Vlad Galu

Vlad Galu: If you are the biggest fish in the pond, that is your cue to move to a bigger pond

Vlad Galu left Romania in 2009 and he is now VP Engineering at GlobalSign in London.
He will give an amazing keynote talk on how to build successful engineering teams, so make sure you have your ticket that gives you access to DevExperience! Until the conference, you can get to know Vlad a little better from this really nice interview that he gave for DevExperience blog!

DevExperience: What did you want to become when you were a child?

I have always been fascinated with computers and networks. I had my first computer in first grade, it was a Russian ZX Spectrum clone. I then had my first PC around seventh grade and installed Linux on it right away. I did not necessarily envision an engineering career, but I liked building things with my computer. It was a very natural transition throughout high school and university towards the industry.

DevExperience: What is the story of your begining in this field? How did you start working in this industry?

My first IT job was in high school, working part time as a systems and network engineer for a small internet service provider. Those were interesting times, everything was very bare bones, you had to build everything yourself and almost always after reading source code. I then started working full time the first year of university, for RCS-RDS (then called Romania Data Systems), where we still built all of our systems in house.
After a few years I decided to focus on building rather than using systems, so I switched to software engineering and continued to work for companies in the same space. Eventually I started wearing the architect hat before transitioning into leadership and management.

DevExperience: How do you see the IT industry 10 years from now?

Today it is infinitely easier to build complex systems as more and more technologies get commoditized. I do not doubt the trend will continue for the next 10 years. The next candidate for that is probably machine learning, I would not be surprised if we soon had libraries of algorithms pre-trained to solve specific classes of problems the same way we have general programming libraries today. At that point there will be a lot fewer people who can build a system from the hardware level up and they will be worth their weight in gold, very much like COBOL specialists today.

DevExperience: What are the main mistakes that you noticed that people in this field are making a lot?

One mistake I often see people make is getting into the industry because it generally pays well, without a clear picture of what they want to build. It is a vast domain, there are many nuances to engineering. It is awfully easy to ride the trends for years without building an actual career path.

DevExperience: You left Romania and you are now a VP Engineering at Globalsign, in London. What advice do you have for the people in Romania who dream to have a career like yours?

Aim to be the least smart or skilled person in a room, surround yourself with people you can learn something from and step outside your comfort zone as often as you can. If you are the biggest fish in the pond, that is your cue to move to a bigger pond.

DevExperience: What are the main differences between the IT industry in Romania and the IT industry in UK?

At the time I left the country (2009) the IT industry was mostly based on the outsourcing model, so there was little to no intellectual property developed locally. That mapped well to the local culture, marred by 60 years of conformism and defined by bottom-up thought processes and communication styles and the idea that our worth is the sum of our technical skills. There was little room for developing one’s business acumen and improving one’s focus on the big picture. Things have definitely changed for the better since, but there still is a lot of room for improvement.

In the UK there is a lot more money in the IT industry and people who enter it often do so from non-engineering positions. The culture also favours top-down thinking and presentation styles. There are plenty of individuals who master the big picture items but in a market so lively and aggressive finding talent with an eye for finer details can sometimes be a daunting task.

DevExperience: What do you do for your both personal and professional development?

I read as much as I can and try to meet people who are better than I am at what we do. Comparing notes is a fantastic learning opportunity. I also invest a lot into building my reports up so they can take over things I do today so I can plan ahead for tomorrow.

DevExperience: What is the greatest part of your job? What is the not so great part of it?

In recent years my greatest satisfaction has come from helping people grow in their career, while getting more in tune with the mechanics of running an engineering driven business myself. The greatest annoyance is not having as much time to hack on things like I once used to.

DevExperience: How would you explain to an old lady who knows nothing about technology what is it exactly that you do? :)

“I work with computers” usually works best.

DevExperience: Tell us more about the main ideas of your talk at DevExperience! Why should people register and attend the event?

As I am going to give a keynote talk, I would like to cover the broader topic of what makes a successful engineer and how to build a successful engineering team. There are some lessons, some passed down to me by others, some learned on my own, that I would like to share with your audience.

Wanna meet Vlad in person and ask him your personal questions? Then register here and come join us for the big ride on Earth!