On the Edge of Technology. Interview with TRIARE CTO
At only 28, Anton Malyy is a co-founder and CTO at a successful IT business solutions company TRIARE.net, a custom software development agency. We finally got the opportunity to interview him to tell his story.
Hi, Anton, and thank you for devoting some time to these CTO interview questions. Wow, it’s been more than half a year! It seems I could get a spot for this by booking your Calendly.
*Smiling*. Thanks, Denys. Well, I don’t really like giving interviews. I think there are other, more important things to do.
Sure thing! I’ve been lucky to witness TRIARE’s transformation for the past few years. And when it comes to actual work – with clients and employees at the core – you are always available.
Yeah. When you are at our office, you can always stop by. My door is always open. *Smiling again*
Early years: creating websites and building own Internet network
Tried myself numerous times. Alright! Our conversation is more about your past which has defined your and your company’s today. So let me spill out loud this question on the back of my mind: how did you get interested in technology in the first place?
I got interested in technology at the age of 12. So that was around 2004. Actually, my dad has been a programmer by profession and calling. He was working at a local bank, and I asked him to teach me how to assemble computers.
At the age of 14, I developed my first website. It was devoted to mobile applications, firmware, and content. iPhones had not been invented yet, and Nokia was a very popular choice, running on Symbian OS. So by using my web resource, I shared tips and disseminated apps for these phones. I even had a tic-tac-toe game on that website!
Anton’s first website, as seen on the WebArchive
Did it get traction?
Yes, I tried to play with SEO to increase SERP on Google and grow my presence on various forums. It was possible to make money on special file hosting services that paid for the number of downloads. I uploaded these apps there, so when people downloaded them, I received some revenue for that.
There were several ways to monetize my work, including paid advertisement. However, the primary motivation was users’ positive feedback and a desire to popularize mobile technologies. I was hooked to see a growing audience of my resource, which exceeded 400 daily users. Looking back, I understand the importance of such experience in my future career.
Later I had another hobby which grew into a small business. I understood how Global networks work and began to resell the Internet, buying the traffic from the large ISP [Internet Service Providers] providers and selling to private households. This is how I founded a small ISP network company. I had to buy expensive professional equipment, fiber optic cables, servers, and other network hardware to make it work. I was still young at that time. However, it had been working for ten years [until 2017]. I was already running TRIARE while still maintaining this small project.
Did you have to consider other, much larger companies on the market?
Indeed. A residential building would have several ISPs, but I was closer to consumers, and I managed to gain more trust in providing a good service. Five years later, more severe competition appeared when big players started entering our city and taking over smaller companies.
At the same time, I continued to learn programming and system administration. I was also developing websites and maintaining corporate infrastructures for SMB [Small Medium Business] clients.
On creating own software development agency
How did you meet with your business partner Boris?
We have known each other since we were students. So about 15 years ago. We were neighbors, as our houses were close to each other. I remember we even had an idea to connect Boris’ hometown Chornobai to the Internet as his family was from there. Unfortunately, we could not make this dream come true, as we didn’t have enough resources for this. We were too young and even didn’t have driver’s licenses to move between cities.
I remember when Boris started as a sales manager at a local computer equipment store, and he supplied me with some hardware for computers when I needed them. We have always had both friendly and business relationships.
Soon after, he joined one German startup with a development team in Ukraine. Boris became the project manager of this team. I remember this project very well as I was doing something for them from time to time.
I heard it was a pivotal moment for Boris and, eventually, the inception of TRIARE.net.
Yes and no. It was just another stage, followed by the next. I mean, at some point, that startup ran into difficulties, and Boris was left with the choice: either cease all activities or continue working with his team. Some of his teammates from those times have carried on working with us till now.
And it went on…
Yep. Those difficulties turned into new opportunities for both of us. That client shared the contacts of his friend who was looking for a development team to support and develop his eCommerce product in Germany. That was one of the first TRIARE’s projects. And that was the time when we began to work shoulder-to-shoulder. We didn’t set the goal of launching the company, but it happened organically over time and still successfully growing.
Business is like a system, and the most important thing is to make this system work. Just getting people together is not a business yet.
Currently, TRIARE is six years old. That’s quite a long time to make own software development agency. Tell me, please, how tech savvy are your clients?
I would say that 90% of our clients do not understand the underlying tech at all. They might have heard about some programming languages, but that’s really it. The truth is, they don’t need to be tech-savvy working with us. Since we at TRIARE IT company position ourselves as a solution provider, it is our responsibility to assess the business idea, research the market, design the system architecture and choose the appropriate tech stack. The project’s success depends not on the right tech stack but on the right business decisions. TRIARE, as an outsourced software development agency, helps to make those.
We take the whole software development process off our clients’ shoulders. They don’t need to waste time trying to understand which SDKs (software development kit) or 3rd party services should be applied to their systems. That’s our responsibility to make this choice, and we are good at this. This mindset saves time for our clients and helps them to focus their attention on business strategy, marketing, and sales activities.
On relationships with clients
Got it. But then, there are 10% of clients who do understand what they want, technology wise, right?
You are right. And this is cool since we spend less time explaining specific topics and stay on the same page with them. Sometimes we may have disputes about some technical things, and you know, we always listen to the client’s point of view, but to be honest, we do not always accept it. In this case, the best scenario is to give reasonable arguments to convince the client to rely on our opinion.
I often hear that TRIARE delivers business value in the first place. Can you please describe the Discovery Phase in detail?
Discovery Phase is a must-have. I have no idea who was the first to introduce this practice in general, but I can trace the inception of this approach at TRIARE – now a bespoke software development agency. When we were only starting our way six years ago and projects were becoming more and more complicated, the question arose:
“How to make these projects right?”
So I dug into the learning process: I downloaded Axur for project wireframing. One has to know how to sketch and describe a future application before even writing a line of code. Then, I repeated the process dozens of times to optimize it and make it more effective, both for the clients and our team. This has served its purpose: TRIARE managers learned to do it really well and now they help our 50+ team lead many projects at the same time. This aids the development greatly; a client most likely will succeed with the discovery phase than without it.
Can you bring an example when you saved a client time this way?
It is now common knowledge that the Discovery [phase] saves money and time. Thanks to it, the client can envision the entire system beforehand, notice any flaws or inconsistencies as well as potential risks. A visual prototype is always more straightforward to produce than code. It is a bold difference: 20 minutes versus 2 hours which immediately highlights what not to do. The list of materials provided after Discovery helps to minimize mistakes and reworks during the coding phase, saving time and money.
You wanted a case? Here it is: there was a startup, a booking app for nightclubs. The founder spent a modest amount of money for the Discovery (a prototype and documentation). Having this, he had a tangible resource to present to investors. Boy, this helped in his negotiations! He used artifacts of the Discovery phase to pitch the project to investors, and they gave him money to start development.
Talking of its use for us, the Discovery helps to build trust and long-term relations. We may not sign the big contract, but when you are ready, you’ll know whom to call. Here is another case: at the beginning of 2020, a medium-size enterprise requested to update the entire system for its business verticals plus add a few novel features. Thanks to a thoughtful Discovery process, our IT company was able to work beyond 2020, for 1.5 years in total, releasing a significant part of the functionality as well as new features.
What project do you consider the hardest in terms of technology?
The one is still ahead! *laughing* I must say that something is difficult when one doesn’t know how to do it. This is not our case. The same applies to life in general, by the way. Once you try something new, it’s not that hard anymore.
On becoming a better business owner
What’s your path to TRIARE CTO?
It was quite a long path that started a long time ago. Likely I acquired the qualities that a person in this position should have, kind of the ability to balance on the edge of business development and technology.
For the recent period, my attention has been mostly focused on business development but not the technical aspects. I used to scale systems and infrastructures, but now I’m scaling the whole company. In fact, there are certain similarities here, as the company is the same system with its own performance, indicators, and processes. You have to be really good at both business and technical development to run software development agency website ideas.
I have a few more questions to ask a “CTO”. What would you recommend to learn to prospective developers?
There are so many great resources and books out there! In fact, there is no silver bullet; absorb the knowledge from as many reliable sources as possible. These can be books, podcasts, YouTube and StackOverflow. Moreover, suppose you reside in Cherkasy or think of moving here. In that case, the TRIARE EDUCATION program offers specialized courses for iOS and Android developers and a new direction of Project management and other future experts in a short time.
Who can get an offer from TRIARE?
We don’t invite everyone; one has to earn it. TRIARE team aims to recruit bright minds with big ambitions and clear goals. They have to be “programmers or designers in their hearts.” We try to spot this talent during the interviews. If only the candidates fit with our culture and show the aspiration to achieve the expected results, we grant this chance to them.
Thanks, Anton, for your time and insights on the work and processes at TRIARE development agency. It was my pleasure to interview you!