Interview with Zhenya Rozinskiy

Welcome to the second interview from “Quality Talks with TLC Speakers” series. This time we have Zhenya Rozinskiy with us. And I am sure you will enjoy this interview as much as I did. 


What made you choose “Build, Manage and Succeed with Remote and Distributed Teams” for your tutorial in TLC? What can participants expect to learn from your tutorial?

“To move to the world of remote and development teams has been around for a very long time. It’s been around since the first time people decided to sit in different offices of Natsume, and then that expanded and expanded further to different floors in the same building, building across the street, in the same town, different towns, different states, different countries. 

But up until last year and earlier this year, some people made a conscious choice of remote working, some liked it, some didn’t like it. Some people had a choice and people didn’t have a choice. Nobody knew back in March of Feb this year if people would be sitting close to each other, in the same office, or area if they would be working remotely. 

I happened to be involved in the distributed workforce for over 20 years. It’s different, the workforce management with the remote setup is different than doing it in person. It’s not that it’s worse, just different. 

And so what I chose to do is share some of the knowledge, some of the skills, some of the underwater rocks that people will experience or already experienced and stories of how I dealt with it. How my team dealt with it over the past 20 or 20 plus years. Does it range from how do you hire what do you pay attention to? How do you manage? How do you even know if somebody is feeling good, feeling not good, feeling motivated, you know?

How do you make sure that you people with different personalities get along together with different work styles, with things that you took for granted? And some people are friendly to openness, to casual, some prefer being formal more. It doesn’t matter what culture it is but, when somebody new comes in, you mould them into this culture. Well, in everybody’s mould, there is no culture. You’re mould everybody. Everybody’s on their own. And yet you have to have a culture. Like what mode of communication your office culture prefers? Open voice policy or in closed rooms? Do you instant message or chat? Do you do this late at night and you do this in the morning? Do you speak straight to the business or are you a teacher? Is that appropriate if my child runs in the middle of the meeting and sits on my lap? All of that is now completely different. What is it with a culture that has to change? So there are many, many things that we can address in discussion.”

How different do you think the remote format of tutorials would be compared to in-person format? How do you plan to keep it as effective as it would be otherwise?

“I think the format is different, but luckily I’ve been doing online tutorials and classes and presentations for many years. There’s a fundamental difference in conversation when I do a lot of things. When I am in the person sitting in the room and I’ve got 20 people, I can easily go and say, who thinks that I can walk around and I can have a conversation and then I can actually like to do this.

I like to have discussions where I drop seeds in people’s heads and then let them discuss. They could agree with me or disagree, they could challenge my ideas or challenge each other. I prefer letting them discuss and be a silent observer there. 

And then I see how that’s working because that’s where a lot of interesting ideas come out and a lot of learning comes up. It’s very difficult, different and difficult to do it online because you can have two people talk at the same time. Facial expressions are different. Some people have cameras on. Some people have cameras off. And there could be lags. People interrupt each other in the process, unknowingly.  So there’s a lot of that. That’s what I’ve been doing for many years. Not the first time, or the last time. We’ll make it work.”

How would you explain your job as a tester to someone who is not familiar with the field?

“This question is probably not applicable to me. I have to share my background. I started in the tech field as a tester. My first job in the high tech field, I was a key engineer, probably that is more of a fancy title, but I guess Tester could have been a more appropriate title for a company that most of you know called Autodesk. I was working on a project called Architecture that was my first job and actually built my technical career. That was I became an automobile engineer if one can say. Later I became a director, became an IBM, and then I moved to a different and a little different role. So I want to describe myself as a pastor today, but if the question is more applicable, how do you describe the job of a tester? It’s a representation of your clients in front of your product owner. So you are the client. You are the face of the client. And when somebody wants it’s not about fighting, but people think that testing is about five bugs, 20 bugs. It’s just you have to find them, OK, we’ll find them. But it’s about making a product that your customer would enjoy happily.”

What’s the biggest mistake you see leaders making and what would be your advice to rectify it? 

“That’s a tough one. There are so many mistakes. The people in leadership roles are interesting, I frequently question their leadership.

Not allowing the opinion of other leaders. That’s probably the number one mistake.

I also think people mix up a leader and manager role. Sometimes people get the title of the leader but they are meant to be managers and vice versa. Everybody knows the first mistake that most managers need to address, is that they’re afraid to hire people that are smarter than them. Once they learned that mistake, then hopefully they get to a situation where they never hire somebody who is not smarter and more knowledgeable.

People need to understand that there can be more than one correct answer to the majority of the question, yes, there are some that are very clear. There’s no right or wrong, but there is more than one, the correct answer maybe? And if some of your team members do not agree with your views or think differently, please let them go ahead and develop on it. Let them take over because of their idea, they will do everything they can to defend it, defend it in a way, make it happen. When they’re implementing your idea which you enforce on them and. if it fails, they can always come back and say it was your idea. That might lead to petty arguments. So. Let your people do things. Doesn’t matter how junior they are. No matter how small the task is, but it is their task and you can help them do it better.”

What’s the most rewarding part about leading people?

“To see them grow. The best manager that I’ve ever had in my life, the best leader that I ever had, the person that was my boss more than 20 years ago, and is still to this day, I remembered him and thought about him. He came to me one day and said, it’s time for you to move on. You’re ready to take on a different role and it’s not going to happen in this company. And he actually helped me find a job elsewhere. And I’ve done the same for other people, I worked with other people and know you outgrew this, I can’t give you what I believe you deserve. So let me help you find a job. So the most satisfying thing, I think is for the family or at least for me is to find the right spot for you or for your employee. Sometimes it means you move things around. Sometimes it means you move people out.

Helping people grow, mixing them together by recognising their talents and helping them fit where they belong to, and making most out of it for them, for the team and the product, gives me the satisfaction of special kind. “

Thank you, Zhenya for the interesting conversation. I am looking forward to attending your tutorial.

Dear readers, if this interview inspires you and makes you curious about the tutorial that Zhenya is offering with TLC then don’t miss this chance and sign up for it soon. Below are the details:

About the Interviewees:

Zhenya Rozinskiy

CEO Mirigos with nearly 25 years of software development experience, Zhenya had an opportunity to help grow and make successful many companies of different sizes and different maturity levels. Zhenya is a renowned expert in building and managing globally distributed organizations. With experience working with teams on almost every continent, Zhenya developed unique know-how for successful software development with remote talent. Zhenya is a frequently invited speaker at international conferences and has co-authored multiple books on subjects of leadership, remote management, and product development. For the past six years, Zhenya has been focused on helping local companies to build efficient use of remote people and teams.

About the Host:

Astrid Winkler

Astrid is a budding freelance journalist and content writer from Switzerland. Creativity is her passion and writing is her lost-and-found love which she is willing to develop with more care. Connect with Astrid on Linkedin or follow her on twitter @AstridWinkler4