Anton Marchanka: “I used to enjoy trolling the thoughtful segment of Belarusian population”

Social entrepreneur and founder of Lab 42 spoke of failed entrepreneurship, writing for and Office Art, and iOS development.

In the ItStarts! podcast Anton Marchanka spoke of the work in TargetProcess, launching his barbershop, the factory which had burned down, living in Bali and working in a startup simultaneously. Now Anton works as an iOS developer. Also, he is the founder of Brother Anthony’s programming school and virtual Laboratory 42.

Are the Brother Anthony School and Laboratory 42 social entrepreneurship or pampering?

I am probably a social entrepreneur. Everything is fine in my life, I work as a programmer, and in my free time, I do some useful social projects. The first is Brother Anthony’s School, which I launched a year ago. After 5 or 6 years of experience, I wanted to share my knowledge.

Nobody hired me to work with such a background, that is why I have to program for people who do not speak Russian.

In fact, this is not a school, but simply a YouTube channel, on which there are already more than 2 thousand subscribers, where I just tell them how to become an iOS programmer.

I taught a course on how to make mobile applications for iPhones in Swift. The logical continuation was to write a more advanced course, as some of my students needed to be hired, and nobody hires them, because they have no experience. But where they can get experience if no one hires them? Now I am trying to solve this social problem in my virtual Laboratory 42, which I launched on the night of Thursday to Friday and still in some kind of coma I continue to write there.

Why does no one hire?

When I left TargetProcess on a creative vacation, I maintained the Office Art project simultaneously. It was a scandalous resource, such a drain tank for Belarus. And there I may have described someone; some articles were sent to me, and I published them — that was the forerunner of ebanoe.IT. I posted it all anonymously.

I think for me it was difficult to find a job because of this resource.

For example, when I lived in Moscow, Maxim Gulevich invited me to have a beer, but I didn’t even have money for beer. So we never met, because I was ashamed to say that I was in such a situation. Virtually we knew each other.

In 2009, the famous Decree No. 3 on supporting entrepreneurship was issued. And I had a good ride on this wave. To open a hairdresser, you need to go through firefighters and sanitation verifications, you need to register a company, and these procedures can drag on. Officials on the periphery had an attitude that jobs should be created.

Then, in 2009, I was employed receiving some kind of salary at the level of June or Middle. But I already had enough money to invest in. All normal people started saving up for an apartment and a car, and I went into entrepreneurship because I had big ambitions, I wanted to do something good and great and retire at 30.

But it did not work out — the plant burned down and went bankrupt, I had to do it all over again.

But it’s all for the best. Employment is a source of money for non-employment projects.

Why you should separate hobby from work

I am now a fan of modern psychologists. Labkovsky says that one must not be neurotic and that work is just working, and a hobby is your hobby. And when I tried to make a hobby my job, I didn’t succeed.

I was the editor in chief of, this is a good point.

7-8 years ago, I was such a good writing dude from the TOP 5 bloggers of Belarus. We had a blog on Habr, where we also entered the TOP 5 in the “Corporations”. In short, I’m rather a humanist than a social person.

That is, I worked as a programmer, wrote for and maintained a blog on Habr, and then I left TargetProcess and at the same time was the co-founder of the first loft-coworking (it was cool, but went bankrupt) and the editor-in-chief of Anton Kantsavoy invited me since I was a good journalist. Editor-in-chief sounds great, but I couldn’t do anything well, because, on the one hand, this is administrative work since you need to attract journalists, and on the other hand, you can’t write anymore because you are limited. I realized that this was completely different.

That is, when a hobby became my job, everything went wrong.

Therefore, I strictly separate work from a hobby and these two things constantly bring me pleasure.

Attempts to launch a commercial project and make a lot of money

It all failed. The tire crumb rubber processing plant, which solved the global problem and which could be scaled well, was burned down. Everything burned out, the company went bankrupt, so I try not to participate in offline businesses. The type of activity needed to be licensed, so we did not manage to make insurance, the plant was not launched at full capacity.

My motivation was to create a business that will continue bringing money even if you do nothing.

This is like a barbershop works: you opened it, it works, you come and take $ 500, and you are like — “it is cool”.

That is, you once did something to create the following flow of money.

I have been coding for iOS for 6 years. As for launching our own application, it seems to me that this train is slowly leaving the station. I had an outsourced product company, Tony Dev, I had hired programmers (then I hadn’t programmed myself yet). We took some kind of project and failed it — I was a bad manager, and nothing worked, but it was a good experience. If I tried it now, I might have succeeded, but the risks are too big. I need to satisfy my basic human needs, which are already present when you are 33 years old.

Dream to become a programmer came true

I was born in Svetlagorsk and lived in Ragachou. There I was fond of programming, my parents could afford to buy a computer, then this was a big event. And somewhere from the fifth grade, I became winning at city competitions in computer science.

I always dreamed of being a programmer. I told my father: “I want to be a programmer.” And then programmers earned $ 30-50. He asked if I like to drive a car. And I was in the eighth grade — of course, I liked driving, everyone liked.

And dad was like: “I also like driving, but I have a driver. Maybe you don’t need to be a programmer either?”.

Later I got a pretty good background at the Faculty of Computer Systems and Networks, it is considered one of the best in technical programming in the country, but I did not study properly.

Then I became interested in the economy. In the 10th grade, I took the 1st place in the region and the 2nd in the Republic competitions in economics. I thought to enter the BSEU but entered the BSUIR.

For a while, I hung out on the forums under the nickname “Ftykatel”("Фтыкатель" in Russian — The Heroes), where I trolled nationalists. Trolling members of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union seemed below my dignity.

Not that I liked making fun of oppositions, but I enjoyed trolling the thoughtful segment of the Belarusian population.

How to be a good programmer

It depends on what meaning we put in the definition of programming. There is a business, and it needs to be transferred to machine code. There are people who communicate better with computers, and there are people who communicate better with other people. Programming is teamwork too. It is often difficult for techies to communicate with customers due to poor knowledge of the English language, they do not understand each other. And I’m in the middle. I interact well with customers and the program well.

In fact, no one knows how to properly manage programmers.

On the one hand, this is a large factory where the processes are scheduled, and you just carry a brick from point A to point B.

On the other hand, programmers are creative people: someone can carry a brick 10 times faster, someone can come up with a cool solution, so it’s not clear how to manage them.

There are flexible team management methodologies, but I think the industry standard is Scrum. There is a product owner and there is a team. PO says what he needs, and the team is involved in both the assessment and the description of the technical requirements. That is, you always need to communicate, and you’re cool if you can do it. I worked in the company as a Senior iOS developer but actually combined this work with the duties of the team lead. And for a year and a half of my work in this company, there were no complaints against my team. Therefore, I consider myself a good programmer.

Success as an exception to the rule

In my commercial endeavors, I did not achieve any particular success, I failed. I entered areas in which I understood little. I paid little attention to mathematics and economics. I liked an idea and started to work on it immediately but preparedness. It was teenage entrepreneurship. Successful people are said to be lucky. And I probably lacked luck.

My father was the deputy director of the plant, and I inherited his habit to work hard along with some leadership qualities. We went to the village to my grandmother who taught economics in a college to dig potatoes.

And we had a schedule: six grandchildren were going to pick currant so the grandmother established the number of berries we needed to pick.

There was a labor system, and we worked there from morning to evening.

In the second village, we didn’t work on Sunday, and on Saturday we played cards, so on Monday the loser got to work, and the rest rode swimming in the river. It was such two polarities with different management. It is clear that we did not like the first village, but I still have the habit to work hard.

Retraining accountants as programmers, lazy millennials and differences in the mentality of peasants and citizens

I do not know exactly how long I live in Minsk, so I feel like a Minsker. I would differentiate people not by location, but by their mindset. Sometimes a person writes that he is ready to work 24 hours a day and then quit. And calm people take a task and perform it, everything is fine with them. I have a student from Togliatti, the guy finished the course and works on a freelance, there are also students from St. Petersburg and Novopolotsk. And they coolly write code, but Minskers do it as well. Half of the students are from Belarus, the rest are from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

Some millennials are lazy, it’s difficult to work with them.

Although there are young people 20-22 years old who work hard and succeed. I did not measure the conversion to employment, but I think, 5-10 people are very close to finding the first job. I think that it’s not the courses themselves that are useful, but the motivation. I am such a talking head that says that being a programmer is cool, still, it’s not necessary to be a smart guy, just take a task and perform it.

Mentoring of Juniors and problems of managing inexperienced employees

The idea of ​​Laba 42 is that if you have a cool project and you are ready to hire a person without impressive experience, you can come and find such a specialist. We have these people who want and can work for little money or for an opportunity to get experience.

When I just started programming for iOS, I took a primitive project for freelance, but I ran into a problem that I could not solve. It was a shame, but I went to the community, and the guys helped me so I complete the task. Then there were more nuances, I asked my friend for help. My communication skills partly help me to be a good programmer.

It’s difficult for the Juniors, but a Junior with mentor support is a completely different level, it’s almost Middle.

Everyone asks where to find a strong Middle if Juniors are sold as Seniors after a year and a half.

A Junior tied to a mentor is a completely different magic.

Mentoring is a big topic that we have not yet disclosed. Our virtual laboratory has the potential to become such a place where all novice professionals can find a community where you can always turn for help. This is my noble idea.

At the very beginning, we went to the Emerge hackathon. And we, of course, could not do anything there. We discussed the issue for half a day, but nothing came of it. And then Siarhey Siarhienka and Anatoly Letych launched a two-months free IT camp. And they also needed projects.

And then I was interested in mobile development. I went to them with my idea, they gave me 4 developers and one mentor, and we started developing the application. Now there remains one developer, two designers, a mentor, and a business analyst — a guy who wants to gain experience and find a normal job after the courses. Another guy after the courses will make a mobile prototype. And one more person (he hs just completed courses) will be developing a mobile application for Laba 42.

All these people, except one programmer, have good jobs so they participate in the project voluntarily.

If you want to enter IT and don’t know where to start, but you have the skills and desire to work hard, welcome to our group.

Our goal is to provide such people with the opportunity to gain practical experience, without which they will not be hired.

My attempt at entrepreneurship is, in its own way, a satisfaction of the need for self-fulfillment. We are fed up with entrepreneurs, we need more programmers, teachers, and doctors. Doctors and teachers are poorly paid, so you need more programmers who can pay more. This is my idealistic vision.

I do not regret choosing iOS development. There are many creative people like former musicians, artists, even doctors. And among Android developers, there are more geeks. Not that iOS was the best, there are also higher-paying specialties like experts in the field of big data.

But if iOS becomes unpopular, I can find a different specialty, although I do not think that this will happen in the next few years.

Still, the danger that cross-platform solutions will become more popular exists.

The market has already stabilized, but it exists, and it is large. I am sure that there will be enough work for iOS developers. Although, maybe it’s just my optimism that says because all entrepreneurs are optimists.

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