In discussion with Dmitriy Dubilet
Recently, Parimatch hosted is first ever digital event, PM GO 5.0: In Touch with the Future, which featured talks by trusted experts from the fields of business and technology. One of these guest speakers was Dmitriy Dubilet, a Fintech visionary, one of the co-founders of Monobank, and founder of the Smartass studio.
Parimatch CEO Sergey Portnov interviewed Dubilet on a variety of topics – from the new social and economic reality facing the world in the wake of COVID-19, lessons on leadership during a crisis and creating a tech-oriented culture within an organisation. So, what were Dubilet’s key insights?
It’s time to repay ‘technical debt’
In these six weeks the world has undergone significant change. For every single person there will be lessons learnt. For Dubilet, he sees this time as an opportunity to take stock, catch up and repay ‘technical debt’. Dubilet explained the concept of ‘technical debt’, which is not about financial debt. In the usual sense of the word, it results from the choice you make when you create a product. Namely, you take your time, progress it slowly and ensure it is future proof, or you adopt the ‘quick and dirty’ approach. When you take this latter approach, there is always a technical debt.
Dubilet thinks this crisis is an excellent opportunity for both small companies, big companies and individuals to repay technical debt. And this doesn’t just apply to tech products, but a lot of things that people have postponed in both business and life generally. For example on a personal level, it could be finally ticking off the books on your reading list, or catching up on your sleep. It’s about the things you always wanted to do and never had the chance to. In some senses, it is possible to emerge from this stronger than ever.
Leadership in a time of crisis
It is crucial that leaders intensify their communication during a crisis. That means more frequent communication, through virtual meetings and calls. When it comes to internal communication, you have to communicate clearly and consistently, because this is a time of worry for many employees. Many of these worries are likely unwarranted, so it is good leadership to address these head on. Again, leaders should also think about their technical debt – and focus on areas of the business which may have been neglected.
Adaptability in the COVID-19 environment
Dubilet believes that we shouldn’t expect the world to change fundamentally in a few weeks, but when it comes to technology, there has already been a visible impact. For example, internet payments and internet consumption are on the up. A lot of people who rarely use the Internet, have now learnt how to use Zoom, order food online, and make online payments. So the tech market is expanding, with more people engaged with tech than ever, which presents an opportunity.
Dubilet used his own sports club, Smartass, as an example. The company’s original plans have had to be put on hold due to the crisis, as they had wanted to launch a lot of offline locations. However, they have since launched online training, so that now, the number of people who train with Smartass through the internet is equal to the number of people who used to train offline. This means the business now has plans to expand their online offering internationally. This shows how businesses can adapt to the current environment, and seize new opportunities.
The real definition of a tech company
Dubilet also discussed what makes a company truly a tech company. For Dubilet, it’s hard to imagine where tech doesn’t matter for any business. Whether it’s agriculture or banking, IT is critical to any sector and any business. However, the main indicator is how tech-focused and tech-fluent the leadership of the company is. So, if you can talk in detail to a manager about the architecture and usability of systems, for example, it means that they’re not just declaring to be a tech company – they live and breath it.
For Dubilet, a truly tech-oriented culture is where employees are encouraged to think independently, and where there is a flat, non-hierarchical structure. It is not just about obeying authority or following orders, rather everyone has to reason with each other and come to a mutual agreement. With no strict hierarchy, information flows easier, and the atmosphere is more conducive to innovation and the generation of new ideas. For Dubilet, that’s the tech spirit that every type of business needs.
IT – Tool or business partner?
According to Dubilet, IT should not be thought of as a separate entity – it is you yourself. When Dubilet worked for Privatbank, one of Ukraine’s biggest banks, the employees used to say ‘we’re not the bankers, we’re the IT guys’. In any industry it is possible to be an ‘IT guy’. The time has passed when IT is a separate business function. This doesn’t mean that you need to become a developer, but you need to establish a connection with developers, and deepen your understanding of IT to succeed.