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A conversation with Ivan Burazin: Organizations are losing an average $100.000 per developer due to productivity issues every year

What has led him to focus on developer experience, how does investing in it make sense for business, and what are the main differences in developer experience and ROI between unregulated and regulated industries, are just some of the topics we touched upon in our conversation below.

A conversation with Ivan Burazin: Organizations are losing an average $100.000 per developer due to productivity issues every year

In a society that prides itself by the number of soon to be or existing tech unicorns, fastest growing tech companies in Europe, and similar with most awards for different noteworthy achievements, there is one success story that by now most have heard of. It is of an entrepreneur who did not develop software, but an event for those who do. Ivan Burazin is a startup founder who is widely recognized for the largest developer conference in Europe. It was back in 2012 that he brought together around 250 dev enthusiasts. The year later, he doubled it. The next one, he did the same. Almost three years ago, Infobip acquired the conference, making Ivan Infobips’s Chief Developer Experience officer and enabling Infobip and Shift to grow further together. This year, we’ve seen the first oversees edition of Infobip Shift in Miami, USA. In the meantime, Burazin prepared for his last rodeo, focused on starting up a new project – the one in which he continues to support developers around the globe – this time with a tangible tech solution.

What has led him to focus on developer experience, how does investing in it make sense for business, and what are the main differences in developer experience and ROI between unregulated and regulated industries, are just some of the topics we touched upon in our conversation below.

1. You are a serial entrepreneur, you’ve built and sold businesses, you’ve built and spread communities, you’ve almost single handedly sparked up an entire movement of socialising and knowledge sharing in Croatia and the region. But to be completely honest, what is it that you actually wanted to do when you were still in school? What do you think your younger self would be most surprised by?

Thank you for the kind words. I don’t feel that I did much, but hopefully, some of my work helped spark ideas in Croatia and around the region. At different times during my childhood in school, I wanted to pursue different things. Probably the largest portion of it was oriented towards making video games, although I wasn’t very serious about it because I didn’t start learning to program until university. However, I did like to draw. In high school, I pursued a civil engineering degree. So, at one point, I wanted to be an architect, but then I shifted back to tech. Struggling with programming, I abandoned the idea of video gaming and switched to system engineering. I went back and forth through many interests, and my lack of social interaction was evident. Being part of creating a social event like a conference was very unexpected for me, and probably for everyone else, but I’m glad I did it right. That’s probably what my younger self would be most surprised by – that I didn’t opt for a desk job but chose to be on stage and talk to people.

2. Your work must have proved to you how important it is for experiences and insights to be shared and discussed within different members of the tech community in order for various industries to grow and benefit from new technologies. Would you agree? What would you highlight as the main benefits of bringing people, working on similar issues and solutions, together in real life? Or, if we were to turn this around, what is necessary in such events for them to be successful?

Absolutely, the shared journey of discovery and problem-solving in tech is nothing short of essential. When we get the right minds in the same room, magic happens – problems that seemed tough alone become puzzles we solve over coffee. It’s about those ‘aha’ moments that come from a chat in the hallway or that spark from a workshop where everyone speaks the same geek language. To nail such events, you’ve got to mix the right crowd, hands-on sessions, and throw in plenty of chances for those casual, genius chats. Because let’s face it, the real deal happens when we connect, not just when we convene.

3. Throughout your career you have centred your efforts around making the job of a developer as painless as possible. The knowledge and experience shared at the largest developer conference in Europe, being just one of them, you have also written on the topic of how important developer experience is in order to have a good user experience. Could you elaborate on this here in just a few words?

I have probably spent the majority of my career making developers’ jobs easier or – at least – aspiring to make their jobs easier. First through Codeanywhere, which was a mildly successful, then through the Shift conference, which I feel has helped in different ways. Now I’m trying to make their lives easier with Daytona, a Development Environment Management platform, which we created to fundamentally enhance the developer experience.

I think that we have, as a society throughout history, tried to make things easier, but we’ve inadvertently made them much more complicated for software developers. I remember when I was working as a software developer in the late ’90s and early 2000s – a time that seems like a lifetime time ago, especially for some readers who may not have been born at that time.

Back then, it was fairly simple to get started and learn programming. You’d open an editor, start typing some code, and could run or preview your work right away. It was straightforward to get things up and running. Today, the learning curve is much larger due to the multitude of products and services created to make our lives ‘easier.’ Ironically, they have, to an extent, made the learning curve for software development much harder. Our goal is to bring back that initial feeling I had when I was younger – the ‘let’s work and let’s do it right away’ mindset. We want to help developers focus on what matters: coding. Leave everything else in the background for now. We don’t want to remove everything; engineers can still take a look at what happening under the hood if they want. But right off the bat, if developers want to try something out, they shouldn’t have to waste time learning unnecessary complexities just to get a simple app out the door.

4. There is a substantial difference between developing new products in finance and payments and other services, on the one hand because of a long and heavy tradition and customer expectations, but on the other because of strict regulations and sensitive information in the FinTech industry. What have been some of your observations on this matter – does that influence developer experience, does it influence the appeal of the job, or the investment in new technology generally?

When comparing an unregulated industry, like customer service, to a regulated one, such as banks, the products, services, and overall developer experience are noticeably different. This discrepancy isn’t intentional but arises due to the stringent regulations in certain industries. These regulations impose additional rules that companies, and their developers must adhere to, leading to a somewhat degraded experience. This distinction is evident even from a customer standpoint. If we compare software in banks to that in customer service companies, for example a traditional bank compared to Zendesk, the customer experience with the first tends to be less favorable. It’s not to say that financial industries can’t catch up; indeed, they have been catching up. FinTech companies, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, have revolutionized the financial world by providing a customer experience on par with modern tech companies.

I also believe that developers within regulated industries can be exposed to a similar level of experience, whether it’s through APIs or the software they use or build. However, the inherent nature of regulated industries often results in a slower pace of progress. It becomes imperative for these industries not to be displaced by newcomers but to actively catch up with evolving trends.

5. Numerous studies in 2022 showed that large and high growth companies achieved significant ROI after they invested in and deployed better dev solutions. How would you argue that point to a traditional institution such as a bank or a rapidly growing startup in payments?

Absolutely. The ROI is undeniable. Drawing from our internal research at Daytona, we’ve found that developers spend anywhere from 50% to 70% of their productive time not being productive. Productive time, in this context, excludes administrative tasks like emails, meetings, holidays, and other non-core activities. More than half of their core time is consumed by tasks such as setting up development environments, debugging, waiting for builds, or waiting for tests – resulting in a significant loss of productivity. From a financial perspective, considering half the salary of a median engineer in the United States, this translates to approximately $100,000 annually wasted per developer. Moreover, the extended time to market is a considerable challenge, as it takes twice as long to reach goals when engineers lack the free time for efficient work.

This issue is precisely what we are addressing at Daytona – aiming to assist companies in overcoming these challenges. However, this principle extends beyond just development environments. Investing in the overall experience of developers, whether internal or external, yields a staggering return on investment.

6. We imagine Daytona is on its way to eventually showcase the same results to its clients. What is it about your new company that differentiates you on the market?

It is all about enhancing the developer experience and boosting productivity. What sets us apart, I believe, is our approach to abstraction. While competitive products may offer one or maybe two layers of abstraction for developers, we take it a step further by eliminating all complexities. That way the developers can get up and running seamlessly.

On the other hand, many products in the market hide complexities even from proficient engineers. We take a different approach. While we make the onboarding process extremely easy and conceal all complexities, any engineer can choose to open up and delve under the hood to examine those complexities if needed. This approach ensures versatility, catering to both junior and senior developers across the spectrum. Our solution works seamlessly from end to end, providing assistance to developers at every skill level.

7. This year at Infobip Shift, we had a chance to hear numerous experts announce the new age of AI developers – a complete new job and set of expectations from developers that comes hand in hand with using AI – an almost paradoxical situation in which acquiring a tool that is supposed to make it easier for you to solve your issues demands for a completely new set of skills in order for it to be used efficiently in the first place. What is your stance on this, how do you see this new challenge unfolding? When talking to others in the industry, is it even perceived as a challenge?

AI is perceived in different ways, and we will see how it continues to evolve. We see the corporate world enthusiastically announcing AI initiatives, often driven by stock prices and positive market reactions to anything connected to AI. It appears to be more of a marketing push than a true reflection of its widespread application. This isn’t to say that AI hasn’t been beneficial; it has indeed made an impact. However, there seems to be a disparity between its media portrayal and its actual presence in the real world. That being said, a substantial number of developers, I would say approximately half, seem to be utilising GitHub’s copilot code-assisting tool. And, there are other similar competitors like Tabnine and CodiumAI. Many companies and individuals are now using AI-assisted tooling, which I think is great. It’s very similar to how people use ChatGPT for writing and creating content – it helps them and augments them as writers, as creators. This augmentation is expected to improve over time.

On the other hand, there are AI coding agents, essentially full-fledged engineers that you can assign tasks to, and they autonomously complete and commit smaller tasks back to the main project. While still in its infancy, this technology is anticipated to advance. Despite these advancements, we are still far from a world where developers don’t exist. Software engineering, as mentioned at the beginning of this interview, is becoming more complex, not less. The human element, especially the expertise of very skilled senior developers, will continue to be crucial. However, AI’s role in handling routine tasks is likely to increase. Developers should equip themselves with the skills to use AI as an augmentation tool, as proficiency in AI assistance can significantly boost productivity. This is especially important in larger teams with numerous engineers with 100, 1,000 or 10,000 engineers – if proficiency in AI assistance increases productivity by just 10% across 1,000 or 10,000 engineers, that’s a huge difference. It’s an aspect that every engineer should consider, as those not actively using AI may find themselves falling behind and experiencing prolonged project timelines.

8. Finally, given your insights from the tech community, but also personal experience, what do you expect to be the next big thing in FinTech?

FinTech had a very big boom. The FinTech industry experienced substantial growth, mostly due to zero interest rate policies. Now that they’re gone, I think what we’re going to see in the foreseeable future is a lot of consolidation from the FinTech industries. So in the next period, I think it would be interesting to see how the market evolves, who survives and how they survive in creating a stronger, more sustainable FinTech industry.