Interview with Ispirer CEO Natallia Bespalova

Natallia Bespalova

The year 2023 was marked for us by the flourishing of machine learning in the IT sector. OpenAI, LLM and ChatGPT dominated the headlines across the digital landscape. The hype around this theme raised questions about the potential impact on database migration and application conversion processes. Would these new language models pose a challenge to traditional migration solutions? We decided to find out the answers to these and other questions directly from the recently appointed CEO of Ispirer Systems Natallia Bespalova.

In this interview, we discuss Ispirer, global trends in IT, artificial intelligence and security issues that arise.

Let’s uncover the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in this transformative year with Natallia.

Natallia, you have been a key figure at Ispirer Systems and recently became its new leader. What was it like watching the company and the industry as a whole change? And of course, to take a direct part in this?

“As someone who has been with Ispirer for the past seven years, it's been an incredible journey to witness the evolution of both the company and the broader IT industry. My initial role as a legal counsel allowed me to closely observe and understand the intricate workings of Ispirer within the multifaceted IT industry. Transitioning to the Chief Legal Officer position later and dealing with compliance issues provided me with a unique vantage point, enabling me to contribute directly to shaping our legal strategies and ensuring compliance in an ever-changing landscape.

If you recall the state of Ispirer in 2017 and compare it to its current status, it's evident that we've achieved significant success. I'm delighted to know that I was deeply involved in all aspects of these positive changes. I played my part in facilitating the smooth execution of our projects while navigating the dynamic regulatory environment. Additionally, my involvement in strategic decision-making processes allowed me to align legal considerations with the company's overall goals.

The IT sector, including the segment in which Ispirer operates, has undergone significant changes over the past seven years as well: data has truly become the new oil, giving rise to entire industries dedicated to working with Big Data. Cloud data mining and later artificial intelligence have become an integral part of our work and daily life. And we must keep up with all these changes. It’s really stressful, but highly exciting at the same time.

So, now, stepping into the role of CEO, I'm thrilled to leverage this comprehensive perspective to drive Ispirer’s continued growth and success.”

How would you describe your leadership style and what values do you emphasize when leading your team?

“I prioritize fostering an open relationship within the team, providing ample support, and recognizing that each team member has unique strengths that contribute to our collective success. I believe in empowering individuals by acknowledging that someone within the team may excel at a particular task better than anyone else, and I encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing to leverage these strengths. Additionally, I emphasize the importance of giving employees space to grow and develop themselves, fostering an environment where they can take ownership of their professional development and thrive.”

What trends, in your opinion, will determine the future of IT?

“Rapid development of AI pushed, the IT market to transform significantly. Machine learning has enabled us to approach numerous processes from a fresh perspective. In their quest to stay abreast of contemporary trends, many companies have hastily embraced AI in their operations. However, prompted by the inherent risks, companies have started reassessing their priorities and grappling with the question of what holds greater significance - following trends or ensuring reliability?

So, information security and privacy take a lead then. Not only AI implementation, but creation of any new technology, software development, and migration projects force companies to balance between the seemingly endless potential of innovations and all the risks that go along with them. Merely having weak information security management practices or only complying with privacy laws on a superficial level is insufficient for businesses seeking stability and growth. Any breach could lead to data disclosure or make the company vulnerable to cybercriminals. While this may seem obvious, the expected annual growth of global cybercrime damage costs by 15% over the next two years suggests that companies are still underestimating the importance of security and privacy issues. Thus, as a lawyer by education and compliance specialist by vocation, I’m pretty sure that the rule of information security and privacy laws will only increase during the next few years, which make them a separate trend in IT too."

Are Ispirer's customers grappling with these trends and facing the decision between modernization and security?

"Sure! Since the beginning of 2023 companies are looking for AI solutions for migration and we often hear about security dilemmas from our prospectives. Our main product, Ispirer Toolkit, is an expert system, so it is actually a part of AI. By the way, our CTO published a great huge article explaining both concepts recently, which also explains that the expert system is our conscious choice because it allows high adaptation to the client's needs. I just add that it also allows one to avoid “black box magic” of the modern AI, that are far away from the secure solutions. Ispirer Toolkit is a desktop solution that does not send or transmit any data from the user’s local environment elsewhere, nor does it utilize such data for automated learning. At the same time, the Ispirer team releases new versions of the toolkit daily, which ensures maximum adaptation of the product to the client’s needs and regular security updates. So as you see we suggest a compromise for our clients."

So, you do not believe that language models, particularly ChatGPT, which can already convert code from one language to another, pose a serious competitive threat to Ispirer and could potentially attract some of your customers?

"It's not really so. We at Ispirer acknowledge the significant strides modern models have taken, and there's no denying their ongoing evolution. Large Language Models, in particular, exhibit impressive capabilities, effortlessly handling technical, analytical, and even creative tasks. And the main part of our prospects with the small migration projects will choose AI solutions instead of Ispirer Toolkit. However, when it comes to migration tasks, which involve at least a small piece of code or data of a great value (I’m not even talking about personal data), security is the foremost concern.

In this regard, opting for Ispirer solutions will undoubtedly be a preferred choice over AI. Moreover, the extraterritorial Artificial Intelligence Act by the European Union, which is going to be enacted very soon and will adopt a risk-oriented approach to AI usage will even legally restrict companies from employing AI-based solutions. Thus are closely monitoring the advancements in artificial intelligence, but do not anticipate significant customer outflow as a result of its influence in the nearest future."

How does Ispirer remain adaptable and resilient in such a fast-changing industry?

"It's no small feat! Our expert system, the Ispirer Toolkit, has been in existence for over 20 years. While many organizations have only recently turned to automated code migration tools, we've been in the field for quite some time. Over these decades, the Ispirer Toolkit has amassed tens of thousands of conversion rules and continues to integrate new rules on a daily basis. Our team consistently monitors changes in the IT landscape, expands the number of migration directions to accommodate new languages, and enhances the quality of automated migration. As a result, our ability to provide high-quality migration and support for both outdated and modern technologies allows us to maintain our position at the forefront of the industry."

Is this approach of continuous monitoring of changes and making improvements reflected in the corporate goals for 2024?

"Absolutely! We've allocated a significant number of working hours for our product owner and migration experts to focus on R&D. We're shifting from a planning and predicting model to one of experimenting and adopting new approaches. Additionally, we're actively empowering young innovators within the company, whose diverse perspectives bring forth a multitude of fresh ideas for advancement."

Could you share some specific goals that the Ispirer team has for this year?

"I prefer to keep specific goals and metrics confidential. However, I can share that we see significant potential in migrating business logic from databases to an application layer, so we are committed to advancing in this direction in 2024. Besides, given the rapid pace of technological evolution, we have prioritized the development of an adaptive mechanism to swiftly integrate emerging technologies into our framework. Using this technology will allow us to incorporate new migration directions into Ispirer Toolkit more quickly which is also a top priority for this year.

In tandem with our migration initiatives, fostering deeper collaborations with IT industry leaders like Google, AWS, and Microsoft is a pivotal goal of our development. Strengthening these partnerships will facilitate enhanced integration of cutting-edge technologies and enable us to provide comprehensive infrastructure modernization solutions and meet evolving market demands."

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. You know, it's incredibly difficult to predict as everything around us is moving rapidly and unpredictably. But regardless of the path we choose in these 5 years, I would like to see Ispirer secure a huge portion of the global market for large-scale database and application migrations. And I will contribute my utmost efforts towards advancing the company to this point."

How do you usually spend your free time and what boosts your energy?

“Certainly my family and friends are a source of energy for me. It's crucial to shift focus from work matters to spending time with loved ones. One of our favorite leisure activities is playing trivia and board games together in a large group. It's a great way to unwind, broaden my horizons, or simply share a good laugh. When I need to take a break, clear my mind, and contemplate things, I find that running is incredibly helpful.”