Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Artem Hluvchynskyi, Lead DevOps Engineer
One of the key elements of Tyk’s success is the talented people who enable us to do what we do. Our Tyklings are spread across the globe, each contributing their own unique skills to our overall ability to deliver a product that makes our users’ lives better.
Through the Talk to a Tykling interview series, we’re connecting with each and every one of the people who make Tyk what it is. This week, we’ve headed over to Ukraine for a virtual coffee with Artem Hluvchynskyi, Tyk’s talented Lead DevOps Engineer. Let’s find out about his experience of working at Tyk!
What do you do at Tyk?
I’m the Lead DevOps Engineer at Tyk. In addition to this, I’m also occasionally a tech lead on some related projects.
In general terms, DevOps is a marriage between development and operations, which forms a culture that fully embraces and empowers Tyk’s engineers and our users’ teams to create their products without any needless friction. In practice, this typically involves building and designing the infrastructure for the software, as well as processes that deliver the software, making sure it works reliably and advising the engineering teams on its architecture. There’s a lot to it!
Where are you based?
I usually work from my home near Kyiv, in Ukraine. I’ve been a remote worker for most of the last ten years, the last three of which have been at Tyk. I’m a home worker in the true sense – I prefer the comforts of the home office to working from cafés.
Do you get to travel as part of your role?
Travel is not essential for my role, but sometimes I travel as part of the pre-sales or sales process, when customers want advice on how to use Tyk best. I also pop into the London office regularly.
Is there a particular pain point in the tech industry that you would like to fix?
In DevOps, our goal is to simplify the lives of our users as they build their products and those of our engineers as they work on our own products. The idea behind DevOps is to be active listeners for all the teams around us and working to solve their problems together.
That’s pretty much a pain point for any organisation that produces software. So, my goal is to deliver this as a toolset that would make it easy to place Tyk in a simple, secure, scalable way anywhere in the world – in any premises and data centres, be it cloud or bare metal. Just to make it simple for our users to gain value from Tyk as the glue between their services and their customers. That’s what we’re trying to address.
You mentioned you’ve been working remotely for the last decade. Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to Tyk?
Computer software has been my lifelong passion, so my being at Tyk was predetermined!
I grew up in the same city that I live in right now. It was a turbulent time, with the Soviet Union falling apart. Growing up here in the 1990s was quite a… specific experience! Computers were an escape from the reality of omni-present poverty, depression and crime. They were really an anchor for me and a way for me to fulfil my curiosity.
Of course, we had no easily accessible internet service back then, so learning about computers meant using printed books, lots of trial and error and actually talking to people!
That same passion for computers led me to study computer science at university. For a few years after that, I worked as a software engineer for outsourcing firms in Ukraine, before being drawn to a consultancy in the UK (but still working remotely from here).
I knew Martin and, when he presented me with his vision for Tyk and the challenge of a new role, it was something that I felt I must not miss!
What do you like about working for Tyk?
For me personally, it’s our values. In many companies, values are just words, without much belief. Tyk is different. We really mean it.
For example, we believe that there are no stupid questions. This is something that’s really at the heart of the business. The company structure is flat for this purpose – anyone can talk to anyone about anything. You can easily chat to our CEO on Slack and ask why he has done this or that in the product two, three, four years ago! And that’s total normal – it’s something we encourage.
I also like the asynchronous nature of Tyk’s remote-first approach. You’re not expected to reply to someone in that second usually or have someone ending up distracting you for half a day routinely.
What are the values that drive you personally? What’s important to you?
Autonomy and freedom of expression are the most important things for me. And what drives me is curiosity – curiosity that’s not impeded by anything. This matches Tyk’s values nicely. We’re encouraged to speak up, to take responsibility and to ask questions. Micro-management and top-down hierarchy aren’t really practised at Tyk.
How does Tyk compare to your previous remote working experiences?
Well, I’ve always tried to choose companies with these kinds of values and structures. I think that the companies that hire remote workers have similar values, but where they tend to alter is when the company starts to grow.
Tyk has grown very fast. Is the company managing to keep its values front and centre as it scales up?
Yes, the last year has been really crazy in terms of growth, workload, everything! It’s a challenge to try to manage it all and many companies sacrifice their values during the process. Tyk hasn’t done that though. We’ve explicitly talked about the fact that our values won’t be sacrificed. We’re adapting the growth to our values, not the other way around.
This means doing things differently and growing our teams in the right way. We’re putting structures in place to ensure that people with different abilities intersect a lot and that we communicate a lot.
What are your tips for someone new to get the best out of working in a remote-first organisation?
The most challenging things for a remote worker are self-discipline and time management. For me, this kind of happened naturally, as I had to work with people with tightly packed schedules in different time zones. With so many external variables, I had to be super organised! My advice would be to develop a routine and a schedule for yourself and stick to it when you can.
You also have to trust your colleagues. Frequent communication is essential here as you can’t build trust overnight. You have to get to know each other and talking frequently is the way to do this. There are ways we facilitate this at Tyk – we have twice weekly Tyk cafés. They’re an optional way for everyone to chat to everyone else. We also have yearly retreats so that we can meet face to face in an informal environment.
What is a mistake that you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?
The biggest mistake for me was succumbing to imposter syndrome. It’s completely normal and happens to many people. I think we all sometimes feel it – that we’re not knowledgeable enough or the best person for the job or not experienced enough. I think it has impeded my career progression more than once, as it does for many people. I think it encourages you to stick with an established routine and what you know, but there’s no challenge in that.
The way to overcome it, I’ve found, is to once in a while just blindly take an opportunity on a position that you are clearly passionate about – even if you feel you’re not good enough for it. Just do it and try and learn every bit of it as fast as you can. Accept that you will make mistakes – that’s a perfectly normal part of learning. Anyone can learn, even if you have to fake it a little bit until you make it!
I think my advice is to choose an environment that encourages you to experiment and ask questions.
Do you think that remote workers are more susceptible to imposter syndrome than those who are office based?
I think remote working can certainly add to it a little bit. The isolation means you might be over-thinking, where you’re not talking to other people. You can over-think your impact on things.
What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts?
I believe in interacting directly with the subject matter rather than learning it from third parties. So I don’t read lots of books about my specific role.
One book that I’ve found useful though is Google Alumni’s Site Reliability Engineering by Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Jennifer Petoff and Niall Murphy, plus a whole load of other talented contributors. It’s a really great collection of concepts and practices that worked well for people at Google, though they might not necessarily work for you. They’re interesting – things to strive for.
In terms of podcasts, I listen to Changelog, which is a good way to keep track of the software engineering landscape in general.
And outside of work-related learning, I recently read and really enjoyed I am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. It’s a book attempting to explain how our consciousness works, how it has evolved into us being what we are and how concepts behind it are encountered everywhere in nature. It’s a popular science thing, but not overloaded by hard science concepts – it’s really easy to read and has lots of personal stories by the author that add to the subject nicely.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
That’s not a lot of the time! When I’m not working, I love spending time in nature. Every spare weekend I’m out enjoying the natural world. That’s where I feel truly serene and can decompress. I think if I couldn’t do that I would probably break down. Just this weekend I was able to enjoy a wonderful, very isolated place. I just jump in the car and head for remote forests, rivers or mountains.