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ASU Faces

Alexander Poddubny

Today’s ASU Face is our former graduate, Alexander Poddubny, PhD in Economics, currently a Chief Engineer with cloud technology deployment and automatization company in Silicon Valley, USA.

Tell us a bit about your days as ASU student. What was it like?

It was nothing unusual. I wasn’t a brilliant student – above average, my grades were good, but not at the top of my class. However, I’d like to mention that I acquired two very valuable skills at the university: how to finish what I’ve started and the second, most important one – how to learn. Not just at the university but throughout our lives. We learn something new every day, and I can say that after – what? – thirteen years, I’m still learning: taking different courses, improving the skills necessary in my field of research. To do that I still use the knowledge I acquired at the university. For example, some machine learning algorithms – I’ve never thought I’d need to use them again, to be honest, but today it’s becoming a reality. The world is moving towards artificial intelligence (AI) and I’m learning the algorithms and the principles – but as it turns out, I’m already familiar with the basics through my university education.  

What I couldn’t learn at the university was English, and it’s still not quite what I want it to be, so you guys need to focus on that, especially those departments where they learn technical stuff. For me it was horrible at first, because I forgot everything the day after I completed the course.

It usually happens like this. What do remember most, then? What is your favorite memory?

My favorite memory is in fact about an exam we had. It had been in a form a test we needed to pass. We knew the app our teacher was going to use but it was password protected. So I’ve developed an app that just brute forced the password. We needed it to know what the answers were. Of course we could’ve taken the long road and learned the whole course, but laziness is every student’s trademark, and we were no exception. Everything boils to the couple of nights before, as usual. It took my program a while to brute force the password – eight hours or so – but it did the job. In the morning when I woke up, the app was open and we knew the answers. We had a couple days to memorize them. This is how we passed the exam – not everyone, just two or three people. 

What is it that you do exactly? Could you tell us a little about your job?

Currently I’m working for a company that provides data analytics software databases to big companies and corporations like Sberbank and Telecom – the top 500, I would say. You can imagine how many transactions Sberbank has, or any telecom company – huge amounts of data that are collected every day. My company’s focus right now is on the ways of analyzing this data, not just storing it. Modern approach to run applications in order to analyze data or do anything else with it is to deploy these apps into the cloud, virtualizing computer resources. And that’s my job. My team is developing a cloud platform by means of which every customer of ours could deploy, run and share their apps or scripts within seconds. I’m working with deployment and verification tests.

Have you got goals or dreams, professional or personal? What do you want to do with your life?

That’s an interesting question. I definitely want to be happy and to do everything that is required for that. Right now I’m kind of happy so it means I’m doing everything right. I have a number of projects, and would like to have time for more, but I don’t. One of the projects is my career and the work I do, which is going well.  I can say that I’m successful and I continue to grow, professionally, learning new stuff. I’m working in Silicon Valley right now, and this place brings a special mindset with it. Every day I come across different startups and ideas for them. I have a few of my own – I just need more time to think them through, and with a full time job, a family and a house to keep, time becomes a rare commodity.

Another project, or rather a direction is – I’d like to publish more articles. I have a PhD in Economics and I’d like to continue developing in that area as well.  I have a couple of ideas in the field of economic research, but right now they have lower priority than everything else. I just want to be well prepared for the future in all spheres of my life.

If you had a choice to do something else, something very different from programming, what would it be?

I’m sure that I’m on the right track, professionally, and I’m pretty happy with it all. But if things were to turn out differently, and Computer Science hadn’t been a choice, I would go for science per se, may be something connected to Economics, Medicine or even religion, in this precise order. These topics fascinate me, scientifically speaking.

If we go back to your university days, what was the best piece of advice you heard?

I can’t really remember any actual advice, it was a while ago. What I do remember is that the subjects we paid little to no attention at the university turned out to be the most important ones in real life, at least for me. It means that students should try to focus on every topic equally, because you never know just what might be useful.

What is your motto, if you have one?

The best what I can come with is: “Work hard and you will be rewarded”.

My last question is a situational one. Imagine that you are seventeen again. Fresh out of school, just got admitted to ASU, with your whole life ahead of you. The catch is that you kept your experience and at least some of your memories. My question is this: Would you make the same choices, do the same things and befriend the same people?

If I could be sixteen all over again – because that was when I got admitted to the university – I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course I made some mistakes but they weren’t critical. I should’ve certainly focused on my studies more than I had but in general I would go the same way. I’d do my best to have more friends, because I realize now how important communications are in our lives and that it’s nothing to be afraid of. And of course I would focus on my English right from the start. Since I didn’t make any crucial mistakes I wouldn’t really try to change anything because if I do, I wouldn’t know what to expect and the future would once again be unpredictable.