We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Bill Gates wasn’t the first person to say this – just the most famous. This quote has been re-worded and re-attributed many times in the past 50 years. But the underlying sentiment is timeless. A lot can change in ten years.
Today, we are bringing you the story of Mirza Dervisevic who joined Symphony back in 2011. During his ten years spent in Symphony, he transitioned from Software Engineer to Head of Software Engineering. Telling this exciting story about growth, development, and strive to achieve more wouldn’t be possible without asking Mirza about his general sentiment of the ten years behind us.
“It’s not a small thing to have a company in your hometown where you can learn this much and achieve your professional goals. Having the ability to grow and evolve alongside the company you’re working for is a feat that usually requires moving to another town or even country. Looking back, I am happy to see Symphony evolved into a company that allowed me to grow both professionally and personally without even thinking about leaving my hometown” explains Mirza at the beginning.
Climbing the ladder
Ever since joining Symphony, Mirza was on the path of both personal and professional advancement. “For me, it’s a huge thing to be able to join a company as a Medior Software Engineer, and transition into Senior Software Engineer, Team Lead, Solution Architect and lastly take over the role of Head of Software Engineering” Mirza points out. To achieve this, Mirza had to climb a lot of stairs along the way, combining his enormous drive to learn and the company’s efforts to match his development. Whenever he felt that he was able to give more value to the company or his team, Symphony stepped in and enabled him to provide that value through a different role or setup. “I distinctly remember this one situation that happened a couple of years after I joined Symphony. We were just getting ready to start a new project with a huge potential that looked like a perfect playground for engineers to grow. At that moment, I only led one project before as a Team Lead and I had this gut feeling that I should be the Team Lead on this project as well. I knew what needed to be done and had the vision of the product in my head, so I approached our CEO and explicitly asked him to let me take the Team Lead position on this project. I didn’t prepare a fancy presentation, I just asked him to believe in me and give me this opportunity. Without much fuss, he agreed with me. Later, this project grew to 18 engineers and became one of the longest projects Symphony ever had.” recalls Mirza one of the rare situations where he needed to ask the company for an opportunity to grow. In his words, Mirza took ownership of his career because he knew he wanted to grow and achieve much more. Looking back, he even shares that he could have been given the Team Lead role without even asking for it, but it was so important for him that he wanted to be 100% sure that it would happen no matter what.
From that moment, the puzzles simply started falling into place. In each situation after that, Symphony was very open about giving him enough space, time, and opportunities to grow. “That’s the one thing I really respect about Symphony - you don’t have to go around and advertise your good work. Your work will speak for itself and you’ll have enough chances to succeed. You’re completely in charge of your development.” Mirza continues his story about each step he made along the way.
When he was first approached about becoming a Head of Software Engineering two years ago, Sarajevo’s Managing Director was quite honest with him and explained that he was the one in Symphony’s eyes for this role. That was a really good feeling and an enormous push to pursue his passion for nurturing the next generation of engineering talent at Symphony.
Supporting others to climb the ladder
“When I was working as a Software Engineer, I always knew what I needed in order to be successful in my role. When I led my first project here in Symphony and had total ownership of the architecture and product, I knew what we needed as a team to be successful. That’s when I realized that the situation doesn’t change much if you know what you need to succeed” explains Mirza.
When he draws a parallel between his work as a Software Engineer and Solution Architect to Head of Software Engineering, Mirza points out that he really likes the servant leadership style. For him, the best way to know that he is doing a good job at his role is if his Team Leads are successful. Just two years ago, Symphony only had a couple of Team Leads working in the Sarajevo engineering hub. Today, there are 15 of them and they are now called Tech Leads with a complete focus on providing the best possible technical expertise for team members and the project itself.
“Once again, I knew what I needed to do to enable Software Engineers to succeed. One of the first initiatives that I launched, together with the People Operations department, was a thorough Performance Management system. It is completely based on providing qualitative technical feedback and at its core was the Tech Lead role. For us, a good Performance Management system was a seed to recognize and nurture a good engineering talent in Symphony” Mirza strongly points out. A couple of months ago, both Mirza and Enis, Symphony’s People Operations Manager shared the nitty-gritty details of the Performance Management system here.
For a company to constantly provide a great environment for its employees to grow and develop, it’s necessary to create a system that will be able to detect the talent. But, that’s not where it ends. Mentorship, coaching, providing opportunities to grow, and constant listening is the key for that talent to succeed. “We knew that we needed a person on each project that will be able to sit down with the team or individually with every Software Engineer and let them know what’s good and what needs improvement. That couldn’t be a person from the management or someone deep in operations. It had to be the Tech Lead, someone who has the utmost trust of the whole team and understands their challenges and needs” continues Mirza.
When asked about the next step for Symphony’s engineering, Mirza enthusiastically shares that the next step is for current Tech Leads to recognize the talent in their project teams, nurture them, and lead them to the next level. Mirza will continue his work with Tech Leads into equipping them to become Solution Architects and business consultants - depending on their aspirations. “Symphony is really good at engineering and we have really great and talented people. The next step for us is to develop a true partnership with our clients, become more involved in their digital transformation, and become a part of the product at its core. To achieve this, we need to enable our talented people with the right skills and knowledge to take on these partnership roles. That’s what we are working on at the moment, and I am really excited to see so many of our Software Engineers climbing the same ladder I took years ago” concludes Mirza the question about his upcoming focus as Head of Software Engineering.
Framework of Trust
“If you ask me what’s the secret behind our success here in Sarajevo, without any hesitation I would have to say the utmost trust that we have in each other. On a daily basis, I work with a lot of different people and teams, but in each conversation, we trust each other’s judgment” shares Mirza at the very end of our conversation.
When asked about his work with hub’s management, Mirza shared true insight into their setup for success. “I think the past experiences shaped us really well. I work closely with the Head of Service Delivery and People Operations Manager to understand what our people need - whether it’s coming from the engineering, delivery, or human resources perspective. Sometimes, we get in certain situations that may not seem easy to handle, but together with hub’s Managing Director, we are all giving our best to provide our people the best possible environment to succeed.”
The engineering hub in Sarajevo has grown a lot over the years. To continue the path of success that they have taken so far, it was necessary for each stakeholder involved in the process to extend the trust. That means that Mirza won’t directly mentor each person that will become a Tech Lead in the future. Instead, he has already developed a system with current Tech Leads and gave them an opportunity to support Software Engineers to transition into this role.
On the other hand, his work with the Head of Service Delivery definitely deserves a mention as a great example of mutual trust and respect. They are now aiming to transfer their way of working to each Tech Lead and Service Delivery Manager where they’ll have open conversations and always agree on decisions that will benefit both the team and the client. Mirza thinks that there is a lot that they can learn from each other, Software Engineers can get a real grasp of business from their Delivery Managers, while Delivery Managers can learn what Software Engineers need to succeed in their roles and advocate for that during their sessions with clients.
“I am really looking forward to seeing where we are going next. Symphony is a company that is constantly growing and learning a lot along the way. We have just started to evolve our services, which means that we will also evolve the way we are working and handling challenges, projects, but also achievements. For me, the sense of gratification is never instant, but I am proud to see our people growing and embracing the next phase openly”, concludes Mirza.