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Posted By Megan Holmes


Nikolai Samteladze is helping Bank OZK build a better bank. A software engineer by trade, Samteladze and his team at Bank OZK's Innovation Labs are building infrastructure that makes Bank OZK run smarter. Unlike other banks that gobble up fintech startups, Bank OZK's Innovation Labs are creating a startup atmosphere of their own. Situated in the heart of downtown St. Pete's thriving tech ecosystem, The Innovation Labs engineers dream up unique local banking applications and proprietary software that will transform Bank OZK into the bank of the future, all while welcoming the community into its doors.

Years in St. Pete


Organizations involved in

I work with the University of South Florida and different technology groups in the area, Suncoast Developers’ Guild, Tampa Bay Startup Week to name a few. Various engineering meet-ups. That being said, I’m very actively working to be more involved with engineering and the business community in St. Pete.

What gets you out of bed every day?

I love my family and I love my work. Doing things you like definitely helps. Also the knowledge that the world we live in is so immense and interesting and beautiful, and we just have so little time to experience that. I try to think about that every time I wake up.

Why St. Pete?

Many reasons, starting with the beautiful location, near water with absolutely perfect weather, great infrastructure. Yet the city is still affordable for people to live in it. It’s the right size. It’s big enough that you have a lot of culture, a lot of diversity, a lot of events going on but at the same time it’s not too big. In general I always feel that people in St. Pete purposely try to be different and interesting. They demand more from themselves, from their neighbors, from the city. I think it’s a very good thing.

What is one habit that you keep?

I will sound a little bit like a control freak, but planning and reflection are very important to me. I plan my next day every evening, I plan my next week every Sunday. I try to reflect on the things that happened on the previous day. I keep a daily diary and when I don’t do that, I don’t feel like myself the next day.

Who are some people that influence you?

My parents during my early life, especially my mother. But today my wife, my friends, my coworkers. I’m very lucky to have a great core team around me at Bank OZK. Generally, I’m very inspired by people who are passionate about what they do and who work hard every day to try to be better and improve things around them. Communities, spaces, neighbors, things like that. People like David Goggins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Peter Attia.

What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?

I mentioned before that planning is really important for me. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book and methodology. I really think it really helps you scale yourself while staying calm, efficient and engaged in the moment with the people who are around you. I’ve learned the hard way that freedom requires a lot of discipline.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?

Delegate and trust your teammates up front, without asking anything in return. Correct if people are not successful. If you do that, people around you will surprise you a lot. Never be comfortable and purposely try to push yourself to do new things.

What’s next?

We’re doing some great work at Bank OZK and we’re scaling our Innovation Labs team here in St. Petersburg, we have an office here in downtown. This is the primary goal for the next couple of years. Getting more involved with the engineering community here in St. Pete. I think we have a real opportunity to build a great and successful technical community here in St. Pete that would support a lot of people and a lot of companies.

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