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Interview with Andrey Ivanov, JetBrains COO

Andrei Ivanov

Why has JetBrains decided to sponsor SECR 2012?

Conferences are a necessary part of our profession. Specialists meet, learn, share ideas and, thanks to this industry, move forward at conferences around the world. JetBrains is a regular participant at conferences held abroad. But in Russia, there aren’t yet enough such events. There is the excellent Yandex-YAC conference and there is also CIB/RIF, but they are both highly specialized. There are many smaller conferences, but they still have a way to go in terms of organization. Working on the program committee for SECR 2011, I became convinced that it is being organized to international standards. We also managed to invite strong speakers. This gave assurance that the conference has a future. We view SECR as an opportunity to introduce our latest developments to our Russian colleagues.

You are not the first businessperson to work actively on the Conference Program Committee of SECR, how would you rate the level of reports this year? Can you say a few words about the speaker from the JetBrains?

This year, the program committee has worked much more closely with the speakers and provided early feedback on many topics, which allowed the authors to significantly improve the reports. I think the quality of the speeches, their diversity, and significance will be better than last year.

JetBrains is represented by Andrew Breslav, our Development Manager for the Kotlin language. Andrew speaks regularly at conferences, both in Russia and abroad. Three of his reports, for example, were presented at the recent JavaOne conference. At SECR Andrey will talk about the more recent phenomenon of major companies developing their own programming languages: why they are doing it, what problems they hope to solve with the new languages, and how they approach these issues.

In addition, I would draw your attention to the report by Kirill Krinkin, Evgeny Batalov and Alexander Kartashov about the technology of container virtualization for Android. This report summarizes the research conducted by Kirill’s laboratory at the Department of Mathematics and Information Technology at the Academic University of the Russian Academy of Science (AU RAS), which we support alongside companies such as Parallels, Yandex and EMC. The results achieved by the laboratory are an example of what can be done when universities work alongside business in educational and research activities.

What are your personal expectations for SECR 2012?

I plan to listen to a number of interesting papers that I selected for myself during the review process. I hope to meet new people, and perhaps initiate some new joint projects. I expect that the conference will allow more people to learn about what we do at JetBrains, and may help us to find new colleagues.

As one of the founders of the Academy of Contemporary Programming, what can you say about contemporary higher education? What trends can be seen?

The Academy of Contemporary Programming was created in 2005. Since then, the situation in education has improved in many respects. I will mention four of the most important of them. First, a group of strong, young scientists has been raised, for whom the pursuit of science and teaching is their main activity. For the universities and educational projects that have managed to attract such teachers, education there has improved substantially. As an example, I would mention AU RAS and the CS Center – a joint project between Yandex and the Academy.

Second is the program of mega-grants which has managed to attract well known, successful scientists around which strong academic schools have been created, such as the bioinformatics laboratory of Pavel Pevsner and the Chebyshev laboratory headed by Stanislav Smirnov. The young scientists, to whom I have already alluded, all work in these laboratories.

Third, all of these factors have contributed to the development and presentation of lectures on the latest technologies and disciplines. Gone are the days when our students were taught things that had become irrelevant in the rest of the world. Now graduates of our leading universities can easily transfer to Stanford and other prestigious universities overseas with confidence.

Finally, the attitude of business to education has changed. Earlier it was that of a consumer – where business used professionals and, at best, was willing to give them somewhere to practice or to work following graduation. Now many companies consider collaboration with universities as a cooperative relationship that improves higher education in the country. Companies provide grants to teachers, send their staff to give lectures on current topics, and encourage successful students with scholarships.

The result of this cooperation is sometimes the creation of a corporate laboratory at a university. For example, on Oct. 19 of this year JetBrains opened a lab at the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty of St. Petersburg State University. The objective of the lab is to support education and research in areas that are relevant to the interests of the company – especially (but not only) language tools and development tools.

JetBrains, Yandex, Parallels, EMC, HP Labs and are all companies that are cooperating with universities – and this is not a complete list.

But you can not say that the picture is entirely rosy for higher education. Successful faculties with strong teachers and modern programs are still the exception rather than the rule. Many universities still simply pretend to give a real education. In addition, the existing bureaucratic system prevents the best educational institutions from doing their job. Now higher education is developed more by business than it is by the state.

What issues regarding the software industry would, in your opinion, be the most interesting to discuss at the conference? What is most relevant now?

First of all, I am interested in software development technology, in new approaches to programming and new languages. This is one of those areas that are under-represented at Russian conferences, which I said at the beginning. Cloud computing and its various sub topics continue to be widely discussed. Now that this subject is beginning to fall out of fashion it will be interesting to discuss specific, truly cloud-based solutions applied on an industrial scale. There will be some strong reports on this area at the conference. Finally, I am very interested in the topic of education. JetBrains is committed to cooperation with universities so as to bring their teaching methods up to international standards. I would like to discuss what is being done by other companies, and how the universities see their own development.

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