A Day in the Life: Greg Ryzhov (CTO, Urban Sports Club)

Greg Ryzov (CTO, Urban Sports Club)

What has been your journey in tech so far?

I made my first website in 1999 and started actively developing in 2004. After years working as a fullstack developer, my technical journey really took off in 2012 when I joined Westwing, a Rocket Internet venture in Russia. Along with my team, I built the whole order management system from scratch, which they’re still using years later.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving into your current role?

The biggest challenge was the number of responsibilities as well as the scope of the responsibility that came with being CTO. In my prior roles, I was responsible for some parts of development — Backend and QA — and just in a specific area: business operations. I wasn’t very involved in budgeting, managing strategic topics for the entire organization, or strategic decisions for the product itself. Furthermore, I had limited exposure to members and customers. In my previous roles, my “users” were warehouse employees or customer care agents, so focusing on members, UX, and other marketing topics was new for me.

Briefly describe your stack and workflow

Backend: PHP with a Phalcon framework

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day consists of a lot of different meetings: catching up with teams or team leads, interviewing potential members for the team, participating in leadership meetings about strategic topics, and various weekly updates. I also regularly catch-up with different departments where we might define the strategy between tech and other departments, and talk with third parties about different services and systems. In short, my typical day involves a lot of communication.

What’s the best and worst part of your job?

The best part would be the amount of communication and collaboration I get to have with others combined with what I am able to learn from these exchanges. Being CTO is a permanent learning experience. Every day I speak to developers, learn from them, and hope they learn something from me in return.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I recently received some great advice during my leadership development training at Urban Sports Club. We’re a growing company, and as we continue to grow, there are things I need to learn how to let go. The trainer helped frame this in a way I found very powerful. Letting go is not about learning not to care, but instead about learning how to delegate. In short, letting go allows you to let other people learn and develop.

What is your most useful resource (book, blog, newsletter)?

One book I found useful is Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. It’s about maximizing your own development and then helping others develop further. By giving others the chance to grow, you can multiply your impact.

What’s one thing you’d like to learn, develop or work on in 2020?

As is the case with many expats in Germany, in 2020 I’d definitely like to make progress in learning German. Other than that, I want to come up with a good team setup that allows the company to scale and our cross-functional teams to work at their best. This involves a few different topics: breaking down silos, building relationships between Product, Developers, QAs, and having well-organized reporting lines. Next year, I want to find a solution that will work for our culture, our team, and our organizational setup. That is the biggest challenge I’d like to overcome.

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