CTO Sessions: Vadim Solovey, DoiT International

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? “For me, it’s always the business need that comes first, and my job as a CTO is to find a technology-based solution.”

Headshot of Vadim Solovey, CTO at DoiT International
DoiT International

Name: Vadim Solovey

Company: DoiT International

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: January 2011

Location: Israel

Vadim Solovey is the CTO and General Manager of global cloud technology company DoiT International, founded in 2011 to help deliver on the original promise of the public cloud. DoiT has strategically partnered with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services to execute this mission, winning multiple consecutive awards. A remote-first, global organisation with more than 350 employees, the company operates across more than 70 countries, including the US, UK, Nordics, France, Germany, Israel and Australia. Solovey is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Google Developer Expert, and a Cloud Native Computing Foundation Ambassador, focusing on helping digital-native companies improve cloud ops, maintain security and control costs. Solovey’s professional history began in 1995 as a software engineer in Israel, and before founding DoiT, he co-founded WE! Consulting Group, where he developed the company from zero to a $20M/annum business.

What was your first job? My professional history began in 1995 as a software engineer. I co-founded a company a few years down the line, that built complex data centres for big organisations. Then in 2006, after roughly eight years at this company, Amazon launched AWS. At first, it was a threat — but its inception represented a big shift in the technology landscape. I fell in love with the cloud computing founding principles such as use on-demand, elasticity and infinite scalability, and even tried to replicate some of them in our own tech stack.

We sold the company and I left in 2010 in search of a new challenge. As the public cloud matured, I was surprised to discover that some of the founding principles changed, and not always for the best. It is this what drives my current mission as CTO and co-founder of DoiT: to build technology and products that will deliver the true promise of the cloud.

Most organisations in our space are playing the classic MSP game where they have people helping clients build, maintain and secure their cloud.  I would call this a ‘people-based’ MSP with all the restrictions to flexibility, scalability and elasticity that people introduce. DoiT’s approach is a little different because we are a technology-based MSP, building technology to maintain and secure our clients’ cloud environments.  Technology in this situation has many advantages over people: It is always available, it never blips, it is globally deployable and, with technology like machine learning, it is always evolving. To me, this is much closer to the original promise of the cloud, namely flexibility, scalability and elasticity, and means our customers can avoid a wide array of challenges.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, pretty much. There were a few summers when I worked as a carpenter at a shipyard during my high school days. Since then, I have always been in IT.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? In terms of formal education, I finished high school and went to college.  However, I soon realised there were many more interesting things happening in the commercial sector, so during the first year I decided to leave and continue my education in industry. I don’t regret the decision at all, and in addition to co-founding two successful cloud businesses, I hold an array of cloud computing certifications from Google and AWS. I’m an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Google Developer Expert and a Cloud Native Computing Foundation Ambassador.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My biggest ‘detour’ was to leave a well-paid job and start my own company. I was 22 at the time and it was quite likely that I didn’t understand what I was doing. Having said that, it has all worked out very well for me.

What type of CTO are you? I always was and still sort of am a ‘hands on keyboard’ type of a CTO, though I try to stay out of it. As someone who was always close to applied tech, it’s hard for me to disconnect from that.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? At this point in time, it’s mRNA technology. COVID-19 has shown us what this technology is capable of delivering in a very short space of time. There are companies bringing personalised cancer drugs to market that direct the body’s own immune system to destroy cancerous cells by identifying mutations that are specific to each tumour. Being able to develop drugs en masse is the big challenge for this life-saving technology, as each one requires a tumour biopsy and DNA sequencing before the medicine can be made. Sequencing DNA is a very compute-intensive task, but the process can be expedited and run at a scale to deliver real results for cancer sufferers around the world by using the computing resources the cloud is able to provide.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Virtual or augmented reality because we are still quite far from seeing a decent level of implementation. I am also somewhat worried about the social implications of a massive rollout of this technology, as it has the potential to drive a disconnect between our consciousness and reality.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? The creation of our Flexsave technology. What started as a small experiment, has become our most successful product. We’ve built engineering, product and sales teams that are helping our customers to save millions of dollars on cloud infrastructure.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We are a classic ‘born in the cloud’ type of company and we primarily serve companies like ourselves. What is equally important to us and also to our customers is our ‘self service’ capability. No one likes to wait for engineers or sales to be able to achieve something which is why we have invested millions of dollars enabling our customers to do things themselves, especially via our open APIs.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? My goal has always been to build a technology that will help our customers save money they would otherwise spend on cloud computing infrastructure. The culmination of this work are our two cost optimisation technologies, Flexsave and Spot Scaling. And both are driving savings of between 35% - 75%, depending on the usage.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? For me, it’s normally the other way around. It’s always the business need that comes first, and my job as a CTO is to find a technology-based solution.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? I love technology but I have always understood that it’s no good on its own. Applied technology helps to solve a problem at hand but it is only a tool.

What makes an effective tech strategy? It’s the one that achieves the goal you’ve set for yourself. As I said, the tech itself is just a tool, it’s almost never a goal in itself.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think the role of the CTO is very different for every company and for every stage that given company is at. You need to adjust yourself accordingly because what was right three years ago, may be very different from what is required today. Also, I have found that even great CTOs need to surround themselves with A-class players. That’s why I have invested in building the ‘CTO Office’ organisation at DoiT.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest achievement to-date is this company. As a tech-based Managed Service Provider (MSP), we build the tech that is building, securing and maintaining businesses in the public cloud. What started as a small, regional initiative has become a large, global organisation helping digital native companies across the globe to use cloud computing technology in a smarter way.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would start our global expansion earlier. It took me a while to realise the fact that technology problems we are seeing with startups in Israel, also exist at a larger scale - universally everywhere.

What are you reading now? Right now I am into The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. It’s a bit like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, challenging common assumptions and raising uncomfortable questions about the present and future.

Most people don't know that I… am a certified divemaster, scuba diving instructor, with over 2,000 logged hours across the Mediterranean sea. As part of that, I am also a certified diving rescue specialist with a wreck diving specialty.

In my spare time, I like to…I enjoy all sorts of ‘Do It Yourself’ projects in my home. My most recent project was building a storage room, with electrical lift and automated storage system.

Ask me to do anything but… Probably directly manage more people than I am managing right now! I enjoy working with people, especially the brilliant staff we have at DoiT, but what I have learned over the years is there are better people managers out there than me. We are lucky to have an amazing management team to drive and scale the company globally.