Talk to a Tykling: Laurentiu Ghiur, Senior Frontend Engineer

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Laurentiu Ghuir

Tyk has been on an amazing journey over the past couple of years. We’ve taken on some exciting new users and expanded into new regions along the way. We couldn’t have done any of it without our talented team of Tyklings beavering away in the background.

So, who are these hard-working individuals and how did their paths first cross with Tyk? We’re putting our Tyklings under the spotlight one by one to find out. This week, it’s Senior Frontend Engineer Laurentiu Ghuir’s turn. We caught up with Laurentiu over a virtual cup of coffee (because, well, Covid) and grilled him on everything from the joys of technical freedom to the impact of parenthood on personal values.

What do you do at Tyk?

I started at Tyk as a Frontend Developer. That entails handling all the visual parts you might see in a browser or other application. I was the second Frontend Developer hired at Tyk; our team has since grown to four. We now have more products and we’re continuously improving them. We’re building cool stuff!

Besides that, there’s not really any such thing as a single role at Tyk. The mentality here is that if you can help in any place, you will. It’s not just about your expertise and your qualifications. So that means we are part of design sprint sessions, for example, discussing the future of our product, our plans and needs, and so on.

Is your role a design role or a technical role? Or both?

It’s a blend of the two. I don’t actually do the design, but we actively put our thoughts in and collaborate very closely with the design and UX team. Our main objective is to make that happen and also to worry about the technical implementation a bit!

Where abouts in the world are you based?

I’m in Romania, in a city called Iasi on the eastern border of the country. I work from home mostly. Although I have a little boy who’s one and a half, which means sometimes it’s tough to stay at my desk! So I switch between home and coffee places, finding the silent spots to settle in for some coding work between meetings. That works for me.

At other times, I take one or two weeks off and we move into the mountains. We stay there and I work from home. I also stay with my family as well and sometimes work from there. It really depends on my mood and the situation.

I couldn’t have imagined, four years ago, that a company would allow me to do this. Now, it’s normality for me. It’s just amazing. If I happen to change workplace at some point, it will be very hard for me to accommodate that new environment.

Are you the only Tykling in Romania? Do you feel well connected with the rest of the Tyk team?

I have another colleague here in Romania – I put him forward for a role at Tyk originally. He’s part of our frontend team and we meet a couple of times a month to catch up and work together.

With the rest of the team, we see each other in person at the Tyk retreats (when we can have them). Last year we also had a meeting for the frontend team – the four of us met in Alicante in Spain. It was really nice; we had time to get to know each other better. It was great.

Tyk’s such a good way to connect with like-minded people. When I joined, I went to London during my first couple of weeks to meet the team there. Matias, our Senior Go Developer, was there as well. He’s a very interesting guy and we got talking about the fact that he had never seen snow in real life. He asked me if there was any snow in Romania at that time. There was a lot, so when I flew back to Romania, he came with me. He stayed at my place for about three weeks. It was a really nice experience.

All this community feeling comes from above. The people who lead Tyk foster this mentality. 

Can you give us a one-minute history of your life before Tyk?

I grew up in a kind-of-bad neighbourhood here in Iasi in Romania. It’s interesting that I kind of separated from the crowd from my neighbourhood while I was in high school and I started to get in touch with more and more people in the computer science domain, because I focused on computer science in school. It opened up a new world to me.

I discovered that, once I started to work with people from other countries, including those in the western world, the mentality was very different from the one here locally. I liked that. I started to connect with different types of people and enjoyed hearing how they saw different situations – not just IT-related matters. I search for these kind of opportunities, where I can meet people from different parts of the world.

When I joined Tyk, there weren’t that many of us. I think I was the sixth or seventh person hired here. I really like now that there are so many Tyklings from all around the world. I love that.

There are lots of IT companies in Romania – we’re a strong IT hub. But most of them are in the outsource domain. That meant I was working for different clients, with really tight processes around how to do the work. I never felt that I was truly owning something, even when I was working as the senior or lead. There was always someone who had to agree with you, or not – and not necessarily based on objective reasons.

So, my focus was on joining the start-up world. It’s the place where creativity happens and where you have the opportunity to put your thoughts in and not just solve tasks that sit somewhere within some tool.

Is there a particular pain point in the tech sector that you would love to be able to solve?

The frontend development domain is nice because there are so many ways to solve a problem – the technology behind it allows you to think of multiple ways of fixing something. But at the same time that can be very dangerous. You can end up using a solution that’s not been well thought out or organised. Then, a couple of months down the line, you end up with a bigger problem.

So, I would love to see a more standardised way of fixing problems, but that’s part of evolution, I think. It’s not something that going to happen. Plus, the way things work now also makes our jobs interesting. And it’s how you differentiate good developers from others – you can see if they can tell the proper direction and what they need to learn.

What do you like about working at Tyk?

Lots of things! Firstly, the freedom of being able to do everything I want, technically speaking. I can come up with new ideas whenever I have them, do proof of concepts and pass them to the team for feedback.

I also love meeting so many interesting people and having interesting discussions with them.

But above all of that, for me personally, I love that there are people like Martin, James and Andrew out there, because I’m confident that this culture is not going to die while Tyk exists. They are true guardians of Tyk’s culture – everything I’ve just listed is because of them. I book calls with Martin from time to time and just exchange ideas. That’s really cool – it’s not every company that allows you to do that with your CEO.

What are your tips for someone new to get the best out of working in a remote-first organisation?

Firstly, be open minded – and don’t be afraid to try and break stuff! Also, to ask as many questions as you have. This isn’t an easy domain, what we’re doing here at Tyk. For me, there are still plenty of things I don’t understand yet. So I’m asking questions and people reply with the info I need.

I would also recommend that a new starter break from their past experiences and just be who they are here at Tyk. You can do that here.

Can you share an example of a mistake that you made earlier on in your career and what you learned from it?

I’ve been putting some thought into this. From a technical perspective, I’ve not failed to implement anything at any point. But it’s not about solving problems, it’s about how you solve them. My past experience has taught me that, before I jump in and start coding something in an attempt to fix the problem, I need to take the proper time to think about it. I like to write it on a piece of paper or jot it down in a notepad and then think it through.

For example, I recently had an interesting issue that I spent two to three weeks thinking about it, then it took me just two days to implement it. That’s good because now I’m pretty sure that it’s the best solution, which saves time in the longer term from a quality and performance perspective. So that’s something I’ve learned.

When you’re young and you want to prove yourself and prove that you can do things, you make the mistake of rushing into things. I try to encourage those who are newer to the domain to take all the time they need to think about things, to come up with a solution and ask for feedback on it and only to implement it after that.

What are the values that drive you? What’s important to you?

Personally, I hate to see people disappointed because I’ve not achieved something. So I’m very serious in terms of the work that I’m doing. But in order to achieve the expected results, I need to trust in my team. So I need to know that I’m working with people that I can trust and who will communicate openly. Problems can crop up everywhere, but if you communicate honestly about them from the outset, everything is solvable. Trust and communication are everything.

What are your three favourite books?

Most of the books and articles that I read are technical ones. But there are two books in particular that I like. One is called 27 Steps. It’s about an ultra-marathon runner here in Romania. He runs in the most difficult ultra-marathons around the world, particularly in the Arctic area.

What’s interesting is that the title – 27 Steps – refers to the time that he was in prison, when the cell that he was in measured just 27 steps. He went to jail several times, for armed robbery and things like that; he has a very dark history. But after a while he promised himself that he wouldn’t be locked up anymore. He started to run and then opened an NGO. He does lots of charity work and is very well known. It’s admirable to see someone with such a dark past recovering from that and helping the community. It’s a very powerful story. I met him once and I follow his training – it’s very interesting.

Another book, which I read this year, is one that’s very popular. I’m not usually a fan of popular things but it’s called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I think it’s because I give too many! But it also helps you to understand your core values, what you want from your life and what to prioritise.

To be honest, I haven’t discovered my true values yet. It’s a work in progress; I’m discovering myself more and more, diving deeper into myself to understand what I really want. That book opened up my thinking more in that spirit.

Has parenthood changed you in that respect – in how your values are developing?

I had a tough family, but my mother is the most important person to me. She gave me the proper education that I needed and that I was able to build upon with other knowledge. Ultimately that meant I was well positioned to choose between bad and good. So far, I think that I’ve handled my own experience of parenthood pretty well but of course it has had a major impact on my values.

And what is your third favourite book?

It’s by a technical author. His name is Eric Elliott, and he wrote book called Composing Software fairly recently. What’s interesting is the way that he splits complex problems into smaller ones. He shows that if you deal with smaller pieces of software and then combine them together, you can achieve a solution to a big, complex problem. It’s more like a puzzle, but it can be hard to think simply in that way. His books and articles guide me in that direction. I’m still not there yet but I like the way he solves problems.

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

Running, hiking, cycling… sports in general! Over the last couple of years, we’ve been building our own house here, which takes up a lot of my free time, but whenever we have free time we go up the mountainside and go hiking. I love it.