Born in 1962. Spent my childhood in Moscow. Starting from high school was interested in math. Through high school and University was involved in math activities stemmed from schools and classes organized by the visionary of mathematical education Nikolai Konstantinov. Spent several summers in his mathematical camp in Pylgaste, Eastern Estonia. It was great school of life and has far-lasting influence through my life.
Received MS in Applied Math from Moscow University of Electronics and Mathematics in 1985. While studying had to support myself by always working and sometimes taking several jobs simultaneously from pure research and programming to weird jobs like heating and guarding conserved railway cars throughout Russian winter. Every summer went away from Moscow to build farmhouses, barns and roads.
After graduation was lucky to get into great team under late Prof. Dadaev of Institute of Cybernetics. Since then the Institute was split and now remaining lab members belong to Institute of System Programming. Most of Russian research then and still is concentrated in Academy of Sciences. The team had several internationally recognized researchers. It was non-stop learning.
Made PhD in Computer Sciences under supervision of Michael Frumkin simultaneously building mathematical libraries for Soviet replica of Cray-1 and debugging them on an emulator running off 60s relict BESM-6 mainframe. The mainframe was based on lamp transistors, the control unit was occupying huge round hall, and while rebooting it was showing "Welcome to BESM" message in huge letters comprised of lamp diodes on the control panel. It's a great mystery how the engineers managed to map individual transistors to location on the control panel. Subject of my PhD thesis sounds frightening: On Efficient Algorithms of Fast-Fourier Transform on Vector-Pipelined Architectures. Some friends here jokingly call me "rocket scientist" which is not entirely untrue granted that the supercomputer was suppose to calculate more then just long-term weather forecasts.
Gorbachev's Perestrojka marked end of 80s, beginning of 90s. Science was sliding into oblivion, inflation was enormous, living on salary was absolutely impossible, to support family and myself I had to take 3-4 different jobs. Lot's of people got instantly rich that time. Entire "new Russians" breed of people was born. I wasn't prepared to early capitalist wilderness.
When in 1991 Japanese Computer Graphics Company offered me job to write 3D CAD system I didn't think too long. The company president Dr. Kansei Iwata came to Moscow and brought box of Japanese instant noodle. Japanese friends laugh when hear the story. They say it's the cheapest and worst possible food you can imagine. Nevertheless it was exotic gift for 1991 Moscow and I was happy to get twenty plastic bowls of noodle in a cartoon box as my sign-up bonus.
With samurai president and bunch of foreign engineers mostly from Eastern Europe I spent in Graphica about two years. Dr.Iwata passed two-years work plan to me on the first morning at the company. It contained one sentence written on A4 sheet of paper: Venus: How to control smooth surface. I was relieved, at least the name has been decided. Survived 6.5 days working weeks. Often the president would come to office at ~10pm after his dinner to talk issues with engineers and you didn't want to miss that. If you cared about your bonus of course. Next morning you had to be in office at 9am anyway. Somehow Dr.Iwata miscalculated and company went bust loosing competition to cheap and flexible general-purpose software running on cheap PCs.
Every morning I was taking stroll from home to company with humble Irish trainee Derek living in dormitory next door. Each walk turned into an English lesson. Yes I learned my spoken English from an Irishman. He was kind enough not to laugh too loud on my mistakes. Learned my non-colloquial Japanese from various mostly female educators.
After company collapsed, spent 7 years in cubicles of financial multinationals, building stock and bond trading systems. Learned that strong opinion has negative meaning in corporate world and sometimes fresh college graduate working as a programmer can earn much more then computer science PhD. Used this knowledge to my advantage. Watched my paycheck to grow, and attitude to fade as I gradually run out of things to learn and was being drawn into departmental politics.
At the end of Merrill Lynch tenure was lucky to work on the same project with Mario Gomez who is one of most talented developers I know. We built a C++ framework implementing major OMG Corba service specifications including distributed transactions, events, messaging and object-relational persistence. After switching to Java I realized that in about one year we had written system that covers most of J2EE Application Server functionality.
Having two bosses changed in one year I decided to leave and relocate to New York with my then wife. I found similar job on the Wall Street, obtained H-1 working visa and was quietly waiting for my annual bonus, when I was approached by the CTO of an Internet start-up and promise of exciting work and huge IPO pay off. End of 1999 was the peak of Internet hype and expectations were extremely high. I decided to stay in Japan and to join the company. There is no single moment when I would regret about choosing my present job and not relocating to a New York cubicle.
We started with empty technology floor, company was frenetically growing, reaching its peak with 150 employees and then shrinking to about 90. Went through turbulent times of initial disorder, huge enthusiasm, all-nighters, then stabilization and introducing order and management in place of typical start-up chaos. Usual and well-known stuff for those who been there and survived. At one point had to lay some members of my team off, which was the worst ever work experience.
Most of companies that started together have disappeared from the map already. We still exist and in the last three years we built one of the most powerfull systems in the industry. And recently recorded our first profit. Proud of this.
Are there many people who tasted Soviet style organizations (lots to learn BTW), Japanese hard-core company, American multinational corporation and Internet start-up? Considering myself extremely lucky.
In parallel life was always taking photos. My first camera was old cranky Smena presented me by my mother. The price of a new Smena was about 15 rubles those days, which hardly buys one can of Pepsi today. One of first photos was picture of my mom, which I took in the age of 7. I was able to afford my first "real" camera only after coming to Tokyo.
Acquired my first Nikon on first Japanese salary, since then stick with Nikon. Taken tons of film, published couple of articles, and one dodgy book on "Japanese women" in Russian. Traveled a lot. Recently while filling some visa application found difficult to count number of countries I had visited. In Japan traveled all four major islands including obscure Shikoku and most recently Kyushu. Photos published on my site is just tip of the iceberg. Most of photos currently sit in slide sleeves in my closet waiting to be scanned and published.
My last big purchase was Nikon D-100, which after only half-year is already out-of-date. However I am in love with the camera and not even considering going back to film. I am receiving lots of e-mails from all around the globe either wanted to use my photo or just liking it. It tickles my photo-vanity for sure, but besides that I feel warm knowing that somebody somewhere looking at my photos and maybe becoming a bit happier.
Recently rediscovering Japan with my son Peter who is in his teens and in contrast to his father loathes math, chemistry and physics while having fun learning history and Japanese in a Moscow's liberal arts high school.