Amila Pita always knew that the natural sciences would be her life. The pursuit of this passion has taken her across the globe, constantly excelling in a variety of challenging professional scenarios. This pursuit also revealed a hidden talent along the way, one that would greatly impact her development and help her establish a career right at the critical intersection of technology and business.
Having just been announced as HTEC Group’s Senior Director, Client Success, we took the opportunity to discuss her atypical career trajectory and the possibilities that stand before her and HTEC.
Written in the stars
A daughter of two mathematics professors, Amila showed a gift for the natural sciences from an early age. Growing up in Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina), she proudly states that she was a member of her country’s first ever Math Olympics team.
My parents always encouraged independent thought and problem solving, which, for me, translated into a keen interest in math, physics, and academic competitions. Also, my mother was a strong role model, having graduated with a math degree in the 60’s, when this was still a rarity in our traditional culture. Ultimately, we were fortunate to have math tutors in our household, and this was pivotal because it set me on my future path at an early age and enabled me to succeed.
Her early interests have evolved into a singular drive and dedication to build a career in the natural sciences. As she puts it, “It was simply what I was going to do with my life and there was no other option.” She set a goal for herself to study abroad and looked for opportunities to make it happen.
This single-minded pursuit coincided with what was a tumultuous time in the region, and the chain of events landed Amila, age 17, in Ontario, Canada, one step closer to fulfilling her ambitions.
The art of overachieving
Once in Canada, Amila applied herself to an around-the-clock schedule that saw her overcome all obstacles and finish high school well ahead of schedule. Along the way, she earned a scholarship to the prestigious University of Waterloo.
University studies followed the already established pattern of dedication and overachieving, but also brought new challenges.
To be honest, a lot of the things I was studying at the university came easy to me because I had such a strong foundation from back home. The key difference I noticed in Canada was that education was not solely focused on theoretical knowledge but also on building the ability to present what we were learning. This was eye opening to me, and it really helped me learn a lot of new skills that aren’t systematically developed in our parts of the world. As I would later learn, in our line of work, it is incredibly important to be able to present the value we are providing to our clients and potential partners in a very clear and concise way.
Amila once again credits the problem-solving abilities and the logical mindset she embraced early on as a key factor in successfully overcoming all obstacles. She graduated from the university in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with honors in computer science and a minor in pure math.
The makings of a career
During her university studies, Amila became a part of a co-op program designed to provide students with relevant work experience while studying. This was her introduction to the tech industry, as well as a pathway to her first job once she had finished her studies.
In her first professional role, she was a data analyst for a large Canadian bank in Toronto, but it was only the first step in an ever-evolving career. Over the years, her skill set has spanned embedded software, backend and front-end software development, all the way to solution architecture. The expanding skill set was accompanied by an evolving and growing set of responsibilities, going from individual contributor to leading multiple teams.
While she fully expected to continue her development in a technical direction, the course of her work revealed an unexpected “superpower”.
For some reason, it appears that I was very good at understanding the clients’ needs, capturing that and “translating” it into technical requirements and action items for the technical team. While I believe that I was a good developer, it was this ability that set me apart from my peers and led me further into professional services and then solution architecture.
It’s funny, because I see myself as an introvert, and it kind of contradicts my career choices. For example, I don’t feel particularly comfortable at large sales conferences and similar events. However, building close one-on-one relationships with clients is where I do really well.
As it happened, clients began requesting that Amila handle all interactions between them and the engineering team. This further led to specific on-site engagements which kicked off the international stage of Amila’s career. With her homebase still in Canada, she spent the better part of the next 12 years working for telecoms in Switzerland, and later Italy.
However, a personal twist was right around the corner, waiting to once again steer her career in a different direction.
Home is where the heart is
Vacationing back home in Bosnia, Amila would meet her future husband, and subsequently make the decision to relocate back home. While she admits that the new setting was quite a change of pace from a dynamic global career, Amila quickly found her footing in her new professional environment.
After finding initial employment in FinTech, she moved on to classical software engineering, where her career began to take a decisive turn towards business development and account management. This culminated in her engagement with Mistral Technologies in the capacity of Chief Business Development Officer.
Amila states that this shift away from a technical role did come with quite a bit of anxiety and soul-searching.
At one point, I felt that if I wasn’t doing hands-on work in engineering that I was somehow betraying what I’ve worked for my entire life. It looked like a difficult decision to make until I realized that it’s actually impossible for me to let go of it fully to be able to do what I’m doing now. I still have to have a complete picture at the higher level, architectural or conceptual, and I need to understand and translate that back into technology. I found comfort in that, and then I was able to consolidate the two things — to leverage my ability to work with people and understand them and then work with our engineering team on building these products. I have come to enjoy the entire process, both in its business and engineering aspects.
2022 saw Mistral and HTEC Group join forces with the shared goal of building the preeminent engineering company in Southeastern Europe and beyond. Amila recalls that she was quick to identify the potential to build something great together.
When we first became aware of HTEC’s interest in early 2022, all of Mistral management team was very excited at the prospect of joining forces. We found a lot of cultural and strategic alignment between the two companies, and we felt that we were on a similar trajectory.
We believed that we could contribute in a significant way to HTEC, and we were also very excited at the prospect of learning from them. From the beginning, it felt like a great fit.
Amila emphasizes that the crucial factor in deciding to join up, and later throughout Mistral’s integration into HTEC, was the open mindedness of both parties when it came to adopting positive practices and learning from each other.
The whole integration and onboarding process wasn’t a one-way street where we simply acknowledged the way in which things are done at HTEC. There was a lot of feeling out and getting to know the manners and processes of both organizations and finding areas in which our experiences and practices were complementary, understanding that both organizations had distinct qualities, but also room for improvement, and then finding ways to best integrate the two playbooks. I believe that this is one of the key qualities of an organization, that desire to learn how a different organization does things and consider how they can apply it to their practices. This went a long way towards establishing a healthy relationship between us from the very start, and it speaks volumes about the type of people we have in our company.
With her role of Senior Director, Client Success now fully defined and established, Amila believes that she can contribute to growing HTEC by focusing on the biggest strengths of her broad skill set — her talent for building and maintaining impactful relationships with the clients.
Comparing this role to the one I held in Mistral, my focus is actually narrowing down to doing the things that I am truly good at and enjoy the most. Again, I was glad that the team didn’t approach my future role with any predefined answers. Instead, they were curious to learn what my work was and what I did well, how I could best contribute, and this role then evolved from those considerations.
Asked about her vision of HTEC a few years further down the road, Amila exudes optimism that’s rooted in her belief in the people that make up the organization and confidence in the company’s charted course.
We have a clear plan, and I believe that things will go exactly as planned. We are leveraging the current market conditions to stabilize the company and continue to develop processes that will allow us to realize our long-term objectives. Finally, we have the boldness and the right mindset to keep going forward, to tackle even greater challenges and go where other organizations don’t dare to go.