SUSU Graduate Alexey Zakharov: Follow Your Passions

Alexey Zakharov graduated from the Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Computer Science in 2009. In 2012, Alexey joined Lyft to build their first Android app and led the entire Android engineering team until his departure in 2018. Lyft is a transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco and is valued at $15.1 billion USD (June 2018). Alexey currently works at Instagram.

– What was it like working at Lyft?

– I want to clarify that I no longer work at Lyft. What I say represents my own opinions and is not affiliated with the company. From my experience, working at Lyft is quite similar to working at other established Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook or AirBnb.

– What are some of the biggest technical challenges you’ve had to face in your role at Lyft, and how did you and your team overcome them?

– I don’t think there is a particular challenge that stands out. I started working at Lyft when it had only 20 employees and around 1,000 users. Since then, the company has grown to over 4,000 employees and hundreds of millions of users.

With that said, I was constantly solving three primary problems - building new features within strict timelines, growing engineering teams, and scaling our systems to support a growing user base.

– What university experience proved valuable for your work at Lyft?

– I think the biggest thing that everyone should take away from university is how to successfully learn new skills and understand technologies. Knowledge of specific databases, web, etc. becomes irrelevant very fast. But the process of learning new things stays with you for the rest of your life.

– How often do you use Lyft? How do you think the service is compared to the others?

– I use Lyft at least once a week. My primary mode of transportation is bike right now. I think of the Lyft versus Uber competition as competition between cell phone networks. They are very similar and nobody new will likely join the market anytime soon.

– How is Lyft continuing to innovate for the future? How can the software you have helped to develop continue to improve?

– Lyft currently has numerous branches of innovation. From what has been publicly announced – “autonomous driving technology”, “integrating lyft with public transit”, “Lyft electric scooters and bikes” etc. You can think of Lyft as a Google of transportation.

My focus at Lyft was mobile app development and the majority of Lyft services are provided to users through those apps.

– Lyft, Uber and similar ‘gig economy’ apps are often criticised for too low driver wages and the lack of employment benefits such as sick pay. How do those criticisms make you feel?

– I think someone else can answer this question better than I can.

– What advice would you have for computer science students around the world, or for young people interested in studying computer science at university?

– Follow your passions! And do well in math and physics classes.

Natalya Shankova
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