Anna Yakusevich's Story: from SMUZI to Prisma or the Life of a Startupper
Anna Yakusevich's Story: from SMUZI to Prisma or the Life of a Startupper

Anna Yakusevich's Story: from SMUZI to Prisma or the Life of a Startupper

27 may, 20227 minutes to read
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We often hear that opportunities are open to everyone these days. Anyone can master one of the popular programming languages and open doors to any company. But do things actually work this way? To give an unequivocal answer to this question, we spoke to young programmer Anna Yakusevich.

23 years old, she lives in Cyprus and works at Prisma, running her startup SMUZI at the same time. We tell her story first-hand.

Anna decided to start our Zoom conversation with her admission to MIPT. Anna Yakusevich comes from Ukraine and moved to Russia back in 2014. When she entered the Faculty of Radio Engineering and Cybernetics in 2016, she immediately embraced student life. But learning C and C++, in Assembler is not very inspiring, is it? So, Anna decided to try her hand at Swift, learning this new programming language in the evenings.

Being a third-year student, started to study machine learning and take some additional courses, because the university made it possible. For instance, there were courses from DeepPavlov, which was essentially based at MIPT. There was a department related to NLP.

At about the same time I got my first Mac, and at some point, I decided to try iOS-development. I was doing it simultaneously with my other studies, i.e. I was learning Swift, trying to do something on iOS.

At some point, I realized that it was not enough for me to just read the syntax, read how to do something. So, I started looking for some courses that would give a full-fledged overview of what a novice developer needs to know. That is how I came across Tinkoff Fintech, and I applied for this program.

It's amazing how one can do so many things in parallel, but Anna had time to study at Tinkoff Fintech school at the same time mastering ML/DS (NLP). All in all, before we start our story, we should say that doing several things at once is normal for Anna and most likely for many startuppers. And already after graduating from fintech school Anna was able to get a part-time job at Tinkoff. Later, after graduating from university, she got a full-time job at Tinkoff Mobile.

All of us who had successfully graduated were called in for an interview. Next day, HR called me and told me that I was admitted.

We studied at this school for three or four months. Once a week we came to Tinkoff office, listened to lectures, asked questions, and sometimes wrote code right at these lectures. We also had homework checked by Tinkoff developers. All the activities added up to a single score, and you had to score more than a predetermined limit to be successful.

I joined the product team at Tinkoff Mobile, a cellular operator, the Tinkoff Mobile app. It was a classic story: I started with fixing bugs and small tasks, and then they started giving me something more serious.

- In 2020, I graduated from university after the pandemic had already begun, defended my thesis and Went on working full-time. I held on to one full-time job for a few months and then went looking for start-ups.

- Why?

- It was interesting to try something new, because working at Tinkoff was quite monotonous. It's a classic iOS developer's job - going online and displaying the data I received on the screen.

So later I joined two startups at an early stage.

Working at Tinkoff and two startups in parallel did not last long, and at some point she concentrated on one - SMUZI.

- What is SMUZI?

- It's a mobile application for creating music videos creating projects together with friends. Project participants can record their own tracks (audio or audio+video). As a result, the app generates a music video for them. At the present stage it is a collage.

- Should creators be together at one place or they can connect online?

- They can move videos online. You can record from any country. As a matter of fact, this is where this project began because our CEO is a professional musician. And when the pandemic started, she had the question, "How do we do anything at all?" because of the quarantine. And the idea arose of creating an app in which you can shoot something while in different places.

When I was preparing to leave Tinkoff, I could not see any further opportunities for self-development in this company. It was possible to grow further in the field of architecture and processes, but I was not particularly interested in this. I was more interested in dealing with new technologies.

Tinkoff is a large corporation, there are some peculiarities, such as providing support for older versions of iOS. That is, startups support only one or two versions, while Tinkoff supported three or four. Imagine, new technologies were presented at WWDC, so you looked at them and got happy. But you can put them in the app only three years later.

Having started SMUZI development at the end of 2020, Anna and her team managed to achieve some important results. First, they redesigned it to be more understandable. Second, they managed to get into the Apple eCamp.

- What is Apple eCamp?

Apple Entrepreneur Camp is an app-building technology workshop for company founders and executives from underrepresented backgrounds.

In eCamp, we had an opportunity to ask questions online and get advice on the best ways to use Apple software and best solutions to some problems, as well as the ways of how to develop further, and in what direction. We could ask Apple experts directly. In fact, we came to face-to-face sessions, and asked questions on various topics.

eCamp culminated in a demo-day where we presented our project to a large audience. After eCamp, we received one year of technical support, i.e. we could write to the partnership manager and ask questions. They could rally help us with some issues.

- So, do I understand it correctly that in order for SMUZI to go on, you need some money, as someone has to pay for servers and other expenses. How do you manage this?

— Things are still tough. We invest out own money. We are actively looking for investments. Our CEO recently returned from the Silicon Valley and plans to go there once again.

It should be noted that SMUZI has not yet managed to attract investors, and the entire development of the project is carried out at the guys' own expense. Therefore, six months later, Anna had to look for a job again. She did not want to work in a large corporation, so this time she chose Prisma.

Tinkoff is a corporation, that is, all procedures were quite strict, there was a rather strict decision-making hierarchy.

Prisma makes it easier because it's more of a startup spirit. If you have any suggestions, you can come up with them and discuss. Perhaps they will be taken into account if the idea is worth it. In fact, you have many more opportunities to influence further development of the project.

— When did you come to Prisma?

— After Apple Camp. I was running out of money and  could not continue to work full-time at SMUZI. For about three weeks I was looking for a job and running around for interviews, and as a result I came to Prisma.

— So it was you who found them, not vice versa?”

— Well, it is a little bit different… I talked to Palta, of which Prisma is a part of. I talked with other startups, and we did not find common ground with them. And then, literally few hours apart, my CV was sent to Prisma by HR from Palta, and by a friend whom I asked to transfer my CV. Therefore, I would say that we found each other.

At Prisma, I now do photo, video, and audio related tasks. Now I'm more into video and audio, because I managed to learn quite a lot in these areas during my work in SMUZI.

— Tell me, how did you get in Cyprus?

— Prisma is an international company. They gave me the opportunity to relocate to Cyprus. I decided to use this opportunity given the current circumstances.

- Tell me about your daily life. How does it feel living in another country?

— I rent an apartment in an apartment building in the center of Limassol, in the old town. It takes an hour to get to the offices on foot, but you can cooperate with colleagues and go by car. It takes, probably, 20 minutes by bus.

Some colleagues had moved here earlier, they had some time to settle down. Someone moved about a year ago. They can tell you all the know-hows, because they have already learned everything.

— How are things going in Cyprus now?

- It is good, it is warm here. Palm trees outside. Today is one of the rare days when it rains.

Anna's story does not end with this note, it goes on. And if we summarize the question that I asked at the beginning, we can say this: yes, now the roads to almost all companies are open for programmers. There are enough online courses and schools to learn languages. But do not think this is an easy way, and you will achieve success in a couple of years. You will have to work hard, and most importantly - love your job. Otherwise, nothing will work.

27 may, 2022
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