Giving back to your Alma Mater: How a VMware employee passes on the company's innovation spirit to the Faculty of Physics of Sofia University
Giving back to your Alma Mater: How a VMware employee passes on the company's innovation spirit to the Faculty of Physics of Sofia University

Stanislav is one of the founders of the inventor's Marathon at the Faculty of Physics of Sofia University

Giving back to your Alma Mater: How a VMware employee passes on the company's innovation spirit to the Faculty of Physics of Sofia University

Interview with Stanislav Hadjiiski, VMware

Stanislav is a software engineer at VMware who works on an open source project called Admiral – a container management platform for deploying and managing container-based applications.

His path with the company started more than 2 years ago when he was accepted as an intern. Since then Stanislav has been constantly fostering his skills and learning by interacting with his colleagues and by participating in various training, conferences, hackathons, etc.

His exceptional learning and professional development experience at VMware inspired Stanislav to take the best practices from the company and bring them to the students of Faculty of Physics, where he has completed his education. Last year with the support of VMware he and several other enthusiasts established the Inventor’s Marathon at Sofia University. We interview Stanislav to learn what role does VMware Bulgaria play in the education of future talents.

Tell us a little about the history of the Inventor’s Marathon at the Faculty of Physics? How did you come up with the idea?

Shortly after I joined VMware I had the opportunity to take part in an internal hackathon on the topic of IoT. We have at least two of these each year. I had never taken part in something like this before, but with my passion for gadgets, I found the idea appealing, registered, and had an amazing experience.

Ever since I am a regular participant in our local hackathons at VMware. Each time it is a new experience, but I am always having a blast. Although my team is not always among the top-scorers,  the opportunity to take part in the event is the biggest prize for me – you get some time break from reality and focus on whatever you like in the company of your friends.

I shared this amazing experience with some of my fellow physicists. Soon, we realized that we simply needed to have a similar event at the Faculty of physics. We decided to keep the IoT topic since we thought this is as closest as a hackathon can get to the ideas of our students. This is how the Inventor’s Marathon was born. We had a successful kick-start last year, so we are now preparing for a second edition.

What’s the mission of the Hackathon and what is VMware’s contribution to serving that mission?

First of all, the hackathon aims to create a sandbox for students that provides them with the opportunity to experiment and learn by working on a fun project. It also strives to get youngsters more accustomed to working in a team – something that we never did in school but needed right after graduation. Last but not least, the hackathon provides a forum for sharing ideas and a place to make new friends. Of course, it is also a competition, so we have prizes for the winners.

Organizing a hackathon is not an easy task, especially if you have never than that before.

Fortunately, VMware were right next to us since the very beginning. They helped us get the organization for the event going, then provided mentors for some of the teams and judges for the final scoring. They are also sponsoring us and thus making it possible for us to provide free project materials to all our contestants.

What types of inventions are made at the Hackathon? Have any of those been commercialized? Why not?

The only limitation is the topic of the hackathon – “smart and handy gadgets”. Everything else is up to the imagination of the registered students. And I can tell you we saw a lot of interesting ideas last year, including the sci-fi goggles that will wake you up if you fall asleep behind the wheel, the handy portable meteo station, a full automation kit for a microscope and even a working prototype of an ionising radiation detector with commercial quality of the signal.

While I haven’t heard about anyone making his or her first million out of those projects yet, I was amazed of how much work and passion were invested in those creations. I am also aware of the fact that some of the prototypes are still being worked on, getting better and closer to completion, so I guess sooner or later you will be able to find one of those inventions in a nearby store.

What are some of the most prominent hackathons around the world that you’d love to take part in? Why?

Well, I am still new in this area, so I haven’t really researched what options are available around the globe. A friend of mine took part in the latest edition of the Hash Code competition. I heard it is quite challenging, so I will probably research it for next year.

As a big company does VMware successfully promote innovation?

When working on a well-known product in an already established market, innovation often remains in the background. This is due to the fact that taking riskier decisions might result in slowing down the development and giving a chance to the competition to catch on us. In the worst-case scenario this could even mean that you are going out of business.

However, at VMware we understand that innovation can as well be beneficial to our projects – it can help us dramatically improve our existing code or even be the foundation of the next generation of products. This is the reason why there are a lot of options to innovate in the company. I have already mentioned the internal hackathons where one could work on any crazy project he wants.

There are also the special “innovation” sprints during which we try to improve our existing products. It is possible to share thoughts and ideas at conferences and talks. If you have something good, it is also possible to use one of the numerous company-level programs that can help you find the time, budget and people needed to turn a good idea into reality. Actually, this how some of the new VMware projects are born.

What’s your advice to young people in Bulgaria who are passionate about science but have limited options to work in science?

Study hard and follow your dreams. Try to find (or even invent) a job that you will enjoy doing and that will let you develop your personality. Options might seem limited sometimes, but with persistence only a few things are impossible for a smart guy/girl like you.

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