Hello. This article is part of a series where we speak with professional software developers who use Windows App Development Tools, ask them what it’s like to write code for a living, and perhaps gain a few insights into the software development industry along the way.
Today we have a very popular member of the Delphi and RAD Studio developer community, Serge Pilko. Serge and I have collaborated behind the scenes on a few things in the last couple of years for Embarcadero and he’s one of those truly positive people who just oozes developer talent. Serge is CEO of Embarcadero Tech Partner, Softacom, a company based in Bellevue, USA with customers from all around the world including the United States, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, and more than 15 others.
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Hi, Serge. We’ve been crossed paths as developers for several years but I think this is the first time you’ve given an interview for Embarcadero. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional journey from a Delphi developer to CEO of a Delphi software development company?
Hi Ian, thank you for inviting me for this interview.
My name is Serge Pilko and I am the CEO of Softacom, a Delphi software development company.
Remembering my youth I wouldn’t say that I fell in love with technologies. In high school, when we were studying C ++ and Visual Basic, I hated them. I had scores from 2 to 3 in the programming. So the choice of a software developer career was made under the influence of my parents.
At the university, I got quite excited with programming because I was lucky to have a great teacher comparing to high school where I was unlucky 😁. At the university I started studying Delphi 3 (at that time it was the latest Delphi version) and decided to explore it deeper. Looking ahead I should mention that later this interest in Delphi has guided me to becoming a Delphi Evangelist and the first Embarcadero MVP with offices in Belarus. But let’s come back to the chronology of the events.
During and after my graduation, I worked as a developer for around 10 years and in 2008 I decided to start a new chapter of my career. I created my own company Softacom that today unites the best Delphi experts. Though we offer a wide range of software development services, we focus on the modernization and migration of legacy software and work with local and foreign companies of different sizes.
Today, our company is an official consulting and training partner of Embarcadero and acts as a certified consulting partner of TMS Software.
Do you remember your first projects that inspired you to follow a career in development?
I think that those short projects I had during the first 2-3 years at the university did the job.
They made me think that I got excited experimenting with some student databases, text editors and, of course, a calculator. I think that every Delphi developer started with a calculator. That was in the late 90ss. It was really inspired to create a GUI app easily, when instead of a console app you can have an amazing app with a rich user interface.
Btw, I have a funny story about that. We (students) were young and had an inquisitive mind. Delphi apps started on Windows 95 and 98 very fast and for our understanding serious applications should start slowly, with a lot of HDD noise and so forth. That’s why during the calculator launch we implemented writing and reading of 600Mb file to the hard drive 🙂 .
How did you decide to create your own company? Were you dissatisfied with your position at that time?
Definitely not. That’s not about dissatisfaction or something like that. I just realized that I could move further and take more responsibilities.
I felt that I was ready to lead my own team of professionals, to take on our own projects and to help different companies to boost their businesses with high-quality software.
You’ve mentioned that you are a “Delphi evangelist”. Why and what made you choose Delphi?
Today Delphi is an up-to-date development tool that can be used for building advanced software of any type – from financial services to hardware systems, from Windows Store apps to multi-tier web solutions. It is one of the best options for creating native Win32/Win64 applications with rich UI. With Delphi, you can use a wide range of 3rd-party components that will help you in reaching different development goals. Of course, like any other technology, Delphi has its disadvantages but its benefits are much more significant for me. And I sincerely believe that given all its capacities, this technology will stay with us in the future.
Yes, that sounds like an ad. But it is what it is. I’m trying to populate these thoughts everywhere. People should understand the difference between marketing and real facts.
Does it mean that you consider Delphi to be a universal choice for any software?
Absolutely not. We work with different tools and technologies. In our team, we also have seasoned .NET developers and experts who work with cloud platforms. However, as our company has the richest expertise in Delphi, we regularly get a lot of requests related to Delphi projects. That’s why looking at our statistics you can really make such a conclusion.
But the key values for us are the satisfaction of our clients and the efficiency of our solutions. We never start our work on the project without a preliminary analysis of the feasibility of different approaches. During the migration we can suggest re-engineering and suggest more appropriate frameworks for appropriate implementations. We are very honest with our clients because we know that we are responsible not only for our reputation but for theirs as well. If a client has a monolithic Delphi app it doesn’t mean that we will suggest having it as is. The world has changed and some architectural patterns, applied 15 years ago are not actual today.
Which Embarcadero product(s) do you use the most?
Of course, we use the core product – RAD Studio, including Delphi and C++ Builder. If we’re talking exactly about the Embarcadero and not about IDERA, of course we use different additional products such as Styles, TeeChart components and so on. But let’s say all these things are part of RAD Studio.
Usually, people prefer to share their best practices, solutions and successes, but what if we ask you if you ever felt you’d made a mistake as a CEO?
That’s an interesting question… in my understanding the biggest mistake should ruin the company, but we are still here after 12 years 😊
But I want to mention a couple of things.
Firstly, the CEO should take risks. Around 5 years ago there was another global world [financial] crisis. And instead of increasing the team we made a viceversa decision. After that we got a chance to start working with a world-renowned company. We had been wanting to work with them – a dream – for the last 1-2 years, but… we didn’t have enough resources due to the reduction in team size. Nowadays, after 5 years we still cannot get that contract because, perhaps, the moment has passed.
The second thing, which I want to mention – you should be focused. When you are a small company you cannot do everything and for everybody.
Do you think you will ever quit the software development industry? If so, what would you like to do?
That’s a very interesting question. Again 😂
Actually, I wish I could now tell you something extraordinary to surprise you but unfortunately, I can’t. Though I think that we should never say “never”, right now I feel comfortable where I am. Moreover, I believe that IT can really be a good choice as a career. That’s why our company organizes various seminars and workshops for students to inspire them to choose software development in general and Delphi in particular as their future professional path.
What advice can you give to young developers who are just making the first steps in this profession?
Maybe it could sound a little bit naïve, but… Never stop learning. Learning from your colleagues, from your managers and your clients, learning from professional courses and webinars, from your own experience and your mistakes. Stay curious and do not be afraid to admit that something can be unknown to you.
What is the best way for someone to reach you?
Note from Ian: We’ve also asked Softacom to join us and write some posts here on the blog in our Embarcadero Tech Partner section. You will see Serge’s company appear there as guest writers from time to time along with several of our other Tech Partners at this link: https://blogs.embarcadero.com/category/tech-partner/