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Meet the speaker – Andrei Ciobanu at GoTech World 2023

We’re here with Andrei Ciobanu, a skilled senior software developer who has over 14 years of experience in .NET development and cloud computing. Andrei will be joining GoTech World’s .NET stage on November 9th, so let’s get to know him better.

First, I would like to know when you joined Cegeka and how your experience has been so far.

I joined Cegeka around 2012 when they acquired Inside Software, the company where I was working at the time. I've worked in several divisions where I had the privilege to work alongside very good professionals, from which I had a lot to learn, both in Romania and the Benelux area.

So, it’s been 11 years, so I’m sure a lot has happened. Could you tell me a bit more about your projects and experience in Cegeka?

Sure, let's take it from the beginning. Back then, when Cegeka acquired Inside Software, we were not that many programmers, but the technical level was quite high. I was working in a social renting business in the Netherlands, creating an SAP type of application using WPF and migrating renting applications from Windows Forms. My team and I traveled often to Veenendaal, Netherlands, for knowledge-sharing sessions because the business was quite complex. Our luck was that we worked with some of the best business analysts I met during my career in that period, professionals who were passionate about their work, and I've learned a lot from them.

Then I switched divisions somewhere in 2017. Meanwhile, I moved to Bucharest, where the headquarters of Cegeka were. In this other division, I collaborated with colleagues from Belgium on a project called Kazou, which was a booking system for vacations for children in Belgium. It’s quite a popular platform there; everybody knows about it. I learned firsthand how to build a distributed system that can cope with peak usage. They had peak booking hours twice a year when parents would book vacations for their children for the summer or winter holidays.

After a couple of years, I engaged in a project called QPark; I would say it’s the biggest project I've worked on. We implemented a parking system from physical devices that were programmed to a digital system that ran in the cloud. I was involved early in the project when we had to decide the architecture of the system. We implemented it using microservices, which had already been quite popular for a few years. We basically learned on the job, how to program with a platform from Azure called Service Fabric. First, we had to do a prototype, and then we scaled to 7 or 8 teams, and each team was working on a separate microservice. Those were really challenging times but also a period when my technical expertise got a big upgrade.

In 2018, I moved back to Iasi, where I took over the frontend team of the Alpega product (also in Belgium). They were the second-biggest logistics company in Europe, running a booking system for transportation containers.

Can you tell me what you're doing in Cegeka right now?

Since 2021, I've been working together with ING to develop BPM products (business process modeling). These are software solutions used in the IT ecosystem of ING, serving other employees and downstream services of the bank. These systems work together to provide a rich experience for the people using ING services, be they ING employees or banking customers.

I know you have over 14 years of experience in .NET, but let's go back to your roots. How did you get started in the IT world, and what sparked your passion for this industry?

How I got into IT was not the most usual story, I guess. I was in eighth grade, and I had been studying classical music even before entering school. My parents wanted me to become a musician and a violin player. But this, of course, was not what I wanted. During one of these debates with my mother, she said something like I could do at least something for the future, like computer science or mathematics. And to her surprise, I took on the challenge immediately. Then, it kind of grew on me. Then, I took the exam and went to Grigore Moisil Computer Science High School. Then I learned the basics of how to write code. Soon, I was participating in coding competitions alongside very talented individuals. What was the spark? I was fascinated by how a human can convert abstract ideas into code and the elegance of it. It was like peeking into the deep mysteries of the universe, in a sense. Then there is also the freedom it gives you to be able to write code—the freedom to build anything you want, the freedom to create something from nothing.

That sounds beautiful! I’ve never heard someone describe code so poetically! Now, let’s talk about aspiring .NET developers. What challenges should they prepare for? What’s something you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

Many young programmers are quite concerned about the technical abilities they must learn. I think more important for them will be their capacity to relate to their peers and managers, cultivate business relationships, and build a reputation for themselves. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose, so I think this will become even more important in the years to come, as we already see that the most sought-after skills in the business world are no longer the STEM disciplines but things like prioritization skills and collaboration skills. One of the reasons for this is that generative AI can do so many of the tasks that only humans could do before in the STEM realm.

Given the advancement of technology, it's important for aspiring developers to cultivate interpersonal skills or so-called soft skills.

Indeed, I think that's where they will make a difference. What I wish I knew when I started is that it’s quite important to promote yourself, to be your own PR. Let’s say you did something cool. Make a presentation in the company for your colleagues! It's often the case that other people will get credit for your work, so don't let that happen. Also, be draconic in keeping your good habits.

Again, with the habits. You don't have to be a tyrant to yourself; you should negotiate with yourself. But I think it's important to stick to your good habits, one of which should be self-education and continuous learning. I think this is the most important investment you can make for yourself because, like in financial investments, it compounds over time. The small effort you make every day will have a huge impact five or ten years down the road. One last thing is to leverage the resources from your workplace, training, business contacts, experience in the project, and interesting people you meet. They will help you wherever you decide to go, so don't treat work like just a job, OK?

This is great advice, thank you for sharing it with us! Can you also tell us why you chose .NET and why you prefer it over alternatives such as PHP or Java?

I liked its elegance and simplicity, and it was much faster than Java. It still is, by the way. I remember attending the conference about it organized by my faculty, and I was immediately attracted to this platform. It was also taught in university, and I collaborated during those years with the software company owned by my uncle. He gave me something to do because I was curious about what they were doing there, and they were using .NET. Gradually, I started to work with it, and you know, this is just how the world works: you get drawn towards one thing or another by some set of circumstances, and I guess that was the thing for me.

But nowadays I work with other technologies as well, such as JavaScript, Node, React, and Angular. I try to keep things realistic and understand that these frameworks are just tools, and you should use the right tool for the job. But of course, in the real world, sometimes you just have to use what you know.

So, Go Tech World is approaching; it will take place on November 8th and 9th in Bucharest. You'll be joining the event, and you'll talk about fault tolerance and resilience in distributed systems. Can you tell me why you chose this topic and why people who join the event should not miss your talk?

Throughout my career, I have worked with distributed systems and dealt with these types of problems. Nowadays, I'm collaborating with my team at ING to improve the resiliency of the software we are building, and I was doing some research about this topic when I stumbled upon an article from the Netflix Technical Blog. I read how they are coping with all sorts of distributed system issues, how they are preventing outages, and how they are making their system more resilient. This served as inspiration for what to implement in my project.

People should not miss it because I think this is often an afterthought in software development, unfortunately, the same as performance or security. It should not be the case because it's often more expensive to try to change things afterward rather than keeping these cross-technical things in mind from the beginning.

Before we close, I just want to get back to you and ask you if you still play the violin.

Unfortunately, no, I don't play it anymore, but I do play the piano because I also learned piano back in the first grade. Besides this, I also enjoy playing sports, especially tennis, and I love reading books, especially those with a philosophical touch.

What are some of your non-technical passions or hobbies that you're really enthusiastic about? How do you balance your tech-focused career with these interests?

Balancing the tech focus and career with hobbies and passions is always going to be tough, especially in periods that are very busy. But when I leave my hobbies and passions unattended for too long, I feel an urge to revive them. Normally, I have to save it in my calendar to do it. I plan these activities in my calendar so that I don't start doing something else and then be upset that I didn't do what I wanted.

It turns out that planning is an important part, even when it comes to hobbies.

Indeed. Also, some of these require a teammate or an opponent in the case of tennis, for instance. I have to discuss with my sparring partner when to play, so inevitably you need to plan these things. Planning hobbies also include solo activities like reading or playing the piano. It helps to plan them, too, because there are so many other distractions, and it's easy to do something, perhaps easier at the moment, but in the long run, it's detrimental.

Thank you. This is a great tip for anyone who feels like they don't have enough time for their hobbies or to engage in their passions. Even if it might not sound appealing, a little bit of discipline and planning will ensure you have time for yourself, and your passions, and to relax as well. Andrei, thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to seeing you at Go Tech World!

You're welcome, and I look forward to seeing you at the event!

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