Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Director of UX, Slavik Shen, is no stranger to the startup world. He moved to the U.S. to experience Silicon Valley in 2013 and found himself using his software development expertise to help a friend get Stratifyd off the ground soon after.
Shen was born and raised in Shanghai. His passion for tech was sparked by playing video games at a young age. By middle school, he transitioned from playing games to learning how to code.
He attended Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications along with Stratifyd CEO, Derek Wang. Shen hoped to break into the video game industry by working with other students to create role playing games for cell phones, but they were met with roadblocks when selling the programs.
“It was a good idea, but the timing was wrong,” Shen said. “At the time, everyone had really small phones and the app store didn’t exist. If you wanted to sell a game, you had to contact the phone carrier and they would take a large portion of the profit.”
Upon graduating with a degree in computer science, Shen moved home to Shanghai to work for a small database company called Sybase, which was purchased by a larger company a year later. Though he had nearly no savings, he took this opportunity to return to Beijing and co-found a mobile software development company called Celerity Mobile.
“There were seven or eight of us in a small two-bedroom apartment working on mobile browsers for Nokia phones,” Shen said. “And we almost went bankrupt twice.”
After battling with a competitor and surviving the 2009 financial crisis, the company started to turn a profit by creating apps for iPhone. The iPhone revolution piqued his curiosity in the up-and-coming tech scene of Silicon Valley, so he packed his belongings and booked a one-way flight to San Francisco.
He was both excited and nervous for this new chapter in life. Shen’s experience coming to the U.S. was different than others, as he had no concrete plans for his future and was met with adversity from day one.
“I didn’t move here to continue my education,” Shen said. “When I arrived, there was a language barrier. I didn’t speak English and had to work hard to learn a new language.”
Shen and Wang reconnected in San Francisco, where he learned about the idea of Stratifyd. Wang had recently finished his research at UNC Charlotte and was looking to recruit others to join the company.
Wang convinced him to visit Charlotte for a week, where he met Stratifyd co-founders Thomas “Toma” Kraft and Li Yu. When the week came to an end, Shen decided to stay, and the rest is history.
As the Director of UX for Stratifyd, Shen’s responsible for everything related to the front end of the platform. He’s constantly working to create new features that will enhance the experience of Stratifyd’s customers.
When he’s not working, you can find Shen playing strategy-based videogames like Starcraft, or building 3D models of tanks and ships, as well as Gundam plastic models.
“I left a lot of my collection in Shanghai,” Shen said. “I just moved into a new house and I can’t wait to set up a space so I can start rebuilding it.”
Q&A with Slavik Shen
Q: What’s your favorite thing about living in Charlotte?
A: Charlotte’s great place to live. It’s a big city, but it's not as crowded as New York or California. I also really enjoy how there’s still plenty of nature around the city.
Q: What sparked your interest in Stratifyd?
A: When Derek invited me to join Stratifyd, I was making apps for mobile phones and desktops. I had a feeling that there would be more opportunities in enterprise-oriented CX than consumer-oriented apps in the startup world. And after a short-term visit to Stratifyd, I knew I could do it.
Q: What is your favorite brand to follow on social media and why?
A: I don’t prefer specific brands over others. I actually adjust my following list to balance the ads that I see. I enjoy fighting against the recommendation algorithm!
Q: What is on your travel bucket list?
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: “Do the right thing, at the right time, with right people.”
Q: What's one thing you can't live without?
A: The internet, of course.
Q: What's the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
A: I quit my first job after a year and joined a startup in Beijing in 2006. At that time, most people from my culture didn’t approve of giving up a well-paid job to risk your future at a startup.
Q: What’s your spirit animal and why (this can also be a person/role model)?
A: I would say a Husky - I had one in Shanghai. He’s always curious, energetic, and is always breaking things!
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: The power to read minds.
Q: One cause that you’re passionate about?
A: Transcendence through tech.
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