In a simple way about complex things, and understandably about non-obvious ones – a conversation with Olexander Kardakov, a millionaire, head of the supervisory board of Octava Capital and owner of the largest IT-business in Ukraine.
Firstly, the dialog is memorable because of very logical things being said, at first glance so simple, that it seems “how can it even be otherwise?” But do all of us have so evolved logic abilities to separate issues of any complexity into clusters so that the answer comes by itself, and the answer is always correct?
Interview for LDaily concerns businesses only indirectly. Free time, the generation and implementation of ideas, IT-education, inheritance, building a strong team and current trends, in general, are among the topics rousing curiosity. We promise it’s going to be interesting.
LDaily: Oleksandr, I would like to start our conversation with a highly topical question. How to reduce the tendency to an outflow of Ukrainian IT-specialists abroad? Why do they go and how to stop it?
O. Kardakov: The fact that for the most part, Ukrainian IT-workers are self-taught specialists receiving information from any possible public sources. In fact, the difference between the Ukrainian IT-education and, for example, the one in the US is basically enormous. Ukrainian university education gives a social network, and sometimes even ideology. All the rest our specialists have to learn by themselves.
LDaily: How do Ukrainian IT-specialists adapt education received in Ukraine to a different mentality?
O. Kardakov:Before I answer this question, let’s draw a line between education and mentality, these are different concepts. It should be clearly understood that there is basic knowledge and there are skills taught at the hiring company. For example, a person comes to a company to work as a junior programmer. There he completes an internship, acquires new competencies, receives promotion and then he will be wanted for a higher position in any other country. I assure you that the techniques used are international ones. Therefore, when it comes to professional mentality, this is trained and taught. Believe me, Ukraine has good institutes, capable of training decent programmers.
LDaily: So here specialists are taught, and then they move abroad to earn their living. Is it correct?
O. Kardakov:The country should give perspectives to make promising staff stay. None of us can ignore the problems of the state, is impossible in principle. I’ll explain: person loves his job, he is comfortable there, but once he leaves work, he immediately finds himself in a different environment (bribery, bad roads, and poor service), which is alien and incomprehensible to him. This is the main reason why IT-specialists do leave Ukraine.
LDaily: Could you fulfil yourself in any other sphere apart from IT? If so, in which one?
O. Kardakov:I’m doing business not only in this segment, I work with other markets as well. But the difference between IT and the others is substantial, there I work without satisfaction. I started in IT-sector. Once it was my hobby, which later turned into a major business. And, to be honest, I love it.
Although, it is necessary to understand clearly what kind of market it is. It is complex and dynamic, it requires continuous learning, and IT unlike any other sector is abundant in regular product innovations. I understand I am not a technical expert in any of the new technologies, but I know about each of them, know how each is organized and works. And this allows me to combine and apply them correctly, and to choose a vector of development unmistakably. In other words, I always keep abreast of technical innovations.
LDaily: Olexander, are you a workaholic? How many hours per day do you set aside for rest?
O. Kardakov:I sleep about 6 hours. I understand what your question means: you probably think that I have to work around the clock (laughs). Of course not. I do not monitor new technologies18 hours a day. Although I really work a lot, but I just love what I do, I enjoy it. Within five-day workweek, I do not have a desire to drop everything and I even continue with five working hours on Saturdays. However, Sundays are sacred (smiles), a day for friends and family.
Accordingly, one cannot call me a workaholic, this designation should apply to those performing the work mechanically, but I do it with pleasure (smiles).
Moreover, I often change vectors: new projects, the operating activities, the meeting discussions… Miscellaneous work allowing to switch is that what really helps.
LDaily: From your own experience, with whom is doing business easier, Ukrainian partners or foreigners?
O. Kardakov: I can tell you it is a huge mistake to say that dealing with foreigners is easier or harder. Everything is rather specific because, in fact, all people are very, very different. Some people tend to cheat, others, on the contrary, are very honest. It does not depend on nationality but on the man himself.
LDaily: Did you have to deal with fraud by the business partners? How did you go through it?
O. Kardakov:Of course, I had. It is often very painful for me like for anyone else, but eventually, I learned to have a sharp eye for people and already know who and at what stage is capable of letting down. Accordingly, I insure myself against these risks. Sometimes in the emotional outburst, I wanted revenge, but it never happened, there is no point. I’ve proved to be right by the development of my projects, business performance, profitability.
To summarize my answer: if instead of revenge you’re proactively doing your work, the results will follow. No words will be needed to see, you’re better, and they will envy.
LDaily: Could you dwell upon the specificities of the IT-business, not typical for other market segments?
O. Kardakov: Responding to your question, first we must understand the definition of business and entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is a person doing something by himself. A businessman is a person having created something, and the others are working for him. Believe it’s very difficult to build IT-business because everything changes so rapidly. Note, a little out of trend – and you’re thrown overboard. I can tell you from my experience, failing to go with the times made the shareholders of IT-market loose big businesses.
LDaily: Most likely, you’re inclined to thorough analysis. Aren’t you?
O. Kardakov:Absolutely. I always analyse both my work and my mistakes. My morning starts with a swim in the pool, and believe me, this is the best time for analysis. At this time a variety of opinions turn into a clear picture, and the most brilliant ideas appear. I also love my little park, and happy to work there on weekends: prune trees, change its landscape. Often in the very such moments, good ideas dawned upon me. And I’ll tell you when I work in the garden, I calm down (smiles).
LDaily: Oleksandr, are you a strict chief? How quickly do you decide, for example, whether to fire somebody?
O. Kardakov:Usually, if I fire somebody it is an entirely balanced decision. Of course, there are emotions, but they still remain merely emotions. One should be afraid of me, right when I’m calm. I rarely make important decisions being influenced by emotions.
If we talk about teamwork, it is work of the entire team. Otherwise, what for was it created? At the same time, everyone has its role and tasks, but it does not mean they do not take part in the fate of colleagues.
If the chief says he has decided so, it means he manages one small company and cannot build an effective system. Believe me, a team, a strong team, makes a business big. Worth mentioning, that behind each key element must stay a manager understanding what a team is doing and why. And each of them should have its own motivation.
By the way, I want to touch upon another issue: for some reason, we have a completely twisted concept of motivation.
Under the “motivation”, it is accepted to imply salary and bonuses, but, in fact, for leaders another thing matters, that is their achievements. Such people want to do something at first, fulfil themselves, and then get a decent pay for their work. I want to get priorities straight: money is important, but it isn’t the top priority. First, something is done, and then paid
Of course, nobody cancelled a situation when people need money, and they work for it, but most of those reaching incredible goals, primarily work to achieve these goals. And my task is to find exactly such people, guide them and even occasionally go separate ways, when they lose such motivation.
LDaily: It seems you are a judge of character and feel right people. Is it so?
O. Kardakov:The fact is that when you work in some area, including the every-day recruitment of people, you learn to see many things. Also, I appreciate when people openly say that the financial motivation is important, because they need, for example, to send a child somewhere, build a house, etc. This is not just okay, this is right because in this case there is a different approach to such person. This employee will be effective on the area where money should be made exactly today. And believe me, this person will be effective exactly in this area.
Speaking frankly, generally, people who apply for higher positions say what they want honestly. And considering their career stories, it is beforehand understandable who they are. Accordingly, the decision is made quickly.
LDaily: How do you see the IT-market in 10 years?
O. Kardakov:It’s a difficult question because no one builds such strategies today. They are ineffective. Previously, the strategy covered 5-10 years; today it covers a year: in exceptional cases – up to 3, but not more.
For example, my strategy covers1,5 years. Six months ago, I finished the work on position of crisis manager in the company Datagroup (remains to be a shareholder – Ed.). Only after leaving the company, I had the idea to create a new IT-project. Six months has passed since the start of working out this idea. A year has left, and you will learn about the new company.
I want to build a company for domestic and foreign markets that implements all the technical innovations, cloud technology and information security systems, Big Data, the internet of things and much more, all the most urgent today.
LDaily: Oleksandr, have you ever thought about the long-term perspective or the fate of your company?
O. Kardakov:Globally there no such, if you mean inheritance. In my sphere, it is impossible.
If I owned a technology of whiskey production, it would be much easier because it is possible to bequest such tradition and teach this technology, and it is much easier than to teach somebody to work in IT. Since as I do not own a whiskey plant, I simply cannot bequest it, and to make someone to work in this segment is impossible as well.
It is a kind of work you must love, and want to learn it by yourself. This market segment is changing every 5-7 years, and if there is no genuine broad desire to keep up with these changes, businesses simply won’t work.
And by the way, I want to tell you that
the global trend today is that the businesses are not inherited, except, however, some very large holding companies. What I do – is a mixture of business and entrepreneurship. Such a project cannot be built so that it work all the time. There will be changes, and you need to adapt yourself and rearrange your business