The stage at Lviv’s Opera House at the close of IT Arena.
The best tech wisdom from Lviv’s annual IT Arena festival
By Joe Lindsley
(Editor, Lviv Now)
Some of the world’s greatest tech minds assembled for Lviv’s 8th annual IT Arena, from 7-9 October 2021. This year featured a mix of virtual panel sessions and in-person meet-ups in the city’s grand hotels, cafés, the Pravda Beer Theatre, etc. The event culminated with a Saturday gala at the 19th-century Lviv Opera House with a start-up pitch competition, a champagne reception, and live music by a cello-violin-drum trio.
In the Western press, Ukraine is often described as a «beleaguered» country–watch for it, that’s usually the word–but events like IT Arena show the great vibrancy here. And that vibrancy is why we have a section on our Lviv Now website called Wealth & Democracy. There is wealth here, especially in the energy and hustle of the people, and sometimes local democracy–rule by the people, not the elites–is functioning quite well (read here about the public forums of Tvoe Misto).
From our Wealth & Democracy section, we have compiled below key insights from panel talks on a variety of topics useful both to business leaders and those just starting out in tech careers.
«You could be really good [at what you do] but you have to let people know how good you are»: Model and dietician Maye Musk shared ideas about self-promotion, self-determination, and nutrition in keynote remarks to Lviv’s annual tech festival.
«Every tweet you do and every post you do is a risk because you could offend someone, but you have to promote yourself,» she said. «You could be really good [at what you do] but you have to let people know how good you are. You need to express your expertise and get a weird following and [then] people will come to you.
«If you know you’re good at something, make sure you find people who appreciate you»
Product Manager Colleen Graneto shared her techniques about decision making and «analysis paralysis» at Lviv’s annual IT Arena event.
According to Graneto, before making any decision, you should consider three questions: What’s going on? What’s the context? What’s at stake?
«Make sure that you framed the decision,» she said, in her panel talk. «So that you actually understand what’s being decided.»
Then, she proposed that your idea be weighed by these six aspects:
AT Lvivs it Arena, Google’s engineering lead Christof Leng shared ten things his team learned from running production infrastructure, focusing on the balance between reliability and velocity.
Reliability can’t be taken for granted. It is essential to have a voice at your decision table that focuses on the reliability of the product and pushes this topic on the agenda so that it’s not constantly postponed.
Ihar Mahaniok, angel investor based in New York, has been coding since he was 12, graduated from the Belarusian State University, spent years at Google and Facebook, and now is managing partner of Geek Ventures, an angel fund that invests in «immigrant founders building amazing scalable products.»
Mahaniok told a virtual audience at Lviv’s IT Arena that a warm introduction from an investor will boost your prospects for start-up success. Here is more of his advice:
What are the personal qualities you desire in a founder?
«Be nice. Responsive to feedback and not dismissive. … Investment is a long-term partnership. [The founder] needs to be both humble and ambitious. This is a very difficult combination. The best CEO is someone who wants to change the world and who has the drive but is also humble enough to know they are not the smartest person in the room.»
What are your tips for the 30-second elevator pitch?
«The most important [thing to express] is vision and something about the founders. Vision and something about the founder. Everything else is next. If the vision is completely unusual that is enough but most likely that is something I have heard of [and I need to hear about the founders].»
Laura Galante, an American cybersecurity and cyberwarfare expert with significant experience in Ukraine, offered IT Arena three strategies to build resilience in the face of cyberthreats.
«The opposite of fragile isn’t strong,» Galante said. «The opposite of fragile is resilience.»
1. Build relationships.
2. Resilience can look like humility.
3. Give the edge of your organization power …
A Strength is only a strength if the person enjoys the work, Chris Cassarino said in a virtual session at Lviv’s annual IT Arena conference. The leader of global business development for international tech firm Softserv, co-headquartered in Lviv, Ukraine, and Austin, Texas, Cassarino has spent years helping many people find their strengths, or their «true north.»
With a series of practical tips, he encouraged the audience to focus on developing strengths rather than fixing weaknesses.
Teresa Torres, a product development and research expert, warned an IT Arena panel about the «escalation of commitment»: «The more we invest in an idea the more we forget other things.» This leads to confirmation bias: You might create a product based on the loudest complainer or a false narrative.
To counter this, she is an advocate of continuous discovery: obtaining regular, accurate, and useful feedback from customers. Here are tips: what questions to ask, whom to ask, and how often–and who on your team should be involved in the discovery process.
A western Ukrainian, currently in the USA, wants to catalogue all the pets in the world–so the lost might be found and to make life easier for pet-owners. Read about his start-up, Animal ID, here.
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