Today’s guest of The Heroes Aliaksey Kartynnik who is a programmer, blogger, author of the ITBoroda YouTube channel speaks about the search for self in IT, a hype startup and the reasons for its closure, the education of the future and Belarusian YouTube.
Programmer, blogger and physicist manager
First of all, I am a programmer, and only then an IT blogger. I studied at the physics department of BSU, and programming was a hobby. At the end of the university (in 2012 — TheHeroes) I decided to make a profession out of this hobby and went on a paid internship at Oxagile. About a year and a half ago, it became necessary to transfer experience to my younger colleagues, junior developers. For greater efficiency, I started a YouTube channel. By that time, I had experience working with this platform as previously I had participated in the filming of music videos. Plus, in our company (SoftTeco — TheHeroes) there were self-presentation courses after which we were told that we needed to learn how to speak at conferences.
But speaking in front of a big audience was weird to me.
Therefore, I decided to utilize YouTube and make videos to my junior employees so that they would not ask stupid questions. As a bonus, it was a kind of training in public speaking but without the presence of the public.
A hype idea startup and a wasted grant
I wasted… well, I spent three years in a startup. At the end of 2015 which was the 4th year of my IT career and I was a beginner middle, I got into the educational startup PUSHka. We had been working on the development of an online assistant that was supposed to help students use online education platforms such as Coursera.
The problem was that none of the courses' creators worry if it was convenient for a person to study, they do not think about their students' schedule.
Besides, only 10% of students at least somehow completed the courses they had applied for. We wanted to provide students with a training schedule based on their employment and increase their motivation for learning. Let’s consider a hypothetical example of Vasya who says that it’s convenient for him to study on Saturday at 5pm, which means we can send him a notification at 3 o’clock reminding his words that he would study, so Vasya you’d better start study.
We wanted to make a training schedule and a smart notification system, and thus increase conversions for sites and increase students' motivation to learn.
We had a very strong team. The bearer of the idea and the project manager was Siarhei Drabysheusky. He is a very strong speaker and manager. We also had Pavel Veluga who is a strong marketer.
We went to the final of the contest from MTS “Telecom Idea 2015” without any code and having just the idea.
Due to this competition, Skolkovo got into the GenerationS accelerator. We didn’t even have MVP, we just had the idea described. The maximum that we could do in half a year as we started was to appoint lessons in a user’s calendar. Do not even draw up a schedule or training plan, but simply merge the user’s calendar. Technically, we had nothing because of my ignorance. But we moved forward and received a grant from the Bortnikov Foundation. I don’t know what we even spent it on… Perhaps, on nothing, but nonetheless.
It was the hyped idea but there were no developers.
We decided that we should go to the IT Academy in the HTP. We gave them a project, and they provided us with students to make code for us. Then I tried myself as a leader for the first time. I led students who tried to do something. We were given a very good EPAM architect Vitaly Vishnevsky. He immediately got involved and told us how to make architecture. I was more like a chief developer and manager, but I learned a lot from Vitalik. This was probably the golden age of the startup when I interacted with a very cool developer and took over a ton of experience.
At the same time, we had been developing the project, but due to the inexperience of students, we were very far behind in the codebase. I had been giving most of my time to the startup, although I managed to combine it with regular work.
Six months later, the students left because we realized that the code they had been creating was absolute bullshit.
We finished communication with the Academy and decided to rely on ourselves. Well, it did not fly. For some reason, we did not think it up to look for developers to join our team. Probably, we were not particularly serious about diving into working on the project fulltime. Although it might be worth it.
Everyone expected from me as a developer that I would show something there. One person couldn’t raise an invented system. In the end, we began to gather very rarely. After 2.5 years, I ended up with my strong-willed decision. Everyone gradually lost interest, including the bearer of the idea, which was especially scary. This hit the team very much.
During this time, we almost finished our main part with the formation of a schedule for a user. The system was almost able to do this. A user came to our platform, registered, downloaded his course in his account and synchronized it with his calendar.
From an architectural point of view, the project was perfect.
Microsoft has allocated a lot of resources for us on Azure, where we all hosted and did not have any problems with the deployment. These resources were allocated for three years, and this period was coming to an end, then we had to invest our money. This also became one of the reasons for the completion. In general, the project itself is one of the most beautiful technical solutions in my practice. We started making microservices when all started doing them and it was hype stuff. Then it was fun.
The project dashed against the bureaucracy and the future format of education
My ideas concern two main hobbies which are programming and YouTube. For all this time, I realized that I should not try to focus on many things at the same time, but need to combine my hobbies. I am looking for something related to IT and education. Last year, I and my friend launched our HTML and testing courses for all ages.
We had worked for a year and thought that we would do a cool program, but 90% of the time was spent on paperwork and management.
Besides, graduates had problems with employment. Nobody from the first group on HTML found a job, and only half of the testing course graduates were hired. It hit on self-esteem, I wanted each of our graduates to find a job. We strongly ran into paperwork, miscalculated with the accountant.
A piece of wise advice to everyone who will start their own business: immediately look for a good accountant because paperwork will slow you down. This was our biggest mistake.
Offline and online education in the form of low-concentration courses a few hours a week is not the best way to teach people. But I like to teach people, so I’m looking for more effective teaching methods. I’m looking at the bootcamp format (The Heroes: Bootcamp is a concentrated training with full immersion, sometimes even with a trip for a few days). So far, it is not very popular in our country but this is what I would like to do shortly. If suddenly someone wants to collaborate, they are welcome.
Initially, the bootcamp was a rigorous program for the rapid training of US Army soldiers. It is like our Young Fighter Course. Quite a long time ago this phenomenon was transferred to different spheres. You give your money, and you are taught something special for 3 months. The format is very cool, it seems to be the future.
For several months, you get programs that university students cannot learn for several years.
You need to understand that if you open offline courses, then you earn on 5 groups at the same time. In this case, the bootcamp is a rather expensive format because it is 10 times more intensive still you can not worry about management because you have only 1-2 groups.
What I do not like about modern courses is that they have dozens of directions, and it attracts people. But it is the teacher who primarily responsible for the quality, and he usually comes with his own program or adapts it for himself. And if he is good then the course will be good. The bootcamp has 1-2 directions, and owners are usually experts in this specific field. So they select for teachers for the program, not vice versa.
Courses are nothingness, it is just an accumulation of marketing tips that allow you to promote certain teachers.
Monetization of a YouTube channel in Belarusian realities
I did not promote my channel anyhow. I have 55000 subscribers and this is not so much, but for the IT niche, it is enough. I started the channel not because I wanted to earn money, but for educational purposes. A little later, an interview format appeared, and I realized that it could be a kind of an exchange of experience. This is not concentrated subjective training through me, but more general training through other specialists. I show the experience of other people.
I like to make content, while I almost do not consider the channel as a source of income.
Everyone knows that you can earn on YouTube if your channel has more than 1,000 users and 4,000 hours of views in total.
I had overcome these figures in six months.
You can earn money on YouTube with Google monetization. It includes all ads that appear in video clips in the form of pop-ups and inline videos. An average price is $3-5 for 1000 impressions in our segment. Large bloggers turn off all this advertising because the earnings are incomparable with direct integrations with specific labels, brands (the price for this varies greatly).
People don’t know how much they should pay for ads, the market is not ready for YouTube.
You can offer the customer a price of $ 80,000 and he will agree! That is, the boys just hope to earn on ads and name the price, but a customer somehow says “okay”. The Russian YouTube market is not ready. In America, everything is more or less settled down. Prices are higher there, everyone knows the average price there, and in our country, nobody knows anything. Can you live on earnings from YouTube? Yes, you can. It does not exceed my programmer’s earnings, but it is bigger than the average earnings in Belarus.
In Belarus, to withdraw money from YouTube, you need to register as a sole proprietor and create a dollar account.
Earnings from advertising will come into the AdSense account, from where it can be transferred to the card and so you could pay the tax immediately.
There are three types of income: monetization of impressions, donations on streams and sponsorship subscriptions. Sponsorship has appeared recently, and it can be launched within a channel with 30,000 subscribers. I connected 2 weeks ago, and I have 20 sponsors who bring $30 per month, which is not so much. I have a sponsorship subscription of three levels: $1, $4 and $10. You can subscribe and donate a certain amount every month. This is your gratitude for what I’m doing. Besides, I write articles for sponsors
I know those who have sponsorship on, but I do not know those who earn on it.
The Expectations and Reality of YouTube NextUP Contest
Once a year, YouTube holds a contest for the best channel creators in each of the 14 previously determined regions. It is a 5-day internship based on their studio with a $2,000 grant and a personal manager from YouTube. I myself learned about the competition from the last year, news where they wrote that a Belarusian got there, and I decided to apply for it myself.
I almost blew the deadline and in half an hour I wrote three essays of 300 words each.
A month later they called me and said that I passed. But 670 applications were submitted. I was the only IT specialist there, also there were guys making content about music, blogs, cars (in Azerbaijani), a channel about Chechnya so they were completely different. All were united by the fact that they did not focus on one format. Even if it’s a vlog, the themes inside are built differently. If a video is about Chechnya, then these are constant samples of new effects and new filming features. It can be seen that the guys who tried a lot of new tips were selected.
On September 10, we came to study in Moscow.
I am grateful to YouTube, it organized all the flights and transfers, accommodation, meals and much more.
At the event itself, we were mainly told about how to make quality content. We were divided into 4 teams, and each had 2 mentors: a participant in previous contests (Dmitry More which was the author of an English channel), and the second mentor was en expert on production from the Big Russian Boss Show. We studied production for three days. We learned to expose the light and work in Adobe Premiere Pro. At the same time, there were held lectures on self-presentation and monetization. In the finale, the mentor and I had been filming a video all day, then spent half a day to edit it, half a day for the presentation of works and afterparty.
My expectations did not come true. We were initially told that it would be training on production, but I did not discover anything new for myself.
There were filmmakers last year, and this year just guys who make some kind of hype content. And I learned a lot due to the latter. We were told about the monetization model, that the market was not ready, how to evaluate the cost of your video, how to look for employers, etc. There was a lot of networking. That was really insightful!
The most important thing that I learned for myself from the practical part is that you need to work with the format.
You need to do more casual content to attract an audience.
It was a kind of discovery to me that casual content does not work negatively on a channel, but attracts an audience from which the core is formed. Casual content is one that will be understood by more users than it is now. For example, I have a video “One day in the life of a programmer” and this is a sample of casual content. It is a clickbait topic, and the title is very clear. Also, this is a short video and there are no complicated terms. The video has a lot of views, and after it was posted a lot of subscribers came. This is how a person gets to know me and my channel and stay there. More of such content is needed.
The 10-hour programming marathon
The average viewing time for a 2-hour interview is 20 minutes and for a stream, it is about 40 minutes. In general, the stream showed itself very interestingly. In the first 3 hours, there were 500 people on it and ended up with 250. For me it was surprising. Perhaps, it happened because it was a stream on programming and because I had been promoting this stream for a long time in a month before the start.
250 people had been sitting on the weekend and programming with me for 10 hours, they had not just been watching.
It was a very interesting format and I think I will repeat it.
Streams are good to gain hours of views that are important for channel monetization. At the same time, my channel is not about programming, it is about IT, although I had run the stream, and I will still do such things.
In Russia, there are 14 times more people, and therefore there are more opportunities to become a successful YouTube blogger. In Ukraine, the environment is the same. In these countries, show business is well developed and it is easier to get started there. They have whole companies that are engaged in the YouTube promotion. We have Vlad Bumaga, his girlfriend Godunova, there are Ermuzevich, Lera Yaskevich, there are guys in programming.
We have a lot of opposition bloggers in our country, and I watch them because on local TV there is bullshit.
Therefore, here are my top 3 Belarusian bloggers: Marat Minski, NEXTA, Danuta Khlusnya. From the non-partisan, I like the IT-KAMASUTRA programming blog. Vika Borodina (ProgBlog) is from Belarus but makes content abroad. Vyacheslav Arkhipov, Data Scientist at Banuba, launched a math channel a math channel where he teaches children from scratch to the level of understanding of neural networks. I watch all his videos.
Big companies should present themselves on YouTube to increase audience loyalty.
For some reason, now many companies have Instagram accounts and they do nothing there, but yet they do not have YouTube accounts. And in 2 years these companies will hire guys that had been raised on YouTube.
I see from my subscribers that guys often ignore tips with books, and the majority of them are pleased with channels and video courses.
A developer very often learns exactly from videos, and on YouTube, there are a lot of them, and there are also recommendations where such a company can appear.
All companies openly accept me, they say, let’s film a video here in our office, it is not even obligatory to mention us, it’s just fun for our employees to see our office in a video. I collaborated with Wargaming, Instinctools, SoftTeco and several other companies.
I used to combine the blog with a fulltime job in SoftTeco. Only in mid-September, I changed the company. I had several interviews during my media.
The coolest bonus is that HR very often miss an interview in English or an interview for adequacy because they already know who I am.
I was late for one interview for 20 minutes, and they didn’t even say a word to me.
The current company did not look at media because it is not with Belarusian roots, the CIS market and the fact that I am a blogger do not matter for this company.
At meetings, they warmly relate to this, but there are no other advantages. SoftTeco could utilize me appropriately, but I pay tribute to the director, who was adequate saying that this was my channel, and he was not going to interfere in this. Even though the company provided courses that were a starter for the channel and I often shot videos in the office there was never a hint of demand for some gratitude. Therefore, I have a good attitude towards SoftTeco, but on the last project, I burned out and left.
Employers, don’t be afraid to send your employees to the media space. Don’t be afraid to allow them to show themselves on YouTube videos.
I know several cases where companies stopped the guys. They said: “You are our employee, our ambassador, and you can accidentally voice your opinion, which may not coincide with ours.”
It seems to me that this is always beneficial for companies because an employee learns to communicate, hones his knowledge through presentations. I saw a lot of practices when companies force employees to give lectures for their colleagues, and this was usually done haphazardly. You won’t be able to do this with YouTube anymore. If you film a video, feedback always comes to it, and in a year you’ll revise it and consider it as a failure. And this will be your motivation.