DIMITER (JIMMY) SIMOV (’96): “All classes with Mark Stefanovich have been a blessing.”

Name: Dimiter Simov (Jimmy)
AUBG Class of: 1996
Major: South-Eastern European Studies
Graduate/Advanced degree: some Cognitive Science
Home country: Bulgaria
Current occupation: Product Experience Expert at SAP Labs Bulgaria

• Where do we find you at this moment?
Varna, on vacation, with my family. If we inflate the concept of moment, then it is Sofia, at SAP.

• What was your first destination after AUBG? Describe your career path.
My entire career revolves around the way people use software and devices:
– In 1991 (before AUBG) I started translating technical documents that were telling people how they were supposed to use products.
– In 1997 (after AUBG) I started writing such documents myself.
– In 2000 I started testing to see whether people can use products the way they were supposed to.
– In 2003: I started designing interfaces and interactions myself so I can meet closer the needs and expectations of users.
– In 2010: I started consulting on ways likely to guarantee products that users can understand and use.
– Today: I still help building software that people can use.
It’s hard. It’s fun.

My first thing after AUBG was to continue my studies. In 1996 I enrolled in the Cognitive Sciences program at New Bulgarian university. I spent there a couple of semesters. I did not graduate, but this is the step that shaped my professional life. The library of the Cognitive Sciences department was small; just a couple of shelves. The books were good, however. One particular book – Things that Make Us Smart – introduced me to the world of design of software for humans. I thank Donald Norman for writing the book, and several other books after that.

By the time I read the book, I was already working as a technical writer at Code Assistance, where Kamen Mutafov, class of 1995, was CTO. As a technical writer, my job was to explain to users how to use the product. There were cases in which I had to justify the way the UI worked, not just explain it. This wasn’t OK. I started asking the developers why the UI behaved the way it did. They would shrug and tell me that it behaved that way because they built it that way. I soon started telling them how to make the UI better.

A few years later I moved to a web startup – Netage (now Dynamo Software) founded by Dilian Pavlov, class of 1995. I worked on usability, quality, documentation, and later, on design. Roughly at the same time, I founded Lucrat – the first usability consultancy in Bulgaria. My work at Netage and Lucrat was a symbiosis of two jobs supporting each other. Netage was pumping projects and customers, so I was gaining experience and exposure. Lucrat was giving me knowledge and skills in usability, interaction design, and all things human-computer interaction.

The period between 2000 and 2010 was probably the most productive time in my life. Netage was the most successful web agency in the country. We were building tens of websites and winning several awards each year. We also built the best CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that I have ever seen. Yes, I know it is my product. Yes, I know that I have not seen them all CRMs out there. I still claim it is the best. Lucrat was a pioneer and visionary. We were opening the eyes of the Bulgarian software business for the importance of users through usability testing, trainings, and conferences. We were talking to them about user experience (UX) before the term UX became omnipresent.

In 2012 I moved to the world of the big corporations. I joined SAP. I am still doing the same things that I have been doing for more than 20 years now. I am helping developers build products that are easier to use – SAP Cloud Platform in particular. I am also training and mentoring people in design, usability, and documentation. Part of my job here, which I enjoy a lot, is to establish cooperation between SAP and AUBG. We already have some promising attempts. I work on this together with Takvor Tilkiyan, class of 2006.

• How have the years at AUBG prepared you for your career?
I am not that smart to be able to answer this question 🙂 Anyway, here is a try. I can think of two things:
– I majored in South-Eastern European Studies. This is a people-centric program. I learned about people.
– I think that AUBG also shored up my confidence in my own self.
– I met people that later in my life I worked with.

• What class had the most significant impact on you?
I do not think it has been just one class. I will mention two:
– Some class in English literature. I do not remember the name. I passed with a D. I visited the professor at the end of the semester, before the finals, and asked him whether what I have done so far is sufficient to pass the class. He said, “Yes”. This class is important not because I passed it with a D but because I was able to identify my own limit, say no, and save my efforts for something that I am better at or like more.
– Ethnicity and culture. All classes with Mark Stefanovich have been a blessing; however, this one taught me that we humans are like onions (yes, Shreck is similar). We belong to many groups simultaneously, and so we have many identities. I cannot explain shortly how this knowledge is important, but it is.

• Knowing what you know now, what would you want to tell your student self? If you could change something back what would it be?
Read the books for your classes now; you will never read them later. I am quoting Mark Stefanovich.

• What are the things that make you tick? What is your greatest passion or motivation at present?
Talking with my sons.
Understanding the reasons for mediocrity and finding ways to overcome it. I guess this one needs some explanation. My observations show that most of us humans are satisficers. We tend to do things to a level that we consider good enough. Unfortunately, this is not always really enough 🙂 These are a few reasons: evolutionary reasons, psychological constraints such as cognitive biases, the pragmatic side of the diminishing returns on the increased effort after a specific point, lack of knowledge, measuring our achievements by the result or quantity instead of by the effect or quality and getting paid by the same criteria.

• Future projects and plans that you look forward to with anticipation?
Several years ago, my childhood interest in stamps woke up. Stamps are now a hobby of mine. Postage stamps are well known and pretty well documented. There are non-postage stamps too. Such stamps have been used to pay fees, memberships, and insurance, to commemorate events, to collect funds for charity, buildings, political parties, and so on. These are poorly known and poorly documented. I am working on a project for cataloging these kinds of Bulgarian stamps.

• May fellow alumni keep in touch with you for mentorship and career advice?
Yes. I love to talk to young people.

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