You may already know Ivan Velichko, because he has developed quite a following on his blog, iximiuz.com, and on Twitter. Ivan’s writing is devoted to helping developers master containers. His talent for clarifying the complex with both prose and masterful technical diagrams has drawn the praise of Kelsey Hightower and many others. Ivan recently joined the team at Slim.AI, and we sat down with him to learn more about the path that led him here and what hopes he has for the future.
Ivan: It may be hard to believe, but I started writing code just about 12 years ago, during my last year in university! I had never considered a developer’s career even though I was enrolled in a tech college. But then one day I got so bored with my internship that I decided to buy a computer and figure out my own way to learn programming. And things finally clicked. Following this passion, I got a job at a tiny agency in the middle of nowhere in Russia doing web development. Fortunately, the projects were diverse and interesting. I quickly outgrew the place, and after a few hops, I found myself in the gaming industry, being an “Engineer #1” in a small startup in Moscow. This job gave me great experience not only in writing code but also in building platforms and infrastructure. That position was followed by a position in Germany with a Daimler-subsidized startup solving the problem of micro-mobility. Prior to joining Slim, I worked for Booking.com in Amsterdam, first as a Canonical SRE and then on an intersection of the SRE and platform engineer roles.
For better or worse, things didn’t work out well for that German startup. It got acquired by another company and instead of going through a (rather emotional) reorganization, I started looking for a new job. I decided to try my luck with Google. After thorough preparation, I managed to pass all the rounds of the famous Google interviewing procedure. But despite my initial success with the interview, I didn’t get the position I really wanted there. I’d been looking for an infrastructure role, but I was offered a full-stack engineer position, which would have been a significant detour on my desired career path. I believe the key reason for that was that I hadn’t documented my skills well. I’m a passionate learner and am constantly exploring ways to expand my skill set. When I applied for the position at Google, my skills extended well beyond that conveyed by the job titles on my resume, but, unfortunately, I lacked any kind of public profile that attested to what I knew and could do, so I didn’t get the position I really wanted. That experience taught me the importance of documenting my journey and experience. That’s when I started the blog, mostly to tell the world what I’m up to. I’m also thankful to Booking for believing in me and offering me my first SRE position: The research I did for my articles and the day-to-day infrastructure job at Booking helped me become that container dude you know today. Only later did I discover how much I enjoy storytelling and how rewarding it is to make hard topics easy for others to understand.
Yes, it’s been a pleasant surprise. For a couple of years, I’d been writing mostly for myself, and my blog would have only some tens of visitors a month. I think one of the first popularity triggers was an article I wrote in June of 2021 called “The Need for Slimmer Containers.” It went viral on HackerNews, and when things like that happen, your networking usually gets a growth leap. Then in December of last year, Kelsey Hightower gave me an incredible shoutout on Twitter, and my following doubled overnight. That was a great Christmas present! And after every such boost, the blog recognition has grown significantly.
My original motivation for starting the blog was to tell the world what I’m passionate about. But now the blog isn’t a goal in itself anymore. I want to learn as much as I can about Kubernetes and cloud-native, and I have a personal learning plan that I’m following to achieve that goal. I have found that explaining things to others, especially through writing, is just the most efficient way for me to learn. So, I’d say 80% of the blog comes from documenting my learning as I go. And the remainder comes from answering readers’ questions or addressing random topics that I wake up thinking about in the middle of the night.
There are a couple of articles I’m particularly proud of. The first one is on networking — ahighly-illustrated explanation of computer networking; it is the intro to networking I wish I had when I was starting to learn the topic as a developer. The second one is my container learning path;it’s the front page for my first few years of learning the basics of the containerization universe. I would recommend those two articles to any software engineer that is checking out the blog and looking for a good place to start.
In a way, yes. After I wrote “The Need for Slimmer Containers,” Kylereached out to me, and we started an email conversation that lasted for several months. It wasn’t in any way job related—just a chat between two engineers interested in containers. Then later that year I discovered the Slim.AI portal, and I instantly fell in love with it. Its cross-registry search and image introspection capabilities turned out to be super handy for typical research activities I do for the blog. Slim.AI’s mission and product obviously align well with my professional interests, and the company and I also share the same passion for making the complex simple. So when the job board was updated with the new positions, applying was a no-brainer for me. _[ed.: Kyle Quest, Slim.AI co-founder, and CTO]_
That’s the beauty of it! What I do now for Slim.AI was what I was doing on my own for fun! We don’t really use titles, so I just refer to my role as “Container Dude,” and this is my dream job. My first project was adding support for Kubernetes runtime to DockerSlim. We demonstrated this work to some luminary folks at KubeCon EU and received a lot of great feedback to work on. Currently, I’m tapping into my SRE experience, improving the observability of the Slim.AI portal to speed up and simplify troubleshooting. Well, this is because I happened to have this expertise as well. But I’ll definitely get back to DockerSlim and other more container-ish projects in the near future.
Actually, what I find most exciting is the culture of being here. I enjoy the empowerment I have in a smaller company to get real work done. It’s a place where I have the freedom to follow curiosities and solve problems and the only obstacles I face are the technical ones, not the bureaucratic ones. I feel alive here. And, of course, this job aligns with my innate interest in all things Cloud Native.
I truly embrace the mission of helping developers get their container images production ready. I hope that through Slim we will be able to provide a turn-key solution, which is not a simple thing to do. I also hope we will also solve other problems along the way—like finding the right image, for example—and do everything we can to improve the lives of developers.