Getting the lowdown on Research and Development from Sasha Popov
In this edition of our Employee Spotlight series, get to know Sasha, the Director of R&D, track her journey at the company for the past five years, and learn about the ins and outs of her department.
From developers and engineers to marketers, those dedicated to customer success, sales leaders, HR representatives and beyond, our Employee Spotlight blog series surfaces stories of the amazing individuals behind our AI-powered Personalization Anywhere™ platform. Every month, we get to the heart of our team so you can get to know us a little bit better and find out what makes us tick.
This month, meet Sasha Popov. One of our more tenured employees, Sasha’s been with us for over five years now and is based out of our office in Israel. She’s witnessed our R&D department shift and grow since 2015 and continues to tackle new problems with innovative solutions every day. Let’s learn more about her…
What’s your role at Dynamic Yield?
I’m now the Director of Research and Development (R&D). I started my career at Dynamic Yield five years ago (I can’t believe how time has flown by!) as a Software Developer, and since then, I’ve grown and flourished, eventually earning my Director position in the department.
What does your background look like?
Following in my mother’s footsteps, I started coding when I was 14 for a summer job. Back then, it was all about information systems, which was very boring compared to what we do at Dynamic Yield. Then, I went on to study Computer Science at Tel Aviv University, after which I landed jobs at BluePhoenix Solutions, Dell EMC, and CTERA.
I actually first heard about Dynamic Yield from a friend who had been working here for about six months at the time. He told me how it was a fast-paced, young startup, why he loved the technology, and he raved about his team and the founders. Eventually, he sold me on the notion of applying, and the rest is history.
What specifically piqued your interest in R&D?
Aside from my educational background, working in R&D has afforded me opportunities where I’m constantly challenged – instances where I must tackle problems head-first. It forces me to think creatively, and I get to work alongside really smart, talented people along the way. Additionally, R&D provides a diverse range of career opportunities, and I’ve really grown these past few years at the company.
Can you paint a picture of the R&D team for me?
R&D at Dynamic Yield is broken into what we call “gangs.” Each gang is composed of several software developers – some front end, some backend, and some Big Data developers. Each developer belongs to a gang, each of which is dedicated to working on a different part of the product.
Each engineer also belongs to what we call a “guild,” a cohort of their peers based on their role: one for front end, one for back end, and one for Big Data. We created guilds to provide our team members with opportunities to strengthen their domain expertise, provide and receive advice from peers, open up the floor to new ideas and innovation, as well as seek technical support for any projects. At least once a quarter, team members work with their guild for two weeks, using this time to focus on technical research and embrace innovation. This allows them to take a break from their core projects and sharpen their skills, which I believe is essential for every team member’s long-term professional development.
Typically, team members remain within a gang for a couple of years, but members are able to switch gangs over time and explore different parts of the department, allowing them mobility and helping them grow and hone their skills as they develop their careers.
How do you come up with solutions in the world of R&D?
Part of my responsibility as a Director is to bring the right people together. When our team is facing a new problem, it’s important that I bring people into the same room and give each of them an opportunity to voice their opinions. We often brainstorm together and eventually consolidate multiple ideas and opinions. I try to listen, challenge my team about their ideas, and steer conversations toward a productive direction. Ultimately, it’s about bringing the best out of the talented people on my team, and I’m proud of what we accomplish when we work together.
How have your skills grown during your time at Dynamic Yield?
I’ve obviously learned a lot of technical skills during these last five years, partly because the product we’re working with is so interesting. Specifically, I had to learn the intricacies of a SaaS platform, how Big Daa works, what large-scale systems and interfaces look like, and how to build and refine a product that truly is technically advanced. I’ve also learned important soft skills, especially the importance of fine-tuning my ability to problem-solve.
How have you learned technical problem-solving skills?
I’ve learned how to not be intimidated by things I don’t fully understand, or even the unknown. I’ve also learned how to seek help and guidance from those that have knowledge and skills I can learn from. I believe that every problem has a solution, especially when it involves talented people putting their heads together.
In your experience, what is a common challenge R&D teams face?
Part of R&D requires moving quickly and developing new capabilities, all while maintaining platform stability to ensure our existing customers continue to have access to our tech. We also need to be able to attract new customers on a regular basis, even as we develop new features, so maintaining this balance of innovation and stability is challenging, but also very familiar to most developers in R&D departments at tech companies.
Do you have any advice to others looking to develop careers in R&D?
Never be afraid to bring new ideas to the table. Even if you make mistakes or your opinions aren’t immediately heard or recognized, keep treading forward. It might be intimidating to start a new job or pursue a new career path, but working in tech requires grit, and at Dynamic Yield, we value those who speak, embrace, and trust their ideas.
A second piece of advice is to always let your creativity shine. Creativity is probably the most unassuming trait of a good developer, but it’s extremely important. Software development is about coming up with solutions and teaching a machine how to solve problems. Even though it’s often perceived as rigid or nerdy, it’s really powerful and rewarding. When you see an idea in the infancy state – perhaps something you simply bounced off a colleague – grow legs and come to life, it’s extremely gratifying. Witnessing it making an impact and garner users all over the world is an amazing feeling, and the process to reach that point is incredible to be a part of.
If you want to learn more about Sasha or ask her any questions about the innovative R&D team here at Dynamic Yield, connect with her on LinkedIn!