The GeekBrains We Lost

Sometimes we could not agree with the authors and we had to stop cooperation. Here is one of the most striking examples: we were lucky to hire a very experienced colleague to be the authors of TRBD, with decent experience in an academic environment. Unfortunately, due to his experience dating back to the 70s, he wrote lyrics that would be incomprehensible to our audience. He cited the paper telephone directory as an example of the benefits of indexing. We tried to explain that now not everyone will be able to even use a rotary telephone, and no one has even seen the telephone directory. And everything in this spirit. Numerous phone calls and persuasion did not help.

Fragment of the telephone directory of Moscow in 1935. Taken from

In parallel with the phone calls, in the context of working on methodological materials, technical interviews began with teachers who were supposed to conduct webinars. Due to the specifics of recruiting teachers, for 10 technical interviews I was able to find one or two suitable candidates. Because of this, I had three interviews a week. In total, during my deanship, I conducted approximately 150 interviews and thoroughly upgraded my interviewing skills. And with recruiter Ira, we talked so often and a lot that our communication grew into friendship.

And, again, in parallel with this, I was developing a course on the basics of programming, preparing texts for articles, comments and related work on the faculty. The main 8-hour work as a programmer in GB has not gone away. At some point, I was so tired that when I woke up in the morning I told myself that I urgently need to rest. On the same day, I took a week off from my main job and at the faculty and spent three days lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, getting up only to drink and go to the toilet. Then he returned to work with renewed vigor. By the way, in six months of work as a dean, I lost weight from 84 to 68 kilograms.

Despite the fact that the deanship was not easy, I, as they say, “dragged along” from this work, constantly thought about it and was very inspired. If we talk about financial motivation, then it was modest – 30 thousand rubles a month. Therefore, I can say with confidence that the authors and teachers did not work at GeekBrains for money. But then why?

This work gave me a huge number of social connections, some of which grew into friendships, some into friendships, and some, after one or two handshakes, gave me, again, new friends. GeekBrains was a very cool team. These are open, interesting, purposeful people. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s a fact. We, who worked there, remember and will remember that time with warmth. We were interested.

But most importantly, we are sure that we created something really useful.

A lot of criticism falls on GB. Marketing was already built in such a way that it promised a magical injection of knowledge into the brain: they say, pay, watch webinars and become a programmer. That doesn’t happen. In order to cross the river, you need to row. In order to heal, you need to want to get well and be treated. In order to learn, you need to study. The harder you work, the faster and better the result. We gave everything so that our students could change their careers. The competitive advantage of GeekBrains compared to the same Skillbox was the availability of methodological materials – after the webinar, you could always download the manual and read the material.

But, every story, including a good one, tends to end sooner or later. The history of the “Programming School” ended when, at the end of 2020, Alexandra and Gayka “left” GB, and Alexander Volchek, the former CEO and owner of the notorious “Business of Youth“.

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Alexander came, brought his colleagues from the same “Business of Youth” and they began to turn GeekBrains into “Business of Youth”. Profit “without looking back” has become the main value of the company. This is where my story could end, because everything is clear. But I did not write the article in order to dwell on the most, unfortunately, interesting.

Mail.Ru decided to merge Skillbox and GeekBrains into one conglomerate to reduce competition because both companies were owned by Mail.Ru.

We closed our LMS project, which we had been working on for a year and which was already ready for beta testing. Then they announced that our main portal would be rewritten from Ruby to PHP, because Skillbox uses PHP. At this stage, the developers fled, some worked in the company for five years.

In parallel with this, the accounting department dealing with payments to non-staff employees (authors, teachers, deans …) was transferred from SAP to 1C and all accountants left. For the first time in 10 years, the company has delayed payments to hundreds of teachers. Some have been waiting for their money for a month.

First they wanted to give up the deans, then they decided to keep it anyway. Recruiting has had its base salary cut, but increased bonuses for achieving unrealistic goals. Methodists began to be pressed. The producers started running. Most of the people who actually made it left the company. Which made the GeekBrains brand. I am subjective, but in the opinion of colleagues, the quality of methodological materials began to suffer. And why do we need methodological materials, Skillbox doesn’t have them, but it is financially much more successful.

Before deciding to dismiss the programmers from the staff, I decided to go to a meeting with Volchek for the company’s employees, which was held in person at the office, where he talked about … it’s hard to say unequivocally what he was talking about. I would call it a story about everything in the world. Alexander is an excellent speaker, with good articulation and gesticulation. He maintains eye contact with every listener (which makes it harder for him to have a large audience). He is fluent in the techniques of holding attention, gives excellent examples and allegories. I listened to it with great interest for three hours, it was as exciting as going to a small theater with a small hall, where the audience sits as close as possible to the actors. The next day I wrote a letter of resignation of my own free will.

I left the position of dean after six months, having worked on it for a total of a year.

PS I’m waiting for everyone on my Telegram channel “IT Monk“. And also I am on twitter.

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