Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Sredny Buitrago, Go Developer
Tyk spends a LOT of time recruiting the right people. The result is that Tyklings hail from around the world, and that each and every one helps to make the product and the organisation better. Who are these mysterious Tyklings? That’s what this Talk to a Tykling interview series is all about – finding out.
This week, we caught up with Go Developer Sredny Buitrago, who talked us through everything from the importance of communication to the value of coffee shops when you have a lazy brain in the mornings!
What do you do at Tyk?
I’m a Go Developer – an engineer. I mostly work with my team here in South America. We work together to discuss and fix errors in the application and work on new features. Occasionally I also work on checking customer tickets.
Whereabouts in South America are you based?
I am currently based in Bogota, Colombia but I am from Venezuela.
Where do you like to work, pandemic aside?
From coffee shops. We have a lot of coffee shops in Colombia, and I like to taste different coffees. I concentrate a lot more in a coffee shop. When I’m here in my apartment, I have my bed, I have my TV, I have my pet… so many distractions! In a coffee shop I just work and drink coffee.
How has the pandemic impacted your coffee shop patronage?
In the beginning it was a challenge. For the first five months we had full restrictions, so I had to work here in my apartment because I couldn’t go anywhere else. Right now, I try to go outside or to a coffee shop as well as working here in the apartment. It’s a balance – I don’t go to a coffee shop every day.
Thinking about the tech sector, what is one problem that you would love to be able to fix?
The one issue I would like to solve is miscommunication. There are many levels in the software industry and so there’s plenty of scope for miscommunication between the developers and the customers. I think this is something that would be great to fix.
Sometimes people have greater expectations of what developers can achieve in a certain amount of time, for example, or sometimes the customer doesn’t explain very well and so it’s hard to understand what they need. That would be a good thing to fix.
Can you give us a two-minute history of your life before Tyk?
I was a remote developer for three years and I’d never worked in an office or really had a fixed schedule. I wanted to see what that was like, so I moved to Bogota because I had a job offer to work here.
I came here and the working environment was very nice, with very good people, but at some point I got tired of waking up every day at 7 am to take a shower, dress and then take the bus to work, then wait until 5 pm to return to my apartment, even when I already finished all my tasks earlier in the day.
I realised I needed a change, so I started to look for new jobs. Tyk communicated with me because they needed a Go Developer, so I began checking out what it would be like to work there.
I already knew the company, as in my previous job I had the opportunity to try Tyk’s product, so I knew what Tyk was.
I saw that Tyk was a remote company where people seem to be really happy, so I went through the recruitment process and they offered me a job.
What’s good about working for Tyk?
We have more freedom and we have more responsibility. I don’t have a schedule but I know that I have to deliver on my tasks. I know that if we are blocking a customer, we have to make the extra effort to unblock them. So there are days where I sit and work for ten hours, but there are other days that can be very relaxed, where I work three or four hours.
I’m really happy with that balance – where we know we have to give a little bit more and where we can also be more relaxed.
The unlimited paid holiday is also awesome. Nobody abuses that policy; it’s just good to know that I don’t have to count how many days I have left from my vacation allowance. If I need a week off, I don’t have to worry.
Also, l get to work with people from all around the world, gaining an understanding of their cultures. There are real differences between, for example, the Latin American culture and the European or Asian culture. It’s really great to see that and understand people’s different experiences and motivations.
Now that you’re in charge of your own schedule, have you settled into a set working pattern?
It’s really varied. It depends on how I feel and what I have to do. I’ve noticed that in the mornings I prefer to just attend calls and answer emails and messages. In the afternoon, that’s when I start solving programming issues and working on things where I really have to think. It works time zone-wise, too.
In the morning, my brain is still lazy – I don’t want to think too much! Afternoons are for working on important stuff. My brain needs three or four cups of coffee to get started!
What would your tips be for getting the best out of working in a remote-first environment?
We use async communication here in Tyk, so don’t expect that people will answer right away but trust that they will respond as soon as they’re able.
It’s good to communicate with your team if you have any issues or if you need any help.
If you don’t communicate well, it will probably take more time to solve tasks.
Another thing is to be responsible for your tasks and be respectful in terms of understanding what others have to do and how you can work with them. Sharing knowledge between those who’ve worked for Tyk for years and those who are newer to the organisation can help to solve tasks and unblock things.
Each team has objectives to achieve, so not communicating would be disrespectful as it would make it harder to complete your objectives – it would make it easy for stupid things to block you.
Thinking back to your career before Tyk, can you give me an example of a mistake that you made and what you learned from it?
I think my mistake was overworking and not having a good work/life balance. One of my previous employees gave me more and more and more responsibility and I didn’t have any balance, so in the end I got really tired – I was mentally exhausted. I had to look for a new job because I identified the issue and I knew I had to do something about it.
Is it easier to achieve the right work/life balance with Tyk?
It’s extremely easy!
I like running and sometimes going to the gym. In my previous job, it was a very nice working environment with very nice people, but when I came home I didn’t have the energy to go for a run. That doesn’t happen here at Tyk. I can go for a midday run or a morning run – whenever I want. I feel very happy with that.
What are the values that drive you?
I try to be as responsible as I can. If I commit with you to do something and I cannot do it, I will try to communicate that as soon as possible.
Honesty is important to me. I’m honest and I expect everyone to be honest with me, even when it’s something that I might not like to hear.
What are your three favourite books or podcasts?
I don’t read a lot right now, but I used to. I liked to read Jules Verne. Howard P Lovecraft is another one of my favourite writers.
I listen to a couple of podcasts that are for learning English, so I can improve my English skills, including Premier Skills English, from the British Council. When I began working with people in the UK, some of the accents were difficult for me to catch, as I was used to hearing English spoken with a US accent. So the Premier Skills English podcast has been helpful.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I enjoy running, hiking, tasting coffee and playing with my pet. I like to hike at weekends, as hikes last one or two days, at least, but I can do the other things throughout the week.
Did you find that not being able to go out as much during lockdown meant that you had to get back to full strength for running afterwards?
Not really because I have my pet, so I had permission to go outside for 20 minutes and exercise with my pet, which was good. Also, I started to do some exercise here in my apartment – I did quite a few sessions at home, and it was pretty good. I was sweating here in my apartment – it was good exercise! It wasn’t easy, but I faced the situation and I managed it.
You’ve mentioned your pet a couple of times – what do you have?
I have a dog – a golden retriever. I got him two months before the pandemic, so he’s been with me for the whole lockdown.