CTO Meetings: Victor Kushch, Fairmarkit

Surname: Victor Kushch

Society: Fair market

Job title: CTO

Start date current role: May 2017

Location: Boston, MA

As CTO and co-founder of the intelligent procurement company Fairmarkit, Victor Kushch oversees the company’s entire product vision, focusing on leveraging data, analytics, and automation to revolutionize the way companies buy the things they need. Kushch was previously CEO and CTO of KU64 Inc, a digital agency focused on agile development of Python / Django web applications, and held various leadership positions in IT.

What was your first job At the age of 12 I got my first job translating ERP software from German into Russian as part of software customization. This project introduced me to the technology and gave me hands-on experience from a young age. Plus, I was just blown away to see its effects.

Have you always wanted to work in IT? Computers and networks have always made my heart beat faster. From attending competitive programming sessions in schools, to hacking various IoT gadgets around the house, to creating early versions of automated models on MatCad. My early IT work slowly shaped me and helped me find my own way in the industry.

What was your education Do you have certifications? What are you? I did my Masters in Engineering at Mogilev University of Technology in Belarus, where I was born. After moving to the US, I threw myself headlong into a series of self-education courses on extending domains in Cisco networks, object-oriented Python patterns, science and deep learning, frontend and DevOps. In addition to formal training, I’m also a big fan of project-based self-learning for real, hands-on experience. Nowadays, pair programming is another fascinating tool that I use for quick knowledge transfer.

Explain your career path. Did you make detours? If so, discuss it. I grew up in Belarus and attended university before moving to the US in 2013. I knew early on in my apprenticeship that I wanted to build and design. In my early days, I had roles in ERP integrations and financial software modules. As I got more involved in IT and project development, I developed a preference for leadership and team development.

After moving to the US, I ran a digital agency called Clever IT Systems with the aim of helping different types of businesses with the next level of IT and product setup. As an entrepreneur, I have also developed some e-commerce products that have taught me a lot about international business practices, sourcing, sourcing, and more. During this trip, I saw the untapped potential of the procurement industry and realized that companies were falling short in terms of purchasing power in all vertical markets. Many were desperately looking for innovation. Long working hours and frequent conversations with my current Fairmarkit co-founders about procurement issues led us to seek better ways to shop for companies.

What type of CTO are you? I would like to think that I am the CTO who drives innovation, not only in our product but also in our team. I believe in developing great ideas no matter where they come from and I love working with tireless people. I believe that it is better to try and fail than to play it safe.

What new technology are you most excited about? The biggest area I’m most excited about is data science, with domains like natural language processing, ranking algorithms, and transferred learning. I’m also excited to learn more about DevOps as one of the drivers of development team efficiency. Our team has also started experimenting a lot with UI / UX for enterprise products, with the main goal of creating simple (but powerful) flows for everyday use.

Are there any technologies that you think are overrated? Why? I would say blockchain. Although it is a strong technology with great relevance in the real world (like cryptocurrency or document system), I see many cases where it is purely for name recognition or investment attraction.

What unique initiative you have taken over the past 12 months that you are really proud of? I can think of a couple of initiatives. One of them is the CIP (Continuous Improvement Program) for the area of ​​our development flows. With full transparency and feedback loop, the process is a great addition to our other agile frameworks we use on a daily basis.

In addition to CIP, we are very proud of our diversity and inclusion initiatives at Fairmarkit. In my experience, diverse teams promote well-rounded decision-making by bringing different perspectives on the same problem. We keep seeing companies make D&I commitments with their wallets and not incorporate them into their actual product. At Fairmarkit, we enable our customers to achieve D&I on a large scale by diversifying their suppliers and enabling them to tap into local, BIPOC and female businesses. One thing that all businesses today will recognize is the importance of effective D&I. I am proud to say that we not only recognize the importance, but have made it a central principle of our procurement platform.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it highlight customer experience and sales growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? At the moment I am concentrating on the digital transformation, both from the point of view of the product and the company’s internal processes. There are several techniques that can be used to accomplish this, including running a variety of small MVPs in different areas that can be disrupted. We try to drive the customer experience with a strong focus on our customer base and operational experience with the ultimate goal of making things more efficient.

What’s the biggest problem you are currently helping your customers with? Due to interruptions in the supply chain caused by pandemics, effective cost and delivery management is urgently required. Companies are finding that the things they need are simply not available because the factories where their suppliers make products have closed. Therefore, supply chain management is a business-critical function for our customers that we take very seriously. As we advance into the COVID era, supply chain management will continue to be a unique selling point for companies looking to improve and scale their efforts without breaking the bank.

How do you align your use of technology with business goals? Fairmarkit was developed with a customer focus. From early product research to the latest product lines, we always try to make them customer-centric and have an open feedback line for constant improvement. At Fairmarkit, our goal is to make it easier for companies to purchase the supplies and services they need. Specifically, we help companies with their tail spend and provide effective ways to track and manage purchases that make up 80% of a company’s spend by volume and billions of dollars. The technology we use – automation, machine learning, data analysis – is primarily shaped by these goals. We knew we needed the technology and tools that could make sourcing faster, easier, and more efficient.

Do you have problems aligning the product / service strategy with the technology strategy? I think we are well positioned with our service and tech strategy. Our team consists of exceptional professionals who bring product and technology strategies together, which enables us to achieve steady growth without slowing down the speed of product development or introducing too much technical debt.

What constitutes an effective technology strategy? Surround yourself with a well-coordinated team that is aligned with the company’s mission. Our team’s experience spans a wide variety of areas, from cloud architecture to high performance application design. If we are aligned in our goals and pursue the same mission, our customers will believe in that mission too. As a tip, I would suggest clearly separating R&D from productive implementation. I see a variety of projects where breaking this rule results in complex and difficult to support products. Enterprise-class quality can shine through fast R&D MVP.

What are your predictions for the role of the CTO in the future? The modern CTO needs to process and aggregate as much information as possible in order to produce innovative next-level products. The growing amount of data and new technologies make this process more and more complex. As a future-oriented CTO, it is important that I can quickly build a personal network to optimize a better design with different opinions.

I also believe that we will feel the effects of this pandemic long after the vaccine is widely available, and the workforce (although mostly hybrid) will continue to be largely remote. This is a long-term consideration for CTOs who need a more flexible approach to hiring and running technical teams.

What was your greatest professional success? I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve built at Fairmarkit over the past few years. With a lot of hard work and zeal, we have pushed our boundaries and continue to find ways to use advanced technologies like analytics and machine learning to enable our customers to source efficiently. We have embraced automation like never before and understand the incredible power it can bring into the procurement process – especially the manual and everyday steps in that process. We have over 50 clients including names like Snowflake, Cabot Corporation, Blue KC and more representing a wide variety of industries. The best part is we’re just getting started.

If you look back at 8:20 p.m., what would you have done differently? I would have implemented cross-functional SWAT teams for the most complex areas of the company. The collective intelligence, the variety of perspectives and the agile approach can make the impossible possible.

What are you reading? The books are currently in front of me The difficult thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz and The innovators by Walter Isaacson. The API documentation and SDK for Amazon Prime are also worth reading if you are thinking about hosted scalable messaging services.

Most people don’t know that I … As a child, I was hungry for new experiences. In my childhood I tried more than 50 hobbies. I still love swimming and keep moving back to electrical engineering.

In my free time I like …I love tackling DIY projects, playing mind games, and traveling with my family and friends.

Ask me to do anything except … Take the carousel (I get motion sickness!).

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