Interview with Denis Vazhenin, an engineer who works at Bespoke, discusses new ways to utilize AI data in new and innovative ways

Position: Engineer

Joined: 2018

Denis Vazhenin came to Japan with his family at the age of 12, accompanied by his father, who had been appointed as a professor at a Japanese university. After graduating from high school and college in Russia, Denis went on to complete his doctoral studies at the University of Aizu, Japan’s first university specializing in computers. After more than 20 years in Japan, he is now working at Bespoke Inc as a senior and full-stack engineer.

Could you please tell us about your career so far?

Denis: I worked for about four years at a company called Aizu Japan in Aizu Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture on various projects. I then moved to Tokyo to work for en Japan, a human resources company. My work included working on new projects and services launched by the president’s office as a senior engineer. During my time there, I worked on several projects before I joined Bespoke 3 years ago.

What was your reason for joining the company?

DV: Bespoke employed one of my former colleagues as an engineer, followed by another, it piqued my interest, so I changed jobs.

When I am developing a large system or complex project, I cannot often test it myself. In-house systems have limited usage scenarios, so it’s hard to explain to friends, and in-house ventures, even if you launch various businesses, ideas, services, etc., in the end, the target is not you. Although I do user interviews and ask people to actually use the app, I don’t touch it much myself, so it’s difficult to update it.

But Bespoke is a service that anyone can use at Narita Airport. So if I go to the airport, I can use the chat as a user. When it’s something you can use, you know immediately what needs to be improved, and it makes development easier. For instance, if a page loads too slowly, it wastes your time, so let’s improve it. This project intrigues me because I would like to see the development side and use it as a user.

What is it really like to join the company?

DV: Taking on new challenges with interesting clients and learning new things is something I enjoy. Right now, I’m trying to improve where I couldn’t before, manage data efficiently, use the data I’ve collected, and implement or prepare interesting ideas and research.

When it comes to the chat, the users want messages, answers to their questions, and information, but the client wants the type of user, behavior, and research data to determine if the chat is helping. We are working on improving what is already there, such as how to retrieve data in these areas, and the structure of the dashboard.

We collect all kinds of data, so we can always find something interesting. What are the most popular topics, the least popular topics, what kind of users are coming, the ratio of PC to mobile, whether a question is answered and that’s the end of it, or how can we get more people to continue chatting? There are many areas where we can improve. As an immediate goal, I want to make the flow of data cleaner as a foundation for doing interesting things in the future.

Also, at Bespoke, we have been doing hackathons twice a year for about two years now. For the first two days, we work alone or in teams with other members to realize what we want to do. As an example, improving the chat or implementing a concept we had but didn’t have time for may be possible.

Then, on the last day, there is an opportunity for those who want to participate within the company and Akemi (the CEO of Bespoke) always comes and makes a presentation. Some ideas end up being researched, while others are actually put into practice. This kind of freedom is one of the good points of Bespoke.

What is your role, Dennis?

DV: I am both a full-stack engineer and a senior engineer, so I do data, infrastructure, and basically everything.

In my role as a full-stack developer, I understand the connection between the user interface and the server-side, with regard to actual data storage, construction, security, and data compatibility.

As a senior staff member, I use my wealth of experience to summarize all the requests and tasks from customers and salespeople, and then assign each team to a specific task, with a specific priority, and what to develop. The rest of the time, I am free to work on my own.

Within the team, we share the division of individual tasks and the priorities of the work. All of the engineers are seniors, and there are about 7 or 8 of us now. Some are at the Ph.D. level. We are divided into various teams, including those who specialize in the application side and those who are in charge of the AI part of data and chat.

How is the working environment at Bespoke?

DV: We have people in multiple time zones — Japan, Europe, and the U.S. — so schedule management is a bit complicated and difficult. We have to make the time work together, but there is no good way to do this because it’s a physical matter. For example, when we have a meeting, either the person in Japan leaves late at night or the person on the other side leaves late at night.

However, the good thing is that you can use the time zone to your advantage and get the task done quickly. It may be night in Japan, but still noon in Europe, or still morning in the U.S., so someone is always on the go 24 hours a day, and the cycle can be kept moving without stopping. If things go wrong, you have to wait a day for a response, so it is important to manage the group’s schedule.

For my final question, what kind of person would you like to see at the company?

DV: People who can work for their own goals. Individuals who know what they would enjoy doing.

My role will be to teach the salespeople how I develop the tasks and requests, and how I develop the specifications, realize them on my own, and convey them to them.

Also, someone who is not that serious. It is also important to have a ratio of 80/20: a person who takes their work seriously but can also enjoy a good laugh when the opportunity arises. I think that makes it easier to talk with people in the company and on various projects.

For more information about employment at Bespoke, please visit https://www.be-spoke.io/careers

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