From Five to One Hundred Employees: What AMC Bridge Was Like at the Start
What do we know about AMC Bridge today? 5 cities, nearly 700 employees, 140 customers. It hasn’t always been a big company, though. Besides, the numbers do not tell much. To get the real sense of AMC Bridge, we have interviewed four of our very first colleagues and asked them about the time when the company was ten times smaller.
Read the stories they have shared below.
Dmytro Buzoveria, Director, Cloud Computing Department
I joined the company in February 2001. Back then, it was called Aquasoft and employed 5-7 people.
Our ‘office’ was located in a two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a Khrushchev-project building, Husenko Street, Dnipro. The first room contained a large sofa, a coffee table, and a desk with a single computer. The second room had two desks and two computers. My workstation was in the second room, but we mainly worked from home.
Those were nice times. People learned programming using paper books, the concept of cell phones and laptops seemed farfetched, and the home Internet was so slow, I’d never call it ‘Internet’ today.
I believe that many processes the company lives by today have been forged in that apartment. None quite knew what the right way to manage projects was. There were no ready-made recipes to use, so we learned by doing.
Around 2002. Dmytro is second from the left
At first, things were extremely informal. You would get a task at the office, go home, do it, bring the result back to the office on a Zip drive or CD. With time, we started using Bugzilla, emailing each other, spending more and more time in the office, and sending weekly reports at the end of the week.
By the way, the first version of our weekly report was called ‘a few words.’ At the very start, we had no voice meetings with English-speaking customers. The very first specified technical process we developed was BankBroker. Our job was to build and deploy the project. We all worked on the same project for the same customer. After a while, we started having voice meetings once a week. We usually celebrated after each meeting.
If we needed to talk something through, Vadym (Vadym Synakh, now COO and Cofounder of AMC Bridge, editor’s note) sent an email or called our home phone (none had a cell phone). Meetings with Igor (Igor Tsinman, President and Cofounder of AMC Bridge, editor’s note ) were held on Wednesdays. He would call the office phone from the US, and we would all gather in the second room and turn on the loudspeaker.
We used to hang out together a lot, played pool, Quake, Unreal, and other network games (I know, the policy on installing software on work computers was exceptionally mild).
What has changed? Everything, I guess. And it’s OK.
One thing that remains unchanged is the principle not to build "concrete airplanes."
We have always known what sets us apart from other companies: we will never go and build a concrete airplane blindly. Even if the customer is ready to pay for it. We will discuss the project with them, indicate risks, and suggest effective solutions.
We always stick by this principle.
Olga Chaika, Senior Software Development Engineer
I joined the company in October 2007. It was called Aquasoft and employed around 50 people back then. It had two offices, both in Dnipro: one on Hoholia Street (same as today; only it used to occupy only the fourth floor) and another one on Lenina Street.
I worked at the latter. It had a large, cozy kitchen, where we could all gather to celebrate birthdays and other important events, hold English classes and meetings with the Board.
The first day I came, I was told the principal rules:
- We don’t use middle names.
- We address our colleagues using the informal ‘you’ pronoun (‘ти’). The reverential ‘ви,’ typically used in formal Ukrainian and Russian discourse, is reserved only for much older colleagues.
- None sets any time tracker to ensure you spent exactly 8 hours working. We assume that everyone is responsible enough and focused on doing their job well.
Before Aquasoft, I worked at a plant, so I wasn’t used to such ‘liberties.’ I particularly remember a conversation regarding the start of my first workday:
– ‘Shall I come at 9.00 AM?’
– ‘Oh, no! That’s way too early. None will be there at that hour. Let’s say 11 AM!’
At the time, Vadym Synakh worked as the Director in Dnipro (Vadym Synakh, now COO and Cofounder of AMC Bridge, editor’s note). Maryna Voloboi was our HR Manager, but she also took on the Office Manager’s and Event Manager’s duties.
In the evenings, Maryna would bring us delicious donuts. She also organized our teambuildings. Vadym personally interviewed job applicants.
February 2008. The team goes skating. Olga is second from the left.
I can’t think of any particular differences between work processes now and then. Naturally, there was less red tape. But it inevitably comes with company growth. Today, you can’t just talk to colleagues and managers across the table to solve a problem.
In any event, the company that has grown from 50 to 700 employees can’t help changing. Going to a corporate party today, you see more and more new faces while the number of familiar faces grows lesser. Despite that, AMC Bridge hasn’t lost its warm-heartedness, openness, and good nature. I am as comfortable working here today as ever.
Oleksandr Bezotosnyi, Senior Software Development Engineer
I joined the Aquasoft team in 2007. I was still a fifth-year student of the Applied Maths department, and my experience included a few C++ programming courses at the Uni.
In 2007, all newbies started their training on internal projects, the same as today. I was no exception, but half a year later, I passed the interview and joined my first customer project. It was called Star-P, and its goal was to achieve parallel computing in MATLAB.
The project was tough for me because it involved many technologies I’d never worked with before: MATLAB, Python, Java, Bash Script, MPI, and so on. It also allowed me to go on my first business trip to the customer in Boston.
2011. Oleksandr is in the picture center, wearing a white shirt.
Our office life slightly differed from what we have today. Since there were very few people, we knew each other very well. We had lunch together, celebrated birthdays with the whole team. We had a tennis table and used to hold tennis championships. Outside the office, we went to cafes together, bowling, and playing pool.
What has always surprised me is the variety of backgrounds our colleagues come from: banking, medicine, aviation.
In 2008, my Uni classmate, Oleksii Antonenko, joined the team. We still work together.
2010. Oleksandr is fourth from the left, Oleksii is third from the right.
What’s changed? Of course, as the company grew, people have become more distanced, but I still maintain the same warm relationships with people whom I’ve known from the start.
Oleksii Badin, Project Manager
I joined AMC Bridge in 2011 when there were about 100 colleagues. By that time, the office had already spread to three half-floors.
One of my first memories is of Natalia Zarubina (now Director of the Human Resources Department, editor’s note) telling me that everyone refers to colleges at work using the informal ‘you’ (‘ти’). No matter what his/her title or age is. I haven’t checked whether this rule has changed or not, but I continue relying on it talking to all my colleagues.
Overall, 2011 was one of the hardest years for the company when we lost a major client. It seems, however, that this has made the company even stronger.
Oleksii at his desk. 2012
Were the processes any different? Well, we didn’t have a PMO (project management office, editor’s note), so the processes were less ordered.
Regarding the question of what’s changed and what’s remained the same, I’d say the most important things that don’t change are relationships within the team and the friendly atmosphere at the office. I suppose our basic hiring principle works well.
What’s changed? The unwritten rule to bring cakes to every floor on your birthday has eased. I believe that’s happened when the number of floors reached five and continued growing. If you take the total number of colleagues (around 200-250) and divide it by the number of days in a year, you’ll see that we could have been running a high risk of diabetes had things not changed.