5 Questions with Vladimír Černík (Lead Virus Analyst)
When I emailed the entire AVAST team about nominations for co-workers that they would want to see interviewed, I saw/heard “Vladimír Černík” more than any other name. It turns out that Vladimir was one of the first people ever hired by AVAST founders Eduard Kučera and Pavel Baudiš, more than 20 years ago. It's enough of an accomplishment, in modern times, to work 20 years in one place… but to watch a company grow from almost nothing... to over 150 team members, with more than 160 million users of your product… that’s truly amazing.
In the comments below, please join us in offering Vladimír Černík a warm congratulations on his 20 years with AVAST Software. – Jason Mashak
1. You’ve been at AVAST longer than anyone aside from the founders (about 20 years?)… how was it for you in the beginning, and why have you stayed so long?
I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I started as an assembler programmer, then I was programming databases for a while, and eventually I was helping (avast! co-founder) Pavel Baudis with the viruses. At the time I didn’t know a thing about viruses and I was gaining all my experience hands-on. And of course a couple of times I managed to massively infect my computer.
It was back in the good old days of DOS. There weren’t so many viruses around like nowadays, when you are cluttered up with thousands of new virus samples daily. We were happy for every new sample we received. I remember having the time to run detailed analysis of its behavior, how to detect it and so on. While getting more experienced, I ventured on to more and more complicated samples until finally I was able to analyze all the file infectors, including polymorphic ones. I was preparing directions for Pavel on how to trap them, and then he included them into a detecting program Lguard.
I have to say I was very lucky to find a job that not just earns a good living, but in particular I enjoy it. Certainly I wouldn’t stay for such a long time if I was bored at work or had to do something I wouldn’t enjoy.
2. What was your first indication – or when did you first realize – that the tiny little company you began working for had become a world-class organization?
I realized the fact that we are not a tiny family firm anymore a few years ago, when I started meeting people in the corridors that I not only didn’t know by name, but I didn’t even know in which department they were working. Until that, I knew everybody personally. Now, if I need to meet in-person with a new colleague, I first look in the company phonebook with photos, so I match the correct face and name.
3. What, in your opinion, has been the underlying cause of AVAST’s success in the global market, especially against much-larger competitors?
I can assess this only from the point of view of a virus lab employee. We do everything we can to provide our clients with new or upgraded detection as often as possible. Currently, we usually create two daily virus database updates, including weekends and public holidays. If needed, we can issue a new update within a few tens of minutes, so we are very flexible to respond to any possible new threats. Thanks to our big and broad user base, we always have a rich source of new virus samples.
Another point is that for most of our people it’s not just work from 9 am to 5 pm, but, as we say, its “a mission” – which means, we work as long as needed to sort out a problem that might occur.
But, one thing we worry about a lot is false positives. Despite a rich database of clean files, that we keep up to date and use to test our program, every once in a while it happens that we detect something we shouldn’t. For such situations we have a sophisticated system to identify the problem fast and issue an update, so we minimize the adverse effect on our users.
4. Considering that foreign nationals now make up such a large portion of the AVAST team, are there any common misperceptions of Czech culture that you’ve encountered?
I haven’t experienced any troubles resulting from collaboration between Czechs and expat colleagues in our company. Maybe it is because I am not commonly in face-to-face contact with them. We communicate mostly over the phone or by email. In the virus lab we have one expat colleague from Russia, and I have to say he gets along with the team quite well. He has learned a bit of Czech and he is not abstinent [a “water-drinker”], either.
5. How would you describe your ideal day away from the office?
A couple of years ago I would immediately mention a nice mountain tour, but as years go by I’m more easy-going, so I prefer spending quality time in the backyard with my family, with a nice barbeque in the evening.
(Czech responses translated by Blanka Mikulášková)
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