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A person who earned a million once, can do it again: 25 y.o. Kazakh ex-millionaire

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Young Kazakhstani programmer Askhat Murzabayev has become known for his work in the Silicon Valley and for his charity. The Big Data programmer at Barclays donated $2 million to the International Cancer Research Center.

Murzabayav has become one of the most talked about people on Kazakhstani news and social media feeds. Some questioned Murzabayav’s decision, while others wholeheartedly supported the young programmer. In response, Murzabayav said: “A person who earned a million once, can do it again”.

Tengrinews.kz reporter Vladimir Prokopenko sat down with Askhat Murzabayev to talk about the success of the young professional and asked for tips on how to become a success.  

Tengrinews: Askhat, thank you for taking time to meet with us. The news that a 25 y.o. Kazakhstani has become a millionaire and donated all his money to charity blew the mind of Kazakhstani Internet community. What motivated you?

Askhat Murzabayev: First of all, it would be correct to say a former millionaire (laughs). I do not think that I have done something very big or achieved something supernatural at 25. It is all relative. For example, Mark Zuckerberg at 25 opened and launched a very successful company. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and many others achieved so much more at my age. I think the most important thing in a person is not the checks he can write, or cars he drives, or clothes he wears. Time is important - the choice of things that a person spends his time on is what matters.

I have never been a cancer researcher. But it is very close to me, I have relatives and close people who suffered from cancer and even friends who unfortunately lost their lives to cancer. That is why it was an opportunity for me to make a contribution. The donation is only a 1% contribution, because the remaining 99% is contributed by people in laboratories who are researching and developing medicine to treat cancer. I believe, these people deserve attention. It is not right that the media focuses on one person leaving hundreds outside the spotlight. 

Tengrinews: Not every 25 y.o. can earn a million. What do you think is necessary to earn a million? What kind of character traits helped you do it?

Askhat Murzabayev: Everyone believes in talent. I personally do not, especially when it comes to my own talent. I’m pretty pessimistic and tend to criticize myself a lot. A person must look at him or herself from outside and be hungry for new inventions. A person must work a lot, but most importantly the work must be efficient. The path to one success is usually paved by one hundred failures that remain outside the spotlights. One must continue working and never give up. No one has it easy.

As for personal qualities, I’m Taurus in horoscope, although I do no really believe in horoscopes (laughs). But the description of the horoscope sign describes me well. I’m stubborn. I think it helps.


Tengrinews: You are currently working in recruiting and helping others find a job. What is your relation to work? Do you consider work central to your life?

Askhat Murzabayev: I have been thinking that so many people are unhappy with their jobs. They do not understand why they do their work and they want to find a job they enjoy. I think it is important to understand the purpose of your life and find your passion. Doing the work you enjoy takes a third of your life. It takes 8 hours a day and sometimes even more than that. 

Americans have a term, “work-life balance”. But I don't understand it. How can you separate work from your life? I think diving these things is silly. If you don't like your work, it means that a third of your life is passing in vain. So it is very important to find a job that suits all your needs. When I say, “needs”, I mean a job that gives a person an opportunity to learn and teach others, give others something and earn money to feed him or herself and the family. These things I consider important. 

Tengrinews: How can one find a balance so that the work does not only bring money, but also bring happiness?

Askhat Murzabayev: When I was studying, I viewed my university as a software that has an expiration date for free use. My education was paid for, I got a scholarship and frankly I had no responsibilities. That was the time for experiments. I took internships, worked at a number of places and that was how I started to realize what I like doing. Humanity has not come up with a better solution than experimenting for that so far. In a month or month and half a person can understand whether he or she likes doing the job or not. It does not necessarily have to be the same as your major. One has to do what one likes. 

Tengrinews: What do you think is more important for a person - professional skills or personal traits?

Askhat Murzabayev: I think it is always a balance of the two. It all depends on a person and the company the person wants to work for. But in our age, I think, the most important skill is not what you know now, but what you can learn tomorrow. It is called learning ability. Today, you may be able to speak English, but tomorrow you should be able to learn Chinese and adapt to things. This is important. I specialize in IT. The average age for a technology, from its dawn to its sundown, is 7-10 years nowadays. A career lasts from 30 to 40 years. It means that during this period of time, I need to re-train and adapt at least 4 or 5 times. Or else younger professionals will outclass me. It happens not only in IT. I think everyone has to think about it.


Photo courtesy of Facebook.com

Tengrinews: You have worked in international companies and know them from the inside. How is international management different from ours?

Askhat Murzabayev: I have worked in a number of foreign and Kazakhstani companies. That is why it is difficult to grasp the whole picture right away. But from what I see, I think, managers should put more responsibility on employees. They should not try to solve all the issue on their own, but delegate tasks. Responsibility wise, we are pretty weak. For example, by the time a person that has worked in a company for 15 years gets an assignment that requires responsibility he or she has no experience of dealing with this kind of situations, because he or she has not developed the required qualities throughout the career. That is why I think companies should become braver and more risqué by giving employees more power. So everyone is responsible for his or her own field of work.

Tengrinews: What would you recommend for those who want to work in a big international company? 

Askhat Murzabayev: I think, getting a job with an international company should never be the goal. What is more important is to establish what a person wants to be and what he or she sees him or herself doing in the future. But then, I guess, it is important to be responsible and as I mentioned before to continue developing and contributing to one’s education. Whatever happens, no one will take away your knowledge. The knowledge you have gained is yours forever. It is also important to be mobile and look for markets of different countries and various niches.

Tengrinews: I have heard you want to create a system for prevention of car accidents. What inspired you and why did you decide to work on it?

Askhat Murzabayev: Yes, it is in my plans. We need to understand that a human being makes mistakes. Studying in a driving school does not diminish the number of car accidents. It does not matter what kind of roads we build, car accidents will still take place. According to High Tech news, these technologies are under development. Cars on autopilot are good. But the problem is that the government needs to allow cars to drive without a driver. I saw Google’s report and their car that covered one million km with 22 accidents. And all of these accidents were not the robot’s fault. Other cars crashed into the car driven by the robot. That is why if other cars were driven by robots, the number of accidents could have been close to zero. 


Tengrienws: Aren’t you afraid of forecasts of futurologists that robots will capture the world and we will have Skynet?

Askhat Murzabayev: I believe that at this stage people working on artificial intelligence or AI realize that this technology can only be used in a limited area. For example, it can be used in face recognition and animal recognition. But goals for technologies are always set by humans. There is no computer that understands that it has recognized a cat and later develops on its own to differentiate between lions, cheetahs and others. There is no such thing and I don't think it is happening any time soon. That is why for Skynet to happen, I can’t imagine what should take place. Maybe, we need to step away from zero and one and bit code. Maybe it is not the right approach. With what we have now there is nothing to be afraid of. We will be raising our children and grandchildren in the world safe from robot occupation.

Tengrinews: It certainly is reassuring. Now let’s talk about something personal. Do you have a dream?

Askhat Murzabayev: Well, I dream of going to the Moon. I just like exploring and learning something. Going to the Moon has been my dream since childhood.

Tengrinews: Well, I’m sure with your persistence you will become the first tourist cosmonaut from Kazakhstan. Do you consider yourself a patriot? And what does patriotism mean to you?

Askhat Murzabayev: I do not think that patriotism means drinking milk produced in Kazakhstan even if the quality is low. Or buying things only because they were produced in Kazakhstan. I think it is populism. I believe that patriotism is when you try to do something for your country and it is not only in terms of economy. If you are a patriot, then at the very least you will not throw your crap in the mountains. Do I consider myself a patriot? I do not know. I think, others can tell better. I think it is not right for me to call myself a patriot. It is pretty egotistic. People should evaluate you not based on your words, but on your deeds.

Tengrinews: The last question came to us from our readers. You are considered one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. Are you planning to create a family soon? Or do millions come before girls at this point?

Askhat Murzabayev: It is a difficult question. Thanks to the author of the question (laughs). I believe family is very important. Our Kazakh culture is based on family values. It is a great benefit. I think, every man needs to decide when it is the right time when he is ready to create a family and take responsibility not only for himself, but also for his spouse. It is not right to get married just because you like someone. I also believe it is not right when people plan things step by step: first the wedding and then earning money. These things can be done at the same time. As for me, in the next six month I am not planning to get married. We will see about the future.

Tengrinews: Askhat, Thank you for the interview.

Writing by Gyuzel Kamalova

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