The St. Louis Metro Area is Becoming America’s Next Great Technology Hub – Here’s Why
When people think about innovation in technology, areas on the coasts like New York City or Silicon Valley tend to immediately come to mind. However, what many don’t know is that a city between those coasts is quickly growing into one of the top areas in the US for jobs and innovation in technology. Just outside of St. Louis, O’Fallon, Missouri is home to a thriving community of technology startups, as well as established corporations that have shifted many of their tech operations to the area.
Working with many of the world’s most innovative organizations, EPAMers from all over have begun relocating to the area to showcase their prowess in enterprise software development. We caught up with one of those EPAMers, Lead Software Test Automation Engineer Roman Khachko, to glean some insight into what is propelling the incredible growth of one of the United States’ newest technology havens and what makes O’Fallon a great place to live:
Can you describe your role in O’Fallon? What do you like about the position?
I play the role of tech lead/architect, so my typical day starts with meetings where I discuss current status of the projects and blockers, share updates on our strategy, technologies and approaches we're introducing, help colleagues solve problems and oversee completion of their more demanding technical work. Once those are done, I help my team with any requests and offer advice on best practices – this could be anything from, “How do I properly design a system (or its component) and write the high quality code” to “how do I ensure this component is deployed and functioning correctly?” Next, I may have various meetings with stakeholders, including managers, engineers and architects. I try to spend at least three to five (quite often even more) hours per day with hands-on stuff, which can include things like trying and evaluating new technologies, closing gaps in current solutions or designing future improvements.
The main reason I like this kind of job is because you can touch so many different things and solve different problems in different areas – architectures, delivery, quality, the code itself, etc. It is much more gratifying working as a consultant to our clients rather than just an employee. It sounds simple, but the most amazing thing is when the job is appreciated; when a client comes up to us and says, “We struggled with it– and you managed to solve this issue.” That’s an incredible feeling.
How would you describe the professional environment in O’Fallon?
The professional environment as a whole is very impressive and vaster than I anticipated. There are a lot of technical meetups with professionals who work for EPAM, as well as numerous other companies that are truly building something great here. Technology professionals in O’Fallon and in the St. Louis metropolitan area are very willing to share knowledge and there are lots of really cool people who don’t treat it like just another meetup. People really appreciate and value the opportunity to learn from others in this industry.
You moved a long way from Mountain View in California. What was the relocation process like?
In general, relocation with EPAM is really good. My global mobility specialist was great and made things much easier for me and my family. Of course, the physical relocation is always going to be difficult for some people. After all, you’re moving across the country, which is never a walk in the park. However, as a whole, the relocation process itself is quite good.
What do you like best about working for EPAM?
First of all, the ability to help different clients and operate as a consultant – not just the person completing the task, but the one designing and building out or at least drastically influencing the solution. Secondly, you can grow at EPAM in a different way than what is available at other companies. If you want to learn particular technologies, you can do that. If you want to learn more about software design and architecture, you can do that too. They make it really easy to grow both personally and professionally within the company. There are mentoring programs, internal projects, conferences and presentations, personal development plans and more. In other words, being part of EPAM, you can learn new things and you can be guided. Lastly, there is a good work life balance. This is great for reducing burnout and keeping ideas fresh in the office, but it also gives me the flexibility to spend enough time with my family, which is very important to me.
What do you like to do in your free time in Missouri?
First of all, I try to spend some of my free time learning and practicing new (or “old” if I haven’t touched them yet) technologies and approaches, or sharing my knowledge with other engineers (blog, GitHub, presentations, etc.). As I mentioned earlier, there’re tons of opportunities to do that.
I am a big music lover and there is a huge music scene in this area. Whatever you like, you’ll find it here; whether it’s local jazz bands, small underground shows or big arena concerts. When you look at other areas in the middle of the country, you’ll find that not many bands or artists make their way through, but St. Louis always has something to do if you’re a fan of live music.
As far as family activities, I do plenty of sports and educational activities with my kids. For example, I ride BMX bikes with my elder son as often as possible at a track close to where we live or we play soccer with my younger son. Really, there’s no shortage of things to do in Missouri, no matter what you’re into. There are plenty of nightlife, sporting events and family-friendly activities in the metro area as well as great opportunities to go hiking or swimming out in nature. It really provides the best of both worlds.
Did you have any expectations before moving to O’Fallon? What did you think after arriving?
Here in Missouri, I feel like there is a better opportunity to explore American culture and communicate with native speakers. Having people in your circle that aren’t from the same area of the world is really amazing. While California feels like a giant melting pot of people from all over, Missouri reminds me of the American movies I watched when I was a little kid.
Finally, do you have any quotes or inspirations that you live by?
I’m inspired by lots of different people and aspects of life. Don’t stop – fill yourself with the feeling of being young and exploring the world.