Finding Work: Your money, enjoyment and contribution

cord helps Engineers direct message other people looking to hire them. But finding work isn’t just about access to hiring managers…

Finding your best work is a life’s journey uncovered through an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the world around us.

The Best Work Stories podcast hosts conversations between Ben (Co-founder and CEO of cord) and Founders, CTO’s, Software Engineers and people in tech who are on their own journey to find their best work.

Transcript

Nikita Koselev (00:00):

The career must bring you money because it’s important. It must be something you like because it’s important and it also must be something which should bring other people value.

Ben Henley-Smith (00:13):

Yeah. Where did you start with those three circles?

Nikita Koselev (00:18):

The job must bring money. In my case, I’m the only person working. Although my wife, she has three degrees, she still cannot find a job. I’m from an extremely poor background. Let’s say that at some point in life, we had to choose potatoes in the market because we couldn’t afford just potatoes, it had to be the cheapest. And when I started my first job, my dream was that I will eat yogurt every single day from now on, because before I got a job, I couldn’t afford yogurts very much. I tried first when I was 15, it was mostly due to using psychological stuff but still. So money is important because when my relative needed a heart surgeon’s attention, we just paid for medicine and stuff just out of our pocket.

Nikita Koselev (01:08):

Now, you must like it. When I was choosing what to do after the school, actually, I started choosing before I finished, one year prior. I was thinking, okay, so I’ve done all those tests which should show you the job, but the problem with the tests, they are a bit outdated, like 10, 20 years, so they don’t have all the new jobs. I realized that I like finance, I like computers and I like kind of helping people. So finance, no, not kind of, I like having people, but I think this time, I wasn’t really thinking it. I didn’t realize it.

Nikita Koselev (01:49):

I couldn’t go to study economics, it was kind of pointless, as I thought, because if I studied economics, most probably, the best job I would get will be this person in the bank. IT was the obvious choice for me. We have money and we have something which interests me.

Nikita Koselev (02:06):

Now, it should contribute to society. I think the first project I did, I’m not sure if it ever saw the light of the day, it was for government, but I’m not sure it was ever used. But currently, I’m working on projects. It’s more maintenance, to be honest, but I’m third line support there for the moment. I cannot tell you much about job because it’s … I cannot. But I know that tens of millions of people are using our software every day and they benefit from it a lot, although they don’t know it and it feels good.

Ben Henley-Smith (02:46):

What does it mean to you to do your best work?

Nikita Koselev (02:51):

I’m at the level when I became a bit selfless, it’s like an opposite of selfish. I see it the same way as driving. When I drive my goal is that everybody gets home as safe as possible with me getting to my point in time. So I will tend to drive in the left lane doing 70, but still in the left. At work, my priority will be to make sure that we have good understanding in the team and that everybody can work and that if have issues, we’ll find them out as early as possible. And if the goals are set, then, the right goals. Literally, yesterday and today, I just spoke to a few people, I had a meeting and instead of five lines task, now I have, I don’t know, a hundred lines, but it specifies what has to been done, when it has to be done, why is it being done and resources you can check because this will affect people because when I go on vacation, I don’t want people to suffer because some goal is not finished.

Ben Henley-Smith (04:00):

How do you go about finding your best work?

Nikita Koselev (04:03):

Well, I found this job. It was the way … It’s like clean clothes, that smells. When I saw how they interviewed people for work, when I got sick on the second day at work, and I got three day of sick leave and it wasn’t a problem at all, when I see how they treat maternity and paternity leave, which are amazing, best in UK, then, it is a good indicator that maybe their work will be interesting as well. Let’s say the work itself, the environment is healthy. That’s important.

Ben Henley-Smith (04:44):

I’d love to know about the experiences that you’ve gone through in the past where you’ve had to make a decision between two different routes, where you’ve, for example, interviewed with two different companies. How have you gone about comparing those two companies together?

Nikita Koselev (05:04):

There was one interesting case when I was choosing between a highly paid development test on contract, really well paid and a permanent job not as well paid, of course, as a [Calypso 00:05:24] developer in an investment bank. I’ve chosen the second one. I think it was the right decision. The main reason was that the environment was toxic and the one it was toxic-

Ben Henley-Smith (05:36):

And you knew that from the interview?

Nikita Koselev (05:36):

No, I was already working there.

Ben Henley-Smith (05:37):

Okay.

Nikita Koselev (05:45):

I managed to get to the position when people are happy with me, but I’m not happy with people being shouted at, I’m not happy with, let’s say, developers treating test engineers as a second class people. For me, the culture was more important than maybe twice the salary in money.

Ben Henley-Smith (06:05):

Hm. How do you assess culture if you’re not already in it, when you’re talking to companies that you don’t know? How do you assess it?

Nikita Koselev (06:15):

You go to their toilet. No, seriously, you ask for an excuse and you go check the bathroom if it’s clean, if there’s some paper, then you get a feeling. Also, you look at the employees, you look what they look like. You go to Glassdoor. I’ve just refused a company even to go to the first stage because I’ve checked their reviews on the Glassdoor. I once didn’t buy a sofa because on the Glassdoor, people were saying that there’s sexual harassment in the production line, people are discriminating females, so I said, no, I’m not buying a sofa from you guys. So you do your background check before you go to the office because if it’s really bad, you’ll find it even before going to the office. If they treat somebody unjust, then it’s not the place to be.

Ben Henley-Smith (07:15):

How do you do it when you are remote? I guess you have things like Glassdoor, but how do you assess a company’s culture when you can’t eyeball someone or go there to … ?

Nikita Koselev (07:30):

For example, let’s say [Cadurans 00:07:30] company. I like them very much. They’re doing extreme programming. These guys contribute to London, job community. These guys contribute to meetups. They have a lot of free stuff. They have open source and their salaries are transparent and they have a few more things like that. And their Glassdoor is quite good. So maybe I’m wrong, but all those smells, they kind of show that it’s a good company.

Nikita Koselev (08:02):

The same goes for us. If you go and check our reviews, if you speak to people who work there, if you check [inaudible 00:08:13], for example, if you have a friend there, you can ask about sick leaves and how they treat. For example, mental health sick leaves because I’ve read about a company, I don’t know the name, but the person, she tried to commit a suicide and the other day, they expected her to work. So you probably don’t want to work at such a company.

Nikita Koselev (08:41):

You should be flexible. You try to find anything you can about this company. And then, you need to be critical because not everything from what you find might be true. Because for example, when I was reading reviews about our company, I found that a person who did the same interview as I did had a very different view on the interview. But I had to not neglect, but I had to understand that yeah, her review is her review, I understand why she wrote it, but I choose to disagree with her.

Ben Henley-Smith (09:17):

Hm. Can I take us back to the moment where you’re making a decision about or when you’re trying to figure out how to assess a company when you’re talking to them, because I thought your point on the culture and the bathrooms was really interesting.

Nikita Koselev (09:37):

For me, you need to really understand your values. You need to start working from you. I would say there’s five questions, why do you want this? Why do you want to work for a company as such, not a specific company? Okay, let’s say to earn money, but why do you need money? Oh, to make my family safe. And so and so. I realized that … These days, I realized that I’m working to support my family and also live a life, have time for studies and so on, which means that ideally, my job should be remote.

Nikita Koselev (10:33):

Ideally, my job should be meaningful because if I help a lot of people, it also creates cashflow for the company. I think you need to understand your values. Then, you can find companies which will be close to your values. They will never be following exactly your values. So then, we can start working.

Nikita Koselev (10:59):

For example, I was talking to a guy … Okay, I wasn’t talking, I was in a podcast and I was asking questions in chat. He works at Microsoft and I think he works on the GVM, but I’m not sure. And they got him from Moscow and they waited for his visa for a year and a half. That doesn’t happen often. He said that there are two ways to get a job in such companies. One way, you can go through the recruiters and second way, you can become noticeable.

Nikita Koselev (11:36):

Find the open source projects which these companies work on and start contributing a lot. If you have your values clear, my values are helping people, working remotely and ideally, have a way to help people with money because my relative is studying to become a doctor and I can support him here and there.

Nikita Koselev (12:01):

So you understand these values, you find the companies which have the same values and you will see them. At Cord, if you open the company description, then, actually read it, actually go to their page, actually look what their website looks like. If their website looks not very professional, then wait, that’s the first thing people find about their company. If they don’t care about what they look like, then maybe it’s not as good on site. Then, start working from there. Check if they’re contributing to open source. If they do, go and check their code.

Ben Henley-Smith (12:36):

It’s interesting that you would assess a company on whether they’re contributing to open source, but it also works both ways. To be noticeable as a company, you should contribute, and as a person, you should contribute.

Nikita Koselev (12:52):

You should step out of your boots and think why they do it because they want to know if you fit into their culture, they want to know if you can actually work. So if you are contributing into their open source, you already work for them and you removed all the risks from them, or most of the risks, you can still introduce some critical back on their code. So they can actually check how good a worker you are for a prolonged amount of time and you can check what are their standards for cleanliness. Do they put enough time into preventing errors from happening? You can also check charity projects as well, if you want.

Ben Henley-Smith (13:33):

Yeah. Why don’t more companies use that as a recruiting idea? By-

Nikita Koselev (13:39):

Which one?

Ben Henley-Smith (13:40):

Open sourcing part of their code base, even though they’re not open sourced by nature and encouraging people to work on their projects if they wish.

Nikita Koselev (13:50):

Companies are different and business people are very smart, so they must have their reasons. For example, maybe for the Ministry of Defense, it’ll be slightly more difficult to go open source than for somebody else.

Ben Henley-Smith (14:08):

Sure. Maybe more startups could make some of their code more accessible.

Nikita Koselev (14:12):

Some of them do. They extract their APIs and some of them do. There was this French company, I don’t remember the name, but they do their API management tool, they do open source. So if Microsoft does open source, then why cannot you?

Ben Henley-Smith (14:31):

Yeah.

Nikita Koselev (14:32):

They are the last company you would expect to do open source, with all respect to Microsoft.

Ben Henley-Smith (14:36):

How else can you figure out the cleanliness of a company’s code base without them open sourcing their code or working there? How do you figure that out during an interview process?

Nikita Koselev (14:49):

Depending on what the company is, two questions I might ask if I remember to ask them. The first one will be, why did the previous person leave? The second would be, can you show me a piece of a project you’re working on, your normal day?

Ben Henley-Smith (15:05):

What advice would you give someone making a decision about where they work next?

Nikita Koselev (15:11):

You need to start with yourself. You need to understand what is what you really want. You need to think about this triangle. Mine is on the small part there. Don’t sell your life for money. You will be very unhappy in that. Think of something more, think of something which you’ll like and think of something which contributes to society. Sometimes, this job, at least you’ll understand that, okay, this job is only about money, but it allows me to get to this next job which will be not only about money. And yeah, find a mentor. Find a mentor from London, [inaudible 00:15:51] or somebody else. It helps.

Ben Henley-Smith (15:54):

Oh, Nikita. I’ve loved it. Thank you so much taking the time out.

Nikita Koselev (15:57):

You’re welcome. See you later, Ben.

Ben Henley-Smith (16:00):

Yeah, that’s been so much fun.

Nikita Koselev (16:02):

Yeah.

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