How to Build a Company: Interview with Arseniy Seroka

If you had to create the company of your dreams, what would it be?

A few years ago, Arseniy Seroka and Jonn Mostovoy started on a quest to answer that question for themselves.

Now we have Serokell, a company of over 50 people that work remotely, sharing the same values and creating spectacular projects.

How did they realize their dream? To find out the answer, watch this interview with our CEO Arseniy Seroka (made by the lovely people at HuntIT). While the interview is in Russian, we have added English subtitles for our international audience.

In addition, we have also featured some of the more interesting questions and answers down below!

Hi! Tell me, why are we in this informal atmosphere, where are we and why not in your office?

How do you do it? You have a lot of employees all over the world, how are they distributed, where are they located?

For example, even if somebody has talked with somebody else offline, we still try to bring the information back to Slack.

Who are the people at Serokell?

And, you know, it is a very good uniting force because there is not a lot of work in Haskell out there (even less in real projects) and when the developers find out that, woah, I can do that not only for money but actually have an interesting project — it means a lot.

But how is it all built? Regarding communication, do you somehow meet and mingle outside of work?

To be honest, you could count on one hand the number of employees that have not met somebody else from the company, have not talked to them.

We understand that remote is extremely hard, it is hard on you psychologically, especially if you have never done it before. That’s why we are trying our best to create an atmosphere with a feeling that we all are one team, make our colleagues and comrades feel that they are not alone, that even if you work in the Canary Islands (we do have employees that work there), you’re still in the loop.

Right now, what are the main customers, what are the main projects?

In addition, we have a lot of our own initiatives, first — in research, and second, we very slowly and accurately are trying to make our own small products about which, unfortunately, I can’t talk about right now.

They are connected with problems that we run into in our daily work, instruments, tools for automation, HR, project management, everything that is modern and popular. We can’t find it all in one instrument on the market right now.

We are just trying to solve this task for ourselves and we have the feeling that a lot of projects, a lot of companies of our scale, basically, middle-sized businesses, have a need, for which we will try to release a product on the market.

In general, what is your stack, what technologies do you use?

Obviously, everything depends on the business task. You can’t say that Haskell is perfect for everything or that C++ is the panacea. The main thing is to know your instrument, to know other instruments, and be thoughtful about what you are doing.

Are you doing anything in open source?

The modern world as whole goes toward releasing all source code because people are starting to think about how the computers work, what are we using, and if they do not spy on us while we walk past our webcams.

We are trying to release our own libraries and the projects that we do, both commercial and non-profit. In addition, we have several people working on compiler development for Haskell. That is, we pay them to develop the compiler that the whole world uses.

I know that you lecture at ITMO. In addition to running a company, you’re also a lecturer?

And, it so happened that about 4 years ago he moved to France to do a PhD and there was no one left to lecture on functional programming because it is not a popular area of study at our faculty. (I studied and finished IT at ITMO.)

I understood that I am the only one at the faculty that knows the subject, loves the subject, and I understood that I want to give my knowledge to students just to somehow popularize those approaches, instruments, and technologies.

For many companies remote work would be a bonus, it is everyday life for you. Are there any other bonuses for employees?

For example, something has happened to the person in Petersburg and they have just moved in, they can write in the chat and practically everyone will answer them and give some kind of help.

Often, we try to keep in touch with each other. We don’t have it like: here is the supervisor, here is the subordinate, you cannot talk with those and those. No, we have quite a friendly atmosphere and everyone understands approximately what is happening with others, the people are open, the people have some kind of life experience, and try to have each other’s backs.

How do you evaluate people? Obviously, everyone is on a different level and style of work, how to rate developers, what should one pay attention to?

How do you make sure that the person really works, really is committed to their tasks and is not hanging out at the beach instead?

The main thing that we try to create in the company is trust in each other, respect for each other’s word. If a person says on Wednesday that, strictly speaking, I said I will do it on Friday, but I can’t really make it, (programming is not really an exact science) then obviously, talking, communication is the key to everything as always. And, if you give in time the information that you can’t do that task before the deadline, it helps prevent further problems.

What kind of people are you searching for?

When a person comes to you from an area where they had to build ships and they become your head of HR or when a mathematician who does logic comes to you and becomes a developer, every one of them brings a part of their experience and knowledge to our common piggy bank.

That allows us to grow not only in one direction, but to develop in all directions and be kind to the world.

If you had an unlimited number of developers, no limits on finances, time, size, office, all in all, no limits on anything: what would you do, what would your employees do, where would you move the company?

What is it about in a few words?

Yes, it is also harder work but it is of better quality, and as a result, the client suffers less and the people suffer less.

That’s it! If you want to read more interviews, both with our employees and with other Haskell developers, go to our interview section. If the questions interested you, be sure to also check out the full interview on the HuntIT YouTube channel.

Originally published at

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