“One person CAN make a difference. In fact, it’s not only possible for one person to make a difference, it’s essential that one person makes a difference.” B. Riley
One of the major cornerstones in Mistral’s history was the opening of our development hub in Mostar back in 2019. Many of you know this information, and some even had the chance to visit our beautiful space in Kapetanovina street.
However, very few of you know the great and very personal story behind it. When and how we decided to open the hub and what was the turning point?
We never revealed this before as we thought it was too personal, but great stories never remain hidden forever, and this one really deserves to be shared.
This Is The Story Of Harun
Harun Čavčić joined Mistral in December 2015. Today, he is our senior developer, a true Mistralovac of unyielding faith, and a professional of immaculate skill and discipline. He is an intrinsic part of our community and the main person responsible for implementing our long-term goal of having our own space in one of the most beautiful and soulful cities in BiH.
We truly hope you’ll enjoy reading Harun’s interview below, as much as we enjoyed conducting it!
Where It All Started: FIT Coding Challenge
Many people in Mistral are proud FIT graduates. As many great stories come from FIT, one great encounter that affected our company’s future happened there as well.
Harun, when was the first time you have heard of Mistral?
I met Mersed (Mistral’s CEO) almost ten years ago, but we were just acquaintances then. Our first official professional encounter happened at FIT sometime after. For me, enrollment in FIT was the only logical choice as I lived in Mostar and loved informatics, programming, and all computer-related things.
As a FIT student, I was continuously seeking different opportunities for growth and further development. Naturally, when I saw the open call for the Coding Challenge, I applied immediately as a competitor, together with my friends. And guess who was the jury member? Mersed.
Little did I know that a few years later I would be applying for my first job at Mistral, much less that I would be one of the reasons behind the founding of our Mostar office.
You were about to graduate from FIT, what were your next steps in mind?
As I passed all my exams, and was on the lookout for a job, I realized that chances for finding a good one in Mostar were slim. I didn’t see any company out there that attracted me enough to apply for the job.
That is when I decided to pack my things and go to Sarajevo. I went to several interviews, before applying to Mistral. Those were my first professional interviews, and I wanted to see the flow and technicalities before applying to the company that was my first choice from the start.
I had no working experience prior to applying, which made me a little nervous but also excited! Also, I didn’t want Mersed to know I was applying for the job in his company. I wanted to get my first job based on merit, and what I have to offer as a developer, and not because of my prior connection with Mersed. However, as the CEO, his regular practice was to meet and greet all newcomers at the end of the recruitment process.
I went through all the phases of the selection process with multiple people in Mistral. A few weeks later – I got the best email ever stating that I landed a job as a software developer in Mistral!
But something didn’t fit quite right, what was it?
For two and a half years I was working and growing in Mistral, and I really enjoyed it, every step of the way. However, something was missing. As full-remote wasn’t an option back then, I used as many remote days I could get and traveled back and forth from Sarajevo to my hometown Mostar where my family was.
Having the right job and a great crew was such a privilege, but in time I became restless having to live in between cities. That is why, eventually, I started to look for job alternatives in Mostar. Since I got so used to the Mistral way and grew to love it, I was well aware I’d be losing a lot when I leave.
Soon I found an option to work remotely for a company abroad, and I was ready to accept it. There was nothing particularly exciting about the job, aside from the freedom to work fully from my hometown.
Now I had to face our Human Potential team to let them know about my decision. I will never forget Mersed’s first sentence when he found out about my situation: “If Harun wants to work from the Moon, so be it, but I don’t want to lose him as a friend, colleague, and Mistralovac.”
Right there and then I officially became the first full-remote Mistral employee. After a while, I started facing another issue; I felt too far away from the community built around people in Mistral that I got so used to.
As transparency and honesty are the flagships of Mistral I went back to talk to Mersed again. This is when I shared a few thoughts that I’ve been having for a while about gathering a local Mistral development team in Mostar. I knew there were a lot of people like me who wanted to stay in Mostar but did not have quality employment options. We had numerous conversations on this topic and ultimately agreed to form a team in Mostar and start looking for a great office space. Everybody loved the idea and were all in.
I placed my full-time capacity in analyzing our job market and had many conversations with my colleagues from FIT. Six months of calls, discussions, and coffees later – I had the final list of people who were as excited as me about the idea of being the first official Mistral team in Mostar.
I knew most of them personally. They were my friends and overall an amazing crew of good developers and hardworking people. Looking at their personal values, I just knew they would be the perfect fit for our company.
What was left was the hardest part – implementation and team forming and norming.
Soon, we found the best location for our hub. While it underwent construction, the team started working from CodeHub in Mostar. It wasn’t long before we filled all available spots there. The anticipation grew. Our team grew as well, so we moved to yet another temporary location. We went to the now-famous ‘Meho’s space’. It resembled the old school Yugoslavian-style offices where everyone had their own separate room. It was plenty of fun going through this experience with the team.
Was everything coming together just as you envisioned it, including the look and feel of the hub?
I remember the first time I came to our Mistral hub on Kapetanovina street; The location was perfect, right at the center of the city looking over the Old bridge.
To be honest, at first, I couldn’t really imagine our developers in that space. The office was big, with empty cement walls, and electrical cords and wires all over the place. But then we saw the initial architectural design mockups. They were AMAZING!
Slowly, but surely it all started coming together.
In just a few months, Jasmin Azemović, former Dean of FIT and one of the best BiH cybersecurity experts, joined our management team as CISO (Chief Information Security Officer). That is when everything became very real. From then on, things were easy. We had a fantastic team and working space and were part of the great Mistral community (just with a different postal code).
When all was set and ready to roll, what were the next steps?
Naturally, we wanted to show off our Mistral community and get in touch with other developers in Mostar. Sadly, in the previous year, the pandemic happened. It delayed our plans of fully enjoying our brand new premises. We didn’t even have the chance to have the big opening party that we had planned. I couldn’t wait for us to get back, and start bringing people and life back to our space.
If you could compare the local IT community in Mostar today and three years ago, what changed if anything?
With the opening of the Mistral hub in Mostar, there has been something of a paradigm shift in the local IT community. With everything that Mistral brought; a healthy balance between work and life, valuable perks and benefits, and a particular way of treating people – it affected the standards of the industry.
We noticed other employers in Mostar started enhancing their employee care approach, introducing even more competitive benefits and community events. Now, the IT scene in Mostar is flourishing and is hardly comparable to the one of three years ago.
Mostar is a city of such huge potential and I am very happy that it is being utilized and recognized now, more than ever. We will keep on giving the best possible conditions to our teammates, while together with other IT companies contributing to the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Perhaps the question should be: Would I do it all over again? And the answer is: Absolutely.
My heart is full. Not too long ago, all this was just wishful thinking. Today I stand shoulder to shoulder with a team of incredible people, a team of quality engineers from my hometown. I am learning new things from them each day and we have a blast together. Frankly, that is the greatest feeling ever.
Thank you, Harun, for sharing this special story with our community.
The doors to the most beautiful space in Kapetanovina are always open to anyone who wants to see it, ask a question, or simply grab a coffee with our crew. Oh, and never let people tell you that one person cannot move mountains. Harun and our crew certainly are proof of how it can be done.