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Shaping My Own Career: The Story of Nikolai Frolov

Nikolai Frolov, Senior Director of Account Management at EPAM Netherlands, talks about why having an engineering background is an added benefit for a manager and how his international experience shapes his view of the world.

When did you realize that you wanted to switch from engineering to management?

Throughout my career, even before EPAM, I naturally assumed leadership roles, even if I didn’t have a formal title. Thus, growing into a management role was a conscious desire to move forward, and continuing that growth was one of the reasons I came to EPAM. Previously, I worked at several small Belarusian outsourcing companies, and before that I had a small business of my own. Due to some challenges, I decided that I wanted to work for a large company and learn how big businesses operate.

Does your engineering knowledge help you in account management?

Definitely – EPAM is a special company in that sense. At EPAM, most business people are actually tech people who learned business in addition to their previous background.

Account management at EPAM involves seeing the big picture of what is going on in the world of software at a higher level and understanding trends, team organization and the software development lifecycle. Without this knowledge, it is hard to offer clients what they need. Therefore, an engineering background is vital for any managerial role at EPAM, especially in account management.

As an engineer, what should you be prepared for when moving into a management role?

Managers, unlike engineers, don’t have an obvious list of tasks. Talented managers are those who can quickly figure out priorities and learn how to delegate responsibilities to their team. Managers who don’t learn to delegate will eventually stop growing as they get more tasks than they are capable of processing. Early on, managers must evaluate how to balance this rhythm and how to allocate their time and talent. The most effective way to do this is to grow the people on your team so that they can take on more responsibilities.  With scale, work gradually spreads out among a larger number of people. This is only possible when the manager and his or her team are ready to take ownership and understand that achieving business results depends on them.

You worked at EPAM in Minsk and London before moving to Amsterdam. How does your international experience help you in your role?

Working in other locations was extremely important to me in several aspects. First, relocating gives you a ‘3D picture of the world.’ Let’s say someone was born, raised and worked in one city – they almost have their own picture of the world, like sitting in a movie theater and looking at the screen from one spot. When you move to another city, you get another perspective. You start to understand that the model isn’t flat – it has volume. There’s more perspectives that show the world in different ways. This helps you understand how a company is structured, and how business and the world outside of the company are structured. In this respect, working in London and Amsterdam gave me a new vision and better understanding of the world and business.

What do you like the most about account management?

What I like the most is the opportunity to influence what EPAM does today and what kind of company it will be tomorrow.

What advice would you like to give to our readers?

Take responsibility and ownership into your own hands and do the kind of job you will be proud of. That is the only reliable way to grow and advance. Since it’s impossible to do everything, decide what your priorities are and then work on them as if your life depended on it.