Employee Spotlight: Auslese with Andrey Kim
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If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Andrey Kim—technical product manager—is defying the laws of time and space, because he truly does seem to be “everywhere” at Kenna. He is always available, always answering questions on Slack and Webex, and always ready to help wherever he can.
Andrey has spent years building a reputation as a true master in quality assurance (QA), and most recently, he has started making an equally impressive mark within Kenna’s technical product management team. Andrey is known throughout the organization for his deep understanding of our product(s), persistent work ethic, and good humor. There’s no project he’s not willing to support, and it comes as no surprise to any of us that he was the latest recipient of Kenna’s Crush IT award for exemplifying our company’s commitment to customers, trust, and character.
He has made himself indispensable to Kenna’s product operations, and as one Crush IT nomination simply put, “I don’t know what we would do without him.”
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up on the opposite side of the world. I was born in Kazakhstan, and my family and I moved to Uzbekistan when I was 7 years old. It’s a small country in Central Asia that not many people seem to have heard of.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: I studied International Economics in university—I have a master’s degree. But when I graduated, the job market wasn’t ideal. The Soviet Union had collapsed not long before that, and things were crazy. I knew I had to find a job—any job—not to satisfy my interests but to make money. I went into business with some friends, and I ended up running an IT consultancy. We grew to be quite large, especially in that economy (more than 100 employees).
When I moved to the United States, however, I had to restart at ground zero. I was exploring my options, and it was suggested to me that I look into quality assurance (QA). It immediately piqued my interest. From past experience, I knew the importance of QA. The IT consultancy I previously ran frequently secured contracts with large companies and the government. As part of the government contracts, the ask was not only to deliver and integrate hardware, but also to write integration software. We hired a bunch of developers who did exactly that—but with no QA in place, we ended up in a bad position when the rubber met the road. Lesson learned!
Interested in pursuing QA, I attended a testing and QA school and eventually went on to find a job with a Bay Area startup. As I went on into my career in QA, I found that it was a really good fit for me. I kept progressing in the field, and eventually I found a job at a very fast-growing company called Relativity. Throughout my years there, I received a lot of recognition of my skills in this area, and I felt very confident that this was a good use of both my work ethic and natural abilities. But I also felt like I wanted something more.
I had gotten into the rhythm of meeting with the product management team, and over time I realized I wanted to be in that kind of role. Product management appeals to me. There’s beauty in software development—the idea of coming up with a concept, working hard to create it, and then seeing it come to life and being used by people in the real world. There’s a massive sense of accomplishment that comes with that.
After a while, Kenna Security reached out to me. I didn’t immediately make the switch, but eventually joined the Kenna team in January of 2018. I started off in a QA capacity and took on some pretty big projects. And in 2020, I was granted the opportunity to move into a technical product management role, which I now utterly enjoy!
Q: How do you think 15-year-old Andrey would feel about what you’re doing now?
A: Well, at 15 years of age, my first priority was, “How can I help my family?” My family was living on very modest means—we always had food on the table, just not always enough. Buying things was a privilege. For a period of three years, I owned one pair of winter shoes and wore them every day. Living in that context, I dreamed of being an entrepreneur. (I wouldn’t say I still have an interest in being an entrepreneur. Unless I magically inherited a million dollars from an estranged uncle—then I’d buy a bakery in southern France and live out the rest of my life there.)
To be fair, I think 15-year-old Andrey would raise his eyebrows very, very high at what I do now. Living on the opposite side of the world, speaking broken English, working in product management—he’d definitely be surprised. But I think he’d also be really interested in learning more.
I’ve always wanted to make an impact. I recall a time when Salman “Sal” Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, was once a guest speaker at my previous job. I saw in the front row, listening to him tell his life story, and I was just so impressed. This man has dedicated his life to non-profit education, not because it would make him well-off financially, but because he felt it was the right thing to do. And he’s impacting millions of people in such a meaningful way.
Being in a soldier in the trenches in product management at a software company isn’t going to set you up to have the same kind of impact, but I feel there’s still the same kind of beauty in. We’re helping people to do their job—even do it more efficiently and more effectively so that they can go home to their families and not stay up late worrying about work. That means something to me.
I read somewhere that product management is about influence without authority. I really enjoy that frame of mind.
Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give someone who was pursuing the same role as yours?
A: Work with a sense of “paranoia” and strive to do something better than you did it yesterday. If you can make even just 1% improvements at a time, those improvements will add up. Do your best and don’t be afraid to fail. (The only true failure is the failure to try!) You may fail on your first, second, and 23rd attempts. But then your 24th attempt is a success. You have to be willing to go through the journey to get there. It doesn’t come without fear or discomfort or mistakes. But the end result is worth it.
Also, I’d say that in product management, the most important thing you can do is foster partnerships with people. I cannot be successful at my job without it.
Q: Apart from Kenna’s awesome technology, what are you really passionate about?
A: There are three things I’d say I’m really passionate about.
First, movies. I don’t have a lot of spare time but I really enjoy watching movies. I’m trying to watch every decent movie from all three major film festivals: Berlin, Cannes, and Venice.
I also really love European TV series. There are amazing shows coming out of the UK and across Europe. I loved Broadchurch and am enjoying some of the Nordic Noir series like Bridge.
Last but not least, I’m very passionate about classical music. One of my biggest disappointments in life is not getting a musical education. Growing up, I would listen to whatever music my peers listened to—pop, rap, etc. One day, I discovered a channel on Russian state TV that was broadcasting classical music. As I was listening to a violin concerto, it was like someone flipped a switch. Now, I absolutely love to just put my headphones on and listen. It’s so hard to explain, but the music just resonates with me. It’s something so beautiful that I almost feel like it can’t be created by human beings—it’s like a divine force.
Q: Best movie you’ve ever seen?
A: There are three I’d call out:
- The Godfather. I’ve seen it probably a hundred times.
- Chungking Express. No one knows about this movie but it’s truly magical. I actually discovered it by accident a long time ago (before I moved to the US). It was recommended to me because I kept ordering French new wave movies or German movies. I actually got the movie on VHS and didn’t have a VHS player at the time, so I had to borrow one from a friend. I was blown away. It is a pure miracle of cinematography and dialogue.
- Lost in Translation. This is a very necessary film!
Q: Let’s say you have a week off from work. How do you fill your time?
A: I would buy a ticket on the longest flight I can find—likely to Singapore or Japan. I absolutely love flying.
Q: In your opinion, what is the best technological innovation of the last decade? The worst?
A: Best innovation: Gmail or the iPad. I live in Gmail, and my iPad is such a convenient device for reading and watching movies, etc.
The worst innovation: The iPhone. I actually don’t own a smartphone. I feel like it’s too easy these days for people to just disappear into their phones and not even acknowledge each other in public.
Q: Top 5 songs for your road trip playlist?
- Mozart, Piano Conceto No. 20
- Mozart, Piano Conceto No. 24
- Vivaldi, L’estro Armonico
- Cat Stevens, The Wind
- And, finally, maybe some French pop music
Q: Spring or Autumn
Q: Movie or TV Series
A: TV Series
Q: Be a guest at a party or be the host of a party?
A: I wouldn’t go to the party.
Q: Be haunted by a ghost or be attacked by a zombie?
A: Be haunted by a ghost.