In the brief time since its inception in mid-2021, HTEC’s Skopje (North Macedonia) engineering center has emerged as a major value provider for the company and our partners. The team has grown to close to 70 highly skilled engineers and has recently celebrated the opening of HTEC’s Skopje office space.
HTEC’s Engineering & Delivery Manager Vasko Drenoski has become one of the faces of the Skopje office. We had plenty enough reasons to talk to him about his career journey even without these recent developments, but it did provide us with a nice excuse to occupy a bit of his time.
We kicked off our conversation by mapping out some of the formative influences for what will become Vasko’s career, and he was quick to identify the earliest influence: his family.
As a kid I always preferred sports, but my sister set the bar very high. She did a lot of mathematics competitions at school, so I was motivated to keep up with the expectations. Things like math and physics came fairly easy to me, and after a while, I began to enjoy it and dedicated more time to science. Another major factor was the fact that my family had to use a computer for their business, so we had it in our home back in the early days when it was quite rare. I was curious to learn about it and got comfortable with that environment before many other kids did.
Vasko’s interest in sports was also an important formative experience, as it helped him connect with his inner leader.
I used to play a lot of soccer recreationally when I was younger, and I always wanted to play defense. Not because I didn’t want to score goals (who doesn’t?!). I enjoyed it because it gave me a chance to observe the entire field and see everything that’s happening and help others respond to that. You know, “watch on the left”, “push forward”, stuff like that. I feel like this was even more helpful for my managerial role than my formal education. I learned a lot of technical stuff at the university, but in those days, they didn’t teach us much about leading people, and it is a whole different mentality and a mind frame to be a leader.
Entering the industry
After briefly flirting with the idea of studying history – a newly discovered passion in high school, Vasko had ultimately chosen to pursue computer science at the university. Even if the North Macedonian IT community was in the earliest spring of its bloom, you could clearly see the oncoming wave of digital revolution spanning the entire globe.
By the time I finished my university studies, there were already several international IT companies in North Macedonia to go along with the local ones. It was still a young market so, as a developer, you had an opportunity to get exposed to a variety of work settings and different types of projects and thus gain diverse experience quickly.
Coming out of university, Vasko has worked as a developer for several companies before choosing to go independent, working on freelance projects with his business partner. It was at this stage that his career began to shift in a different direction.
At some point, we started engaging with more and more companies and we needed more people to join us. Once they get there, somebody needs to mentor them, to guide them, and make sure that they perform. So, I began doing that along with development work. Then someone has to communicate with the clients as a project leader, someone has to create project documentation, translate it to the development team, and so on. That’s how I moved into a managerial role, by accepting more responsibilities that did not include hands-on software development.
And while Vasko is quick to underline that he was comfortable with the role from the start and that he enjoys working with people, he admits that it wasn’t easy to turn his back on his engineering work.
The whole letting go moment—it was difficult. You start something from zero and take it to a certain place, and when someone else is supposed to continue that work, you want to make sure that it’s going in the right direction. I was helping out the team members a lot in the early days. Not just helping guide them, but helping with actual technical stuff, because you think you are good at it. At the same time, you have all these other responsibilities to think about and you’re no longer as involved in technology as before, so maybe you’re not as good as you think anymore, and maybe you’re not helping. And it took me a few years to realize that. It’s funny, back then I used to think that I was really good at managing people, and I only realized later that I’m just at the beginning and I have so many things that I need to learn and improve.
The long and winding road to HTEC
Vasko continued to hone his managerial skills in different professional settings, gathering a wealth of experience and different perspectives that have helped him understand and perform his role better.
I started out as a developer in a product-oriented company and later worked as a developer in a service-oriented company. Then I was a manager in a service-oriented company, and after that in a product-oriented company. All of these are different perspectives with different priorities and different ways of thinking and operating. Now I am at HTEC, which is almost like a bunch of different companies in one, some of which are more product-focused than others. My previous experiences help me understand all these different perspectives and navigate the complexity and the multitudes of what we do.
Speaking of HTEC, we were curious to learn about Vasko’s exposure to the company and his path to eventually joining us.
I was contacted by HTEC when they were planning to open offices in Skopje. Back then, I had no intention of switching jobs, but I offered to share what I know about entering the market here, because I’ve been through starting an office and a team from scratch, and I know about all the pains and challenges of the process. Then, Darko (Todorović, HTEC’s Director of Engineering and Delivery), Srđan (Jovanović, Director of People Operations), and Peđa (Pivarski, Head of Talent Acquisition) actually came to Skopje and we had a long talk about all those things. Their plans and vision had left a very strong impression on me, and, even though I didn’t join the company immediately, they sort of put that idea in my head and it wasn’t long before I jumped aboard.
As someone with a broad experience within the North Macedonian IT sector, we were curious to learn what Vasko sees as a specific value that HTEC brings to the country’s talent market.
To me, the biggest thing is the mentality. HTEC is a big international company, but it has its roots in Serbia, where the mentality is very similar to ours. We used to be the same country, we speak a similar language, and we understand each other very well at the fundamental level. There was a higher degree of openness and honesty from the start, compared to my previous experience. Another thing is trust. People here trust you to make the right decision without too many procedures and questions. It’s like “if you think that it should be done, do it.” Even if you make a mistake, nobody is going to go “gotcha!” You learn from it and move on. Finally, another crucial thing is the variety of options.
“HTEC is like many companies within a company, so if at some point you start looking for a change, like a different kind of project or a different industry, you can do that without the trouble of changing jobs. You will still be at HTEC, still working with the same people, and you can continue to build your career while evading the risk of moving into a setting that’s potentially not beneficial for you. We have an incredible variety of options, and a true people-first approach focused on the development of our team members.”
Finally, we were interested to find out how Vasko sees HTEC going forward now that the Skopje team has got some mileage in its collective feet.
I do a lot of interviewing of potential new team members, and this is not something I was telling candidates when I started at HTEC, but I find myself saying it all the time now and I truly mean it: trust me, I’ve been a part of this industry since 2008, and this is the next big thing. It’s not something that’s going to come and go. We are here to stay, not just in North Macedonia, but in all countries in which we operate and plan to do so in the future. We are growing, the opportunities are many, and this is the best time to join us. The Skopje team is a serious asset for HTEC Group and I believe it can grow to be one of its biggest regional engineering centers with 500 people or even more.
We wish to congratulate Vasko and the entire Skopje team for the phenomenal work they’ve done so far, and we are looking forward to helping it grow in the years to come.