Ask our Lead Developer: António Maltsev

Rita Pereira
October 18, 2023
 min read

António Maltsev — or simply Maltsev, as we call him at Leadzai — is one of our oldest members and one of the most cherished colleagues in the company.

Data doesn’t lie: he is employee number three at Leadzai — only behind the company’s founders. Throughout these (almost!) six years, he has not only seen in first-person the growth of the company but also, of course, contributed enormously to its success. For that reason, you can imagine how many stories he has to share!

In this Ask Me Anything interview, get to know our Lead Developer and Head of the Research and Development field a bit better. What does he love the most about his work and which are his daily challenges? How did his interest in languages and linguistics arise? If he had to choose between cats and games… which would he eradicate from the face of the earth? Discover all answers below.

1st July 2017 marks the beginning of your adventure at Leadzai. How did you enter the team?

During my last year in university, toward the end of the exams season, I found myself realising that I’d soon have to start submitting applications at various possible companies where I would like to work.

Only a scant few hours after I’d taken my last exam, however, I received a fortuitous phone call from Pedro Rodrigues, with whom I had worked with in the past, letting me know he and a friend were creating a startup, and asking if I was interested in joining as a developer.

I stopped by the office to have a chat with him and meet João Aroso. I introduced myself, we got to know each other, talked about the project they were starting up, and things just took off from there. When July rolled in, I embarked on a fun adventure that would flourish into the Leadzai we all know and love today.

You are the Lead Developer and are in charge of the Research and Development field. Can you explain what you do in each of them?

As Lead Developer, I help the various dev teams coordinate with each other, ensuring the systems we’re working on are all aligned, and add up to a cohesive whole. I am also there to offer my aid and share my knowledge of the technologies we use, whenever one of our developers needs a helping hand, or if we find some particularly tricky bug that could use my attention.

On the R&D front, I work closely with our Product team in devising Leadzai’s upcoming features, pooling their knowledge of the advertising world with my technical insight, to turn promising ideas into concepts that fit Leadzai’s overall strategy and existing tech, so our developers can later make them come true.

What are your biggest everyday challenges?

I have the pleasure of working with many people who handle a lot of different features in various stages of development. This is a lot of spinning plates at once, and I often need to switch context back and forth between all the concepts involved.

When things get busy, it can be challenging to balance my time between helping colleagues across multiple time-zones with the various features they’re developing, and working with the Product team to keep Leadzai advancing ever-forward.

Throughout the years, you have seen many changes in the company. Looking back, what makes you most proud?

When we were still getting started, the company had about half a dozen people, all working together from our office in Lisbon. If anyone had any questions, or needed any help, everyone was super helpful and would jump at the chance to lend a hand, anytime, anywhere.

It warms my heart that, despite our team having grown to multiple times its original size, and now having people from multiple different countries, working remotely from the comfort of their homes, we’ve managed to preserve this spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness alive and vibrant.

During your last 6 years at Leadzai, many adventures have happened and you’ve witnessed the majority of them. Can you share one of these fun stories with us?

Back in the early days, we’d often liven things up at the office by putting on some music for all to enjoy. The musical genre varied a lot from day to day, based on our mood. Pop, rock, classical music, you name it. And sometimes, we’d get a little swept up in the moment.

Imagine arriving at the office, the Phantom of the Opera is playing in the room, ominous organ chords setting the scene, while both me and João Aroso merrily sing along in a duet while we work. Fun times!

What’s your favourite part about your work?

I like to describe my work as solving puzzles for a living.

Every week I’m presented with new problems to solve, ideas to turn into reality, algorithms to improve, questions to investigate. Every one of these challenges is different: no two features are ever resolved in quite the same way, and I love the challenge of looking for the common ground that will let us apply existing technologies in inventive new ways to produce the solutions we want, or devise new means of doing the same things better and faster.

It is known in the company that you have practiced salsa lessons some years ago. Can you find any connection between dance and backend development?

While at first glance there wouldn’t seem to be much of a literal connection, if you look at both dancing and backend development from a metaphorical point of view, the parallels are actually quite striking:

Both dancing and backend development have a technical or skill component: where a dancer must follow a rhythm and needs to know how to perform the various moves and techniques, a developer needs to follow good coding practices, and must be familiar with technologies and design patterns.

But technical know-how and skill alone are not enough: a dancer feels the music, and has the artistic freedom to dance to the same song in many different ways. The same is true for a developer, who has lots of possible ways to solve a problem, and must use their intuition to pick the one that is the most elegant, and that will flow well into the next thing they’ll want to do after that.

And finally, just as salseros have a partner to dance with them, developers are also usually part of a duo: whenever a backend developer creates a new functionality or API, often there will be a front-end developer who wants to use it, with whom they should coordinate to produce a harmonious result.

Teambuilding scavenger hunting on the 29th April 2022.

You are fluent in Portuguese, Russian and English and also know a bit of French, Spanish, and Italian. How did this love for languages and linguistics arise?

I grew up speaking both Portuguese and Russian in my home, as a means of keeping both languages alive, and was surrounded by movies and television series in English (with Portuguese subtitles), so I ended up learning it by osmosis, whether I wanted to or not.

And once I knew several languages, I started to notice that while they’re very different in some aspects, there’s actually quite a lot they have in common too. New words being born from older roots or borrowed from neighbouring languages, older words taking on entirely new meanings as their usage shifted over time…

Realising I could learn the meaning of a word I’d never heard before in my life by tracing it back to its roots, and piecing their meanings together fascinates me. And while I have not actually studied linguistics, I have since spent many an evening reading up on various fun facts and quirks, both of languages that I understand, and those I know almost nothing about.

Cats or Games: you love both but unfortunately you have to eradicate one from the face of the earth (yes, we’re mean). Which one would it be and why?

Games. They never stood a chance of winning this one.

I might like games, and have had lots of fun playing them with my friends, but I absolutely love cats. A world without the cute little gremlins and their antics would be a lesser world.

If games were gone, on the other hand? Maybe we’d all learn to draw, or write stories in our free time. Who knows! There’s lots of ways to keep our imaginations entertained.

After 6 years and a top-notch skillset to work anywhere, what makes you stay with us at Leadzai?

First and foremost, I would say the fantastic team I have the pleasure of working with every day. They are truly wonderful people, and a delight to have as colleagues.

As if that were not enough, I am also fortunate to be in a position that constantly presents me with lots of new challenges, and the opportunity to flex my creative muscles, and play an integral part in designing their solutions.

Because the world of online advertising is vast and ever-changing, there will always be new things to learn, and new obstacles to overcome, and I feel I am in the best place I could be, to make a difference.

Maltsev’s Favourites

A book: Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky brothers (1972)

A film: Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan (2000)

A song: Long Live Death, by MONO INC. (2018)

A place to visit: I would love to visit Tokyo, some day, when I have the chance.

A pizza: Cheese-and-cream sauce, sprinkled with corn, and topped with sliced cherry tomatoes, pepperoni and thinly cut chorizo.

An ice cream flavour: Watermelon. Mmmm…

Thank you Maltsev for your generosity!

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