Five years ago I started one more journey when I landed for the first time at the Heathrow Airport from Saint-Petersburg. As expected, many things have changed. Since it's quite a date I want to reflect on the life.
Many things have happened. I've got married to the wonderful Yuki! Lost almost 15kg, got a bit older and slightly athletic. With big regret, I have to say stopped reading books as I used to do that, but still listening dozens of hours of podcast per week. I have broken all connections with university and still thinking of returning back to academia to finish PhD. Started to learn Spanish and Japansese. I'm often having a long walk with the phone to keep in contact with just few friends from Russia. I do socialise here, may be not that much. Back in homeland, I had a many mates from the business/startup industry and I was enjoying spending time with them. Can't say I'm in the startup scene here anymore. At some point it's just slipped out from me - all meetups are telling about the same things, startup attendees - talk about the same issues.
Not so bright as I thought. At the moment I'm more software engineer than I used to be. My previous startup experience definitely pays off and I see my ability to look on the problem from the product point of view is highly appreciated in the companies I worked in. Although I'm growing as a software developer and architect I feel I'm loosing my product and business expertise. I realised potential of the IT businesses very early in my career path but could not make a good use of it and produce some significant outcome.
I was working in a number of companies, hopefully bringing value for the businesses:
- PenceMe (ExcusesToMeet) practically as a co-founder
- Nexmo(Vonage API Platform) as an Android and backend infrastructure developer
- SamKnows as an Android engineer
- RBS Bank as a backend engineer
- Vissy as
an backend architect
I'm very happy to work in those companies using my favourite tool and technology stacks. I'm still in contact with many ex-colleagues.
Work aside, I've been chasing many opportunities in the form of the side projects. I have launched few dozens proof of concepts and was analysing the demand. As one can imagine many of them failed but I don't have regrets about time
spent invested. It's difficult to launch business without trying! Just recently I started to blog about some noteworthy public projects - they are marked with tag project.
Areas I've been exploring - CPA/affiliate marketing, Machine Learning, Bots, Cryptocurrencies, Android applications, data extraction and web content generation, arbitrage. I actually found myself thinking that I can't recall everything I've done - had to check my records.
One of the biggest lesson I learnt - if a person is capable of running a business no visas or borders can prevent from doing so. It's very naive to expect that a different country will change much probability of having a succesful working business.
Over the five years in the UK I managed to have three visas. Two Tier 2 "general work visa" sponsored by companies. As you can imagine it isn't easy to get sponsorship. Last one is the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent which is very unique in the way that there are only 200 visas are given every year for talents in technology and entrepreneur field. To get this visa person has to have a very unique skill set and demostrate world leadership in the domain. I was endorsed by independent Tech Nation organisation. I'm very proud of being in this club and grateful for the UK Government for granting me this opportunity.
Unlike "general work visa" Tier 1 Exceptional Talent gives ability to move between companies without sponsorship as well as incorporate my own and run business. That's what I did shortly after this visa has been granted. If somebody is interested for applying I'm happy to consult and give an free advice, seriously.
The best city really. It's not too crowdy and yet it's very busy. People are working hard and have a fun time off.
London has to offer tons of activities - literally hundreds of meetups a day, countless number of restaurants, pubs and bars. I have only one issue with restaurants - choosing cuisine became such a routine that I'd rather trust somebody's advice or bring lunch from home - that's something unthinkable in my previous life.
Although brexit is almost there London is still attractive for the startups and this ecosystem is booming. While talents from all over the world are coming to the town, investors keep money in the UK, the best universities in the world do their great job and Tech Nation is facilitating processes I'm confident it's worth to run business here.
The city has great connectivity - 24h stop busses and a loud tube can bring you practically everywhere, uber-like services are always happy to lift you for a fiver and it's very easy to hire mechanical or electric bike. Furthermore, it's a huge aero hub connecting Europe and North America, a base to a few low cost airlines.
As one can expect people are very different.
People are very different - nice, rude, welcoming, ignorant, cheeky, shy, emphatic - the whole variety is out there. As for me the most important is to stay in the non-hostile environment I was trying to escape. That's fine if people is minding they own business.
Well, we all full of the stereotypes. Without a shame I'd like to share some thing caught me by surprise:
- Caring about ecology is very important. I'm getting obsessed with rubbish sorting and plastic re-use. It had never occurred to me how much plastics go to the landfill although it could be recycled and reused.
- The UK is home to science! Top world-leading universities are here. Graduates make an important discovery in technology and medicine.
- London isn't rainy at all. It's not only warmer than Saint-Petersburg but also less cloudy! At best, there are a few mornings when you can see snow(I hate it) and normally it melts by lunch
- London has one of the biggest startup scenes not only in Europe but in the world. IT companies are being established here are attracting the best IT specialists all over the world.
- Taxes are lower than in Russia and progressive tax system is used there. In my belief, it's more impartial.
- People with different religions can live and work together peacefully
- Although the UK isn't a big country there is a lot of accents. Strikingly, sometimes native English speakers ask each other to repeat.
- The head of the state isn't a PM but the Monarch. The UK has an "unwritten" constitution. It used to be the empire on which the sun never sets.
- Thanks to NHS I learnt that often we don't need medicine to get well. In contrast, In Russia, it believed that every single illness requires antibiotics. NHS invests in online services and it's often possible to find answers on searches like "stiff neck" on the top positions in
the Google. No one would argue that National Health Care website is more credible than Smith's blog post.
There is more beyond that - a lot of personal things and struggle happen behind the curtain which I don't feel comparable to share.