Softage: The man in front - Roman Martynenko

Since the 1990s, Russia's IT sector has been renowned as a major centre of innovation. Roman Martynenko, CEO of Novosibirsk-based technology company Softage, discusses how he came to run one of the country's biggest IT consultancies and how he stays ahead of the game in a rapidly changing business environment.

With offices in Washington DC, Beijing, London, and across Russia, Softage is a global company offering offshore outsourcing software, web development and custom software development solutions for complex IT problems. It prides itself on the hard work and passion of its employees, and none are more passionate than Roman Martynenko, who set up the company as a start-up in 2003.

Could you give us a bit of background into your early career?

Roman Martynenko: I started as a software developer for a small company working in the book wholesale business back in 1999, involved in automating business processes for a company that didn't specialise in software development.

I learnt to listen to business users' needs, and to find solutions bound by small budgets and by my limited capacity as the company's only IT guy. I worked there for two years and then moved to a local branch of what was then one of Russia's largest medicine wholesale companies.

There, I learned business and how to proactively propose improvements with the help of IT, even when business users did not ask me directly. I became a team leader and began developing management skills.

How did you get into the software business?

After two years I moved to what was, at that time, the largest software outsourcing company in my city and the third largest in Russia. I started off as a software developer, rising quickly to become a senior developer, project manager and finally a deputy head of department.

This is where I learnt about software development, managing people and projects, working with remote clients from different countries and learning IT industry best practice. I was 27 years old when the 'dot com' bubble burst, and the company where I worked began to experience very bad times, leading one company partner and I to leave and establish Softage in 2003.

How does working in start-ups differ from other work you have done?

As I see it, the difference is the emphasis that start-ups place on the individual team-members: from CEO to junior developer, everybody is crucial. There's also the very dynamic and adoptive life of the start-up. It's all about the people, not the processes.

How do you manage the duality between driving new business and overseeing daily operations?

I'm more focused on strategy and overall management of the company in my day-to-day work - our management structure has the right people and is organised in such a way to drive daily operations without my supervision.

How do you stay on top of developments in the rapidly changing tech industry?

Our clients play a huge role in this, helping us to stay on the ball by giving us demanding tasks, requiring skilful work. Our team are always in a process of learning: developing new technologies, new approaches and new tools.

We always aim to find and employ people based on their talents: talented employees are motivated to grow and stay on top; if you are able to give them interesting, complex tasks, all the better. They also seek out challenges and new work, and we help them do it.

What drives your work and gets you out of bed in the morning?

Owning a business that has unlimited possibilities for growth, a business that involves communication with people from all over the world, working with a team of very smart, intelligent and positive people. Work with no limits, where everything depends on you - wouldn't you be inspired to work hard all the time?