I was 19. A fourth-year student. At that point, I’d worked at the university for three years as a tech support guy. Reinstalling Windows, fixing cables, that kind of stuff. I loved the job and took on more and more responsibility, eventually evolving my job into a full-time system administrator role, taking care of LAN and a few Linux and Windows NT servers.

It was decided then that our branch would use a custom-made ERP system. A team at the main campus developed the system, and they wanted our smaller branch to replicate it. They had never replicated the system outside the main campus, so it was their first fork… and I was appointed to lead the project and manage a system integration team.

I don’t know how our provost, Farit Bigzaev, made this decision. It certainly was an unconventional choice to appoint a 19-year-old kid to a leadership role. Of course, everyone on the team was older than me, including a 57-year-old developer who used to be my prof a couple of years ago.

For some reason, the role felt completely natural to me. I never questioned my capacity and never thought that we couldn’t do it. Of course, we did it. Within a few months, all system modules were up and running; we trained the users across all departments, wrote documentation and switched to maintenance mode.

Now I’m thinking, why did I feel that confident? Now, after 20 years, I’m starting to see the incredible level of support that I had from Dr. Bigzaev. It was not obvious back then. He called me to his office almost daily, on some days, more than once. Almost always, when he called me, he grilled me HARD for something. But then, he would usually smile and say, “Okay, you can go now; don’t worry, you’re doing it well.”

Thank you, Farit Fatykhovich.