We chat with Roman Zolotarev, a member of Veriff's Verification Tools team, about what brought him to Veriff, his long career in software engineering, and what advice he'd give to anyone just starting out.
Ucha Vekua, April 30th, 2021
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Roman Zolotarev is a Senior Full-Stack Software Engineer working in our Verification Tools team. He makes sure that the verification tool is working well. His personal story is a fascinating one—he's lived in multiple countries around the world, while working on freelance projects at the same time. Roman moved to Estonia because of Veriff and has been part of the company for almost two years. In this interview, we talked about his Digital Nomad lifestyle, professional journey and life at Veriff. Enjoy!
My dad is a software engineer, and I had a deep interest in this field from a very early age. I was trying to learn little by little and grab opportunities to practice my skills. I got my first engineering job at the age of 14—I was a network engineer, building local area networks at school. At first, I was just helping people out there, but then it became my job. Then I started doing this for other companies as well.
After getting some experience in this field, I moved from my hometown to a larger city in Russia, where I started my Computer Science degree and continued working. I also tried to switch from the technical track to the management track pretty quickly—I worked as a Team Lead in a small web development studio. This change helped me realise that I enjoy software development very much—developing products and seeing people using them is amazing. I graduated from the university and started taking projects as a freelancer, so I could travel while working.
At some point in my career, I decided to start travelling and work remotely because all of my clients were geographically distributed, so it was a perfect opportunity to become a Digital Nomad. This would allow me to see the world and experience living in multiple countries. Every place I lived in was different. For example, in Singapore, I was close with my professional community, which made it easier for me to have smooth communication with them.
After a while, I decided to move back to Europe and experience different cultures here. One of the biggest reasons for moving back was that I had a huge interest in the OpenBSD projects. Most of my friends were here too—Germany, Netherlands, Finland, and Estonia. After a couple of years of being a freelancer and travelling in different countries, I decided to get a full-time job, and that’s how I ended up at Veriff.
For me, it is important to have a good connection with my team—I wanted to work in a company where I share the same values and mindset with my colleagues. When I was searching for a job, I went through the application and interview procedures with many different companies in Europe. But the team at Veriff connected with me the most—the company culture really attracted me here.
Other than that, the business model played quite an important role for me to make the right decision. At the end of the application procedures, I already had some offers from other companies as well. But I decided to go for Veriff and I think it was a great decision. I wanted to take this challenge and work to develop this product.
For me, the daily tasks at Veriff are mostly connected to purely Software Engineering. I really enjoy it and prefer to keep it this way, because I try to dive deeper into technology and learn more about building useful tools rather than managing people.
I have experienced management roles in other companies, and I enjoy developing the software more. So, most of the time, I am coding and taking part in different discussions on Slack regarding the various projects. I think the best part of my job is to write the code and see it in production the same day.
The value that speaks to me the most would be ‘We have each other’s back’. Our team is very supportive, and I really appreciate that. We are helping each other out all the time, which makes the work process more enjoyable for everyone. This kind of work environment is very important, and it helps me be more productive for the company.
From my experience, the technical challenges we’ve had in our team come from the fact that we use so many independent services—we are using a microservice architecture here. Sometimes, this can make it really hard to detect problems instantly. As the Verification tools team, we are in the front-end in case something goes wrong. And it’s not always easy to debug and detect the root cause of issues.
We have managed to improve our knowledge about different parts of the system over time and understand the procedure of debugging better if something is failing. Thankfully, we're developing and improving our tools, which helps us solve multiple problems instantly and work more efficiently.
I’m really happy with everything, frankly speaking. For example, I like the fact that there are no language barriers here because people mostly speak English or Russian. The government services are also really fast and efficient, which made my immigration procedure easy. I try to do some fun sports activities with my colleagues here, like skydiving, for example. This way, I try to support a healthy lifestyle. The global pandemic has affected our lives—we travel less abroad now, so I'm trying to discover Estonia instead!
Thanks for all the answers! Let’s move on to some quickfire questions now.
I would probably be a Mathematician. I love learning more about technical subjects. Maybe a teacher would also be a nice choice—I like to share my knowledge and teach technical subjects to anyone who's interested.
I mostly like books connected to my industry which help me get more insights into this field. The ones that come to my mind are ‘Getting Real’ and ‘Rework’ by Basecamp. These are the books that come to my mind when I think about Software Development.
I would easily choose Mac because it is built on the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) system.
Firstly, I would recommend building various things using the simplest possible tools, because nowadays there are lots of pieces in this field and it’s really hard to keep up with all of them. So, if you are a beginner in this field, I would recommend using the simplest tools you can use to understand it entirely and then move on to the next one.