Engineering Hero: Developing a Cloud Platform in the Midst of War
September 12, 2023
Welcome to the third installment of Engineering Heroes, sponsored by Wind River, where we take a closer look at the lives of unsung heroes in the world of engineering whose work impacts uncountable lives across the globe. See the bottom of the article for additional content on Valentyn Hlukhotskyy and our other heroes.
There probably aren’t many people in the world who can truthfully claim that they’ve successfully continued their jobs in the midst of a months-long hostile invasion — but senior software engineer Valentyn Hlukhotskyy can.
Valentyn works at an IT services and consulting company called Euristiq. He’s not that different from any other senior software engineer, except that he’s had his days occasionally interrupted by the raining down of bombs and missiles, as he is based in Lviv, Ukraine.
At a glance, Valentyn seems like a normal software developer, specializing in Cloud-based IoT projects. His father studied physics at the university level, while his mother is a physical therapist who works with young children.
The love for computers and programming started early for Valentyn. “I had a computer from the time I was around four or five, but never had a gaming console, which is what every kid wants. So I had to install things myself, sometimes even pirated games, if I wanted to do things beyond typical computer stuff.”
Learning English was somewhat of a challenge. The learning method at the time was to repeat English phrases, often not even knowing what they meant. It wasn’t until Valentyn was much older, like late teens, before he had some mastery of the English language.
The typical work day in Ukraine begins later than many places in the world because a lot of the work is out-sourced to other parts of the world, where they operate in different (later) time zones. That allowed Valentyn to come into work early and get extra work done. And just as often, he would stay late.
Shortly after starting work at Euristiq, Valentyn and several other team members were assigned to a big project creating a cloud platform for Heart Zones, a U.S.-based health and fitness company that focuses on using wearable devices to help users meet their health goals.
The Heart Zones project had a speedy start at Euristiq. Work on the platform began in the latter half of January 2022, just a handful of weeks after initial discussions. But despite the solid start, Valentyn and the team working on the Heart Zones platform were faced with terrifying challenges when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in bombs falling and sirens going off unpredictably.
Understandably, these circumstances caused a fair bit of setbacks in the early stages of the Heart Zones project.
“It was mentally difficult for us because we had to use more energy basically just to concentrate and do our jobs,” Valentyn said.
Rather than halting on the project, or allowing it to be contracted to a different company, Valentyn and team dug their heels in and came up with a plan to ensure steady, measurable success.
The team came up with a process of separating each project into smaller milestones, focusing on submitting each of those milestone deliverables on time. Each milestone consists of about one month’s development time. At the end of each month, the team performs a milestone demo to show off the newest features.
“This experience has taught me to cherish every moment,” Valentyn said. “I started spending more time with my parents and my brother. If I have a choice between sitting home with family and doing nothing or going out, I stay home, because you never know. A missile could come fly into you at any second and you can just die.
“The food supplies got a little tight and there were power outages, particularly in the second half of last year. That impacts personal lives as much as work lives as you have to plan for when you will have electricity. Often, we had to take eight or ten hours of work and press it into four. And the same scenario occurred at home.”
The silver lining, if there could be one, is that Valentyn and the team at Euristiq learned just how flexible and determined they could be — and they didn’t let a grim external environment get the better of them.
Editor's Note: For more Engineering Hero content, check out the links below.
Daire McNamara, Director and Firmware Engineer, Emdalo Technologies:
Nandini Kappiah, Senior Director of Software Engineering, Google:
Valentyn Hlukhotskyy, Senior Java Software Engineer, Euristiq: