Dive into the world of one of the most colourful and authentic people in our iCard family. Along with the fun personality and brilliant mind of our dear colleague Dimitar Penkov, you’ll also find stories about adrenaline, adventures, ambitions, and two great loves.
What brings adrenaline to your veins?
Apart from work, I’m very passionate about drones – my friends and I have a club and we go together to bash them. Piloting a drone brings me much more adrenaline than driving a car and it’s also much safer. We put special goggles on and we see everything the drone sees on its way. Yet, piloting isn’t easy because a drone goes up to 160-180 kph and you must always be careful about hurting someone. We’ve seen plenty of interesting stuff at the beach in summer – while we were furiously running the drones, many couples couldn’t manage to get dressed so quickly.
We shoot for free and simply because we enjoy it. Often, we get invited to high-speed sports events – recently, we filmed a drift race organised by the BMW club, and last year, on our national holiday – 3rd of March, we shot videos of the parade that went through the city and the cars were lined up in the colours of the Bulgarian flag. Filming during races is super exciting because the drones fly behind and in front of the cars. I prefer shooting from above. Most of us do it for pleasure and we send our videos to the people we filmed. Of course, some of my friends shoot music videos and events professionally.
This year, I was once again part of the committee of the international “Drone Club Varna” competition, which was held in Asparuhovo. The event becomes very popular with every year and welcomes the best drone pilots to showcase their precision skills. iCard also is supporting it by providing various flags and mesh for the drones to run through.
What do technologies mean to you?
They’re that one thing I’m the most passionate about and know how to do best. I have no technical education and I learned everything by myself. After graduating from high school, I was repairing phones and earning so much money that I didn’t care if I’d continue studying or not. A year later I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start studying something I had no clue about, so I enrolled to study Ecology at the Technical University Varna. In my fourth year, I decided to quit because I realised that this wouldn’t bring me anything professionally, and eventually, I was right. I love reading about technology developments and I manage to practically tackle all the challenges I face because I know the basics well.
Many years ago, a friend and I built the local area network and started setting up Wi-Fi across the Flower residential district in Varna. The network subsequently became part of one of the leading telecom services in the city. Then I started working at a different company as a support and I was setting up Wi-Fi networks in Asparuhovo and Vazrazhdane in the meantime. Years later, I was also involved in the construction of the whole wireless network in Varna.
What other exciting projects have you worked on?
I have been involved in many different projects during the years. I was an IT manager on a ship and lived in Finland for a while. I lived in Israel for three months, working on a project for an international telecom company. The locals are amazing and have no prejudices. After a while I moved to London where I worked for the same company. I even thought of staying there crossed my mind a couple of times because it is very dynamic and multicultural city and everything there is arranged so well.
I also lived in Nigeria for a while, where I helped my friends build an Internet service provider. One day, a friend called me and asked me to help him with an urgent problem his team had been struggling with for three weeks. I solved it in two minutes. I had just ended my previous contract, so I decided to help my friend and his team. I was working remotely for some time and then got offered a position in Africa. Nothing could stop me at the time, so I got on the plane and went to Nigeria. Life there didn’t impress me at all – people like shiny things, but they are careless and slobby and have no attention to details. They’re heavily dependent on the US and everything they do is for the Americans but with an African flavour. Their highway has three lanes, but you can see cars lining up in at least five queues. No one stops at the red lights, you’re constantly hearing the cars honking, and that’s how you get around in traffic. There are no cars without scratches, and if yours doesn’t have a scratch or a knock, it is considered brand new. The police are corrupt and ask for money for everything you can think of. They were even making up things I never did and were threatening me with a lawsuit. At some point, I started showing them my “Metro” shopping card instead of my driver’s license, which also had a photo of me, so I easily went away with it. I had fun there, but everything was very chaotic. Also, Nigerians’ morality is too different than ours. I’ve heard people bragging that they had a girlfriend who was DF (disease-free), and I was pretty shocked.
Where else have you been?
I’ve been to many places. My wife and I try to go to a new exotic destination every year. We’ve been to the Dominican Republic, but I found it quite a commercial place and didn’t really enjoy it. They do everything for money, and it’s not as wonderful as everyone describes it. However, we had a fantastic time in Asia – particularly Thailand, Singapore, and Cambodia. We spent two weeks there, but it definitely wasn’t enough. Bangkok was tremendous – the weather was nice, and their street food was delicious. I wasn’t courageous enough to eat cockroaches, scorpions, and tarantulas, but everything else was incredible. Thailand’s waters are crystal clear, and the party begins when people gather together at the night markets. Everyone is drinking, eating and chatting.
We plan on going to Cuba and northern Thailand next time, together with our newest family member. Going with a baby will be challenging, but since many people do it, we can do it, too.
Do you miss living abroad?
Yes, definitely. Eastern Europeans have a negative mindset and always tend to insult others. Once, I was in Germany and ended up in the wrong direction at a roundabout; all the cars stopped and let me pass instead of beeping and shouting. Everyone makes mistakes, but we have no tolerance here. Moreover, travelling to other countries is more convenient in comparison to travelling from Varna – it takes a lot of effort here because the infrastructure is terrible. I’ll never forget that one time we were at Frankfurt airport and I realised that there is literally no place on Earth where you can’t go from there. The prices were cheap, too. On the contrary, when traveling from Bulgaria we always have to change several flights to reach our final destination.
Ever since our child was born, I am considering living abroad – maybe in Germany or in Spain. Spain has warm weather and Germany is located in Central Europe where you can go to other European countries within 2 to 3 hours by plane. I also like how the locals follow the rules. I have lots of friends living there and we always have so much fun when we visit them.
I can practically work even from space as long as I have a phone and a laptop. I’ve proven many times that I can handle any situation remotely, and I can say that I work all the time – emergencies come up all the time, and there are moments when my phone won’t stop ringing. I definitely want my child to grow up in a better place, but I still don’t know when we’ll do the move – I’m still waiting for my wife to accept this idea.
What do you do exactly?
I do a lot. I’m the head of multiple departments – “Data centre”, “Card schemes”, and “Information security”. “Card schemes” department is responsible for the company’s core system, and everything revolves around it – it is iCard’s brain. The IT department deals with the maintenance of the systems that “Card schemes” works on. They are like the backbone of iCard. The Security department creates and applies the security policies, which are laid on the licenses and certificates necessary for the company’s operation. Managing all these departments sounds quite responsible and overwhelming, but I manage everything by organising my work well enough. Every day brings a new challenge to all departments I manage, but my solid experience doesn’t let me panic – instead, I research the problem and assign the necessary tasks to my colleagues. If I’m competent enough, I’ll quickly solve it; if not, I’ll outsource it. I follow the “Work smart – not hard” principle. If something can be automated, do it. I can spend six hours automating something I usually do for two minutes a day, and then I just keep an eye on the systems to make sure they’re working properly.
Having a sense of humour in our profession is essential so we can deal with stress. If we don’t make jokes and mess around, the air will feel pretty thick, and people will quickly burn out. It’s a bonus that the colleagues I’ve been working with for years are also my friends, and we often hang out together with our families.
What’s your biggest challenge?
For me, the biggest challenge will always be the people. The team I work with is very important to me. You’ll often hear me make a joke asking, “Are we going to fire someone?”, because I don’t like people who come to the office only for the sake of their paycheck. I believe I don’t have such colleagues anymore because I didn’t want to keep them in my teams. Perhaps there’s still someone who escaped from his fate, but their time shall come, too. We’re here to work, not to like each other, so if someone crosses the line, it’s where we part.
I can assess people very quickly and see when a colleague is motivated to gain new knowledge. I believe if someone’s willing to do so, they’ll gain it and will fit in the team and in the company like in a glove. When you’re naturally eager to learn, you’ll gain knowledge with ease.
Yet, I don’t consider myself a hater. If I offend someone, most of the time, there’s a reason why. I’m straightforward and I always say what bothers me, because things should happen the right way it’s important to make everything happen in the right way, not my way. People should learn not to fear change and instead get out of their comfort zone. It’s how progress is born.
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