Driven by the wonders of the world of design, Ivan Prole, Principal Product Designer at HTEC Group, followed his dreams from an early age and has dedicated his professional life to developing creative solutions that make a difference and leading teams. We bring you the story about Ivan (or “Prole” as everybody likes to call him by his surname :)), the time he first stepped into the world of design, his career path, and how HTEC Group empowered him to grow.
With a tremendous experience behind, Ivan Prole has always been focused on improving himself continually on his career path. We caught up with him to find out how he decided to join HTEC, how he evolved on this journey, and the challenges he encountered along the way.
From dreams to reality
From an age of 10, Ivan showed interest in drawing. Later, as he grew up he got introduced to design and mixed it with his passion for drawing. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to become a designer when he grows up.
“When I was young, 9 or 10 years old, I really loved to draw. I liked creating comic books. My father had a big influence on me as he was a really good realistic painter. So, from that moment on, I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with drawing but is related to computer sciences, and so I discovered design. After high school I finished the Higher Polytechnic School and got a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design. And later on, I graduated from the Faculty of Design and gained the Master’s degree in graphic design. It was in 2006, which also marked the beginning of my professional journey.”
Ivan’s professional career path has been very versatile, educational, and inspirational. He points out that the professional experience he has gained before joining HTEC helped him learn a lot about how the business works and how to manage people.
“When I was still at the faculty I started freelancing, and it was pretty fun. Just a couple of months later, my friend invited me to join the small company where I was focused on creating websites of various complexity. So this was my first professional job. And later on, I moved to Comtrade, where I was working on marketing design solutions for bigger tech clients like LG, Toshiba or Sony. Then CEO of Comtrade invited me to start working on some new project — the main media portal, Telegraf, which is now the third largest website in Serbia. I was in charge of leading the product team there, and we achieved stellar success as we helped Telegraf increase the number of users from zero to million in just a couple of months. So it was a big jump in my career in terms of getting extensive knowledge about how the business works, how to lead teams and manage people. And later on, I was invited by Ringier Axel Springer, (the company behind Blic among many other digital products at that time), the biggest media company in Serbia, to be the Head of Digital Development. I was very grateful to have been a part of these environments as this allowed me to understand problems more easily or in a different way.”
However, the moment he stepped into the HTEC office in Belgrade in 2015, things changed for him, for better.
“Finally, I moved to the HTEC Group in 2015 and I have been part of it ever since. I consider myself very lucky to have had a chance to cross my path with HTEC. And that time, there were around 60 people in the company. I joined the team of three designers. I’m very proud and grateful to have been a part of the HTEC’s mission and growth from the very beginning. So from that moment, my professional life got the new dimension — I realized how important it is to be a part of a healthy environment with numerous opportunities to evolve both professionally and as a person. So it’s a really unique experience.”
Riding the wave of change
When we asked Ivan what were the biggest challenges he has had to fight on his career path, he said that it is the change that keeps him up at night.
“The constant change. Things are changing super-fast, and I had to reinvent myself a few times during my career to be able to keep up with the pace. So, I felt the urge and the need to constantly improve myself and build a strong foundation and knowledge base, upgrade my knowledge and never lag behind. I think staying up to date with the change and being relevant have been the biggest challenges I have encountered on this journey so far.”
Crossing the path with HTEC Group
Moving to HTEC Group was a totally different experience for Ivan when compared to the experience he gained working for other companies.
“I was truly amazed with this friendly environment where people are open for new ideas and suggestions, and willing to share and exchange ideas at all levels. I needed some time to get used to that. And the best thing is that this has never changed, even now when we are 15 times bigger than when I joined the company. I think it’s pretty hard to keep the same mindset, be fair, be honest and transparent when the company has grown so much. So, I’m truly happy that this mindset hasn’t changed that much.”
Building the biggest product design team in the region
Driven by the constant need to improve and empower the team to shine, Ivan and the team of more than 40 designers (this number keeps growing every month) are laser-focused on reaching new heights and building the most innovative products on the market. The expectations are high and their dedication to turn this vision into reality has never been stronger.
“When I joined the company, I was the Design Technology Lead. I was the fourth designer — the two of them left pretty quickly and I stayed alone at that time with one junior designer. Since then, we have managed to scale up and grow our team — our product design team is now more than 40 people strong, which, I must say, is an outstanding number. We are moving the boundaries and have big plans and expectations for the future. At the same time, building such a huge team of enthusiasts was maybe the biggest professional challenge I have ever come across in my career. We together are focused on creating a proper culture mindset, promoting knowledge-sharing and pushing each other every day to create the best possible products on the market. I believe that it is very important that people have the opportunity to work on challenging projects that motivate them to learn and improve”
Ivan explains that his responsibilities at HTEC give him a higher purpose to be even better at what he does.
“I think HTEC is a great place to grow. For the last few months, I have been mostly focused on supporting and scaling up the team with people who share the same set of values, the same mindset and passion. This gives me a higher purpose as a Principal Product Designer, among many other responsibilities.”
Ivan explained that throughout this journey he has learned many lessons, but the most important one is the need to learn and educate yourself constantly to be able to keep up with the ever-evolving, rapid changes that are happening across industries on a global scale.
“There’s so much I still need to learn. I’m aware that it is a jungle out there, it’s a marathon, you need to keep learning to be able to keep up with the changes and get ahead of the curve. And, HTEC has been my teacher from day one — my knowledge skyrocketed. This kind of atmosphere and burning enthusiasm to learn and improve every day pushed me even more to want to be at least 1% better at what I do each day. So, I started asking myself questions like: What can I do today to be better than yesterday? What values can I bring to the company and my team? How can I motivate my colleagues to be independent, proactive and curious to find creative solutions to complex problems themselves? How can I learn from them?””
I truly feel blessed and honored to be a part of HTEC Group. I invest a lot of time learning and educating myself. Every new obstacle, and every new problem is a new opportunity to grow and learn something new.
Strategic vision and growth is in HTEC’s DNA
Ivan believes that we have only scratched the surface and he is confident that we are going to build the best product in the region.
“Our expectations are higher than ever. And with these incredibly smart people, the sky’s the limit. I have zero doubt that we can achieve this. And this is the ultimate growth mindset. But I must point out that this outstanding growth mindset originates from leadership and spreads across the entire culture. They not only inspire us to be better versions of ourselves, but also push us to become leaders ourselves. HTEC offers a world of opportunities for anyone who is willing to thrive on their career path. I am truly amazed by our leadership’ s enthusiasm and all-consuming passion — they are an inspiration to all of us, empowering us to to make the move and make a change right now, this very instant. It’s a really unique experience, and it is contagious 🙂.”
Being a leader himself, Ivan is a true believer that the biggest treasures and the two things that make HTEC stand out are its people and a great leadership with strong vision.
“People. And, of course, great leadership with a strong vision. I think that this kind of growth happens once in a lifetime.”
And when asked about how he sees HTEC’s future growth, Ivan explains:
“It’s kind of tricky and hard because of the rapid growth we are experiencing. To be able to keep up with the changes within the system, we need to create a framework, and processes that can support that growth. This is a big challenge and we are on our mission to turn it into an opportunity and reach the stars.”
Finally, we asked him what advice he would give to anyone who is thinking of joining the HTEC Group.
“Be proactive, get out of your comfort zone and be humble. Think long term, your time will come.”
Curious to find out who’s next in our HTEC Features series? Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, read about our experts: Katarina Urosevic, Niko Slavnic, Dragomir Krstic, Mladen Karadzic, Ivana Stojanovic, David Schoch, Miroslav Virijevic, Stefan Mrsic, Srdjan Colak, Marko Zdravkovski.