Vahe Momjyan’s (MSCIS ’13) Formula to Achieve the Extraordinary

6 min read

Vahe Momjyan received a master’s degree in Computer and Information Science (CIS) from the American University of Armenia (AUA) and a bachelor’s degree in Informatics and Applied Mathematics from Yerevan State University. Though he was already successful as a software engineer prior to attending AUA, he felt something was still missing. Vahe praises what he found at AUA, the culture and learning environment that opened new perspectives and, most importantly, changed his worldview. Vahe is a serial entrepreneur and software engineer with over 18 years of experience. He holds one U.S. published patent and has another one pending. Apart from teaching at AUA as an adjunct lecturer, Vahe has led teams at the networking department of Amazon Web Services (AWS Australia) and currently serves as chief software officer at TACTUN (Testing Automation & Control That Unveils Nature). 

Initially, what influenced your choice of profession?

From early childhood, my parents exposed my brother and me to different extracurricular activities, from playing basketball to martial arts such as Wing Chun. Starting from sixth grade, I was enrolled in programming classes for children, and in eighth grade, I started repairing computer hardware and software for money. Though I was preparing to become a doctor following in my father’s footsteps, my career path changed after a conversation with my father. I was still in high school then and, together, we decided that I won’t pursue a career in medicine. I had grown a tremendous interest in IT at the time, so the top choice of career was rather obvious.

Why did you choose to continue your education at AUA? 

After earning my bachelor’s degree, I had a good job, but I felt something was missing; my career growth was at a standstill, and I didn’t know how to move on. I discussed it with my wife, who reminded me about my earlier interest in getting a master’s. So very quickly, we made that decision and started researching graduate programs available in Armenia. Our search stopped on AUA, which we chose for the environment, culture, and possibilities it offers its students. One year later, my wife also applied and was admitted to AUA. So for one year, we studied together. 

How has the education received at AUA influenced your career growth? What are the three enduring values AUA taught you? 

The education I received at AUA has influenced me and my career a great deal. The first thing I understood at AUA was that “big things are possible.” That mindset was a very precious gift that AUA instilled in me. Though before coming to AUA, I was working at a Belgian company as a senior software engineer, and I felt there was something I needed to add. And that was what I learned at AUA — how to think big, dive more deeply, and see the bigger picture. 

I also met a lot of interesting people at AUA. The network I grew at AUA filled the missing piece in my professional life.

One of the most significant values AUA taught me was to value people, and to recognize how important people are — whatever you do, you should realize that there are people involved who create value. The second value I learned was not to be afraid to ask for help and, in turn, to help others who need you. And the third value AUA taught me was learning to learn. 

The CIS program specifically exposed me to financial management, entrepreneurship, software project management, and presentation skills, which I deem very important, and regret that only a few educational institutions train their students in those diverse skills. 

You led teams at the Networking department of Amazon Web Services (AWS Australia). From that experience, what would you consider the most essential skill/quality that makes a great leader?

The years I spent in Sydney, Australia, at Amazon Web Services Networking department were like being in a boot camp; the pace of learning and doing things was very fast; I had never had a similar experience anywhere else before, which made me realize that even big companies can work fast. I also acquired many leadership skills there — the leadership skills that Amazon inspired were compelling, and if you were to dive deep into each of those, you would understand that those skills deal with a lot of psychological and cognitive biases. From my perspective, the most important leadership skill I learned there was to be compassionate and empathetic; basically, if you strive to make everyone around you successful, you will be very successful yourself. After my experience at Amazon, I spend most of my time helping people I work with to succeed. 

You are the Chief Software Officer at TACTUN. Tell us more about TACTUN and what you do in your current position.

TACTUN is a spinoff startup; its predecessor company was RAFA Solutions, an outsourcing company that provided systems integration. RAFA Solutions was designing and developing hardware for clients and gradually understood that they could make their own products. We had considerable knowledge in a specific niche of the industrial IoT industry, mainly material testing, and we knew that creating a superior product would be game changing in the market. So three years ago, we started TACTUN and developed the hardware our customers from different countries now use. In creating the platform, we tried to innovate every step of the way; even how we design the hardware differs from what others do, allowing us to achieve lower costs, faster production, and better lead time for our customers. How the software and hardware work together is also quite innovative. 

Our team consists of 15 people, and we are slowly growing. Our team members are very talented professionals whom I consider to be the most skilled individuals I have ever worked with. As the chief software officer, I am generally responsible for everything related to the software and how all components of a platform function collectively.

The platform is also cloud enabled. Basically, every piece of equipment you connect with our device becomes smarter and allows you to make many decisions based on the data it acquires — it can be billions of data points per day, a huge amount of information that requires very efficient hardware and software to perform. 

What are your predictions regarding the rise of AI in the world? How will it impact people’s lives? 

The rise of AI will affect everything; many things in our lives will change in the near future — how we find information, learn, digest, and communicate with one another. We are not ready for this yet, but we cannot stop the evolution from taking place.

Like any other aspect of our world, AI has pros and cons. I can foresee that children can see that they can discover answers even without comprehending the reasons or methods behind them. This can potentially result in excessive laziness and diminished motivation to acquire fundamental knowledge; this is a disadvantage that comes with using AI. But there are some good examples of how AI is triggering good changes in people’s lives; for example, in India, there are over 120 dialects, and the people of India can only read newspapers in their own dialects. But now, with AI’s help, one can read newspapers published in other dialects in one’s native dialect, which was not possible 2-3 years ago. Another example is Adobe Photoshop, which released a generative AI version that will change how the creative world works; people will think about how to innovate, and many professions will also have to adapt accordingly. AI is evolving and getting better every day.

What is the future of the IT industry in Armenia and the world? 

What I see right now in Armenia is that we have more companies making very good products, which makes Armenia not only a choice destination for outsourcing and recruiting bright minds but also for leading development in different domains. We need a lot of successful product companies with the appropriate infrastructure for production. In the case of product companies that are valued highly and subsequently exit, the money stays in Armenia and can be invested in new product companies. This way, we may be able to bring more investments and bright minds to Armenia, and why not achieve results where some industries or countries in the world become somewhat dependent on a small country like Armenia? The TACTUN platform we created is an example; when more companies use it, they will become aware of a country named Armenia, where the device was developed, and keep abreast of further developments. Such awareness will change perceptions of Armenia worldwide, which will also help keep our talented professionals in Armenia and bring more money to the country for more innovation and learning. 

As an adjunct lecturer in AUA’s engineering program, what do you think are the challenges students are facing nowadays? 

The hardest challenge for students is to transition from education to the workforce. With the rise of AI, the essential work that students are required to do during their internships may vanish soon. 

As an adjunct lecturer, I am creating courses to help close that gap and prepare them for the future workforce.

As a student, you received the Michael Simonyan and Satenick Moradkhanian Scholarship. How did that award impact your student years at AUA?

Being informed about the scholarship was a big surprise but a very good one. I had not applied for any scholarship, but because I had a high GPA, I received the award. My wife and I were students at AUA at the time, and that kind of support was helpful and encouraging. It was an added motivation to keep us going right when we had our son; we were also renovating our residence while attending AUA. The timing of the scholarship was ideal.