Iakov Pustilnik is one of our lead developers here at aytm, and has been with the company for over six years. He looks over the architecture and development of the many parts of our backend, including the stats page. We caught up with him to talk a little more about what he does both inside and outside aytm. Check it out!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do here at aytm?
I joined at the lucky moment when the team and business were already quite mature in terms of what needed to be done. From there, we just started growing faster and faster. I am now in charge of the architecture and development of the most reporting parts of the system which is what produces insights and deliverables for our clients.
How did you decide to get into your field?
Computers and coding were my main interests from early childhood. Luckily, I grew up in a scientific village beside two of the largest ground based telescopes in the world, so I had access to the first x86 personal computers and Linux distributions in the 90s. Growing up there and having an astrophysicist father, I was very interested in astronomy, but personal computers were my craving. I thought that I might become a game developer, so I went on for a CS degree.
Can we talk about space? What about astronomy blows your mind?
Modern astrophysics is so much about computing, models and math, my mind was (and still is) blown by stories about black holes, time dilation in gravitational fields, pulsars, gravitational lensing and so on. But I also noticed that the programmers were running the show—transforming a bunch of numbers from the digital receiver and producing nice colorful pictures for the conference posters and magazine articles. One of the greatest programmer minds in the observatory (who actually wrote most of the control software for both telescopes) came to our school every other week to lead after-hours classes for a few years. I remember being totally astonished as he created a playable Arkanoid clone (but with non-rectangular walls) in a few dozens of lines of Basic code as he leaned over my keyboard.
What’s something you’re passionate about?
I’m quite passionate about music and its cultural role throughout the history of human civilization. I had basic musical education—piano, guitar, vocal, even a little banjo—then picked up sound design and electronic music production. For me, making sounds that I like is just as important as writing good code that works. I believe that music can communicate universally across different cultures and languages.
Any artists that were particularly inspiring?
I think that, for an artist, it’s not about sending a message to someone else. Like David Bowie once said: “Always remember that the reason you initially started working on something was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you can manifest it in some way you’d understand more about yourself and how you co-exists with the rest of the society.” So I try to explore those dimensions of creativity as much as I can. And as brilliantly pinned by Brian Eno: “The big mistake is to wait for inspiration; it won’t come looking for you. It’s not so much creating something, it’s noticing when something’s starting to happen and noticing, and then building on it, saying ‘Ok! That’s new! That hasn’t happened before! What does it mean? Where can I go with it?’”
How has aytm helped you in your career development?
I’m sure we all know some great solo developers and genius scientists, but I’m still pretty sure that the best things humanity can accomplish comes through collaboration. That’s something this team knows how to do very well. I’m learning a lot from it everyday.
What advice would you give someone just starting out at aytm?
You mostly see one side of a jewel when interacting with other team-mates. The fact is, everyone is much more special than we usually comprehend. As Kregg A. Foote said, starring as a man on TV in the movie Waking Life: “A single ego is an absurdly narrow vantage from which to view this experience. And where most consider their individual relationship to the universe, I contemplate relationships of my various selves to one another.”