Ruslan Shagaleyev, Innopolis: “Programmers in post-Soviet countries can be paid much less”

The mayor of Innopolis on Soviet education, programmers’ salaries and competition with the West

Ruslan Shagaleyev, Innopolis: “Programmers in post-Soviet countries can be paid much less” Photo: sk.ru

The International Programmers’ Day was celebrated on 13 September. Innopolis is one of the world centres where representatives of this profession live and work. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent talked with Ruslan Shagaleyev, the mayor of the town where high technologies are born. During the interview, the mayor talked about Russian and foreign IT specialists’ salaries and commented on the problem of the specialists’ migration.

“The profession of programmer is in quite a high demand now

Mr Shagaleyev, can we call the profession of programmer as top in the 21st century? Is the skill in programming compulsory in the modern world?

We live in a rapidly developing world, so I wouldn’t measure in centuries. I am sure that in the 21st century whose one-fifth part we’ve already almost lived the dynamics of technology development will be so that we will see a change of several paradigms, including from a perspective of professions.

Generally speaking, the role of programme nowadays is important in terms of demand and formation of added value of the recreated industry, the Industry 4.0, the software industry, the industry of goods, services and so on.

The profession of programmer — in modern, topical languages — is in quite a high demand now, moreover, all over the world, including in Russia. It enables to have a good, stable salary and at the same time do an interesting, mainly creative job.

The profession of programmer — in modern, topical languages — is in quite a high demand now, moreover, all over the world, including in Russia. It enables to have a good, stable salary and at the same time do an interesting, mainly creative job

Several national projects are implemented in the republic, and Education is one of them. A focus on the inculcation of digital skills in both schoolchildren and the teaching staff is noticeable in the project. How do you assess this vector?

In my opinion, it is a compulsory requirement in the modern world. It is necessary to teach skills and the basics of algorithmic thinking from the first grade, though I think it should be done ever earlier. Yes, probably not everyone will become a programmer when they grow up, and it is good, however, these skills transformed from hard skills into soft skills for a reason. In fact, it is comparable with knowledge of etiquette, the English language, a mother tongue. It is knowledge that a person needs for socialisation in modern-day society. This is why I think the initiative is correct, up-to-date and absolutely useful.

“Programmers in post-Soviet countries can be paid much less than those who live in Europe or the USA”

Many experts agree that the best IT specialists and programmers are trained precisely in post-Soviet countries. How is this explained? Is it linked with the education system?

I will express my personal opinion only. In my opinion, it is linked with quite a strong academic school that dates back to the Soviet era and the teaching level of such an important subject as mathematics. Programmes of our comprehensive schools and higher educational institutions are mainly based on what was created in the Soviet Union.

Mathematics is what one needs to become a good programmer. The very good basics of maths are taught to our schoolchildren and students. What is it to be a good programmer in general? It is a specialist who writes a correct, clean and smart code, and, undoubtedly, mathematics is the basics of it.

The conservatism of our education system has pros and cons, and one of the pros is that the programme on further and discrete mathematics will have a continuation in our education system. It is what we can’t lose

In other words, it is the legacy of Soviet maths school.

Yes, and, by the way, many educational institutions of our country have teachers who have remained since those times, and they successfully pass their experience to other generations. The conservatism of our education system has pros and cons, and one of the pros is that the programme on further and discrete mathematics will have a continuation in our education system. It is what we can’t lose.

Is there really a hunt for our IT specialists in big foreign companies?

Yes, and it is linked with two things. Firstly, we have a very good background. Consequently, a programmer quickly becomes a top specialist after acquiring specific skills for a certain programming language and with a powerful math preparation. Secondly, programmers in post-Soviet countries can be paid much less than those who live in Europe or the USA.

In general one can deal with programming remotely — it is not a mineral deposit, and you don’t have to sit next to the client. You can live in Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan or in any other country and do the necessary job. The employer’s task at the same time is to minimise his costs so that he can pay according to the market in your country. The demand for our specialists is linked with this moment as well.

“Indeed, many don’t withstand and go back”

You hear about the above described phenomenon quite often, but is there any opposite tendency?

As far as I am concerned, indeed, there is an opposite tendency because programming languages, software are now mainly born in the West. At the same time IT and telecom companies really need top specialists.

It is fine in general — a general tendency for globalisation is seen now anyway. There is constant exchange of information and knowledge.

Foreign specialists are needed in both management of big companies and education and to enable our specialists to learn their experience. I can put an example of University of Innopolis where professors and scientific researchers from 22 countries with working experience in the world IT industry work. They teach worldwide known disciplines plus they have lived and worked in this industry in the West.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Foreign specialists are needed in both management of big companies and education and to enable our specialists to learn their experience. I can put an example of University of Innopolis where professors and scientific researchers from 22 countries with working experience in the world IT industry work

Our specialists prefer to go abroad if they can than stay in their home country. What systemic problems do you think this can be linked with?

The question is quite all-encompassing and complicated. To start with, I have already said that to work in a big company one doesn’t have to be tied to it physically. A person can work from any point in the world. A person wants to live next to the seaside, he goes and works from there at a distance. It is a normal situation for a specialist who can afford it. How can we change the situation with the outflow of specialists? We need to create conditions. Now cities, countries and regions are fighting for human capital, as a human is becoming the main means of production, not resources, not feedstock but a human. We need to create conditions where he would like to live, work, give birth and bring up children at the point he is.

In my opinion, the creation of such conditions is one of the utmost goals of our town. A person who comes here should feel free and sought after. He should have decent conditions to live, study, do sport and rest. At the same time his children should have a chance to go to a good kindergarten or school. In general it is not rocket science, we should just provide good living conditions.

A person isn’t inclined to move in general, especially abroad, to a strange environment. Not the language barrier divides people there, as the language is a solvable problem. The case is that cultural values are a bit different abroad, and the cultural environment is different. It is no secret that people in Russia are open to each other, and for this reason, emigration without such a culture can be a serious trial. Indeed, many don’t withstand and go back.

Photo: Roman Khasayev
A person who comes here should feel free and sought after. He should have decent conditions to live, study, do sport and rest. At the same time his children should have a chance to go to a good kindergarten or school. In general it is not rocket science, we should just provide good living conditions

Apart from good conditions, it is important for a younger generation (I mean those who were born after 1990) to feel they are in demand, perform non-trivial tasks, be involved in interesting projects and, of course, get a decent remuneration.

In general the modern youth are shifting from the ownership model to the sharing model. This generation adores travels, and money and an opportunity to work remotely are needed for this. In this respect, the IT industry in general and programming in particular are one of the ideal options.

By Lina Sarimova
Tatarstan