“If a teacher only has love for the cause, they are a good teacher. If a teacher loves the student as a father or mother, they are better than the teacher who has read all the books but has no love for the cause nor for their students. When a teacher unites their love for the cause with their love for their students—then they are the perfect teacher.” L.N. Tolstoy
It’s hard to find the right words to describe someone who has embedded themselves into the company and all that it represents. Sulejman Ćatibušić a.k.a. Gigi, Mistral’s first CTO and the creator of our first educational program, Gigi School of Coding, has been a key member of the company since 2013. Gigi retired this month, but not before we made sure he knew how much he and his legacy meant to all of us.
The Sarajevo siege and the early days of Gigi’s career
His love of football earned him the nickname Gigi (after Gigi Riva), but his love of computer science marked his entire professional career. He was smitten with it ever since high school. As a high school student at II Gimnazija Sarajevo, he wrote his first computer program in FORTRAN on the ICL-1902 computer. Remember, this was 1972, and code was handwritten and transferred to the computer via punch cards.
Later, as a computer science student at the University of Sarajevo’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering, he worked with computers from that era, including the PDP-11 (operating system RSX) and the VAX-750 (operating system VMS).
The first few years of his career were marked by embedded systems:
1) system for fuel consumption control in combat aircrafts (“Orao” and “Galeb” for the Yugoslavian Air Force), and
2) autopilot for combat aircrafts (“Orao” for the YU Air Force and “Vultur” for the Romanian Air Force).
He later worked on the Management Information System for Unis Tours Sarajevo, covering over 100 tourist and rent-a-car branches throughout Yugoslavia with Local Area Networks. All branches were linked via WAN.
When the war in Bosnia began, Gigi felt compelled to help his homeland and thus joined the BH Army. But that didn’t stop him from doing what he does best. During the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995), he led the team that was instrumental in keeping the city’s communication with the outside world alive. His bravery, wisdom, teamwork, and analytical approach worked wonders during the difficult years for our country.
After the war, he worked as a teaching assistant for “Basics of Computing” and “Programming Techniques” at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. At the same time, he was the manager of the information system department at the public company BH Post.
And just when everything seemed to be running smoothly, Gigi received a call from an old friend.
Connecting the dots in the Mistral journey
One person in particular was impressed by Gigi’s knowledge and expertise during his army years. It was Sanin Saračević, one of the Mistral co-founders and a former soldier in Gigi’s unit. Mistral was just getting started in 2013, and we needed someone to steer the wheel when it came to our technologies. Despite having a stable and secure job in the public sector, Gigi was drawn to the company’s energy and accepted Sanin and Mersed’s offer to become Mistral’s first Chief Technology Officer.
After a while, the long years of working in education and the lack of experience of young engineers inspired Gigi to create the “Gigi School of Coding,” an advanced in-house educational program for young talents. Gigi’s role evolved into that of Head of Education, and Mistral became well-known for its prestigious learning program.
To date, almost 100 young people in six generation cycles have completed the program under Gigi’s mentorship, and 100% of them are now employed, either at Mistral or elsewhere. Alongside that, Gigi was actively involved into shaping career paths of all Mistral employees by creating individual professional development plans and seeing them through.
Due to high demand, Gigi’s next professional challenge during pandemic was to create a guided online program for those looking to learn programming from scratch within 9 months. That’s how Paragon was created.
A lasting legacy
Gigi redefined the meaning of the word teacher with his unique approach to teaching and his selfless, systematic, and dedicated sharing of knowledge. Through his rich career, he left an indelible mark, both on the IT community of Bosnia and Herzegovina and on Mistral itself. A father of two sons, Faik and Namik, he instilled in them his love of coding, and they are now both successful developers.
Gigi was an outstanding mentor for many years, not only to those he taught but to all of us who had the pleasure of working with him. His passion for coding and commitment to passing that passion onto others have contributed to Mistral becoming a company where knowledge is multiplied through sharing and where those who were once his students have proudly become mentors to others.
As a matter of fact, it seems almost coincidental that the month we planned his retirement party, we also welcomed our youngest employee, 18-year-old prodigy Nedim Fakić, to the community.
This is not the end of a book, but the beginning of a new chapter. Thank you, Gigi. Rest assured that your legacy will continue.