Career opportunities in IT are vast. According to Technology Director Rimantas Benetis, who has more than 20-years of experience in the IT field, the programming profession is much more interesting than many imagine.
"Today, those who want to work in a creative and dynamic work should choose programming.”
– Rimantas Benetis, Technology Director at Devbridge
In this article, Benetis shares his experience pursuing a career in technology studies, professional background, and beginnings working in IT.
You were born and raised in a medicine-orientated family. What prompted you to choose technology?
At school, I didn't know what profession I wanted to pursue. Although both my parents are medical practitioners, they didn't pressure me to pursue that path. Dad made it very clear that every job required a vocation. I didn't have an interest in medicine as a child. I did, however, enjoy the exact sciences. So after graduation, I considered business and technology. Circumstances determined that I entered the Kaunas University of Technology to study Informatics. At the time, the more popular specialties included management, law, and social sciences, so my choice was a bit intimidating. I wasn't entirely sure what I would do exactly after graduation. These doubts were fleeting. When I entered my studies, there were no more questions. In the second year of the exchange program, I went to Chicago, where I worked at a hospital in IT maintenance. In the third year of study, I started working in Lithuania.
What was your first experience with technology? What was the starting point for you?
The first time I was fascinated by technology in 9th grade. My parents bought a computer that was unavailable to many at the time. I also got a floppy disk with a lot of games on it, albeit archived. Neither my parents nor I knew how to unzip them, and I wanted to play. I read all the available literature before I finally succeeded. For me, that's how it started. There were more and more questions, and I wanted to find the answers myself as soon as possible. My interest in technology grew until I finally entered the computer science study program and later studied in Denmark.
You completed your master's studies at Aalborg University and received an invitation to study for a doctorate, but you decided to return to Lithuania. Why?
Denmark was interesting. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship. Students pay for courses in Denmark, but I studied completely free of charge. While I did very well, I always wanted to return to Lithuania. I like it here, and our country has unlimited career opportunities, especially in IT. In Denmark, I had to adapt my working style. It was challenging to learn how to adjust to the people and cultural differences. I saw how the IT field in Lithuania was changing. There were (and are) great opportunities available in my country. So, I decided to return to my native Kaunas and take advantage of them.
You mentioned in another interview that everyone can learn to program and that it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Can you elaborate on that?
That's right. The technical part is not as complicated as it seems. Of course, you need analytical thinking, but everyone can learn to program. Programming is a broad profession where everyone can discover the specifics of the elements making up their favorite job. The idea that a programmer sits at a computer and barely interacts with anyone is very outdated. Today, I would emphasize the importance of teamwork coupled with communication and conflict resolution skills as essential. Attitudes towards work and personal qualities are crucial because technical subjects are easier to teach than changing a person's attitude. Other areas closely related to programming are design and software testing.
Why did you choose programming?
Programming fascinates me the most because you can solve a wide variety of problems while constantly learning new things. The spectrum is really wide. I always want to do the job better, with greater quality. This is the motor that helps me and others in the field move forward every day. What fascinates me the most is its dynamism. You can't stand still. You have to be constantly learning, so it's not boring. There is little routine in such work. I started working in my undergraduate years and never regretted it. While most of my current responsibilities are managerial, I will never forget my roots in programming.
What does it take to become a good programmer?
Those less exposed to programming work rarely realize that knowledge of other disciplines contributes. For example, when creating a financial program, you need to understand how finances work, medical programs require the basics of anatomy, and so on. Once I had to go back and look at a 7th-grade geometry textbook for context. I've had to try all sorts of areas throughout my career; I'm in a constant whirlwind of change. Those considering working as a programmer should be prepared to constantly know and learn new things, which is a huge advantage for me. Programming is the division of actions into smaller units. It's not just engineering qualities that are required. A programmer must be able to explain the programming problem simply. Public speaking skills are also important, specifically understanding and articulating the specifics of the client's business.
You joined the Devbridge team six years ago. What prompted you to join this company? How would you describe a day at work?
I joined the Devbridge team when I received a call from Viktoras Gurgždis, the Head of the Lithuanian offices. As we talked, I immediately realized that there would be a lot of challenges. The interesting client and project portfolio made an impression, so I didn't hesitate. At the time, I wanted a change and to try working at a project company.
Currently, I spend most of my time consulting the teams working on various projects, trying to find out in detail what results customers expect and what problems the teams are solving. My job involves constant communication with clients.
At the beginning of their careers, programmers have more technical work. With better qualifications, they become more involved in various processes and communication with clients; so, their working day becomes more diverse. Young professionals have daily meetings with the team to discuss ongoing projects, assess what is going well and where help is needed.
Teamwork is essential at all stages of a career. There are always opportunities to study within the company, and then everything depends on the person's desire and attitude to work.
What can a novice and experienced programmer currently hope to earn?
Today, the market offers in-demand professionals a salary that is often well above the national average. Typically, programmers do not focus on their financial well-being and pursue their favorite hobbies, like travel.
Of course, a novice programmer shouldn't expect to be earning a fortune when starting a career. As one becomes more qualified, so does the remuneration. At the very beginning, the salary is about the Lithuanian average, but as the programmer improves, their pay rises very quickly. After six months, the salary of a programmer can double or more. The sky's the limit for a programmer's remuneration. I always say that we don't get our salary, we earn it. The rule is simple. If a person can perform more complex work, they get more for it.
You have been working in IT for more than twenty years. Has your attitude to the profession changed? Can it be said that stereotypes about programmers are on their way out?
Attitudes have changed significantly, although a wide variety of stereotypes still exist. In the past, the most common stereotype was that a programmer was a scientist who didn’t move from the computer screen and was difficult to communicate with. But if we look at the representatives of the profession, we would see a completely different picture.
It is a profession that requires creativity, so we have many interesting people in our environment. Some run, build robots, or enjoy teaching children free of charge at our free Sourcery academies.
It is gratifying that programming today, albeit slowly, is receiving more and more attention from women. Stereotypes are likely to emerge in school. At Devbridge, we run The Sourcery Academy for Kids, a free, creative, basic technology and programming academies for children ages 7 - 14. Interestingly, there are almost as many girls as boys are coming to them, both performing equally well. However, as they approach university, the number of females declines significantly, so attitudes seem to change somewhere along the way.
This year's forecast shows fewer graduates took the state IT exam than the year before. What are your thoughts on that?
Programming will be a sought-after profession in the future. The bigger problem is that there is a constant shortage of good professionals, and the deficit will be more acute in the future. The shortage and gap are not unique to Lithuania. The work efficiency will have to increase, while the need itself will probably never decrease. Moreover, it is crucial to keep in mind that programs are becoming obsolete, so we have to continually update what has already been created.
Anyone considering but not yet sure whether programming could be their vocation should look at the profession more broadly. Sign up for a group or an academy, program a robot, or find out about the most popular programming languages online. Maybe this could be the beginning of an exciting professional path? If one has a lot of motivation and is persistent, anything is only possible.