A day in the life of Alla Klimenko, the woman leading Kyrgyzstan’s booming IT economy

The digital world defies geography and when companies need help building new software, they don’t look in the Yellow Pages — they call up tech teams living half a world away. Leading one of those teams is Kyrgyzstan-based Alla Klimenko.

6 March 2019

Alla Klimenko is founder and CEO of Mad Devs, one of Kyrgyzstan’s top tech development firms. In a country where a music video showing a woman’s bra recently sparked death threats, Klimenko is a voice for equal opportunities, both as a mother and one of Central Asia’s new generation of successful businesswomen. As well as their own projects, the company takes on outsourced work from across the globe — putting Bishkek on the world tech map.

The Calvert Journal spoke to her about she balances her workload, the perks of living in Bishkek, and what it means “to eat the frog.”

Alla continues to represent Mad Devs around the world as the company plans its new London branch. Image: Alla Klimenko/Facebook

8:00am — I’m not a morning person, but I do work on a timetable: that means that if I go to bed early, I wake up early and vice versa. My morning routine includes a hearty breakfast while reading a book, feeding my six-year-old son (and the cat), and then taking my son to kindergarten. Because my apartment is close to the office and his school, we usually walk there.

9:30am — I only live two streets away from my office in the centre of Bishkek, so it takes no more than 10 minutes to get to work. Bishkek is great, especially if you’re not looking to constantly go out partying. We have mountains which are just a half hour trip away from the city, where you can go to get some fresh air (air quality in the capital is not very good, unfortunately) and take in some beautiful mountain views.

10:00am — The first thing I do when I get into the office is check Slack and my emails so that I can get a feel of the company’s pulse while I drink my morning coffee. We have developers who come very early in the morning, so when I arrive, they’ve been in for an hour or two already. Then, I write my daily to-do list, starting with the most unpleasant tasks to get them out of the way. It’s a strategy that I call “eating the frog.”

Alla's work has already picked up media recognition at home and abroad.

11:00am — In the morning, we’ll usually have a briefing to discuss any problems and overall company strategy. The office is growing rapidly and often we need to adapt certain policies and processes to match our growing number of employees.

12:00pm — Until lunch, I meet with managers to talk through any problems they’ve having with specific projects, try to improve their work, and catch mistakes they might not have seen themselves. The company is currently working on more than 20 projects simultaneously, most of which last for six months or more and cover everything from developing user interfaces and improving user experience, frontend and backend development, mobile apps development, quality assurance and building infrastructure.

“Most of our clients are half of the a world away from us”

2:00pm — My personal trainer has me on orders to eat something at least every three hours, which usually means grabbing lunch at 2:00pm. My stomach acts as an alarm, because after three hours I’m starving too! We helped developed an app called Namba Food about 5 years ago. It lets us order corporate lunches from a different cafe everyday without leaving the office. All of the food is delivered straight to our kitchen.

3:00pm — I try to schedule the meetings in the afternoon when possible, usually via Skype or Zoom. Working in the IT sphere, all of our software development work is done remotely. Most of our clients are half of the a world away from us — in the USA, Europe and Australia — and have never seen us in person! We do travel to meet clients in order to build stronger relationships and to understand their problems better, but these trips take a lot of time due to our location. At the moment, we’re planning to open a second office in London while keeping the main back office in Bishkek. Right now, our main challenge is calculating a budget and preparing a sales strategy to make sure we cover our expenses as quickly as possible. London is so much more expensive than Bishkek.

Image: Hassan Kurbanbaev

7:00pm — The time I leave the office varies, but usually it’s between 6:00pm and 8:00pm. Sometimes I’ll have a professional event after work which I can’t get out of, but they usually only happen once or twice a month. When I leave early, I usually collect my son from kindergarten and spend some time with him. He’s like all modern kids: he likes playing games and watching cartoons, or getting together with his cousins to skateboard or play on the trampoline.

If I finish later, then sometimes I meet with friends to have a hookah or a cocktail. And sometimes, all I want to do is be alone, read a book or take a hot bath! I struggle to have a work/life balance because so much of my time is taken by work. But, what is great is that I really love what I do and the people I work with. Even when I have free time, I’d rather be working! I suppose you could say that work is one of my favourite hobbies.

11:00pm — I usually try to go to bed before the midnight, even though it’s tough sometimes. I like to do some yoga to relax before bed, take a shower and read a book. That’s actually one of the reasons I fall asleep later than I wanted to — I just can’t stop reading! Currently I’m reading The Watcher by Charles Maclean. I prefer reading fiction, probably because it helps me dreaming of very different and unknown worlds.

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