Passion Is the Key to Success– Interview with Sergey Berezhnoy

Have you ever wondered what working in a large company is like? Or how it's possible to stay in the same job for two decades? Sergey Berezhnoy has done both, so here's what employment at Yandex company looks like from his perspective.

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Interview with Sergey Berezhnoy

Illustration: Lenka T.

Passion is the Key to Success

Sergey Berezhnoy, Director of Developer Relations at Yandex, has been a part of this large team for almost 20 years. Throughout his employment, he has worked on various challenges, such as developing technologies for website creation or leading an interface development school. In an interview with the WebMind portal, Sergey shares his experience at Yandex and reveals what he believes is the key to success.

  • How did you start your career at Yandex? How did you join, and in what direction has your role evolved over the years?

I joined the Yandex team in 2005 as a front-end programmer right after completing my studies. When I went for the job interview, I saw the position in such a company as an opportunity to test my skills and abilities at that time. However, I soon realized that I wanted to become a long-term team member because I enjoyed everything about my work experience.

From the very beginning, I had a feeling that I would learn a lot here, especially because I have such talented colleagues. Over the years, I have been involved in various projects and services, including search platforms, blogs, developers, email, photos, videos, internal tools, and more.

In the beginning, I led a team of four people, and now I manage a department comprising 300 members. In addition to being responsible for developing user-oriented products, I have always had a tremendous passion for infrastructure tools, investing much effort in improving the environment, which is my daily goal when working with programmers. Together with my team, we have made significant strides in this direction. I am a co-author of the globally renowned BEM methodology. In addition, we have worked on projects such as automating testing mechanisms and the build process.

Sergey Berezhnoy

Source: Yandex

In the past two years, I have been serving as the Director of Developer Relations, which entails understanding the needs of developers. It also involves hiring new talents and conducting training programs for developers to provide them with valuable experiences and enhance their performance.

  • As someone with nearly twenty years of professional experience, what would you consider the key factors that have paved the way to longevity and success in a company like Yandex?

There is a common recommendation regarding changing work environments, which often brings a sense of freshness after a certain period. This can often involve transitioning to another company and having different responsibilities. However, that is not the case for me. I have never felt a moment of monotony throughout my career because I have frequently gone through significant transformations and faced challenges that have allowed me to progress and continue growing.

Managing a team of just four programmers is completely different compared to leading a team of 300 people. Moreover, our long-term orientation sets us apart from smaller companies. For example, our code base daily handles a large number of requests from millions of users worldwide. Complexity grows exponentially, ensuring that the work is always exciting. This constant evolution is the essence of our work. Additionally, I would emphasize that the key to success lies in passion, as it keeps us inspired for further development. That is precisely why, even after so many years, I am still with the same company.

  • During your career, you have worked in different service and technologies sectors. Can you name some of the most challenging or influential projects you have participated in?

It is difficult to single out just one thing, but considering all the projects, I have always been a part of those that have a direct impact on the users themselves. An incredibly important product we developed at the company is internet search. When mobile phones became popular, we realized the need to adapt all our products to a single platform. In response, we created an innovative technological solution where we generate code for all the platforms that are part of our internet search. This has allowed us to reduce resources while rapidly deploying new features.

Of course, I would also highlight the work on infrastructure. We have an internal “code library” that can be applied to other services as well. Many people compare us to the Google platform, but they fail to recognize that we are much more than that. Simultaneously, we offer other services that function similarly to Uber, Amazon, or Spotify. What sets us apart is the size of our teams, which is smaller compared to competing teams. This approach allows us to save valuable time and develop new products in a much more efficient manner.

  • As one of the co-authors of the BEM methodology, can you explain what BEM represents and how it has influenced the internal development process? What benefits has it brought to the company and its programmers?

To create a good user interface, you need to leverage a range of different technologies. At the very least, this includes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but the process can also involve documentation, testing, and various other components. Historically, each technological component has been managed by different individuals, each speaking their own “language.”

The BEM methodology is a way to unify these technologies and establish a common terminology. It enables collaboration with numerous individuals, which is particularly important for knowledge and skill sharing. Specifically, we use BEM in a large number of our products and services, and thanks to that, we have been able to achieve better results in a short period of time.

Yandex Company

Source: Yandex

  • As the Director of Developer Relations, what are your goals and responsibilities? How do you collaborate with programmers and cultivate a positive relationship between the company and the developer community?

As someone whose responsibility is to maintain relationships with developers, my role goes beyond just a job title. It extends to areas such as employee education, hiring, shaping organizational culture, and ensuring a seamless experience for developers. As a company, we emphasize giving back to the community and making a positive impact. That’s why we go the extra mile by organizing conferences and providing support for external events, such as the recently held internationally recognized HighLoad++ conference in Belgrade.

Of course, that’s not all. We have a strong desire to empower the IT community and educate young programmers and professionals. That’s precisely why we organize numerous educational projects, with the aim of providing interested individuals with opportunities for learning and further development.

As a company, we genuinely believe that global technological progress can only be achieved through collaboration. In this regard, I would like to highlight projects such as YTsaurus, a platform for storing and processing large amounts of data, as well as YDB, our SQL database.

  • You mentioned that you lead an interface development school. Could you provide us with insights into the goals of the school? In what ways does it contribute to the company’s image and user experience strategy?

At one point, we recognized a shortage of talent in the field of interface development while simultaneously facing challenges in terms of the number of available programmers and their technical skills.

As we usually do, we took it upon ourselves to tackle this problem in the most efficient way possible. We decided to open our own school, addressing both issues simultaneously. This initiative is part of our mission to contribute to the broader community through our work.

I firmly believe that such projects come with privileges. Improving the environment always has a positive effect, not only on the company but also on the overall technological landscape. Our school is not only intended for students; it also provides incentives for instructors. After all, when you teach, you reinforce and structure information in your own mind.

That said, Yandex’s strategy is based on perfectionism. We constantly strive for the most effective solutions, and this cannot be achieved simply if we don’t have talented people within our teams. This is the fundamental reason why we invest in nurturing professional skills, and I believe it pays off in the long run.

Jelena is a content writer dedicated to learning about all things crypto. Her hobbies are playing chess, drawing, baking, and going on long walks. During winter, she usually spends her leisure time reading books.