Since the pandemic has normalised remote work, in the TNation building, a single person is walking the long corridors. True to working in the company office as the last Jedi – CTO Siniša Medić, is everlasting positive energy behind the brand. Although he is not much of a caffeine fan as Guarana, the chat about the IT outsourcing industry is nothing less than engaging.
Love of Code Grows to Dreaming Big
Siniša has been working in the IT outsourcing industry for two decades. As we sat down at the table, he recalls the early days of his career using gentle humour. So, how did your IT career start?
„Difficult question, because I am not sure which period of my life defines my career path.“ Siniša points out his love for coding in his childhood. „In 5th grade of primary school, I had my personal computer, and I quickly got bored with games. I always loved programming. Three decades ago, I started freelancing.“ Medić laughs and continues to explain the difficulties of being a programmer in the 90s.
„You can imagine how that went down without the Internet. Even when the Computer Center of the University of Belgrade launched Afrodita enabling the Internet for students… well, at least the lucky ones who received a connection through pulse dialling.“
„There were no freelancing platforms like today. So, I would say that my career started in 1998 as a programmer at IIB Informatics Engineering company. We developed information Systems for large domestic companies. When Microsoft first launched MS SQL, we chose it as a database. Circumstantially, in 2000 I became the Chief Programmer (CP).“
During his career love for programming never abandoned him. He explains the same passion is still there, just slightly disturbed by CTO responsibilities within the TNation. Following on his excitement while coding, we asked him about his favourite programming language.
„Hmm… Another difficult question.“ Siniša responds with a pensive expression. „I am not sure if I am precisely clear if I say TSQL. After more than 20 years of working in it, for me, it is the most interesting. Let that be my answer. Although, I rarely program these days. It is mainly some outdated software which no one knows.“ He smiles again and continues: „Usually programmers do not like „issues“ within their work, but I get excited twice a year when doing something for an old client.“
He lightheartedly confesses learning to create a WordPress plug-in just because he disliked presented options. Siniša declares that developers’ job included almost every possible stage of the software life cycle in the early days. After 2004 when he met his current partner and namesake, their paths were bound in the same company for more than ten years. Tell us about your previous work experience?
„In 2009, Siniša Kresojević, my current partner in TNation, invited me to work together in Tehnicom Computers. After a few years, the company changed its name twice; today, it is NewTec Solutions. I spent ten years in the same company. Incredible as it may seem by modern standards, I learned a lot during that decade.“
TNation’s CTO clarifies his first encounter with the world of business. „I learned about business processes and communication beside some great people. Back then, we were developing and implementing the entire systems for well-known domestic companies. Among them were Bambi, Nelt, British American Tobacco, Banini, Alfa Plam, Aksa, Belgrade Bakery Industry, Vetfarm, DIS, Ecolab, and Elopa. MDI, Metalac, Nectar, Neoplanta, sugar factory Crvenka, Fruvita, sugar factory Senta and many others.“
From Bunch of Cowboys to Successful Outsourcing Company
Siniša is a versatile kind of person; ten years ago, he was briefly a writer of articles for a software magazine. When we asked him about the early beginnings of the TNation, he had a rather creative answer.
“In 2004, I met Siniša Kresojević on vacation in Egypt. Unlike other big companies, we didn’t establish TNation in a garage. You could say we built it in the sand, on a seashore, under the warm sun…” He adds with a broad smile: ”Can it get better than that?”
Despite the big dreams, both of them did not build the business in a day. TNation, like many outsourcing companies, had its challenges. Sometimes, one client changes the fate of the start-up and helps it grow.
“The first big client that changed the game for TNation is certainly Deluxe, actually their firm Hostopia. We negotiated with them for a long time over software development. At some point, we agreed on a trial period. At the time, they were looking for a backup team in Ukraine. According to them, they had 600 developers, while we had a dozen people. Nonetheless, we started a project, which by our standards, went too slow. However, they were more than happy with it.”
He reveals that the client decided to sign a contract with them, which is still active after six years of cooperation. Siniša chuckles while remembering when the Deluxe top management came to visit the new TNation offices.
“They were pleased. One of the Deluxe representatives made a joke on our account. He said that just the previous year, and I quote, our team was a bunch of cowboys. Truly, we learned a lot from them about organising the business, procedures and safety.”
Starting with “a bunch of cowboys” and building a software development company that has clients all over the world is a massive success on its own. Looking back to the past, and the initial idea on the Egyptian seashore, what is TNation’s most significant success so far?
“Hmmm, there are different ways to perceive success. I would say that it is achieving business stability in a short time. We have succeeded to maintain it even while growing the company. Today, TNation has more than 100 employees, 15 clients, and is still growing.”
Developing Future of TNation Outsourcing Company in Serbia
Despite the influence of Coronavirus on businesses worldwide, TNation has somehow resisted the challenges and managed to remain active during the entire year. But, since 2020 did not pass without challenges, Siniša explained the current focus of the company.
“Last year, we focused on maintaining the quality of service as well as improving the quality of life for our colleagues during the pandemics. There were many challenges because our clients faced plenty of problems. “ He adds that the company ended 2020 with similar results as the previous year. Therefore, TNation focused on expanding the network of partners and searching for new markets.
“Today, we are focusing on new clients as a result of the activity from the previous year. We have signed a dealership with a company in Italy. We are expanding to Sweden as well as Norway. “
Since the IT industry in Serbia is developing hastily compared to the previous years, it influences many businesses. We asked for his opinion on the current IT outsourcing industry in Serbia.
“According to industry research, Serbia lacks 7000 IT experts. The domestic scene has two kinds of companies. Roughly said, these are companies that work for clients in Serbia and the ones that outsource their services abroad. TNation belongs to the group of outsourcing companies in Serbia. Ten years ago, the country was not visible on the global market. Nowadays, it is different, and the government supports the IT sector as an important industry for Serbian economy.”
Siniša talks about his observations that there are programmers who are returning from the diaspora. He sees this as a positive addition to the market value. “There are even foreigners who are coming to live and work in Serbia, that never happened, as far as I know. At the moment, Serbia is very competitive in the IT market. However, we feel pressured by the countries that can offer lower service costs, like Vietnam, Belarus, and Ukraine. Then again, Serbia is closer to Europe geographically. We understand western mentality; but, we shall see for how long we last.”
The global market has opened opportunities for all countries around the world. The IT industry is no longer reserved for Silicon Valley experts. An entire eastern hemisphere has somehow made its mark in the IT market. Siniša answers the challenges of the software development industry.
“Globalization has its positive and negative influence. It is the reason why we can work for clients in the western part of the world. It is also the cause why we expand our business and employ developers. Since it was a huge success, Serbia has been a go-to place for software development. Therefore, we cannot comply with the demand for resources. Faculties cannot educate enough experts annually. This unbalanced ratio between demand and a current number of professionals makes them the highest-paid workforce in Serbia.”
Siniša then points out that the demand also influences the price of outsourcing services, which is higher than usual. This, in turn, makes Serbia less competitive on the global market. He claims that the most significant challenge is finding quality programmers and offering them something they cannot refuse.
Technology changes, and developers are constantly up to date with current trends. These trends often have an equally significant impact on outsourcing companies. Siniša believes that all future and current trends come from the US and how that is significant for TNation.
“Whether we like it or not, the US dictates trends in the IT industry. More often than not, Europe is few years behind these trends. For example, Angular was popular first in the US, and then a few years later, it came to Europe. Then React suppressed Angular… In my opinion, the IT trends are set to be followed. It is similar to the trend of start-up companies; culture is trending in the past few years in Europe. It will continue to grow for the years to come.”
Despite the challenges of the market, TNation has long ago established itself as an outsourcing company. Being an optimist, TNation’s CTO believes that there is a bright future ahead for its employees. We asked him about some future goals of TNation management.
“TNation is improving employee satisfaction, our services and client satisfaction. The company is growing annually by 20-30%. We wish we could increase the growth but without losing the positive atmosphere among employees as well as clients.”
TNation – Community of People Formed on the Foundations of Programming
Although he is a co-founder of TNation, Siniša invested much in his company. We asked him to describe the TNation in a single sentence, and he responded sincerely:
“Group of fantastic colleagues, capable of achieving anything, which is why the clients perceive them as their dedicated development team in Serbia.”
As a CTO, Siniša has a lot of contact with teams and individual developers. During a few decades of his experience in the IT outsourcing industry, he met all kinds of developers. We asked him to tell us his opinion on the most common characteristics of the best programmers.
“I am… although I refuse to confess, an old school programmer. Perhaps my criteria are not authoritative. But, what I like to say to anyone planning to get into programming is – Do it only if you love the job.”
Siniša understands that wages are peoples’ motivation behind the desire to program. He pauses and adds: “To some, this is a job like any other, and that is alright. You work from nine to five, do what you were requested to do, and that is it.”
“But… to me… the feeling when you check the clock and realise it has been five hours, and not five minutes. You realise that you did something that delights you and fulfils you at the same time. Something that simply makes you content. The best programmers do not just do the work; they love it and enjoy the results.”
Siniša still has the persistence to deal with challenges at work. We asked him if he advises the employees during their tasks.
“TNation was organised in such a manner that each team has an experienced leader. Employees turn to them for advice. I do not have a lot of opportunities to share advice or knowledge. I do not think they even know of my considerable experience. Honestly, being outdated, I could not help react or angular programmers today.” – explains Siniša, adding that he does not know whether to laugh or cry.
As a CTO in TNation, Siniša has little time for projects. As he claims, these are ideas that never saw the light of day. According to him, there is a lot of concepts, and he usually writes them down. Do you ever share them with your team?
“Honestly, I rarely share them with the team because I know that everyone has tasks and little time to deal with new ones. Very few of those ideas reached the production stage. I am referring to potential products such as TalkB2B.”
During seven years of existence, TNation as an outsourcing company has completed numerous projects for various industries. When asked a question about the most exciting project in TNation, Siniša responds:
“Each project is exciting in its way—some for their theme and challenges, and others for clients. I wouldn’t categorise them in that way. But I would name one, which is interesting, unusual, and useful for society.”
Siniša describes the device designed by the German client Inventivio, later Tectonom. This device enables people with visual disabilities to access any kind of information.
“Internally, we called it – laptop for visually impaired people. Imagine a device that, instead of pixels, uses tiny metal spheres. These are mobile and can change position up and down to create a picture on the screen. People with damaged eyesight or even completely blind can read pieces of information through touch. The TNation team developed apps for this device. The simple ones like calculators, and more complex such as excel versions with formulas and graphics, and a game of chess.”
Today’s software development industry is much like a chess game—a strategic way to attract developers for projects. The competition is high, and the market opens throughout the world. There is a constant fluctuation in the workforce. What do you think is a key to keep a good developer within a company?
“I am not going to lie, we all work for a salary. It is unrealistic to expect someone to work for fame and glory forever.” Siniša smiles and adds that TNation strives to offer similar if not better working conditions than a competition.
“One of the fundamental reasons for staying within the company is the team’s energy and entire organisation. Projects are also crucial for every developer, as well as the technology. In my opinion, it is normal for someone to get bored with the same project. “
He adds that TNation tries to find a new project or existing one, which would better suit the developer in this situation.
“There is no magic formula for keeping the people within the company. If there was, I am sure companies like Google and Apple would already use it. To my surprise, even they have a large percentage of fluctuation.”
Siniša adds that the usual team building, socialising is utterly different in TNation. Laughing, he states: “We like parties! Frankly, I cannot wait for things to go back to normal after Coronavirus. I miss socialising in a casual atmosphere.”
TNation Shares the Clients Success and Challenges
TNation offers various IT outsourcing services for clients. Siniša explains that clients are looking for genuine partners when outsourcing software development. We asked him about what sets TNation apart from other competitive companies in Serbia, he answered modestly.
“I don’t want to say that we are better at something, or better looking, or faster… What is important to a client is that they can find a partner in TNation. We share their success and challenges as if they were ours. We rise together and learn from our mistakes so that we can rejoice in the upcoming success. So that one day, we can proudly say – We built this!”
TNation had many successful projects in the past, and the company now has a dozen regular clients. Clients hire TNation for their well-organized teams of developers. So we asked the company CTO to tell us the popular model of outsourcing among TNation’s clients.
“Clients prefer a dedicated team model. Such a model gives them great control over the project and time. The model is a win-win situation. Both team and client have experience of working on a joint project.”
The majority of TNation’s clients outsource software development with a strategic plan and complete idea on the project. But, what if the client comes only with an idea and no written plan?
“Of course we can help them. In truth, we have business analysts to develop the starting idea. Once the client is happy with it, we start with the production process.”
In the era of digital transformation, many businesses seek new ways to be competitive in the market. Software gets developed for various niches. Out of curiosity, for which industries did TNation develop software so far?
“They are different. For example:
- games of chance
Hmm… I am sure I left something out.” – CTO adds with laughter.
TNation has a proven extensive portfolio and experience in various industries. Some of the clients are mentioned on the company website. Siniša points out that clients contact the company through the contact listed on the website’s homepage.
“Potential clients can get in touch via email mentioned on the TNation homepage. We also have a phone number reserved only for client inquiries, also available on the website.”
As the conversation came to an end, we asked one last question before parting ways with TNation’s CTO. What advice would you give to someone who has second thoughts about hiring an outsourcing company such as TNation?
“Come… Visit us. I like to show Serbia, Belgrade and TNation to everyone. You will see what so many people saw before you. You’ll see that this is not the same as Serbia from 20 years ago. The bunch of cowboys are certainly no longer the same.”