LET'S TALK ABOUT

W I T H   T O M A S   I N S T E N I K  ( S L O V A K I A )

My name is Tomáš – the Slovak variation of Thomas, I’m 30, and I live in Žilina, Slovakia. I was born here and spent the majority of my life here. I have a Master’s degree in Applied Informatics from the University of Žilina. However, at some point during the studies, I decided to focus more on the practical side of things rather than obtaining formal education.

Since early childhood, I spent a lot of my time around computers, though most of it was devoted to games. Logically, I decided to stay nearby and slowly moved towards more creative areas of IT like 2D graphics or composing music.

A big part of my decision process is affected by getting inspired by other people, and my older brother played a significant role here as I usually just followed his study decisions up until the university. After that, the roles reversed, and I was the one to recruit him into the company where my professional developer life started.

How would you best describe what you are currently doing, and what would you like to achieve?
I am an Android native developer/architect, which means I try to have a good understanding of the Android ecosystem and come up with the best possible solutions for the challenges I get presented with daily

Oddly, I’m still trying to find the ideal spot between being satisfied with creating a well-polished product, taking a reasonable time to finish my tasks, and balancing work with personal life.

What inspired you most to become a programmer?
The idea that the concepts I work with are entirely abstract, logical and precise. Often the power of computers and automatisation allows us to solve problems nigh impossible to grasp for a human brain. Being a programmer gives me control over these mechanisms, meaning I can create complex automated systems out of virtually nothing!

What do you consider most important in the IT-sphere, and why?
I’m tempted to say the Internet. The fact any information can flow freely all around the world enabled us to create a colossal electronic brain encompassing the whole world with each device – each user connected being an imaginary neuron in this network. Over time and especially recently during the COVID pandemic, more and more activities have been moving into the cybernetic space, and we gradually became more and more dependant on being online. New challenges in online security, privacy protection, freedom, data control and monopolisation appear daily with the potential to threaten the whole ecosystem as we know it.

Have you always worked as a programmer?
I had a part-time student job as a tester for 1.5 years. After five years of university, I found a full-time job as an Android developer without prior Android experience, but I caught up quickly, and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Have you already made a significant programming error?
Not sure whether there is something that stands out. Many smaller ones for sure. Luckily, thanks to git, it can be straightforward to understand when and how a problem was introduced and quickly resolve the situation, even if something happens with git itself. Furthermore, with code reviews on everything I submit, severe problems usually get noticed long before finding their way onto the phones of
our customers.

Why did you decide to develop for ANDROID?
Interestingly enough, I first decided on the company I would work for and then went on to learn what I needed for the position. A close friend was already working there, and with his encouragement, I was given a chance to learn on the go.

The first project turned up to be a somewhat complex application for a large car manufacturer, which we managed to bring to a triumphant finish with a bit of enthusiasm and sacrifice. I was developing with a small lowend Samsung phone that was perfect for catching up performance and design issues, as well as practising my patience.

What do you think are the most significant benefits of ANDROID?
I would say they are also its disadvantages, depending on the point of view – as an open platform. It can run on practically anything. It is open for modification. It is actively developed and changes often. Do you need a smartphone for under 120€? Quite sure it’s not going to be an iPhone. How about a thermal camera, generous battery, or superior protection against damage? There are Android phones that have that covered.

How do you perceive working with a device whose OS is ANDROID?
It’s usually a happy round of developing on a wellfunctioning device (I prefer Google Pixels for their real Android) and then applying fixes. Hence, the applications also work on Samsungs, Xiaomi’s, and other alternative brand phones, which take some system specifications with a grain of liberty. Often there are problems with phones that have uncommon screen dimensions, special battery optimisations, or faulty OS API implementations. Sometimes the application will run incredibly slow on a specific device, or not run at all, because something the OS should support is not present.

What do you think about the IT-sphere?
It is getting more and more complex. Everything is constantly evolving, and it can get a little overwhelming. It’s then easy to lose track of what’s going on. I know people that have given up on keeping up with the newest standards and instead became masters of their specific technologies, which may sooner or later become obsolete, meaning the whole circle of mastering a new technology needs to start again. I read somewhere that every ten years half of the IT knowledge a typical IT person has become obsolete – this is something unprecedented considering how demanding working in IT can be. With the advent of IoT and continuing digitalisation of all aspects of our life, we will probably need to have more specialised IT people. Not even mentioning what AI will be capable of within 30 years.

What are the key advantages and disadvantages of international cooperation with IT companies?
From my experience, the number one reason is the financial one. For an American project, contracting a firm from Central / Eastern Europe is cheaper while the quality is incomparable with Indian or Chinese contractors. Another point comes from size and specialisation – the market is vast, so there is enough space for highly specialised small IT companies as well as massive software houses to coexist. The origin-country of a company does not play any significant role on the Internet, so having access to the international market, a client can choose from a wider variety of suppliers.

ANDROID and iOS are in long-term competition. How do you feel about it?
I’m happy about it. Feature-wise, the systems feel like they are 80% the same to me, but thanks to the fact they compete for the market speeds up their development and helps push down the prices. The two systems are fundamentally different in philosophies – Android embraces diversity, while iOS only runs on a handful of device models. This makes Android apps way harder to develop and debug, while iOS gives the developers some guarantees that simplify the development process and help polish the applications more. At the same time, iOS gives ess freedom regarding what the app can do with the phone.

Do you like “PROGRAMMER LIFE “?
I love it! Even before COVID, we were not required to work from the office, and I would sometimes use it to organise my life better in some situation. I have worked from northern Germany, Moscow, Eastern Slovakia, and tons of other places.

To a certain degree, I am free to choose where and when I work, which is a unique privilege even today. Another thing is these long technological discussions with other programmers. The downside would be that non-IT people usually get left out from these conversations.

Does the work of a programmer affect you in everyday life? For example, how do you perceive other programs and applications?
Absolutely. When I am in the process of resolving a complex issue, I lose touch with reality to a certain degree and focus solely on the problem. I can sometimes come home from work and be useless for any reality-related activity. Many people mention it, and I can only confirm that a programmer’s brain works 24/7, and often the solutions come in unexpected moments. It is also worth to monitor one’s well-being gradually as burnouts can happen to anyone.

Regarding other programs and applications, I can respect their creators for the amount of work that went into the projects. When I see something malfunction or the user interface is confusing, I can sometimes guess how the internals of such software work and navigate through it more accessible. Same with bug reports that I imagine are more detailed from me than from the general public.

Can you tell us what technologies you like best? Explain why?
As an Android native dev, I get to work with Kotlin which is a very modern language fully compatible with the Java ecosystem, providing a smooth transition for Java devs and all the tools and libraries from Java world.

My personal favourite would, however, be git – there never was a problem I wouldn’t be able to resolve with it and the further I get into it, the more I enjoy its powerful simplicity. Having the power to quickly analyse the code and perform repository modifications efficiently from the command line has something oddly mesmerising about it. Also, the force pushing to develop or master is a unique experience.

What do you think about an International Magazine focused on people?
The exchange of cultures and ideas, various viewpoints on the same things, is something with the potential to enrich every individual. We can find the things we have in common and get inspired by the success stories of others. Sometimes a random idea can get stuck with me and completely change the way I perceive a situation. Such a medium provides the conditions for this to happen.

What is your opinion on education, academies, lectures, and various motivational webinars?
I’m a big fan of Stefan Zweig’s writing habit to remove everything that was not necessary for his works, sometimes shortening a 700-page book into mere 200 pages. I would sometimes welcome such simplification in education. Some lectures and webinars provide a lot of material, but in reality, have nothing important to say. Similarly, back in my university, the energy was often invested in unimportant things instead of building a useful and practical knowledge base. No guarantee being an expert in a specific field warrant the ability to teach about the subject. In the end, it comes down to myself having to figure out what works for me and what lectures and webinars should I attend.

Which culture is most interesting for you, and why? (European, Asian, African, American)
If I were going after the degree of differences, I’d go with Asian. Still, I think I will stay with Europe – we have nations with opposite mentalities and the distances between countries are so small, that a car drive from Slovakia to Spain can be done under 27 hours. At the same time, we all share common roots and get along pretty well. I think European culture is currently one of the freest in the world.

Which amazing and fascinating countries do you like and why?
I spent two semesters studying in Finland, and I fell in love with the country and its people. I also like the directness of Israelis, the cheerful temperament of Spaniards, the incredible organisational skills of Germans… Last year I spent six months travelling around Europe and in basically every country I managed to experience something memorable and meaningful. The experience one gets travelling opens the mind.

Do you have any ambitions or visions?
My plan for life is not specific too much. I want to be happy and useful to others. The latter is much harder to do without the former.

Which are your most significant career dreams?
Tough question. I’m tempted to answer. I am happy with my current position and would like to stay here until I start getting the impression I stopped improving. So for now (things change all the time) I can say my career dreams have been fulfilled.

Which quotes best describe you and why?
I’m a big fan of dark humour and awful jokes, so I’ll quote Homer Simpson: “I have no money and three kids. Why can’t I have three money and no kids?”

It’s foolish, but at the same time, reminds us that if decide to be unhappy, we can always find something in our lives that we dislike and something we desire to obtain instead of focusing on experiencing the moment happening right now.

What kind of advice would you like to give to people?
Brush your teeth, look at both sides of the road before crossing, rebase your feature branches often to ensure smooth merging… 

I’d advise people to play with the way they see things, look for a new perspective, question their perception and understanding. To form opinions based on the information they find and not the other way. And to not be afraid to sometimes fail on the way to success.

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