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Interview with Zhanibek Dastan, a Kazakh alumnus of BIT

Views:928 Time:10/22/2021 12:00:00 AM

Zhanibek Dastan, a Kazakh alumnus of the Beijing Institute of Technology's class of 2018, recently gave an interview to Turkistan, a well-known Kazakh newspaper, in Bahrain. Dastan began his undergraduate studies in computer science and technology at BIT in September, 2014. Over the following years, he studied hard and got excellent results. In addition, Dastan grew to love Chinese culture and became familiar with the country. He was fluent in Chinese and actively participated in various activities, achieving good results. In July 2018, after graduating with excellent results, Dastan was hired by Huawei, and he now works in Huawei's Middle East headquarters in Bahrain as an "excellent intelligent DevOps engineer". Although he has been away from China for more than two years, he is still deeply attached to China, and to BIT. 



ZHANIBEK DASTAN: Working at Huawei, helping my countrymen In the second half of 2020, Huawei surpassed Samsung and Apple for the first time to become a global leader in smartphone sales. Despite US sanctions, the number of consumers using Huawei's services and purchasing its equipment has increased dramatically. Zhanibek Dastan is currently working at Huawei's Middle East headquarters in Bahrain. We interviewed Dastan, who is currently on a business trip in Iraq. As the manager of the automation development team, his team is primarily responsible for providing various related services throughout the Middle East. 


Q: Dastan, in general, software programmers will go through many stages of experience before they are employed by big companies like Huawei, but you were successfully employed by Huawei as soon as you graduated... 

A: Yes, I was hired immediately after graduation. First of all, let me introduce myself. I was born in 1994 in Taldy, Shet District, Karaganda. When I was 5 years old, my family and I moved to Qaraghandy. However, after the second grade, my father, as the youngest son in the family, had to go back to his hometown because of the death of my uncle in the countryside. He kept the family property, so we moved back to the countryside with my father. From grade seven to grade nine, I went back to the city again and studied in Daryn, a key school. When I was in high school, I studied in the city's cooperative college which specializes in finance. After graduation, I decided to go abroad for further education and successfully won the Chinese Government scholarship, so I came to China. After two years of language courses, I majored in computer science and technology at Beijing Institution of Technology. 


Q: After studying finance in college, what prompted you to turn to the field of IT? 

A: Actually, I have been interested in computers since I was a child. I often went to villages to repair computers, and helped people who had bought new computers to install operating systems at a low price, so they didn't have to go to the city and pay expensive fees. In addition, I have been outstanding at mathematics since I was a child in school. When I was a junior in China, I worked as an intern in a start-up company. In my senior year, the representative of Huawei came to BIT to advertise recruitment. I sent my resume in a tentative manner. A month later, I received a call from the company for an interview. After two rounds of interviews, I was finally employed and worked in Huawei after graduation. 


Q: So you worked in Beijing first and then were transferred to Bahrain? 

A: In fact, Huawei is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and it has branches in 182 countries around the world. At first, I thought I would be assigned to a branch in China, but they decided to send me to a branch abroad. When I first saw the word "Bahrain" in my employment contract, I didn't know where it was. I went on the internet to search for it. Then I learned that Huawei's offices in the Middle East were located in Bahrain. 


Q: When you learned that you were going to be sent to Bahrain, did you feel anxious? 

A: No, I have lived at boarding school since I was 14 years old, and I went to China to study when I was 18 years old, so I knew I can take care of myself. When I arrived in Bahrain, I devoted myself to my work. Usually, the company's management will evaluate the employees every six months according to their performance. If the performance is excellent, the company will upgrade the staff level and title. In this way, I started as a junior program developer, and now I am the head of the automation team with 15 developers. Although my office is in Bahrain, I am usually on business trips abroad. During my two years and seven months at Huawei, I have been to more than ten countries, mainly in the Middle East. Today is my 20th day in Iraq, and I'm talking with my customers about automation work. 




Q: Do you think it is difficult to manage your own team? 

A: Yes, it's not easy. Our team consists of Arabs, Chinese, Pakistanis and Indians. Everyone has a different cultural background and mindset. I will try my best to coordinate, and sometimes I will turn to my boss. 


Q: Did the experience you accumulated during the internship win the trust of your management team at Huawei? 

A: That's true. Maybe I'm lucky to meet a good leader. For example, less than a month after I arrived in Bahrain, I was sent to Kuwait on business. At first, I was worried and said to my boss, "I'm not familiar with anything yet", but he said, "No, come on. This is the way to learn everything. " When I finished working there, I got a bigger project. Leaders were very satisfied with my previous work, and rest assured that I will complete important projects. I started in 2018, and my performance stood out from those of other employees. In 2019, I won the "Rising Star" award, which is awarded to the best employee by the company. In the first half of 2020, I won the award for outstanding employee. Based on this, although I had little experience, management encouraged me to lead the team. 


Q: When we talk about Huawei, we only think of the mobile phones. In fact, in addition to assembling the phone, the company also provides many services and equipment. I understand that your current job has nothing to do with mobile phone manufacturing, right? 

A: Huawei's main revenue has nothing to do with mobile phone manufacturing. The profit from mobile phone sales may only account for about 10 percent of the total revenue. Most of the company's profits come from selling telecommunications services to mobile operators. In short, the work of automation is to provide mobile operators with the tools and equipment for assisting the network mobile signal towers that they can't produce by themselves, so as to ensure signal transmission. Generally, such devices are only manufactured by Huawei, Erikson and Nokia worldwide. But Huawei is the largest manufacturer compared to the others. Kazakhstan towers are also equipped with Huawei equipment. Once these devices overheat, sometimes they will fail, so operators will receive thousands of alarms every day. In the past, all these tasks were done manually by dispatchers, but now we have higher and higher requirements for alarms, and technology allows us to fix problems in seconds through computers instead of mobilizing experts to spend a lot of time on them. 


Q: Until May 2020, US (former) President Trump had imposed sanctions on Huawei and ZTE's equipment, claiming that they pose a threat to national security. What do you think of this matter? 

A: Generally speaking, we are not allowed to comment on this. However, every product has its own advantages. Last year, Chinese consumers bought a lot of Huawei mobile phones to support domestic products and Huawei itself, while the number of customers from other countries has also been increasing. Usually, the company's business includes two aspects: one is what I am engaged in, cooperating with major operators and providing various services; the other is the development and sales of mobile phones, watches, tablets, laptops and other electronic products. That's why I don't know much about e-sales. My friends in my hometown often ask me: "Which mobile phone is better?""When will the new phone come out?", but I often do not know the relevant information. Even if I do, I am not allowed to disclose it in advance. 


Q: We know that technological innovation is very fast, and program developers can quickly adapt and master new technologies to adjust to changes, which also makes them generally reluctant to spend too much time in the same position doing the same job. Do you have a similar idea? 

A: Yes. Although the scope of daily business is very wide, they are always very similar, so my interest is gradually declining. Usually, companies have a lot of work to do. For example, we have a department that specializes in developing new products, and I want to be transferred to the R&D department in Europe in the future. Although I'm already a department manager, I don't want to stop here. At the same time, I have personal projects outside of work going on, and I hope they can be successful. 


Q: If possible, can you tell us what kind of program you want to develop? 

A: I have not mentioned this part to anyone, but I am willing to share it. As we all know, every expert who connects his future with the IT industry hopes to work in a large company and gain experience, but these companies only employ applicants who can write code and algorithms flexibly. Therefore, I want to develop a platform for students to practice. First of all, I want to develop this program for Chinese students, because the number of Chinese college students is considerable, and I also graduated from China, so I have a better understanding of all the aspects. If it goes well, I will also launch this platform for students in Kazakhstan. But at present, I only follow up this aspect on weekends, and the rest of the time I have to focus on my work. My personal projects are more interesting than my work, though! 


Q: Are programming languages not taught in college courses? 

A: At University, most of the time will be spent on studying the history of IT, but technology is developing every day, and the development procedures of these technologies are also changing. These aspects can't be learned at university. Employers want us to know more about new trends than historical developments. As mentioned earlier, I went to a start-up company as an intern in my junior year. Half a year later, I realized that I had caught up with the employees there. In this way, I did three internships before graduation, and learned a lot. When I was interviewed by Huawei, I was asked: "What do you know?" and "What can you do?" What I had learned in these internships helped me a lot. 





Q: Huawei also has a branch in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Did they invite you after they knew that you were working abroad? 

A: Yes, I have received their invitation. To be honest, I miss Kazakhstan and my hometown very much. During my vacations, I always rush back to my hometown as soon as I get off the plane. In my eyes, the village in my hometown is the most beautiful place in the world. I really want to go back to work there in the future. When you are in a foreign country, especially when you are not used to the food, you will miss your mother's cooking. Friends in my hometown often take pictures of all kinds of delicious food and joke that I can't eat it. The reason why we stay abroad is because of the work and considerable income, which can't be changed in a short time. For example, my current monthly salary can offset several months' salary in Kazakhstan. After my father died seven years ago, the burden of my family fell on my shoulders. If I worked abroad, I could help my family more. However, I know that I will return home in 5-10 years after accumulating more experience and skills. We also have many smart young people in major enterprises who are constantly developing new technologies and things. The Chinese expression "glass ceiling" can describe the work situation of young people in our country. Just like glass, although this barrier will not be explicitly stipulated, it actually exists. I also have many friends who were admitted with high scores after the college entrance examination, but could not find an ideal job after obtaining their diploma. These talented friends have to work in factories, but I know they are well-educated and have great talents which cannot be used. Therefore, I think the state should implement training programs that can give full play to the potential of young people. Although I don't have experience of working in our country, I often hear my friends talking about it. I have also noticed that most mobile apps in our country use Russian. That is to say, if you need to write a program, you need to use Russian, because most Kazaks in our country are used to speaking Russian. In addition, 20 percent of Kazakhstan's population is Russian, so if my app is written in Russian, it will be more conducive for me to increase the number of users. However, China will not use English applications. Therefore, I hope there will be more applications of Kazakh in our country in the future, and users of IT products designed in Kazakh will increase.