At Babbel, our endgame is getting people to have conversations with other people, in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at.
This round we’re talking to Alex, a Principal Software Engineer at Babbel.
Who are you, what’s your role at Babbel, and how long have you been here?
Hi! My name is Alexander Sulim, but you can call me Alex 🙂
At the moment of writing, I have been working at Babbel for four years already, having joined the company in July 2018. During this time, I was promoted from a senior to a principal software engineer, which is my current role.
Tell us what your typical workday looks like.
As a principal engineer, I work not just with my team (Tech & Tools rocks!), but join projects of other teams and assist them. Usually, I plan my week and workdays in a way that allows for dedicated time slots with teams and their projects, some quiet time for documentation, doing research, and planning architectural changes, alongside some time for myself to learn or try something new and grow professionally.
I love writing diagrams. Yes, “writing” is the right word here, as I use a tool called PlantUML that allows me to express diagrams using text. Sometimes one picture diagram is worth a thousand words, you know.
Which languages do you speak?
How has working in an international “multi-culti” workplace been so far?
I recognize and value the chance to be part of a multicultural environment. Berlin, by itself, is such an international city, and having been here for 8 years, it’s become the norm for me to be in such environments. It’s been a great opportunity to grow and learn how different people view the same things.
Let me share a funny incident that happened recently. In a conversation with colleagues, I used the phrase “my two cents”. The Russian language has a similar saying with the same meaning, but it uses a different currency and amount. It sounds like “my five kopeks”. This was amusing to my colleagues, as they didn’t know this was a common phrase in Russian too! Now I’m thinking, could it be possible that one of these phrases is a translation and the difference in the amount could be explained by the exchange rate between two currencies?
What’s a soft skill that you use at your work often?
Positive thinking and optimism. I believe that at work, anything can be solved. Especially if you have an amazing team around. It’s also important to always look at problems with a learning perspective.
What’s something that you’ve created at Babbel that you’re most proud of?
Besides features delivered to Babbel users, bug fixes, and a couple of software tools created for colleagues and me, there’s one project I’m very proud of. It’s Hack && Tell.
Hack && Tell or simply H&&T is a monthly event for everyone at Babbel. It’s a time to celebrate creativity, desire to learn, and… mostly to learn from mistakes. It’s a chance for people to discover something new about their colleagues.
During H&&T gatherings, four presenters have a chance to show their projects. In the end, there’s voting and the author of the most voted project gets a special trophy. The trophy is unique and can be kept only until the next event, where it could be defended or handed over to another winner.
The trophy has a little story. Originally I was planning to buy something on Amazon, put a “Hack && Tell” label on it, and that’s it. But this idea was discarded because a trophy cannot be special and have any value to winners if they could simply buy it on the internet. So I ended up making the trophy myself using parts of my old MacBook Pro. That allowed not only to create a unique object, but also something that reflects the spirit of the event.
Using this as an opportunity, I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Gaelan and Ben, members of The H&&T Crew, and everyone who presented their projects or simply attended our events. You make H&&T awesome!
What challenges are you most animated by? (These can be challenges with becoming a team lead, work related challenges etc.)
I do love making things and solving software problems. There’s one crucial aspect, though: everything must have a purpose and that purpose must be a good one.
What’s something you appreciate about your experience in your years at Babbel?
As with people, companies don’t remain stagnant over time. They change and adapt to the constantly moving world. Babbel isn’t the same now as it was when I joined in 2018. However, despite the many changes, there is one thing that has stayed a constant – the company keeps supporting and creating an environment where people have a chance to learn, try something new, and grow professionally and personally. In that way, Babbel is a learning company both inside and out.
It’s also the people who make a company. So for me, the best benefit Babbel provides is the chance to work with all the amazing people.
Want to work with Alex as one of his creative peers? We are looking for Engineers (all genders) for some of our Berlin teams. Apply here.