In this post, we interview Daniel Rusinov, who joined us a couple of years ago when Xerini was still a fledgling start-up. He had followed his girlfriend over from Bulgaria and sent out a note around our co-working space seeking work programming in Java. We snapped him up and haven’t looked back.
1. What was your earliest experience of tech?
My most vivid memory is probably from the mid 2000s, probably around 2005. I was five years old and I remember my dad and I going into the VHS store everyday as we had a VHS player at home. We had a large collection of cassettes at home, but mainly of movies I was not really interested at the time. I loved mostly animations. I was around five years old and they were very exciting times for me!
2. What was your earliest experience of computers?
My first computer was actually a gift for my grandma. It was a PC and I spent a lot of time playing video games. There was one specifically I remember which was Space Rangers. It was like a sci-fi driving around with 2D graphics. It wasn’t anything very special but it was very exciting at the time! Me and my mother used to play it because she used to read the story while I was just driving around with my spaceship visiting different planets.
3. You went to a very good technical college in Bulgaria, can you tell me what it was like there?
Yeah, I graduated in 2019, and the school was very good. It was great actually, one of a kind and one of the leading colleges in Sofia and Bulgaria, and it’s probably the top one when it comes to college IT education. We had many software and hardware related subjects. We started from the basics, for example web design with HTML and CSS, then operating systems with C, then through object-oriented programming with C++. We studied Java and did quite a bit of Ruby and Ruby on Rails, and a project which I would say I’m quite proud of, which was an e-commerce store. We also studied database management systems such as MySQL and Postgres. We also looked at hardware as well. I did a couple of projects building a remote-control car with ultrasonic sensors that could navigate around obstacles on its path.
4. When did you decide you wished to pursue coding as a career?
Back in primary school I knew I wanted to work with computers. And when I first went to college I didn’t really know what programming is and what it looked like, so I was just interested in computers in general and I used to play a lot of games. But through the years my school gave me a solid understanding on programming principles and practices. So in our school there used to be two classes and two main subjects: there was software development and there was hardware. I chose to focus on software programming instead of hardware, even though I find hardware very interesting as well. For example, I used to enjoy building my own PC by choosing different components, comparing specs and prices. But ultimately programming was more interesting to me
5. How did you get your job at Xerini?
I had just moved to London a couple of months after I graduated from college in 2019 and I was actively looking for my first position. I already had a couple of unsuccessful interviews for a job and I was feeling down, but my girlfriend told me a technology company based in the same office – Plexal – was looking for a junior programmer so I applied. I was invited to an intro meeting with the three directors and, yeah, the rest is history! Something clicked and I was very happy. I was really very happy and grateful for the opportunity. It has proved to be a great experience so far, working for Xerini, I like it very much!
6. Being so young at the time, did you find your first days daunting?
I wouldn’t say they were daunting. But I was thrown into the deep from day one as I had to work for a very big client. But given I was the first employee this was understandable. I had no another choice of course, so I just got on with it. It was difficult, but of course I had help from the founders who also made me feel incredibly welcome and gave me lots of support. I think I did a good job of managing my work. So yeah, I think my first days were a very good experience.
7. What have been some of the technologies you have learned since?
There are actually quite a few; for example, Kotlin, ReactJS and TypeScript of which I previously had little to no experience, so that was interesting. Also MongoDB, Ansible, a bit of Docker and Kubernetes and many more. My favourite one is Kotlin as I’m more of a back-end developer. It’s very interesting, a really nice language and with experience with Java it’s very similar, but more functional and it gives you more power. Yeah, it’s been a steep learning curve for me for the past couple of years, but that’s part of the job and we should always try to stay current with new technologies.
8. You’ve since spent a lot of your career working on an information management system for HS2, can you describe some of the technical challenges you came up against and how you solved them?
I’ve been working for the HS2 project for a couple of years, and I’ve had a great time working with everyone involved in the project and I think our team manages to tackle every task very professionally. One big technical challenge I’ve came up against recently is where I had to load the tile data from an ArcGIS rest service on a map and had problem with displaying the labels of the actual features. I spent numerous hours trying to find a solution to that. I always follow the same steps when I’m solving a challenge. I first try to understand what the actual problem is and it’s very important to have the ability to communicate relevant information with very few words to the relevant teams. The process is always easier if you have clear understanding of what the problem is. A clear description of the actual user requirements is also very important, so communication between the different teams is crucial and plays a big part in this. You should always ask questions which encourage thinking about the situation in from a different perspective. We need to hunt for the relevant logs, and any metrics and system configuration. After that you form a hypothesis and run various tests to test it, forming new hypotheses if necessary until you find the right solution.
9. How was working at Xerini during the pandemic, did you adapt to lockdown ok?
I would say I did manage to adapt to the lockdown and working from home all day, every day. It was not easy at first – I missed the office environment and the interaction with people and colleagues and just chatting about general stuff. I’m very excited for all of us to head back to the office now and work together in the same space. It’s great that we have a very flexible working from home policy, and it was fantastic to spend a couple of months working from Bulgaria and staying with my family, which also helped dealing with the situation.
10. What technologies excite and interest you and why?
Hmm, difficult question, I’m interested in loads of stuff, but especially interested in gaming and game programming. If I had the chance, I would love to spend some time trying to build my own game or, maybe in the future, work for a big game company. I’m also very interested in blockchain, cryptocurrency and smart contracts. And of course, working at Xerini we have the opportunity to do lots of machine learning as well, which is great. So, actually, some bits from everything!
11. What do you like best about living in London?
I have been living in London for about two years now, but I haven’t had a chance to go out as much as I wanted to because of the circumstances. But yeah, hopefully now that things go back to normal, I’ll have the chance to explore a bit more and find hidden gems. I’m looking forward to visiting the famous museums, the history, war, science, the British and it’s amazing how many of them are actually free, which is which is a massive plus.
12. What’s your favourite video game, and why?
I used to play a lot of games back in college and primary school, and I think that’s what the driving force was to pursue a career in technology. I don’t have as much time recently so don’t play as much as I used to. One of my favourite games is Defence of the Ancients 2. It was actually originated as a mod of World of Warcraft. You have a map with three lanes, a five-member team with two teams playing against each other trying to defeat the enemy by destroying their base. It’s a really good, tactical, engrossing game on the PC. I’m also a big fan of old games from the Battlefield franchise. We used to get up to seven to ten people every night and play competitively and for fun. That was on my PlayStation 4.