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50 Global Armenians: Artak Kalantaryan

Artak Kalantaryan was born in Yerevan in 1963, in a family of prominent Armenian publicist, writer and dramatist Artashes Kalantaryan.

Bike is one of Artak’s latest hobbies (2012)
Bike is one of Artak’s latest hobbies (2012)

Artak Kalantaryan was born in Yerevan in 1963, in a family of prominent Armenian publicist, writer and dramatist Artashes Kalantaryan. In 1985, he graduated from the Radio engineering faculty of Yerevan Engineering University. In 1993, he was invited to work in Boston. He has worked at Microsoft Corporation for 10 years (1996-2006) then at Amazon. In 2007, he founded his own IT-company- Burly Marmot Software. Artak is married, he has a son and a daughter, who work correspondingly at Apple and Microsoft.

My father and my brother were journalists, my sister was a musician. It happened so that I decided to take quite another path. My family did not welcome my decision to enter the Polytechnic University, but I really loved that profession. I have been fond of science fiction books since my childhood.


Artak Kalantaryan with parents (1983)

When Artak was a third- year student, a huge computer "Nairi IV” was placed at the Department of Radio Engineering, which excited Artak greatly. At that time, he had a pocket calculator on which he wrote programs. Artak’s professor, who offered him a job at the faculty, noticed that. Artak still warmly remembers his work at the faculty and always meets his former colleagues when he visits Armenia.


There were about 40-50 people in Yerevan at that time who knew computers, and all of us knew each other. We gathered in “Poplavok” which was our “Internet”. I worked in several places, I didn’t think about the future. I was simply doing my favorite job and enjoyed my life.

I still don’t understand well how I appeared abroad (laughing). I was married and had two kids. We lived well enough but I always felt a great need for information, as well as a desire to learn. I have this desire also today. There were practically no possibilities for education and career in Armenia at that time. When someone found a western Engineering magazine, it was a great joy, and we read it through  from cover to cover. So, I went to the United States first of all for freedom of information.

In early 90s, I was already working at a U.S. company. I can say I helped establish the first U.S. IT company in Armenia - Boomerang Software. It’s a very interesting story.

I was 25-26 years old, I sold out everything I had and paid huge money to buy a computer with 4MB memory  and learned to develop programs. Once, one of my friends told me that an American had and told him that there were no programmers in Armenia. I decided to meet that man. He skeptically asked me whether we could convert a program from “Basic” to “C”. I said I could easily do it and I did it for him. Sometime later, the American sent a Hindu man to Armenia to gather a team. Thus, Boomerang Software was established in Armenia. We initially earned $ 40 per month, then – up to $ 150. We thought we were millionaires but didn’t know how to spend the money.

Then, power outages began in Armenia. Just imagine, we are developing software for the U.S. market and the electricity goes off.

When Artak and his friends realized that they failed to do the job on time, they hired a room near the tunnel of  “Barekamutyun” metro station, which almost always had electricity. The young specialists were certainly afraid to tell anybody that they were working for a foreign company and when police officers asked what they were doing, they said they were working in a publishing house...

We had a really good team and managed to develop 3-4 software programs in such hard conditions. One of them was designed for Windows 3, which has worked until recently. It was called Business Graphics and, we believed, it was better than Excel.


Artak Kalantaryan with family

I left for USA in December 1993. Our company - Boomerang Software, invited me to Boston. I still remember the picture of that night- it was very cold and there was a terrible fog. It was so thick that on the way to the airport we  turned the wrong way a few times. There must have been some kind of sinister symbolism in it. When I was already on board the plane I thought I would never see my motherland again.

My wife and kids remained in Armenia. A few months later, when the issue of their visas had been resolved, I called my wife and told her they could already come to me. However, my wife said they wouldn’t come. I was shocked and asked what was wrong. It turned out that her parents had problems with health and she couldn’t leave them alone. Thanks God, they recovered and we were able to unite in Boston.

I changed several jobs in Boston afterwards. I loved last workplace: we had a small team, where half of the employees were engaged in consulting and the other part developed Internet software. One evening, our boss told us he had sold the company to Microsoft. Thus, we had to move to Seattle.


Artak Kalantaryan with Armenians working at Microsoft (2009)

Artak confesses that he loves to work in small companies; however he was inspired with the idea of working at Microsoft. Later he became a member of a team that developed Internet Explorer 4. In 2000, Artak moved to another department and almost at the same time his wife Susan joined Microsoft’s Department of Internet Explorer.

I have worked at Microsoft till 2006, then a year at Amazon, where the work was very interesting. You are a small part of a team at Microsoft whereas in Amazon you are your own boss and have more freedom. I was Senior Software Engineer there. I created a new e-mail system for Amazon which sent up to 10 million e-mails every day.
 

Artak Kalantaryan loves cooking for friends (2010)

Artak has a lot of hobbies. After leaving Amazon, Artak was engaged in culinary art for almost half a year. Then he decided to make a guitar himself. Artak remembers that his wife and kids joked over his new passion, but 2.5 years later he finally made an almost professional guitar. Now Artak has a new hobby- motorcycle racing. Today he is learning to drive the “iron horse”. Artak also created a web site dedicated to his father Artashes Kalantaryan and digitalized all his works. Our hero has also opened two culinary web sites dedicated to khash and khinkali.


Bike is one of Artak’s latest hobbies (2012)

I have my own company today- Burly Marmot Software and I develop software for Android. It took me a long time to persuade my wife to join my small team too.

Artak also works for Walt Disney, which, he says, is very interesting for him. His supervisor is a Behavioral Psychologist and they regularly carry out various tests in Disney parks. When we were talking to Artak, he was going to Paris for some Disney-related business. 



Artak loves not only motorcycles

Artak’s children are also engineers: his son studies at UCLA and takes an internship at Apple. Artak’s daughter has a contract with Microsoft. Artak jokes that his family is connected with Microsoft forever.

When Artak’s family moved to USA, his daughter was 8 and his son was 4. They speak mainly English with each other, but they also can write and read in Armenia. Artak visited Armenia with his children in 2007. His daughter is going to visit Armenia this year with her American friend.

I feel very well in Armenia. When I come to Yerevan I have a feeling that I have never left it. I really love a lot of things here. Maybe I don’t see many difficulties and problems but I see more positive things than negative. Besides, I am just delighted with today’s Armenian youth.


Artak Kalantaryan with his family in Yerevan (2011)

Maybe I will do something for Armenia one day. I think it will be in the sphere of education. I will keep digitalizing the works of Armenian authors, and my father’s site is only the first step.

Aram Araratyan

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