Champion of the Quarter

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Vladimir Apukov (user name vapukov) began his relationship with the Talend Community as many users do – reading and searching for answers. Like many members of the Talend community, he is always asking questions and in the asking, he finds the solutions that other Talend users need. It is his insatiable curiosity and willingness to experiment that have led to 1,451 posts, thirteen stars, and 277 kudos since the new community site was launched in 2017. He has managed to accomplish all of this just since joining the Talend Community in March 2015. For someone who started as a reader and then transitioned into a leader in answering questions, Vladimir has navigated the chart of success.

 

Vladimir began as an independent consultant, but after moving to New Zealand from Malta, he began to work as a Software Consultant at OSS Group Ltd. While he had used Talend before, it is there that Talend became a large part of his life. OSS has been a Talend Gold Partner since 2016 and according to their website, “We are the Talend integration software partner for New Zealand, with Talend's integration software and tool sets forming the cornerstones of our Integration Practice. We offer our clients a full suite of integration services including bespoke software integration, a fully managed integration platform and cloud-based integration services.” Vladimir is a part of the team that puts OSS Group Ltd. on the map.

 

Vladimir holds two Talend certifications in Talend Data Integration and Talend Big Data Integration. He had been using Talend tools for quite some time before putting his knowledge to the test. In preparing for his certifications, Vladimir found the practice tests valuable as well as continual practice and application. While Talend provided all the materials he needed, “I never tried to pass the certification exams just based on the materials and courses.” Practice indeed, makes for smoother sailing.

 

Leading the School


Vladimir’s education is extensive. He has completed degrees in Information Management, Engineering, and possesses a post-graduate diploma in Computer/Information Technology Administration and Management. “When I was studying in school, I was sure I would be working with technology, maybe, or close to technology. I finished one of the best physics and mathematics board in school. So, when I was studying in school, I thought maybe I would work with the Science Institute.” It wasn’t until after serving in the army that Vladimir knew where his life would lead. “When I returned, I changed my direction.” Given his background, it is no wonder that Vladimir’s approach to participating in the Talend Community is a unique one.


Anticipating the needs of other Talend users as well as his own, Vladimir has created his own one-man think tank. “I have a couple projects just for tests. For me, it is like a quiz. So, when other users have questions, I open up a project, create a small jobs check, and I keep in mind the solutions for the future.” It is no secret that one of of Vladimir’s best-practices include searching to see if a question that has recently been asked, was previously asked, and answered. In searching for posts to respond to in the Talend Community, he always goes for the unique and approaches these issues in a “case by case” method. “Some interesting questions could take some time to answer. Proper database and proper task design are important. Of course, it’s very interesting.”

 

Searching for Clear Waters


In his work-life as well as his activity in the Talend Community, Vladimir is unafraid to tread into new waters and unfamiliar territory, “Sometimes, even on the real projects, you are met with a situation where you would need to preform non-standard steps.” He goes on to comment on his creative process of problem solving, “So, it is my job to ask why we do something, and maybe recommend some alternative solutions.”


While official Talend Meetups have not quite reached New Zealand as of yet, OSS Group Ltd. hosts gatherings that allow Talend users to meet in person. “It’s more about people and relations. So, there is much new about Talend, and usually the people who are going there just want to meet, to talk with people.” The social aspect is an important one, allowing users like Vladimir to create not only a team, but the companionship of a community.

 

Come Sail Away


Vladimir and his wife and son love life on the water and upon finishing this interview, they were headed to the beach. When asked where his favorite places to dive were he said, “Well, it's Egypt, of course and also the Red Sea. It's by all parameters, the most beautiful place in the world. Every place has something interesting about it. In some places to dive, this could be good visibility. In other places, this could be history in the form of objects or wrecks. My favorite place to dive is the Red Sea. It's best of the world. The second-best place to dive is Sardinia for cave diving.”


Vladimir and his family also love to sail recreationally. “There was one year when we relocated from Malta to New Zealand. We arrived from Malta from Europe on the sailing yacht. This was really best year in my life.”

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Nikhil Thampi is not one to shy away from adventure. As a Talend Customer Success Architect out of the Bangalore, India office, his job landscape is forever shifting, “There are great new features, new releases.” According to Nikhil, the “Customer Success Architect is one of the most exciting roles in Talend.” With a hunger for knowledge and a passion for teaching, Nikhil is an asset to the Talend team.

 

There and Back Again

 

Nikhil is from Kerala, which is in the south-western part of India. With over twelve years of experience in IT, he started his career in the financial services domain as a developer. Since then, he has worked in various roles including Oracle development, data modeling, ETL lite, data warehouse assembly and as of most recently, as a Customer Success Architect for Talend.

 

Nikhil’s desire for knowledge is clearly illustrated by his several Talend Certifications. “I completed v7 Certifications in Talend, that is Data Integration v7 Developer and Administration.” In the pursuit v7 Certification, he discovered that there are many ways that Talend sets users up for success. “The process of Talend certification is always very easy. It’s a remote prompter method. You don’t have to literally take a day off. Another good thing, I would say, is that now we have the Talend Cloud environment so everybody can easily register for a thirty-day trial.”

 

With Great Power…

 

 

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The role of a Customer Success Architect is a demanding one as it is up to Nikhil to assist in, “helping customers to resource some complex real-time scenarios,” and “to engage in the demonstration of new features of Talend to customers.” This can be tricky as, “…we are working for different customers in different geographies and many of them have very complex IT systems and business requirements around the world. So, our role as a Customer Success Architect is to help them untangle the complexities of business using Talend products. That’s quite an interesting challenge because we are also learning.”

 

Nikhil’s learning continues to be agile enough to meet the needs of his customers and the Talend Community at large. “I have learned a lot of things especially about the REST APIs. I was predominantly working in the data integration stages, big data and mostly in file-based processing and also MDM solutions.” Customer Success Architects help customers resolve their issues with the latest technology and for the architects themselves, this very rewarding. “One major thing I’m quite excited and happy about in the role is that I love teaching and studying the knowledge. It gives me a lot of joy.”

 

The position of Customer Success Architect is fueled by customer interactions. “At present, once in a month, we will go to some of the customers’ meetings and we’ll have an FX presentation.” Even that aspect, is changing. “Now there is a new program, where we will go and meet the customers more often, so it is going to be more interactions.” This means a lot of travel for Nikhil as his client base reaches across continents. “We have all of India, Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, then the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and all of those areas.”

 

Not All Talend Community Superheroes Wear Capes

 

 

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In his role as a Customer Success Architect, Nikhil not only creates articles, blogs, and webinars, but he also dedicates a part of his work day to the Talend Community, “Normally I spend around one-to-two hours after office hours.” Previous to his involvement in the Talend Community, Nikhil said that, “I was talking with my manager, Irshad, and he gave me this idea. Why don’t you start working, check some of the things in the Talend community because that will help you to learn some real-life scenarios and help you to learn so many things?”

 

After taking Irshad’s advice, Nikhil’s involvement in the Talend Community not only spurred him to learn more, but it also gave him another avenue to share his knowledge. In his time in the Talend Community, he has written 850 posts, crafted 137 solutions, and earned a 180 kudos from fellow users. When asked how all those kudos made him feel, “It is a happy moment, you know. I mean, we will be quite busy with a lot of other things so suddenly, when a kudo comes through the mail, oh, that’s a good thing.”

 

Not All Who Wander…

 

Given the breadth of knowledge that Nikhil must exhibit at Talend, it is no surprise that he and his wife choose to expand their horizons in their free time. “So, I’m quite passionate about traveling.” Nikhil and his wife have covered thirty countries around three continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa. “Our dream is to cover all seven continents and see all the countries of the world.” In his travels, there are always some set sights to see, “I love history and museums a lot.”

 

Nikhil does not just limit his adventures to reality, “I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings series and Marvel.” He candidly admits that he is, “waiting for Tony Stark to come back from Titan.”

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Manohar Bandreddy is a rising star in the Talend community. He is a Talend user that not only is invested in continuing his own education, by becoming a Talend Certified Data Integration developer. He also actively assists others. In just over a year, Manohar has made over 1,000 posts in the Talend community boards and therefore, is one of the top contributors in the Talend community. While both a mentor on the forums and at work, Manohar continues to challenge himself to learn more about Talend and to share that hard-won knowledge.

 

A Mentor at Work

 

Currently located in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, Manohar works for Atos Global as a data integration specialist. He has been working on a Talend Data Integration project for two years and for Manohar, “Talend is a flexible tool to design with. It provides over nine hundred components.” In a current project, the integration between enterprise resource planning systems and other software systems the choice was clear, “for this project we are using Talend Big Data.” For these projects, Manohar also brings the Talend community to his co-workers. “I recommend the community site to those who have technical issues.” Not only has he guided his coworkers into using Talend and the community, he supports them as they learn how to build jobs through using Talend Open Studio.

 

Though Manohar initially used the Talend community site for assistance, he now finds himself in the role of helping others find answers, “I offer solutions, mostly. I want to help people who are struggling with issues and at the same time, I want to know what the new issues are.” Staying abreast of the struggles of others, while also helping them find solutions, keeps Manohar active and aware of trends in the Talend community. In trends he has noticed so far, he has observed a few patterns emerging within the nature of questions asked on the forums, “I have seen a few people not quite comprehend the basic compatibility of Java with Talend; they do not know how to download and install the external JARs.”

 

In the Pursuit of Excellence

 

It was not enough for Manohar to become a leading user of Talend that actively provides mentorship to others, but he wanted to put his knowledge of Talend to the test. As previously mentioned, he is a Certified Data Integration developer. When asked why he chose to become certified Manohar said, “Since I was using Talend, I wanted to get the certification to become proficient.” The process of preparing for the certification exam took him about thirty days. For the Talend Certified Data Integration developer exam, Talend recommends that the user complete the Data Integration Basics course as well as the Data Integration Advanced training courses. It also requires that the test-taker be familiar with the tools in Talend Data Integration as well as Talend Studio. The “proficiency” that Manohar desired is an aggressive goal to have pursed and by all accounts, entirely self-driven. Upon becoming familiar with Manohar, it is not surprising that he continues to push himself towards excellence in adopting new technologies.

 

On a just as technical but more social side, Manohar also enjoys the opportunities offered by the Bangalore Talend User Group. He attended his first meetup, which was also the user group launch, in February 2018 and the topics addressed at the gathering were on the Talend Cloud and on the Talend Data Preparation tool, along with best-practices and project roadmaps. Also, on the agenda were foundations and secrets of successful Talend development projects. Upon reflection Manohar had this to add, “I liked interacting with other Talend users, how they were leveraging Talend and what kind of projects they were working on.” Though useful, it was also a social occasion. “It was a nice experience to meet other users.” One can only imagine talking Talend with Manohar is a fun, yet educational experience; he hopes to participate in another meetup soon.

 

Always Asking Questions

 

Currently, Manohar is focused on continuing his education by challenging himself outside of work by learning new programming languages, such as Python, and their potential implementations. He is also investigating integrating Microsoft or Google into his projects with Talend. In his time away from the desk, Manohar is with his young son. “I like to play with toys and make him laugh.”

 

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Yulia and Steve are a Talend Community dream team. With Yulia’s passion for data and project management and Steve’s desire to reach out and help others, they have done tremendous work with the Maine User Group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8550069 making them an obvious choice as Talend Community Champions.

 

Like many endeavors, the Maine User Group is a collaborative affair and has grown to about sixty members, many of whom are known personally. Most of the members are from the Southern Maine area. “We have people driving from Augusta, Maine which is sort of central and about an hour north of Portland as well as Southern New Hampshire about an hour south of Portland” Steve continues, “Portland, Maine is a really close-knit community. It’s not hard, once someone sees what we’re doing, to want to jump on board. We’ve definitely seen that with Talend. The sponsorship has been great from Talend and local companies such as Seaglass Technology Partners and Abilis Solutions.”

 

Caffeine-Fueled Creativity

 

Before Yulia and Steve became members of the Talend Community, they both recognized a mutual need to organize and share ideas. Their first event was planned over coffee. Yulia mentioned to Steve that she had a data team for which she was a project manager. Steve informed her that he was currently an ETL developer. “…it would be really cool to get together with your team and discuss ideas that we have and practices that we use at both companies.” Yulia’s response? “You know what? You give me an idea and I’ll organize it.”

 

“I enjoy the social aspect of the Maine Talend User Group, because they're a lot of people we wouldn’t get to meet without having this one thing in common.” Steve goes on to explain the enthusiastic reception the idea garnered. “It was really easy once we started talking to people about starting a Talend user group, that's going to focus on data engineering. Everyone wanted to be part of that, whoever we talked to.”

 

A Passion for Organization

 

Yulia’s desire to bring people together began at an early age, “A funny story to share is as far as I remember, I've always, always planned my own birthday parties because I absolutely loved doing it. I don't know, maybe I was ten or something, when it all started.” Not only does Yulia possess a head for organization but she also is intrinsically optimistic. “You cannot take positivity away from me. I took a strengths test and positivity was my number one strength.”

 

Yulia has been at Vets First Choice, for over two years. “It’s been fun since the day I started. I have a fantastic data team here at Vets First Choice and I’ve learned a lot about data and Talend jobs without doing any coding myself. It brings me great enjoyment to pull the Talend user group meetings together and see events unwrap.”

 

Sharing Excellence

 

In the context of their mutual endeavor, Steve’s super power really shines. “I like the social aspects in the engagement of meeting with people, learning something new, understanding how they're using something, so that I can really learn from that, and maybe do the same, or pass along knowledge.”

 

Steve has a history with traditional ETL starting with Bank of America, and ultimately landed at a startup in Portland Maine. “I’m just amazed by the flexibility and scalability of Talend, where we’ve been able to do so many things with just a couple people, because of its dynamic nature, and why I think of it as the modern ETL platform that is here to stay.”

 

Relative Relaxation

 

It is not surprising to discover that Yulia, when she is not managing things in the office, is “managing” her husband and children after work. With hobbies that stretch from wedding photography and event planning to shooting family photos, Yulia is structurally creatively-minded. “I still have good equipment from the wedding photography days, but now I have two kids that keep me busy, so I take pictures of my kids. People photography is what I really enjoy: capturing that specific moment, that emotion, that’s what makes me tick.”

 

Steve’s downtime is spent in Maine with his two children, both of which are under the age of eight. “Maine’s great from June to September. October’s nice too.” It is worth mentioning that he is rather sporting. “I do like to golf, so I’m a golfer. When I have time, I go out and play.”

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Frédéric also is fond of the new reward system in the Forum, noting that it helps to elevate the exchange. “I’d just like to remind people that the answers on the Forum are often provided by people who take time out to help and give great advice--a small thank you such as a Kudo costs nothing and it is always much appreciated!”

 

“I try to share the tips and tricks that I discovered by myself, by searching in the old archives or interviewing other experts, and there are excellent participants in the Forum, such as Richard Hall and many others, whom I want to recognize here for the unsurpassed quality of their contributions."

 

"Participating in this forum is an entertaining and rewarding experience that allowed me once again to meet people and learn from them. It has been a great way to discover unexpected capabilities of the tool as well as new approaches to certain subjects.”

 

“I am a Parisian at heart and as such, I never miss an opportunity to wander the city without a specific goal, just for the pleasure of discovering or rediscovering its old stones, its neighborhoods and its atmospheres that make Paris a unique place. And like all Parisians, I also love to leave the city to discover new horizons close to here or at the other end of the world—and each time I return to feel the same joy to find our city always so beautiful. I share this passion for Paris with my wife and our two daughters who are also pure Parisian products.”

 

In addition, Frédéric loves to experiment with new delicacies in the kitchen, either at home or out. “We travel culinarily, trying out exotic recipes from India, Kurdistan and other places… but a good Blanquette on your plate in the heart of Paris, what better to dream of?”

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Our first Community Champion honoree is far more than a data integration ace. He’s a community builder, an eternal student, a musical aficionado, and an all-around great guy.

 

It’s only fitting that our first Talend Community Champion is someone who loves to learn, build, and expand his horizons—and someone who enjoys helping others do the same.

 

Richard Hall is one of the Talend Community’s most prolific and most highly ranked contributors, with 700+ posts since May of 2015 and more than 190 kudos from other members. He’s gotten to know many of you over the past couple of years, and now it’s time for you to get to know him a little better.

 

Accidental Expertise

 

With more than 10 years of data integration experience, Richard really knows his stuff—but the evolution of his career has been a “complete accident,” as he put it.

 

Originally he wanted to go to drama school, with a dream of performing in musicals. To help fund that aspiration, he took a job in IT support at a corporation—and discovered he was not only good at it but also enjoyed it.

 

He soon transitioned to IT reporting, which required high-quality data, and so he learned how to build and scrub his own data sets. During a short break in his career, he went to university to study Artificial Intelligence. On re-entering the world of data, he was able to make use of his newly acquired AI and heuristics skills, and started to get interested in how to use a wide range of commercial and open-source database tools.

 

Because of his experience with application and data integration, Richard was contacted by Talend in 2012 and offered a job. He joined the company because he had a longstanding interest in open-source tools and technologies, and because he saw potential in the solutions Talend was developing. While at Talend he worked in professional services, and his input was useful in creating new features and functions in Talend Open Studio.

 

Richard left Talend in 2014 to launch his own consulting business, Rilhia Solutions, which is based in Surrey, UK. Rilhia is focused on bringing application and data integration solutions to small and medium-sized businesses.

 

“Talend was a great experience for me, and one of the things I learned there was that I really like helping organizations get things done,” he said.

 

“Nudging,” Not Instructing

 

Richard also discovered that he enjoys helping others—novices and experts alike—learn about data integration tools and techniques, particularly in the open source realm.

 

“I get a lot of satisfaction from nudging people in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not really a teacher—I don’t feel I’ve got the patience to be a teacher—but I do like helping to build a community.”

 

Richard is particularly passionate about advancing the causes and capabilities of open source software. “With open source, I can take it home and learn it on my own, rather than going through a formal corporate training program that’s filled with business examples,” he said. “You can really get your teeth into open source projects and make use of the software for your own purposes.”

 

He also vehemently disagrees with the perception that open source is less refined than commercial products, or not “enterprise-ready.”

 

“If you look at what’s happening with open source data integration you have to say these guys are at the very top of the game,” he said. “Open source benefits from a mix of skills and backgrounds and insights that closed-source environments just don’t have access to, and the result is something that’s more sophisticated than commercial products. And I think savvy enterprise IT leaders understand that. You can see it in the higher adoption rates for Talend and other open source software, and in the increase of paid subscriptions for enterprise support.”

 

Integrating Eclectic Tastes

 

Data isn’t the only thing Richard spends his time integrating today. He is a man of many interests, and reconciling all of them is no small task. For example, even finding the right balance between working on projects and learning new tools and techniques can be nettlesome, he says.

 

“It’s tough to make the choice between being on-site for a customer—pushing to get an important project done right and on time—and staying at home to learn a new feature in a data integration tool,” he said. “That’s why I like working with small businesses. Their projects are more interesting, more manageable, and really, really important to them.”

 

Richard also likes to consider the potential for data integration in the years ahead. “The possibilities are endless, and it’s really exciting,” he said. “Think of the impact on healthcare, where you can leverage data to cure and prevent diseases. We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible there. And the same is true in pretty much every industry, every form of entertainment, everything we do every day. When we learn how to use all of the data that’s available sensibly, it will be astounding.”

 

And while the allure of drama school may have been supplanted by the satisfactions of solving problems for clients and Community members, Richard is still quite fond of musical theatre.

 

“I’m probably the only data integration guy on the planet who can recite every word of Les Miserables,” he said. “And I should mention that my girlfriend is giving me a very strange look from the other room right now as I tell you that.” No worries. It’s reassuring to know that someone with that degree of technical proficiency, open source expertise, and business acumen is also quite… human.