've learned in hiring great people.
Max Ignatyev: Yeah, we've learned plenty of lessons and we did a few hiring mistakes during these years. And these mistakes, as we are a small team and we are a remote team, they are probably even more painful than same mistakes done by big companies like Google.
Max Ignatyev: So what we learned that we should be extremely careful in terms of whom we are hiring, because from our experience a wrong hire could have a really, really serious impact on the teamand the product and the business. So we've learned that when you work remotely, and maybe it's actually true for the local teams, too, the soft skills is extremely important. So we are assuming that hard skills are fine, right?
Max Ignatyev: So we have a pretty sophisticated multilevel interview process about hard skills, about technical skills of the specific people, especially for people who we know how to hire, and I speak about engineers here, so we know how to hire engineers. We arereally good at it. But even with the great stellar engineers, we doprobably even longer rounds of soft skills interviews to make sure that they will fit into our culture and they're going to be comfortable working remotely because it's a pretty new thing still and many people have never worked remotely before.
Max Ignatyev: And it could be challenging, too, when you are out of your familiar routine of going to the office or meeting people there, talking to people there, and all you have is your working desk. It could be like a really comfortable one, but still you are at your place or you are at the coworking space and you're talking to these letters and characters from the internet, basically. And youhave this sort of depersonalization of colleagues, which we have a set of measures to avoid, but still like it's a pretty big shift from standard employment and standard job where you are at the office, you are talking to people in person, most of them, or you can stop by and talk to them in person. So we are looking for people who will fit into this structure of ours and we choose really careful.
Matt Hollingsworth: And can you share a little bit about what that process looks like? So what questions you ask or what situations you put people in to try to figure out if they are a good culture fit? Because it's an interesting part of it from my perspective hearing about how companies build great cultures and how companies attract greatpeople to want to work for them. So is there anything deliberately that you do as a part of the hiring process to measure those soft skills like you mentioned?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah. So I'm going to speak about one thing that I personally think is one of the most important in our culture. So our culture revolves around ownership. So we have a pretty flat structure and we don't have a chain of reports and we have many, many modules in our products. They could be really sophisticated and they could be complex, and you should have a really deep expertise in this particular module to be able to contribute to it successfully. Right?
Max Ignatyev: So we have two products in our suite. So one is a design handoffsolution that helps designers to collaborate with engineering, with other stakeholders on their team so the whole team can share digital products faster. And our second product is a versioncontrol tool for designers. So we basically bring our [inaudible 00: 25: 02] to design world and provide design teams with the tooling to build a really flexible and effective workflows, and transparent, too.
Max Ignatyev: So first of all, you should understand the field really deep. Second, as we are integrated with so many tools like Sketch, Adobe XD, Photoshop, [inaudible 00: 00: 25: 20], [Slack 00: 10: 21],and we have a few more integrations coming ... So these are external tools. They keep evolving. And to maintain the compatibility between our tool and third party tools, we spend pretty reasonable effort and it takes a lot of our development time. So there is no way that there could be some sort of control center within the company that is just rallying tasks and assignments to an engineering or to a product teams. They should be aware of what is going on in the field, what's going on on the market, what's going on on the technology side and makesure that everything is glued together in their particular feature or module or component.
Max Ignatyev: So our culture is based on the ownership. So in many cases we have initiative of new features or development of specific components or monetizing the specific areas of the product coming from actual people who work on them. So these people, they're not only owning the development of the specific module,they speak to the customers, so we try to involve all our whole team in the conversation with the customers. So every single person on our team has access to a tech support chat and they always aware so they reply to tech support tickets a lot.
Max Ignatyev: So when we do customer interviews, we've tried to bring as many people as we can, as it makes sense for this specific conversation, so they can talk to actual customers and understand their needs better. This helps us ... So you get ownership, responsibility and freedom of taking your own decisions and communicating it to the rest of the team. And this is really powerful. Like we find it a really powerful combination.
Max Ignatyev: So we don't have a top down chain of command. Instead of that we have a horizontal structure that manages itself right now to acertain degree, right? So we are testing candidates during the hiring process to see if they can match into this environment. Sowe are not looking for people who can take assignments and work on them and this is all they can do.
Max Ignatyev: For instance, one of the examples that we ask about what you'regoing to do if, let's say, you are a tech support engineer, imagine you are a tech support engineer, and you figure out thatour app is down, right? So what are you going to do about that? Of course they have direct manager, but the manager is unreachable. What you're going to do in this case? So we'll look at these problem solving skills on how you're going to actually address this issue. It's surprising that it's not actually every single candidate is interested in working in this environment. So many people are comfortable when they basically execute a taskthat has been assigned to them, and this is what makes them happy. So in our case we are trying to find people who can actually own pieces of the product and be responsible for them.
Matt Hollingsworth: That's fascinating. And I think that speaks to the startup culture more generally speaking, as well, which is to say that everybodyon a small team needs to feel that they are a part of the successof the company, which as you mentioned, has to do with the ownership of making sure that if something is down then that responsibility isn't just passed off to somebody else, and you want to have people that are confident enough in themselves and want to see the product do well to jump in and try to solve the problem, which I think is a really unique skill to have. So maybe that's something, maybe people who are listening, if you're an engineer that want to get into a startup, that might be something to think about as well, whether you want that in your life and you want that responsibility because some people do, and I think some people don't. So I think that's a really valuable piece of advice.
Max Ignatyev: One side note, I remember when we just launched our public [inaudible 00: 29: 01] for our handoff platform, we had so many technical issues, like it was mostly stability issues. So we had some bugs that were bringing our server down, basically, at some point. It took us a few days to figure out what exactly was the issue because it was a tricky one. It was a really a tricky one.
Max Ignatyev: So at the time we had this rule that no one from the engineeringteam is leaving for travel or for a weekend without their laptop in their backpack. So it's not necessarily that you have to use it, but you should be ready to have your laptop out to fix the production system. And this is a sort of a 24/7 thing. We're trying to load balance the efforts, and we have this luxury because we have people in different time zones so we don't have to wake someone at night. It's not really necessary in this case. But we do have PagerDuty, if you are familiar. So this is a monitoring system that calls you on the phone if something goeswrong with your production environment, like [inaudible 00: 30: 02] calls you on the phone.PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00: 30: 04]
Max Ignatyev: Is wrong with your production environment, like racially calls youon the phone? Yeah, I have a number, and all our team has featured UDS numbers in their favorites, so they can call them even if their phones are in the night mode.
Matt Hollingsworth: Wow.
Max Ignatyev: So that's sort of a responsibility you have.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. I think that's really interesting. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you as well about being a remote team and you being the CTO, I'm always curious to hear people's daily routines as an executive as you are. Is there anything specific that you do on a daily basis that to me you don't move away from? Or is it sort of off the cuff and you sort of go about your day as you see fit?
Max Ignatyev: So our biggest time difference is plus 12 hours. So we have folkswho are half day ahead ahead of me, so I'm trying to minimize the impact on them. So we have more intersection during the working days. So I'm trying to start my day earlier than I would usually start. So I used to be not a morning person, but I becamea morning person after I started Sympli. So before I was really comfortable to start my day at 10: 00. Now I start my day at 7: 00or 6: 00 AM, and another thing is that I'm working half and half either from office or from home. For me it's important not to start my day with the goals. I'm trying to wake up well in advance to have the time to tune in because from my experience, if you're waking up, having a cup of coffee, and you have a call in five minutes, this is not enough for your brain to tune into the working mood or whatever.
Max Ignatyev: And we just get distracted really easily. So I'm trying to wake up well in advance, look at the plan for the day, make sure that I have the right priorities on it and only then start to actually talk to people. I find this extremely important. From the working process, I can tell you how it works for us. So we have a daily all-hands scrum where we report really, really quick statuses, and we try to keep it as short as possible, and most of our communications are written. So we are using a chat app, and we've been moving back and forth between different tools. Now we are using Microsoft Teams. But yeah. When we were tuning infor this recording, we figured out that to find the ideal solution for video calling and voice calling is another challenge. Yeah. Weare constantly looking to improve this process.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. So I want to be aware of your time, Max, and you've been so generous so far, so we really appreciate it. I have a couple of closing questions for you, and they're a little bit different.
Max Ignatyev: Sure.
Matt Hollingsworth: So the first one is what leadership practice or skill do you think is most important? And this could be something that you've learned through your process or something that you've picked up from other people that have started companies, but what is that leadership practice or skill you think is most important?
Max Ignatyev: Again, I'm going to speak about my own experience. I think the communication and the ability to communicate your vision and your ideas well, even complicated ones, to others is one of the cornerstones of a successful manager. Let's put it this way because sometimes, especially in the remote environment, it's hard to ensure that everyone is on the same page. So sometimes people dive into their day-to-day work so deeply thatthey sometimes lose the higher-level picture. As a manager, I think that their main responsibility is to make sure that while we are doing the small steps towards the bigger success, that everyone on the team can see this big success every ... well, notprobably every single minute, but they should have it in their mind about why we're doing that, what we gain when we do that, and how my contribution to this, why is it important, and why I should be doing this and not something else right now.
Matt Hollingsworth: And is there anything that you do? Do you take time at a certain part of the quarter, or are you communicating that longterm vision on a regular basis to your employees at a specific time? Or how do you manage that, and how do you make sure that that vision is communicated as effectively as it can be?
Max Ignatyev: So there are several layers. There are several levels of this high-level thing. So there is high-level urgency for pretty much every single task you do. This is extremely important when you work on the long, big tasks like launching a new product for instance. So what we figured out that works really well that every now andthen, not every day but every other day, just start our status meetings with a quick recap of what we are doing, why we are doing that, and why is it important. So it could sound silly sometimes because yeah, everyone said, "Yeah, we don't remember that," but it really helps. So it really helps to keep thisunderstanding in mind because especially when you're working on new things that didn't exist before, you have to make decisions along your way.
Max Ignatyev: And some of the decisions, they are ... as I said, that we have this extreme ownership paradigm in our process. And as you own this component, you take these decisions as a team member. You take many of these decisions on your own, and to make these decisions right, you should always have this framework you can apply to your proposed solution and make sure if it fits this framework of this high-level vision of the work we are doing. From our experience, we've been doing this for a few years already, so we've been practicing this for a few years, and we find it really effective. And sometimes recapping these high-level things in the beginning of a status meeting, you can discover some new things that you didn't know before you started working on a specific task, on a specific feature, or a newproduct that you didn't know in the beginning, but you discovered it along the way. And often the recap, it helps to probably restructure the high-level vision and to adjust it a little bit because of the new developments and to use it effectively over and again. Yeah.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. I think that's a great one. And that's not one I've heard before, so that's probably valuable to those out there that are listening. So my next closing question here for you is if you couldforce everyone to read one book, what would it be and why? Andthis could be any book that you either read through your childhood or found recently in business or otherwise. But yeah, ifyou could force everyone to read one book, what would it be andwhy?
Max Ignatyev: Well, I think that you have plenty of the business books, like advise us on read some sort of business on management books here on this podcast. So I'll tell you about the book, I just finished listening recently. I started listening to books, not reading them, while I'm driving. So it's a book, it's called Why We Sleep. It's a book written by a sleep scientist who is explaining on the very, very basic level of what's happening in our brain when we sleep and why it is important to sleep well and enough. So in our culture nowadays, it's actually celebrated to not sleep enough basically. So it's celebrated. If you can tell that you are sleeping for four hours a day, you're going to be considered as a hardworking individual who is on his way to success. But in fact ... So in this book, the author brings a lot of samples and explanations of why it is a terrible practice.
Max Ignatyev: So if you have a chance, read Why We Sleep. It changed the wayof how I think about why I'm taking a [inaudible 00: 37: 25] or another decision, and it changed my thoughts on why it's important to have enough sleep because it actually affects your overall performance, your decision making, your motivation, everything. So yeah. That's a great book.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah, I've heard of that book, but I haven't actually read it yet. I've heard a number of podcasts with the author. I think his name is Matthew something, and I-
Max Ignatyev: Matthew Walker.
Matt Hollingsworth: Fantastic. And we'll link to that as well in the show notes. And I think everybody should either listen to it or read it or hear him speak because I agree. I think his message is a really important one, especially to the environment that we work in--you're right--for the longest time really valued the hustle culture of not sleep. So you coding at 3: 00 in the morning to get this thing done thereor whatever and pushing your way to success through lack of sleep, which the opposite is true. You're actually doing yourself adisservice longterm if you're losing out on sleep. So that's a great one, and we will link to that as well. That's great. So my last question for you before I let you go, Max, is what is the lesson that you wish that you knew when you started Sympli earlier on? So if you could go back and take one lesson from your journey and apply it to when you first started Sympli, what would that be?
Max Ignatyev: Oh yeah, that's an easy one. We already touched that throughout the conversation. So yeah. That basically runs with my advice I would give to anyone who is thinking about starting their company. So whoever you are, if you are a marketer or if you are a sales guy, you should think about technology. You should think about the flip side of the coin. Well, your success is a combination of multiple factors, and you cannot cut corners onthe fields that you are not familiar with. So in my case, I would start in absolutely different way with the marketing, with the story brand, with everything. So I would think more about sales, more about marketing than I did or look for help from someone else earlier than I did. Yeah.
Matt Hollingsworth: Interesting. Did you go into that and try to learn yourself, or was that just a matter of delegating that marketing aspect in the story and the vision and the narrative of the company to somebody else? Or was that something that you tried to learn yourself and apply yourself when you first started?
Max Ignatyev: So it was both. Again from my experience, you can delegate functions to people only when you have at least some degree of proficiency in these fields because otherwise you cannot tell if everything is done right and everything goes well. Because if you completely do not understand the field, you should learn about it. You should learn about it at least to develop some sort of KPIs you can understand. If you do not understand the KPIs you are being reported with, you probably didn't do a [inaudible 00: 40: 02] this thing. You just gave it away, and you don't know what is going on there.
Max Ignatyev: So in my case I had to learn, and I think this is the right way to go. If you are hiring someone, you should know who you are looking for, what are the qualities you are looking for, and you should be able to assess those qualities at least to some degree.So in our case we've been doing both, and we are still doing that. So we are still learning on how to do this properly or not, how to do marketing properly. Yeah. So we've delegated this function at some point but to effectively delegate it, you should understand how this thing works at least on a high level.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. For sure. Well, Max, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast, and I think this was really valuable. And before you go, is there anywhere that you want to send people in terms of the site itself or your personal social media? Where should we be sending people to check out more about Sympli and Version?
Max Ignatyev: Oh, I think we should be sending people to the website. I don't really distinguish myself from the company in the last few years.Yeah. So the website is great.
Matt Hollingsworth: Yeah. Sympli dot I-O. Is that correct?
Max Ignatyev: Yeah. It's S-Y-M-P-L-I dot I-O.
Matt Hollingsworth: Awesome. Well that's great, Max. Thank you so much again for coming on the show. We really appreciate it, and maybe sometime down the road you can come back on and we can discuss some more stuff.
Max Ignatyev: Sure, sure. Yeah. I hope you enjoyed the conversation too and that you have enough material. And thank you. It was great. I really enjoyed our conversation. I'm glad we were able to do thisbecause it's really valuable for me, and I think hopefully it's valuable to our listeners.Speaker 1: Great. Yeah, Thank you, Matthew.
Max Ignatyev: All right, thanks, Max. Appreciate it. Thanks so much again for listening to the show. Be sure to check out WeWorkRemotely.com for the latest remote jobs, and if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastestand easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com. Thanks so much again for listening, and we'll talk to you next time.