In July, Boris Plotkin on the Gap Inc. technology team celebrated his 30-year anniversary with the company. He started his career in July 1991 as a production support analyst before working in a variety of roles including software development and supply chain and logistics IT, before moving into his current role on the product-to-market architecture team. To celebrate this incredible accomplishment, we sat down with Boris to talk about his journey with Gap Inc., some of his fondest memories, and why he recommends Gap Inc. as the perfect place to start and build your career.
First off, congratulations on 30 years with Gap Inc.! Can you tell us a little bit about your career?
I started my career at Gap Inc. in July 1991 as Production Support Analyst, working in the data center at the EDC/KDC campus—two co-located customer experience centers (CEC) in Northern Kentucky. I still have that article from Cincinnati Enquirer with the job posting. This was just four months after I arrived in US from the Soviet Union, where I got my education and work experience as an industrial controls and software development engineer. Gap Inc. systems were very different back then: HP1000/HP3000, green screens, tapes. One remarkable thing that happened was that Gap Inc. sent me for a month to work on the warehouse floor in every operational function from Receiving to Shipping. I met a lot of wonderful people, saw the operational side and my future customers, learned elaborate Gap Inc. “lingo” and abbreviations (e.g what are CAT’s and RAT’s—Counting/Receiving Accuracy Terminals).
I worked for a year in Northern KY running third shift, learned a lot about systems, what worked well, what had challenges. After one year, I got an opportunity to be part of the first highly automated CEC startup in Edgewood, Maryland. I embarked on a 3.5 yearlong business trip to Maryland where I got an opportunity to learn CEC automation, complex integration and, most importantly, understand high volume operational processes.
After that I returned to Kentucky, joined the Software Development team, and coded for more than 17 years! I started with Material Handling systems, then expanded to Warehouse Management, Transportation, Vendor Compliance, 3rd Party Logistics integration, etc. Technologies ranging from C/Pro*C on MPE iX, Unix, QNX, Linux to Java SE, Web/Enterprise. Again, I had an opportunity to work with wonderful people in GapTech (Management Information Systems at the time), vendor teams and business partners. Many of them became my mentors and role models.
Finally, I moved into what I had always wanted to do—solution architecture and strategy, expanding beyond Supply Chain Logistics, with fascinating opportunities to work on enterprise-wide initiatives and strategies, which is what I am still working on today.
What are some of your favorite memories or career highlights at Gap Inc.?
When I was hired, I was told that I would never code at Gap Inc., because the position I was hired for did not have it as a requirement…and you know what happened after. The lesson: Follow your passion!
If you walk into any Gap Inc. Retail CEC today, you will see large touch screen monitors in Receiving (known as SuperRAT and SortRebox terminals). I developed these systems in 1997: 50K lines of X Windows code in vi (C, X-Toolkit, Motif), and, after celebrating 24 years, they still run seamlessly.
One funny memory: I came to the US in 1991, and at that time there was just one McDonalds in the Soviet Union, so I had never eaten hamburgers before. One day we had hamburgers for lunch in the EDC Computer Room cafeteria, and I was told I had to put ketchup on my hamburger. I did…on top of the bun!
What has kept you at Gap Inc. all this time?
In short: People, Opportunities, & Challenges.
Gap Inc. is a large company. If you want to grow as a professional, it offers excellent opportunities. It is what I like to call a “Continuous University” where you constantly develop new skills in technology, business processes, communication, and social interaction. It is a two-way street, where you not only gain, but give in a variety of ways: create value, deliver, mentor, and contribute to the community. Things always change, they are always on the move, but what’s consistent is the working environment based on values deeply rooted in high work ethic, enablement, creativity, safety, and inclusion. This is a global company, and throughout my career I have traveled the world, met great people in faraway places, and learned a lot about the history and cultures of many countries.
Despite our size, Gap Inc. keeps constantly reinventing itself, building on its success and learning from its mistakes. The greater the challenges we face, the more creative and innovative we get. Look at what happened during the pandemic—dire situation became the springboard for unconventional thinking and unlocking growth opportunities.
I have looked at other companies, but each time I would come to the same conclusion: the unique opportunities Gap Inc. offers for professional growth and self-development are truly unmatched. This realization has been with me throughout my entire career here, and I try to emphasize it to those joining Gap Inc. The sense of satisfaction from the work you do cannot be underestimated.
Why do you think Gap Inc. is a great place for early talent development? Can you share with us a time where you may have helped mentor young talent?
The multifaceted opportunities for young professionals are not limited to the actual job they are hired to do. If you think of Gap Inc. as a Continuous University with education in technology, business functions, and community skills, you realize that there can be no better career starter. No matter where your interests take you, you always benefit from getting, what I would call, solid professional foundation.
I have been lucky to work with a number of new hires during my career here. And I have always emphasized the importance of combining the immediate job focus with professional curiosity and looking for self-development opportunities. And it never failed—I have seen so many success stories of satisfying dynamic careers.
Any last bit of career advice you’d like to share?
Work is not everything. Family, healthy lifestyle, social life, art, culture—it is all part of a balanced approach to career. Spend time with your family and friends, travel, read books, exercise, go to the theater and sporting events, pursue your hobbies. Live life!