Krikor Baytarian (MSCIS ‘08): ‘Moving to Armenia is my biggest achievement’5 min read
Krikor Baytarian (MSCIS ‘08) repatriated to Armenia in 2001 from Aleppo, Syria. He takes pride in his decision to settle in his motherland and start building his career from scratch. The move has not stopped him from pursuing his dreams and striving to reach new heights in his field. He graduated from AUA’s Master of Science in Computer and Information Science (MSCIS) program in 2008. After graduation, Krikor changed his career path from developer to project manager. He is currently a senior project manager/systems analyst at Synergy International Systems, a global software and consulting company. In our interview with him, Krikor spoke to us about his decision to move to Armenia, AUA, and how his education here shaped his thinking and also helped him with career decisions.
Why did you choose to continue your education at AUA? And why did you decide to major in CIS?
As a child, I have always dreamed about creating a product that would represent Armenia to the world; for example, something like MMO (massively multiplayer online game) stories about our legends or our national epic poem “David of Sassoun.” I have always wanted to make or be a part of creating a product that would show others the capabilities and innovative capacity of our nation. I believe that although we are not a big nation, we bring very important values to the world. This idea was one of the main reasons why I decided to study computer and information science. First, I applied to the National Polytechnic University of Armenia, where I earned my bachelor’s degree. After graduation, I was at the crossroads of either staying in Armenia or going abroad, and I eventually decided to stay in my motherland to use my knowledge and skills here. That is how I ended up at AUA where I pursued my master’s.
What is your favorite among AUA best memories?
I have many fond memories of AUA and of my student years, overall. Most of them are connected with our CIS department and the labs on the ground floor, where we spent much time studying and practicing. Sometimes I stayed there until late at night, with many classmates, working on different projects.
One of my favorite people at AUA was Dr. Suren Khachatryan. He was not just an instructor; he brought to the table the core aspects of critical thinking in his unique approach. He and his ideas have influenced our whole class.
How has your AUA education influenced your professional path?
After graduation, I worked as a Java and C# developer until 2014. I started as a junior developer and, over the years, moved up to become a senior developer, then a software architect, but later decided to change my career path from developer to project manager. I started working as a project manager in several IT companies, which led me to my current position of senior project manager/systems analyst at Synergy International Systems. The decision to change my career was considerably influenced by the Dean of the AUA Akian College of Science and Engineering Dr. Aram Hajian and his course in project management. It gave me a new perspective that even if you major in a specific field, you can still go on a different path and change the course of your career; it is all in your hands. Nowadays, there are many possibilities in every field to pursue a variety of interests.
My friends sometimes ask me if I regret changing my career from developer to project manager. For me, it is as simple as this: I saw where I would be able to create more value and make a greater contribution to the company where I worked. Also, my knowledge of Arabic brought to the company a skill they didn’t have, which later positively contributed to conducting effective negotiations and securing many contracts with countries in the Middle East. This may be a narrower niche but also is a very important function that allows me to contribute my best knowledge and skills to the company and my country.
Which skills that you gained at AUA have served you well throughout your career?
Well, AUA gave me the knowledge and skills for a robust foundation in my field. But, though one may learn many things and even think that one would never need or use them in one’s life or career, life has shown that most of one’s acquired knowledge and skills may come in handy at a certain point in life. One may think, for instance, that project management would not require critical thinking, developer skills, or database designing, but in reality, to be a good project manager, you need to know what your team members are doing and how they are thinking. In short, AUA not only gave me the knowledge and skills I use in my own job, but also the ability to understand the people with whom I work or the tasks with which my team members grapple, their thoughts, needs, attitudes, and so on.
Please tell us more about how you advanced in your career after graduating from AUA and what you do in your current position?
I worked with a few other companies in the field, mainly as a developer, before starting at Synergy, where I found my own place and true calling working as a senior project manager/systems analyst. In that capacity, I participate in various potential negotiations for new client contracts. I am also responsible for leading the whole process of understanding the needs and designing a complete solution for the company’s clients. Currently, I mainly work in public finance and deal with clients from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
What is the most exciting thing about your job? And what are the challenges?
It doesn’t matter what you are doing: creating something is always exciting. The same applies to project management: leading the development of a product from A to Z is a process full of challenges and uncertainties at the beginning; the solutions come as you move along in the process. Starting a new project is always exciting for me, as well as the significance of designing something that will impact and improve the lives of hundreds and thousands of people. An example would be the project we started with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; the system we developed went live a few months ago, and now around 140 different entities in various ministries use it daily.
Speaking of challenges, one of the biggest challenges is when you identify the needs of a certain client, then something changes, and you need to shift the direction or design of proposed solutions accordingly. For example, when working with Iraq’s Ministry of Planning, we had to keep a close watch on the ever-changing laws to develop solutions that are easily adaptable to changing circumstances. This is just one example of the challenges one may face working with different clients. But as I mentioned before, with every challenge, you design an innovative solution, and that is the creative part that is always exciting for me.
What achievement are you most proud of?
The two contracts I mentioned earlier, the one with Jordan and the other with Iraq are both major achievements in my career thus far. Both are reasons to be proud. I look forward to doing the same for my country, Armenia, hopefully, one day soon.
From a personal perspective, I consider my decision to move to Armenia and start everything from scratch to be the most significant achievement in my life. I feel strongly about that move, starting my family here, and my career. These are the most important achievements in my life.
As we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of your graduation this year at the annual Alumni Homecoming event, what are you most looking forward to celebrating on this anniversary?
That is just a number; a few years later, it will be the 20th, the 25th anniversary, so there will always be an occasion to celebrate. Some of my classmates work at AUA as lecturers and share knowledge and expertise with the new generation. I myself have been involved in projects as a guest speaker with the AUA Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center. As to the upcoming Homecoming, I hope to celebrate it with many alumni coming home to their alma mater on this occasion.