Vladimir Natchev, EPAM Bulgaria Country Head, on how the company prepares IT specialists ready for the challenges of tomorrow
Transforming the world into a better place through innovative technological solutions is the core mission of EPAM Systems Inc., a global leader in software product development and platform engineering services. Since the company opened its office in Sofia in 2014, Bulgarian IT talents have contributed to accomplish this mission. In a short time, EPAM Bulgaria became one of the best workplaces in IT around.
The secret to EPAM's Bulgarian success is that the company quickly understood that change is impossible without passionate, forward-thinking professionals. In order to have the right people at the right time, and achieving the right goals, the Bulgarian team established a set of programs that allow engineers to learn core skills and teach them to the next generation, creating impressive solutions and results along the way.
To understand why EPAM strives at building the professional of tomorrow and how it achieves this goal, we met with Vladimir Natchev, EPAM Bulgaria Country Head. He holds a Master of Engineering degree and has delivered multiple successful software projects as a software engineer, architect, and manager. Since 2010, his primary focus has been on building teams and processes across various leadership roles in the IT field.
Vladimir has a distinguishable people-oriented approach and was awarded as the most people-focused organizational leader by BAPM. He is an active contributor to educational initiatives as a consultant, guest lecturer, and organizer of events for the IT community. In recent years, he established EPAM Bulgaria's delivery organization and later became the Country Head of the company in Bulgaria, increasing the team to more than 400 people.
What are the professions of the future?
I believe the professions of the future will reflect the demand for a more curious, intelligent, and technology-driven society. It might be hard to guess the names of the new professions which will emerge, but we know that they will most likely combine familiar skills in new and creative ways.
Occupations like influencer or drone pilot are excellent examples of this. In the software engineering world these would be professions like DevOps and DevSecOps. They are relatively new to the industry, but the concepts behind them existed for quite a while before realizing the need to combine them into a formal title.
What is the top skill set that the employees of the future will need?
The top skills that will be needed in the future are related to complex decision-making, agile thinking, high digital competence and the ability to collaborate with a diverse group of people. The specialists of the future are the ones with talent and a wide technological knowledge. These skills will be needed not only in the IT field but in the workplace overall. People must be aware of the latest trends in software, engineering, IoT, cloud technologies and so on in order to implement them.
What about leaders?
Just as the ones today, the leaders of the future will need to understand that our society is becoming more multicultural than ever, so collaboration with colleagues from all over the world will continue to be something natural and often needed. They must be able to recognize the most pressing problems that their team and organization face and come up with a working solution in a fast and effective way. This is where technology could be of use yet again because it also provides a wide variety of possibilities for training and career development.
Sometimes it seems as if we are already living in the future. For example, in EPAM we strive to support our colleagues and work together with them to build on their skills with their assigned projects and tasks. We want to create a stimulating working environment that will prepare them for what is coming next.
Why is it necessary for specialists to focus on a wide variety of skills?
The modern world continuously presents new opportunities, and people need an expanding variety of skills to benefit from them. The office of the future is not a single place anymore, the number of people we interact with daily will only increase, and technology will continue to unlock more possibilities. We need the skills to navigate this new and exciting reality.
How did the IT profession change in the last five years?
The IT industry has expanded and continued development in the past five years. The growth of cloud computing and cybersecurity has produced new ways of working, enabling companies from all over the world to deploy and share services, to expand their market and revenue models. It was an important step for big IT companies with a tradition in digital solutions and also small startups with potential for growth, which helped them to share their services around the world. Of course, the IT industry was affected by other changes, related to more modern software and updates in digital technologies. However, all these steps were taken in the right direction – to the future, and they made specialists more adaptive and ready to learn in order to change along with the IT field.
How will it change in the next five?
The boundaries between the different roles will continue to fade. I will not be surprised if we drop the concept of titles altogether and exclusively focus on the skills. In other words, I see the future software engineers as a mixture of dozens, even hundreds of micro-professions, which could allow them to create across technology stacks and applications. Of course, this does not mean that people would stop specializing in certain areas, but I expect our future colleagues to have more flexibility and opportunities than we have now.
It is also worth reviewing the progress of the technologies supporting software creation across Cloud and AI. We would see more and more trivial tasks and steps of the software lifecycle getting automated, allowing software engineers to exclusively focus on creating and inventing.
How does EPAM prepare specialists for the demands of the future?
Skills development does not start when one enters the office. The truth is that it starts much earlier. That is why EPAM supports students by providing more learning opportunities and we have established many partnerships in the sphere of education. We organize various workshops and events for sharing know-how. For example, we partner with Burgas Municipality and the Vocational School for Computer Programming – Burgas for the creation of Coding Kids. Within this initiative there are different programs in which students teach programming to their younger peers.
We also recently signed an official partnership with the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics at Sofia University. We are excited to announce publicly that this year specialists from EPAM will conduct a special course and will support the young talents there by sharing knowledge, experience, and expertise from the real business world in order to prepare them better for the future. So, our work is both in and outside the office, both for our specialists and the ones that are now beginning their career journey.
How does the company support the development of employee skills?
While our people create critical solutions with today's modern technologies, we also build an environment where they can innovate and learn the skills needed to create the technologies of the future. EPAM provides a variety of learning and growth opportunities – both internal and external. Our employees are supported to gain different certifications in Cloud, Data and many more. We also have established a digital all-in-one learning and career development platform. This space includes learning material prepared by EPAM experts from all over the world to develop the skillsets and abilities that one would need to reach their target. It enables employees to make mindful decisions on their next career path and work on their skill advancements.
Every EPAMer can create a personalized professional development plan and receive mentoring on every step of their career journey to reach those goals. We even have special internal training and certifications for our mentors so that they can support our colleagues in the best way possible. Recently we awarded some of the most distinguished and remarkable professionals in an event and celebrated their achievements and strong dedication to the cause to inspire others, lift them up and mentor them on their career path. We provide such opportunities because we know that the specialists of the future are growing now, and they need a stable and stimulating working environment, where they can learn from each other and where their ambitions and progress are not overseen.
On what does EPAM emphasize in its selection and training of employees? Knowledge and decision-making skills or passion for the profession and ability to cooperate? Which is more important in the long run?
I think the key to successful selection and training of employees would be a mixture of both. We need people with knowledge and strong decision-making skills because these are professionals with enough experience and expertise that they could teach and share their skills with others. As I said, in EPAM we try to implement such learning and training techniques through collaboration and teamwork.
On the other hand, we need people with passion because the core of our work and the whole IT industry is that – curiosity and interest in new technological solutions. We are searching for those who have ideas, and although they do not have enough experience yet, we acknowledge their enthusiasm and potential to light the spark in others. In 10 to 15 years the IT field will be changed because of digital progress but the specialists who are passionate about their work now will succeed no matter the challenges and changes in the environment.
What is the key success factor for the IT professionals of the future?
The modern IT professionals are not afraid to grow and constantly expand their set of skills. Our profession is driven by innovations and people who have interesting ideas and make them happen. So, a crucial success factor would be the ability to learn, create and develop. The world is changing, and so are the people in it and the technology and the tools they use. But this is the fun in it, isn't it?
Facebook: EPAM Bulgaria