Talk to a Tykling: Vlad Ifrim, Frontend Developer

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Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Vlad Ifrim, Frontend Developer

Tyk is known around the world for its innovative approach to API management. How have we gone from a side project to a global enterprise? Well, part of it is our product, of course, but it’s also due to our people.

Tyk employs a diverse team of Tyklings, spread across 26 countries and providing a huge range of specialist expertise. Who are they? What makes them tick? Our Talk to a Tykling interview series is here to reveal all!

Most recently, we caught up over a virtual cup of coffee with Frontend Developer Vlad Ifrim, chatting about everything from the inefficiency of the human brain to the frustration of ever-changing processes. Here’s what he had to say…

What do you do at Tyk?

I work as a Frontend Developer. That means that when users open a project, whatever they see there and whichever way they can interact with it, that’s what I do. I work closely with the design team, the backend team and with the user experience team to build it; whatever you see, there was some code that the frontend developers wrote for that. The product and design teams guide the user experience, while I’m there on the implementation side.

So, if the UX team asks for something specific, you have to make that happen?

Yes, exactly. I have to make it real. When it comes to code, anything is possible, so to speak. However, usually if there’s something that would be too complicated to implement, we can talk about it and find a middle ground.

Where are you based and where do you like to work from?

I live in Iasi on the north-eastern border of Romania. But I was born in a town just north of here called Botosani. In 2003 I came to college here and I stayed. I made friends here and it became my home.

Working from home is the perfect fit for me. I’m not really a sociable person. If I go out once a week, then that’s enough for me. I moved house a month ago and I’m adjusting to my new working area. I know some people struggle with working from home, but I love every aspect of it.

Tyk: Can you summarise your studies and career before Tyk?

In school I didn’t like programming, I thought it was dumb! I decided early on that I wasn’t going to study it, so I just focused on learning other stuff.

I liked maths, so I went to college to study that. You had to choose your speciality in the first year. There was pure mathematics, applied mathematics and computer science. Computer science was my last pick.

During the first year we had to study some programming. We had some really good teachers and I started to fall in love with programming – I started to get it. So, I changed my option and made computer science my first choice.

After college, I started working as a developer straight away. Back then what I did was called web development. It was like what I do now but with some backend work plus some database work too, but they were much simpler times.

JavaScript, which is the programming language that I use now, was used very little back then – just for small animations or form validation. Not much more. But it began to pick up and in 2011 I joined a company, working alongside a future Tykling.

The company had a product, and we were doing prototyping, so we had to build a completely separate version of it in JavaScript. My skills increased exponentially while working on that. Then the role of frontend developer started to take shape and that became our track, so to speak.

After that, I worked for a different company and I hated the project that I was on. I mentioned it to my colleague, who by then had moved to Tyk and he mentioned that Tyk was looking for a frontend developer. I decided to apply, and the rest is history. I’ve been at Tyk for two years now, almost to the day. We celebrate everybody’s work anniversaries on our Slack channel – everyone joins in and congratulates each other.

What do you like about working at Tyk?

I like the people and the culture. People get involved, you feel part of the team – everybody is always trying to make the product better, and to make the company a great place to work. This is something that you don’t usually find easily. It’s nice to feel part of the team.

Is there something in the tech industry you’d love to fix?

The thing I hate the most is that frontend developers always have to struggle with different processes. We write some code and it’s like this in one browser but then it works in another way in another browser, and then in a different way again in a third one. Then you have to wait a couple of years for the version to come out for that particular browser…

Now, it’s starting to get much better than it was 10 years ago. Now, the new browsers are called evergreen browsers because they update automatically, so you don’t have to wait years for a feature. The compatibility between browsers is much better now. The last browser that is ‘old’ now is Internet Explorer 11, which won’t be supported any more officially from next year. So this problem is pretty much solved now. It’s been a problem since forever but it’s finally coming together. I’ve been waiting for this since I started working as a developer!

Tell us your tips for a new starter working remotely at Tyk?

I think different people struggle with different stuff, so it’s hard to give advice on this. I personally like every single bit of remote working. My only tip would be to borrow from the Zen attitude. So if you feel like eating, go and have a snack. If you feel tired, take a nap. And if you feel like working, do some work.

I don’t have kids to worry about, where I have to stick to a fixed schedule each day, so I can take this approach. I can work at 3pm if I want, I can work at night if I want – whenever I feel like it. I don’t have a tight schedule, so for me, this really works. I work when I feel like it and do other stuff when I feel like it.

Are there certain times of day when you usually feel inclined to work or does it vary from day to day?

It varies a little but most of the time I feel productive when everybody sleeps. At night. After around 8, 9, or 10 pm I start feeling I want to write some code. That can last until morning, then in the morning I don’t feel like doing anything so maybe I’ll sleep late or do other things. I don’t have to wake up and commute to some place and sit there for an amount of hours and then commute back. I can work when I feel like working. That’s good for me and it’s good for the company because I deliver more as a result.

Before Tyk, is there a mistake that you made in your career and what did you learn from it?

At the beginning I thought I was right all the time. I didn’t listen to what other people were suggesting. If my idea was to do something a certain way, then that was the right way to go – end of story! I missed out on a lot of opportunities to learn from other people because I didn’t listen.

It’s a simple fact but I had to go and learn the hard way because I was stubborn. Getting older and more experienced has helped me to see the value of listening to others – and to realise that it can often save me time!

What are the values that drive you?

I like peace and quiet – and humour. I don’t like people getting angry or sad around me. In those situations, whether it’s a day-to-day situation or something more important, I like to tell jokes and help to lighten the situation. That’s my way of coping with life. I hope I do a good job in lifting people’s spirits – that’s what I try to do anyway.

What are your top three books/podcasts?

Two books sprang straight to mind. The first is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I always found it fascinating as a young boy and, as a grown up, I’m still fascinated by it – you want to live in that world that is absurd and logic at the same time.

Another book that I’ve enjoyed very much is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s about how our brain works, how we have two competing systems of thought. One is analytical, where you need a lot of information and you make calculations. What comes out is usually very accurate but because we have to calculate and process a lot of information it’s not very efficient. The other one is based on more intuitive thinking. This is the book I usually recommend to people when they ask me about books – and many of the people I’ve recommended it to have gone on to recommend it to others.

The third book is one called An Introduction to Functional Programming Through Lambda Calculus by Greg Michaelson. I knew about it from my studies. It’s enjoyable and it’s given me plenty of stuff to play with.

I used to listen to podcasts a lot and I enjoyed one called Frontend Happy Hour. It’s a podcast about a bunch of frontend developers getting together to have drinks. They talk about a specific topic and they choose a word related to that topic and whenever they hear that word, they have to have a drink. By the end of the podcast the discussion can be very funny!

Tyklings are based around the world… which languages do you speak?

I speak Romanian, which is my native language, and English, which I’ve learned since I was little. Other than that, I can understand a bit of Spanish and I know a few words in German and French, and a few in Hungarian too. But I wouldn’t say I’m conversational in those languages.

What do you like doing when you’re not working?

I like to listen to music and watch movies, all the usual stuff. I also play chess – that’s my personal hobby. I watch chess. I read books about chess. I’m not very good but I play every day and I just love the game.