Interview with COO/CIO Ilya Vinogradsky on our Medellín locationAugust 19, 2021
In June, it’s been five years since the Medellin office was established. So, we had a conversation with Ilya Vinogradsky, our COO/CIO, about what makes this team and location special and how Ilya envisions the future for this second largest Delivery location.
The office in Colombia, Medellin, was opened in 2016. How did you settle on Colombia as a new Delivery location? How did it all begin?
In 2015, we made a strategic decision to open a new engineering office. Eastern Europe had already been covered by that time — we had offices in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Bulgaria — so we needed to select a new location. Due to the time zone, convenient to work with North American clients, we started to think in the direction of South America. I began my research and soon came to the conclusion that large countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina weren’t an option since lots of tech companies had already occupied the market. Next, I looked at smaller countries like Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Paraguay, and it was the other way round— too few potential candidates could be found there. So eventually, I settled on three mid-sized countries — Colombia, Peru, and Chile.
The more I researched them, the more I understood that Colombia would be a good choice. It was an up-and-coming country making significant investments into the IT industry. There were not that many tech companies there yet, but already good infrastructure, so we could invest our resources and energy there and create a team.
I was recommended to open our office, particularly in Medellin, and got introduced to an account manager at Agencia de Cooperación e Inversión de Medellín, a government organization that helped companies enter the local market. She and I had a few Skype calls, and soon Omar Jabbour, our general counsel, and I arrived in Medellin to meet her and the local legal, accounting, and tech representatives. We liked the city very much and decided to conclude our search and open the office in Medellin. Thus, in the summer of 2016, our first Colombian teammate, Juan Pablo Roldan Uribe, joined Astound Commerce in the new office.
Now, five years later, do you think you made the right choice back then, selecting Colombia?
Absolutely. Colombia has proven to be rich in skilled tech talent, and over these years, strong, experienced developers, designers, QA engineers, business analysts, and project managers joined us and have taken part in delivering solutions for our major clients. The Medellin team, now with over 70 people, has been an indispensable part of many of Astound’s projects.
What major projects have the Medellin team worked on?
Our project teams are distributed and multicultural. When assembling a team, we don’t aim to have them all working in one location, instead — we want their skills to complement one another so that each of them can bring their share of skills and experience to the project. This also benefits the team members — they learn from the global Astound team and grow both as people and professionals.
So, I can’t name particular projects that the Colombian team has worked solely on. But, some of the major ones that they have been part of were (or still are) for clients like El Palacio de Hierro, Grupo Charly, L’oreal, Urban Decay, Under Armor, Toys R Us, Ray-Ban, Oakley, Pepe Jeans, Puma, and TOMS.
How do you intend to further develop this location? Any talent acquisition plans? New offices opening?
Over the past year, the adoption of digital commerce has significantly increased. Our company has experienced considerable growth in demand for our services. We are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity and leverage the tech talent market in Colombia. So yes, we plan to and have been expanding our current team.
As per the offices — with COVID-19, it is hard to say when we will be expanding our physical space. Sooner or later, we plan to move the team to a new office in Medellin, as we did in Kyiv. But again, it’s hard to be specific about the time.
The pandemic has changed the way we work and our attitude towards offices in particular. Once the initial quarantine restrictions were lifted, some team members realized they would like to keep working from home. So, now we work wherever we feel most comfortable, be it home or office.
With many team members working from home, are you now looking for remote talent?
Yes, for now, we are also searching for remote team members — and not only in Medellin. There are already several people working as remote specialists in Bogota. We are looking into other Latin American countries as well.
What level of experts are you looking to add to the team? And what positions?
Any level and all kinds of tech positions. New clients keep coming in, so we need project managers, QA engineers, JS developers, UI/UX designers, and business analysts to put together new project teams. And, now we have a significant number of people in Colombia who can coach and mentor junior specialists and assist them in learning our processes, adapting, and also feeling free to share their own ideas.
In closing, have you got any words of inspiration for our Colombian colleagues?
Our Colombian office is strategically important for Astound. We will continue making significant investments into expanding our operations here. With the growth of the company overall and specifically in Colombia, each of you will have new exciting opportunities for personal and professional development, as well as for building new meaningful relationships with people around the globe. Thank you for your loyalty and commitment to our company, our clients, and each other. I hope to visit Colombia as soon as the pandemic guidelines allow me to do so.