Andre Haikal is a Technical Owner at Veriff, but he also owns a dance studio in Tallinn and took quite a journey from self-trained Engineer to the Estonian Start-Up world. Enjoy his story!
Ucha Vekua, June 18th, 2021
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How do you go from studying to become a doctor in Lebanon to opening a dance studio - Euphoria in Estonia - to becoming a Technical Owner at Veriff? Meet Andre Haikal, who recently shared some incredible stories about his career, interests, and everyday life at Veriff. Enjoy!
It’s quite a story. I have a dance studio here in Estonia. When I was building it initially, I needed to have a proper system that would handle students, registration, invoicing, etc. So, I tried many CMS (Content Management System) solutions, but nothing was enough for what I needed. So, in the end, I decided to learn to build the solution for my problem by myself. This is how I started my journey as an Engineer. I started learning a programming language called Ruby, and I loved it. Then I really got into it and decided to build my career in this field.
After a couple of years of practising, I got an opportunity to start a full-time job as a Software Engineer in a Bank, which gave me a lot of valuable experience to grow professionally.
I was working in the same building where the Veriff office is based in Tallinn. So, I already knew some engineers from there and I witnessed first-hand the growth and impact of Veriff. Adding to that, the people that I knew were really happy with their job and encouraged me to join the company as well. I realised that the corporate life that I had at that time was not for me, and I wanted to take on a new challenge - that's how I ended up here.
I joined as a Software Engineer in the beginning. I really liked the environment in Veriff, so I decided to pursue my professional growth here and test myself in different roles. So, after some time, I became an Internal Tools Team Lead, which gave me a wonderful experience of team management and task delegation. After that, I again got the opportunity to progress and take the role of Technical Owner. In this position, I get to work with Product and Engineering teams at the same time. This gives me a chance to see the product development from every angle - from product planning, to technical planning, to the delivery, and talking to clients. It's an exciting challenge for me.
For me, the main challenge was to set the right expectations and deliver great results because it can be pretty challenging to lead a team of engineers and support a product that is being used by millions of people worldwide.
I've already been a Technical Owner for over a year, and I'm still learning new things every day. I do have excellent mentors here who help me solve my work-related problems whenever they come up and I'm really grateful for that. So, I think it's really crucial - if you have reliable colleagues who guide you throughout the procedure, it can get easier to overcome challenges at work, leading you to great results.
I usually divide my day between various tasks that I’m in charge of. It involves a lot of Product planning, and knowing what is on the roadmap in the coming months. Also, we do one-to-one meetings with team members to be updated on each other’s progress, and we do some Technical planning as well. Our team consists of three people, and we work closely with other departments too. Most of the time, my tasks as a team lead are about aligning, planning, and following up on what’s happening.
Currently, we're working on a long-term project, which is very interesting and challenging at the same time. We are trying to build a new system within the company and that involves delivering a micro-service for each business function. This is a project that will take a long time. We have already made some progress and are moving forward step-by-step.
“Always have each other’s back” - knowing that my teammates will always support me in any situation is a great boost of confidence to deliver excellent performance and work. And of course, they expect the same from me too. Here in Veriff, people are always stepping up and doing their best to help each other out on different challenges. I think this is the reason why we are so successful as a company.
Outside my job at Veriff, I also run the Dance Studio I mentioned earlier and try to make sure that everything is going great over there - I try to take care of that place as much as possible. Besides that, I'm involved in lots of sports activities such as cycling, running, and going to the gym.
Here's Andre and his wife in action, proving he doesn't simply own the studio!
Now it's time for our final quickfire questions.
I just recently finished reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. The book is about finding your passion and following it with hard work and dedication. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in overcoming the excuses that block us from achieving something more in life.
I enjoy listening to the podcast called ‘Philosophize This’. And I also like the Tim Ferris podcast.
Mac. And I have a simple reason for that. I started learning Software Development on Windows with the Ruby programming language. I was spending around 80% of my time configuring various things there. On the other hand, you can just open a terminal on Mac and everything functions perfectly.
I think it would be really interesting to be a teacher. I love sharing my knowledge, experiences, and helping others to learn new things.
Start building projects - learn by doing and implement your knowledge into your ideas. Try to get instant feedback from people on your projects to move forward. This approach will help you keep improving and delivering the results you want to kickstart your engineering career.