Our interview series of look backs and takeaways from HTEC’s recently held annual leadership meeting continues. Here to recount her impressions from the gathering is HTEC’s Division Portfolio & Operations Manager, Jelena Damnjanović.
In case you missed the previous interviews in the series, you can find them here:
- Marko Anić, Director, Engineering & Delivery
- Goran Savić, Director of Technology | Tech Excellence Network
Having joined HTEC a little over a year ago, Jelena had a front row seat to HTEC’s growth and the opportunities it continues to create. In the time since her arrival, the number of HTEC leaders has grown from 37 (at last year’s leadership gathering) to 86, and Jelena has become one of the 49 to join the leadership ranks in that time span.
As a recently promoted leader, we were curious to gain her perspective from the gathering and from a blazing fast year of professional growth at HTEC.
Can you give us some of your strongest impressions from the gathering?
To me, this event was all about HTEC’s dedication to our people and our clients, an open-minded culture, and a fearless mindset to set the most challenging goals at all levels. Our leaders have shown by example that boundaries are moved only if WE try to move them and encouraged us to embrace failure as an option on the way. Whenever we’re not sure how things will evolve, with a “WE’LL figure it out” mindset, our chances of success are quite high. This mindset has motivated me to embrace the obstacles on the way, the unknowns, and the risks. I look at them positively. We’ll figure it out and that’s how we’ll grow.
Our mission, vision, culture, and values were simply put in one sentence: HTEC’s leadership job is to provide the playground, so all these amazing people can do their “figure it out” part. And as far as I can see, when the right people meet, that part is exactly where the magic happens. Honestly, the amount of trust given to all of us, failure, acceptance, and creative freedom, just blew me away.
When you say “culture”, are there any specific messages or situations to which you are referring?
There are too many to count, as the whole event was quite inspirational, but two main things stuck with me. The first one was how informal and transparent everything was. Everyone was talking to everyone, everything was out in the open, and there were no taboo subjects and conversations reserved for selected ears only. Even though I was there for the first time, I felt like a valued and accepted part of a lasting group.
The second biggest impression is related to our bravery of ambition. Our willingness to set goals that go beyond conventionally realistic and achievable and the belief that the people in the room are the best people to do it and that they will figure it out—that mindset was tangible at every step.
Jelena Damnjanović attentive as ever at the conversation at the leadership gathering
What has been your specific experience entering HTEC while the company was rapidly expanding?
I was aware when I entered that the company was growing fast, and I expected a lot of change along the way. What I didn’t expect was that I would have a chance to participate in changing my environment.
So, I started at HTEC as a project manager, and I held that role for the first six months or so. Throughout this time, the company was restructuring into smaller divisions to support its growth. What surprised me was that there were no fixed directives from upper management, like “this is your organizational structure and this is your role.” We were given the freedom to organize ourselves according to the needs of the division. So, we sat down, considered all aspects of our work and how to cover them in the most efficient manner, and a couple of new roles emerged in that process. Essentially, I was given a blank piece of paper and a pen, and my manager told me to write down my job description the way I see it and we’ll work from there. This is something that I always share with the people in my network. I’m not sure if this will ever happen again in my career, being given the freedom to influence and decide where and how you can contribute the most with your background and skill set.
All of that is provided by this growth, the opportunities that the company has created for me and for others. Of course, we earn our opportunities through our quality, hard work, and reliability, but some of those opportunities would likely not be there if the company was not growing, because there would simply be no place for everyone to progress at this pace.
“We’re not running from the fact that there are many unknowns ahead of us. We cannot offer our candidates a firm and fixed structure; we cannot tell them precisely what they will be doing in a year’s time, or even three months’ time. But what we can tell them is that our growth generates countless opportunities, and they should be prepared to maximize them. For people who are proactive, creative, ambitious, and who want a large degree of independence in their day-to-day work, HTEC is now the place to be.”
Aside from these opportunities, what other benefits do you see arising from HTEC’s growth?
The amount of interest in HTEC within my professional and personal community has made me feel like a bit of a rock star. I’m just kidding, of course. Although, I can’t deny the buzz around HTEC, where we’re not “just another IT company.” Everyone wants to know what our plans are and how far we’ll go.
For me, personally, what is cool about this phase of HTEC is that we can really do a lot of things without tedious approval processes or strict supervision and micromanagement. We get a high-level task, and it’s up to us to do it, to define the steps that will result in the desired outcome, and then we just validate it to be sure that we are on the right track, which is something I would always do anyway because I want the benefit of senior expertise and experience.
There are a ton of possibilities and room for creativity because things are moving at a crazy pace. That’s also something we communicate in interviews with candidates because we want to manage expectations—we’re not running from the fact that there are many unknowns ahead of us. We cannot offer our candidates a firm and fixed structure; we cannot tell them precisely what they will be doing in a year’s time, or even three months’ time. But what we can tell them is that our growth generates countless opportunities, and they should be prepared to maximize them. I know many people who prefer certainty and structure, and that’s fine. However, for people who are proactive, creative, ambitious, and who want a large degree of independence in their day-to-day work, HTEC is now the place to be.