Thanks to Zendesk, the transition from Ukraine to Ireland was easy
George Koltsov, software engineer at Zendesk. Image: Zendesk

Thanks to Zendesk, the transition from Ukraine to Ireland was easy

10 Nov 2017

For George Koltsov, adjusting to life in Ireland after moving here from Ukraine was made easy by both a welcoming Irish culture and the massive support offered by Zendesk.

Though many might disagree, the people of Ireland are rather privileged to have Irish weather.

Yes, it’s often wet and unpleasant and yes, the winter months do bring with them pitch-black evenings, but Ireland is very temperate when compared to some of the conditions observed globally. Those raised in Ireland tend to be pretty intolerant to anything approaching weather extremes.

In Mykolayiv, Ukraine – the city from where Zendesk software engineer George Koltsov hails – the summers reach peak temperatures of 40C, and the winters plunge to as low as –20C. Koltsov would describe –5C winters as ‘mild’.

Weather was one of the many things that Koltsov had to adjust to when moving here three years ago. While things such as culture shock and language barriers can be taxing, Zendesk was integral in easing the transition.

Where are you from and what’s it like there?

I come from the southern part of Ukraine, from the city called Mykolayiv where I lived for 22 years – a place of my childhood and of very warm memories.

The first thing that comes to mind comparing living here in Ireland and Ukraine is, of course, the weather.

At the south of Ukraine, we have extremely hot summers– the ‘not going outside until sun starts to come down’ kind of hot (between 30 to 40C).

As for the winter, it is mild (–5C) but sometimes unpredictable, surprising you with
–20C temperatures for a few weeks, so eyelashes start to freeze up.

As for my hometown itself, it is surrounded by two rivers (Southern Buh and Inhul) and is mostly famous for being a shipbuilding centre of Ukraine, having three main shipyards in the city itself, and multiple design and research centres.

Fun fact: due to its strategic importance, Mykolayiv was closed off to the public in the 19th century for decades.

Nowadays, Mykolayiv and nearby areas offer many places to visit, nice restaurants, yacht club, museums, the zoo (which is slightly younger than the one in Dublin), beaches (one hour away from the Black Sea) and much more.

How long have you been in Ireland?

I moved to Dublin in May of 2014, three-and-a-half years ago, which is crazy because I feel like I just moved yesterday. Time flies when you’re having fun!

What prompted your decision to move here?

I always knew I wanted to move to a different country and experience life abroad for various reasons, so I had set myself a goal to move.

Working in the IT sector definitely helps in achieving this goal, as a lot of tech companies seek talent, offer career opportunities and help with relocations.

I knew very little about Ireland, hence never considered moving here.

Only after I got in contact with Zendesk did I start learning more about Ireland and its capital, and saw what an excellent opportunity it was.

After some research, it was clear I wanted to give it a shot and relocate, as it seemed like a great place to live.

It was a big decision for me and I can say, for sure, no regrets. Moving to Ireland enabled me to experience so many new things, meet new people that became very good friends and travel the world.

What’s your role in the Zendesk?

When I joined Zendesk in 2014, I started off as a software engineer in test, being a member of a small development team. I think we had around 13 people in the team and 35 people total in the office, working on Zendesk Talk (Zendesk Voice back then).

It is a call centre solution built into the Zendesk ticketing system that allows your business to connect with your customers via phone.

I was mainly responsible for test automation for the product, helping build test framework, expanding test coverage, setting up continuous integration, building testing tools.

Two-and-a-half years later, I made a slight career change, joining Zendesk Talk team as a software engineer with a primary focus of product development, which is a different kind of a challenge.

Nowadays, I help build and expand product features, and provide more value and better experience to people using Zendesk Talk.

How would you describe the working environment?

Zendesk is doing a fantastic job creating an environment that you enjoy spending the majority of every weekday in.

Prime location; facilities; catering; snacks and drinks; desks that move up and down; foosball and table tennis; happy hours and culture nights; Christmas and summer parties; wellness; physical boot camps; and meet-ups – all of these things keep me happy at work.

But, most importantly, our working environment is a friendly atmosphere created by very bright, passionate people that can always teach you something new.

Everyone is equally motivated, works hard and helps each other to be successful. It is very rewarding and allows me to make the most of my abilities, be creative, and grow as an engineer and a person.

What do you like most about your job?

Building a product that thousands of businesses – and people behind them – use feels great.

I really enjoy working with teams from different departments (eg marketing, design, linguistics), different countries (we have offices all over the globe), time zones and different backgrounds, towards the same goal.

We all share the same vision and everyone is committed to the mission of delivering software that is going to solve a problem or make their lives a little bit easier.

As far as product development goes, I love the challenge of trying to figure out how to solve a design or an implementation problem. This usually involves not only myself but the entire development team.

And it does not necessarily mean that we’ll sit and code all day. Coming back to working with people, there are a lot of discussions and idea sharing, settling on the approach.

Then, we sit and code all day!

Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Ireland?

Maybe it’s just me, but I had an extremely smooth moving and onboarding experience and it took me, I’d say, around three months to adjust to a new home (is that quick though?).

Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous and scared. I had tons of new information to take in. It was my first big move to a different country, with a different language and culture.

Luckily, a bunch of good people helped me out and guided me along the way, to whom I am most grateful.

Zendesk was generous enough to offer me temporary accommodation while I was finding a new place to live and getting all the paperwork done. I know nowadays it’s not an easy task to find a place but three years ago, I found one fairly quickly (I changed two places since).

The biggest difficulty I would say was a language barrier. When I was over in Ukraine, I worked in software companies and used English quite regularly, every day. It was limited to work-specific stuff, though. As soon as a workday is finished, you switch back and carry on.

When I moved, I could feel that in day-to-day life, I sometimes could not express myself properly, or could not understand what a person was saying. I am no English expert by any means at the moment but, over the years, the situation definitely improved. It took me a while to get a grasp of the strong Irish accent, which I still sometimes find difficult to understand.

Oh yeah, and the roads in the opposite direction, definitely the roads.

What surprised you about moving to Ireland, if anything?

Nothing surprised me in a bad way. Most of the surprises were very pleasant.

Dublin’s atmosphere feels great. No matter who you talk to, everyone is very friendly, not rude.

Prior to my arrival, I had no idea that there were people living here from all over the world. By simply walking down the street, you can hear a lot of different languages, which is awesome.

It’s always a pleasure to meet local people, as well as those coming from abroad, and chat over a pint.

They don’t call it an ‘Emerald Isle’ for no reason. Irish countryside is stunning.

How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?

From the very beginning, I was impressed by the atmosphere in Zendesk and how much it had to offer.

It made me feel comfortable. I work with people who I enjoy spending time with outside of work.

It makes work relationships less formal, less strict and more enjoyable, which, in my view, is not a bad thing. I guess that is why I adjusted to the new life easily.

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