Hundreds of young IT professionals graduate form Voronezh State University every year. Few of them, however, realise the full range of the opportunities lying before them, and the full spectrum of activities they can apply their knowledge to. A successful graduate of the Faculty of Applied Mathematics, Informatics, and Mechanics of VSU, head of the mobile development at the company Prisma, Andrey Volodin, told us about the importance of basic university knowledge in the most fast-progressing modern area – IT. He also said that sometimes unpopular decisions may result in a project’ success.
“To be honest, I didn’t plan to enrol to the Faculty of Applied Mathematics, Informatics, and Mechanics of VSU. It was just an accident: the Russian Post didn't deliver my documents to the Higher School of Economics in due time. I was upset at first, but then it turned out to be all to the good. I have only warm feelings to the teachers of the faculty. Natalia Ogarkova, vice dean for student affairs, is definitely my favourite”
In 2016, Andrey Volodin developed an application that allowed to apply a filter to any photograph transforming it into a patchwork of triangles. By doing this he managed to attract attention of the company Apple, which, in search of talents, holds an annual competition for students from all over the world. The winners are rewarded with WWDC Scholarships and the opportunity to attend WWDC conference free of charge.
“When I went there for the first time, I had no experience at all, as I hadn't worked anywhere. I had a hobby, I had been working with Swift for a year. This was the only thing that drove me. The internship offered a unique opportunity to talk personally to developers of frameworks that you use. There is no other place where you can get such experience. The great thing about the programme was that I had an opportunity to work with people holding high positions in the company.”
Andrey Voldin says that he first tried Swift just out of curiosity, because it was a popular new programming language. But he had to learn it by himself.
“When my first application was published and 400 of my friends downloaded it, I was overwhelmed. It is much more productive to do something real. Never mind it was far from perfect, but it was meant to be published in an official app store, and that's much better than working on test templates. The time it takes is nothing compared to the emotions this small victory gives you. My application was not the only one of the kind, but it had several unique features. With regard to the code, the trick was that I used only concurrent computing based on Apple technology Metal.”
When Andrey was a third-year student he was offered a job as a teacher of Swift at the university.
“After WWDC I started teaching. It has nothing to do with the internship, though. Even before that, when I was in my third year, I was asked to give a series of open lectures on Swift for second-year students. When I was in my fourth year, I gave lectures to third-year students. Those lectures became popular. I even had students from other faculties coming. Some of the students who presented their projects in my classes, later got job offers. I was galvanised by the fact that I could inspire students, even though there were just a few.”
Andrey Volodin says that programming is in between science and art. Perhaps that is the reason why there are so many smart, educated, and fascinating people working in the sphere. It requires continuous self-development. When you see millions of people actually using something you produced, you feel joy and pride, and also responsibility, as I am responsible for how convenient it is for people to use my product.”
“They often say that programming is impossible to teach, you can only learn it by yourself. And I partly agree with that. It is hard for universities to keep up with the progress in IT, because it takes too much time to develop education programmes in informatics and programming. I should say, in the USA, the knowledge you obtain at university is enough to get a job, as they usually want to see if you have the basic knowledge at the interview. In Russia, however, the situation is different. Our employers search for people with very specific knowledge. I was lucky that I never had to do anything special to be offered a certain kind of job. I worked on projects, people just noticed me and offered me a job, because at that particular moment they needed a man with the set of skills that I had.”
According to Andrey, today's students should value their time at university, as it is a unique time when you can develop your knowledge and skills in the areas you won't have time for in the future. Areas such as linear algebra or mathematical analysis. Pay great attention during classes and lectures. You may find plenty of information about latest inventions and technologies online, but it won't be so easy to get enough basic knowledge yourself. Remember that basic knowledge and fundamental techniques are always useful. They will help you to not get lost in the flow of information, as you can always extrapolate your knowledge into new areas.