Could you introduce yourself?

Hi! My name is Daria Denisova and I'm originally from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I’m a developer/QA software engineer at Yandex. Yandex is a Russian search giant, it's one of the most powerful search engines available. Yandex is the largest multinational corporation in our country, huge and famous like Google.I work 100% remotely these days. Due to the pandemic a lot of people are at risk to lose their jobs. So I’m pretty happy that my job allows me to work from home (or anywhere in the world for that matter).I have a strong computer science background, but my heart belongs to art and game development, which is why I’m also learning how to create games at the moment. The IT sphere covers a vast area of skills, and this is exactly what makes it perfect for me because I can easily switch from one activity to another. I see myself more as a tech enthusiast, I’m very curious by nature and won't dodge from learning a new technology I am not familiar with yet.

Denisova with her art

What are you working on?

At Yandex we provide over 70 different services in total. Besides improving our search algorithms, we work hard to create intelligent products powered by machine learning. We have developed navigation products, delivery and streaming services; together we have launched our own payment system Yandex.Money; there is also Yandex.Translate, Yandex.Market, Yandex.Music and other applications for millions of people across the globe. Our transportation service Yandex.Taxi and Uber agreed to combine their businesses in Russia and some other countries. Yandex also released a browser of its own design. This was an important event for the company since a browser is the most important thing needed to navigate the web. Last year Yandex launched Russia’s first smart home ecosystem. This system lets customers control dozens of household devices. However, search always was and still remains Yandex’s core product, now we just have a broader understanding of its role.

Considering game development, currently I am working on coding and designing my own game. I’m learning a lot and improving my knowledge, from coding in C# to using all possibilities of the Unity Engine. Although it's more of a study project, I’m not denying the possibility that it may be released in the App Store in the future.

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How did you get into your current field?

I’ve been around computers for as long as I can remember, approximately since I was 6 years old. It doesn’t sound strange now, but back in the 90's it was something new, computers just started to appear in my country. As a kid I got interested in technology through video games first. Have you ever played the very first part of “Prince of Persia”? It became my favorite game and I played it countless times, trying many different combinations (after dying over and over again). That’s when I first thought about algorithms. Just a few years later, when I was about 8-9 years old, I started attending afternoon and evening classes for programming in BASIC. Later in school I picked up Visual Basic and just kept going. Although I always knew I want to be a software engineer, I was really bad at math. I ended up with a Master's degree in Computer Science & Digital Art, and after years of freelancing, I decided to try some other paths.

For almost a decade I traveled and studied abroad: Europe, Cambridge, UK; Scotland, New Zealand. It took me out of my comfort zone and gave me motivation. I tried out History of Art, Fashion Design, even Functional Training for Sport and Sports Medicine & Nutrition. But I knew very well that wasn’t for me, so eventually, I came back to my first passion.Throughout the past few years, I underwent professional requalification and got another degree in Software Testing & Quality Assurance. At this moment I have six diplomas on my hands, just a crazy amount of different certificates, and even today I learn daily. I fell in love with the game industry again now and who knows where I’ll be in 5 or 10 years.

What are your goals?

Sometimes I feel like I have so many different goals that it becomes difficult to prioritize which ones are most important. I keep track of them in to-do lists using an application called Todoist. It is a great way to see all the highlights, what you want to achieve and what you already have achieved. Personally, I set goals in every part of my life: goals at work, spiritual goals, financial goals, health-related goals, goals with my family, and so on. At Yandex, my goal is to continue growing as a tech specialist and help to create top-quality products and services. However, although working for a big corporation is a truly rewarding experience, I am looking for an environment that is more oriented towards personal development. Therefore, sooner or later I'm going to look for a new job, maybe in a small start-up game dev company, and, perhaps more importantly, with more room for creative minds. One of my personal goals is to develop indie games. To achieve that there are a number of things I need to do first, like continuing to learn and improve my skills in C# and Unity, learning to work with triggers, colliders, rigidbody parameters and etc. Another personal goal of mine is to attain the ISTQB certification, because this international software testing certificate is the most widely recognized, and it makes you more competitive. I work with databases on a regular basis, so maybe certification with Oracle will be useful as well.

Do you have a mentor?

Yes, I have a mentor for my new journey in game development, because it’s a totally new area for me. I have tons of questions for him daily, specifically considering some complex coding aspects and the Unity engine, which I’m using for my game project. He supports me and gives me useful comments. But what I think is truly great about my mentor - he never gives me a straight answer. He just makes hints about which direction I should choose, which encourages you to look more deeply into the subject. I wish I'd had a mentor earlier in my career. I witness the transformation that having a mentor can make in your self-confidence level.

Do you mentor anyone?

I don’t have enough spare time for mentoring due to my very intense work/study schedule lately. However, I try to help newbies and other developers from the company I work for whenever possible. We communicate every day via our own work-related chats. Beginners often ask for help there, so it feels good to be able to advise someone going through the same process you once did. It’s also a great way to broaden your network. Sometimes I get requests for art lessons as well, but I have too many things going on right now. Although I can definitely recommend someone great, who I can vouch for.

What's the best and worst advice you have received?

The best advice (it's more like a saying than advice) I have ever been given is “Everything happens for a reason”. It will all work out for the better in the end. Instead of thinking, “why is this happening to me?” – think “why is this happening FOR me.” Whenever things are getting me down I try to remember this advice and get over whatever is bothering me or has me worried. Be patient, and never ever give up.The other advice I can give is don’t ever think you know it all. You don’t. You never will know it all. But if you are humble and teachable, your coworkers will teach you. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t ask you already have the “no”. And probably the most profound for me, “Perfect is the enemy of good”. I'm a perfectionist by nature, probably like most people that love tech or science. I always feel there's room for improvement. But a symptom of perfectionism is often procrastination. Because perfectionists fear to be unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible. I tend to be inclined to procrastinate, but it’s so easy for “someday” to end up being “never.” If something is important, I should do at least a little today, and every day.

When I was younger, someone told me: “Don’t be too smart. Boys don’t like it when girls are smarter than them”. It was the best advice I’ve ever ignored.

Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?

I've always been a book kind of girl, but I wanted to expand my reading palette. So this year, over half of my reading has been on my phone. I follow accounts that inspire me to get better. I feel motivated when I see somebody else in a similar position making something big happen. Some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow are @tiffintech, @justinbieshaar, and @sundaskhalidd. There are many wonderful blogs about coding and game dev, such as Code like a GIRL and Gamasutra. I love staying on top of the latest engineering news, that’s why I subscribed to I’m also listening to a podcast about game development in Unity3D – The Debug Log. I'm a member of a few Telegram channels, which I really love, but they are in Russian.

What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?

It's not news that a lot of IT folks are introverted. I know it may sound cliché, but I’m not very active on social media, which is why I’m always excited to make new connections and expand my horizons. You can follow me on my Instagram @fitshante, where I post about what's going on in my life and what I'm up to. I also plan to launch my personal website, so stay tuned. If you would like to keep up to date with what we do at Yandex, follow our accounts:

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