Vladimir Robevski - Interview

Interview for Macedonia2025 – “Everyone can help Macedonia by simply being proud of Macedonia”

Vladimir Robevski was born in Macedonia. He moved to Australia when he was 11 and spent twenty years there. He received his bachelor’s diploma in Electronic Engineering at the University of New South Wales. After his studies he co-founded the company Webski Solutions. His professional experience is in programming, but in the eight years, Vladimir has been working as Manager and Director of the company iSource, which he started in Bitola, Macedonia, where he has lived since 2008.

Tell us about the beginnings of iSource in Macedonia.

My partner Zoran Markovski and I founded the company Webski Solutions in Australia. As the company began growing and in order to remain competitive on our market we came to the need to outsource and find more developers outside Australia,. The typical place where others look for IT professionals are countries in Asia. We as Macedonians, were compelled to cooperate with professionals in our native country. In 2008 we founded a company in Macedonia and began working here.

What services are offered by your companies?

In essence we offer to our clients comprehensive presence on the internet. Every company needs to be online nowadays and we help companies do that by  providing branding, graphic design, web development across many platforms, mobile apps, integration between various systems, online marketing, but also 3D modeling and animation, development of educational games, a call center and  CAD architecture. In fact we enable every sort of IT and Business Process Outsourcing  by building a bridge between the intellectual and creative capacity found in Macedonia and companies or clients in the west, who have a need for quality people and products which in turn enable them to grow by being more competitive in their own markets.

Where are your clients located?

Mostly in Australia, Israel, Holland and Great Britain.

How about Macedonia?

We never turn down a good client. When we are approached by clients in Macedonia we are open to cooperation, but  predominantly our focus is on clients abroad.

iSource has a training center where people come to develop skills so that they can continue to work in your company. Tell us about this.

One of the ways in which develop the company is by helping our employees become better professionals and better suited for the projects. One of the barriers to development in this sector is the limited number of people who have had a good working experience. Facing this problem, we began investing energy, time and attention to train a big number of students and young people who show an inclination to work in this industry. Thus far we have trained over one hundred young people through in-house training or through the colleges that we cooperate with, such as the Technical Faculty FICT in Bitola. Our goal is to develop and animate our staff  to the professional working dynamic, quality, attention to detail and standards that our international clients expect and demand.

Have you had successful stories, like, of people who do not have a programmers’ background but have developed aptitude in that field?

We have had people come in without a technical background, but with an enthusiasm for learning. With the right focus and training, there are people who have become good programmers within a relatively short period of time. Of course, there are success stories. It is enough for the person to have willpower and to embark on the journey in order to become a good programmer.

and you take through the process those who have the desire to advance further?

Whenever someone is showing interest to advance in some field, I look for the enthusiasm and the energy that they invest in the work. If these virtues are present, if the person invests himself or herself we are encouraged to give them additional training and responsibilities on the job so they can further grow and with their growth and ability we all as company grow.

Tell us about the challenges that you are facing.

The challenge is retaining our employees from the competition on the labor market. Very few companies in Bitola invest in young people to the extent that we do. When a new employee reaches the level of good proficiency and productivity, after one to two years, the larger share of companies approach them aggressively in trying to sway them over. The problem comes when some of the employees easily forget about our investment in helping them build their capacity and decide to leave without giving us the chance to hold on to them. These people are oblivious to the fact that by leaving they may put in risk an entire project, or in other words, they have placed their former colleagues in a situation that is far from favorable.

What would you say to people who want to apply with iSource?

One of the challenges for any growing company, such as us in the past few years, is that after a certain number of people have been hired, say 15 or 20, it is inevitable that the one-on-one relationship will eventually fade. So, it becomes hard to dedicate personal attention to every employee, which is a crucial impulse so that he or she feels integrated in the environment. Furthermore, we sometimes have to slow down a certain process so that one person in the team begins to feel he or she is integrated, cared for, as part of the team, so that their dreams may realize just like those of the rest of us. But in this trade, perhaps such is the nature of the labor dynamics, something like this may happen often.

Doesn’t it benefit your employees to have the stability that comes with the job? Can’t people put this on a scale before they decide to leave, despite you having invested in them?

All these years, if we had the chance to employ every single person that we sought to work with us in various areas of software development, we would have been a company of 100 or 200 people. The reality is, most clients who sought our services ask for people that have at the very minimum two to three years of experience. The absence of this cadre requires from us to invest in training and development in people who are beginners or intermediate level. The minimum that we require of such people is to be able to stay the course and be loyal to us, so that after 1-3 years as their skills and abilities have been polished and they become truly productive and efficient we can place them in central responsible and challenging positions where they will receive the desired recognition and compensation.

You decided to move to back to Macedonia after living in Australia for 20 years. What are some of the reasons for your decision?

One of the reasons was to sustain and expand our business. My business partner and I decided that he can stay in Australia and be our consultant and I will build a team in Macedonia that will implement the projects. Besides all the reasons related to the occupation, I also have great love for Macedonia. This country has very strong gravity and attracted me here. I recognized her values and I feel that this is my home. In Australia my every-day life revolved around my work. I couldn’t see any reasons why it shouldn’t be the same in Bitola, with the exception that, I don’t have to commute to the workplace two hours each day. There is a rich social life here and a whole lot of friendship, unlike in Australia where people are spread out in many cities that span over a great territory; it makes it difficult to maintain relations with people. Generally in Macedonia and in Bitola, everything is at a small distance. Also, you will find here all the things that you have in the West, and the living is calm and steady.

Vladimir Robevski_Interview

 

What do you enjoy most in Macedonia?

I enjoy in everything. In the nature, in the contrasts of the seasons, in the culture, the people and their warmth and spirit, in the family values and so on. There are many things that make me fulfilled. It wasn’t long after I returned when I realized that one individual is but one cog in a great machine, where with or without you things will remain more or less the same. In Macedonia and especially in Bitola, one feels the direct influence that he or she has on society, to which you provide jobs and work/life experience. I have pleasure in creating jobs and giving people the chance to stay home, close to their friends and family. There are many people who may think otherwise, but I find it wonderful that a person can live in the place where he or she is naturally bound to, where that person can give the best of himself, transfer knowledge, ideas and experiences. I think that the larger share of Macedonians wouldn’t leave the country if they can find jobs according to their profession.

What are the reasons that people decide to stay?

For every human being there is something that makes him or her happy. This is essentially the family, the culture, friends, the people. The birthplace of your ancestors is the natural place for each human. Even when people are away from home town they feel that their place is and that they belong to their country. In the industry in which we work and  crucial for Bitola to have a blooming IT industry is the presence of its top experts as they are crucial in managing and successfully delivering projects and growing a team around them. Each project depends on successful seniors in the company. As long as they see their future in Bitola and in the companies here the possibility for the industry to grow is bright as their presence will naturally increase the need for new employees to work and be of help around them. At the same time, there needs to be a desire for learning and advancement. Each person who is growing in his capacity and the responsibilities that come with the job, he or she are creating an opportunity to manage a more expansive team. This is why when someone like that leaves, not only the company becomes weaker, but also the industry in that town and by that extension, the community weakens, because in a certain way, we are all connected. The possibility for companies to grow and bring down unemployment is directly related to their having an experienced professional senior workforce.

We are all aware that not everyone can be a programmer or designer. What about jobs that are less attractive and the pay is much lower? Such jobs can be found in developed countries and there are people who do them. What about Macedonia?

I think that someone’s success in their career is tied to how successfully that person does the various  jobs, no matter the type, regardless if it is cleaning dishes or waiting tables. When you do any job well, you build character, capacity, ability; that means the persons awareness of his worth and influence increases  which in turn makes him/her more reassured and confident of taking on more complex and more challenging and responsible jobs. The same challenges are present not only in simple jobs but also in jobs that we can qualify as professional, but essentially the attitude toward achievement starts in the core of the individual’s attitude towards work, no matter how mundane or how paid it is.  My first job experience in Australia was in the role of a janitor, gardener and dishwasher. When you put your heart into something, when you give your maximum and do a good job that will make you and others proud, that will give you the opportunity to implement the same method towards something that is more complex and more professional.

So there is nothing wrong in working at a “regular” job?

Correct. This is normal in the West. Nothing is fixed into place. It is normal for people to start from nothing. Many individuals or companies have started from zero, that is, they were given a chance and were thus given  the possibility to prove their worth. If you prove yourself as a janitor, as an administrator or a secretary and you show enthusiasm, pro-activeness, initiative, all this helps open doors so that you can advance in your career.

There is a visible gap between generations in the professional world in Macedonia. What would you recommend to people who are perhaps not doing things in step with the time they live in, in line with contemporary ways of leading and organizing a company, so that their company can stay afloat or flourish?

On a global level, big companies buy out smaller ones. Why do they do this? Because smaller companies are more agile and more innovative to bring new products/services faster to maket. Their structure is more often than not horizontal and that allows everyone to contribute with own ideas and creativity where the encouragement and inclusion of a diverse range of employees overcomes many of the challenges and problems in the innovative process. In that regard, the natural creativity of everyone in the team is given more room to express itself.

If you had the power, what would you change in Macedonia?

I would help people become more hopeful, more positive, so that they see the good in society and in their lives and be thankful for it. I would want people to talk about creating something. I would want more people to be creators of their own futures and talk about what they can do, how to do it and how to reach success. Instead of describing over and over what they see around them, isn’t it better to talk about creating what you want to become? Reality is what it is, anywhere, but seen from different angles, it is different for everyone. More precisely, instead of feeling victims of the surroundings and the various conditions, people should be constructive creators in their field and dedicated to their help and contribute to the betterment of their environment. People need to be ambassadors of good will and heralds of good possibilities, to recognize the good and positive things in life and around them, so that they are a source of positive energy, happiness, success and inspiration. When all individuals multiply these virtues on national level, we could have a better country of which we are all proud.

Because you come from the diaspora, what would you say to Macedonians who live abroad, regardless if they were born there or have emigrated at some point?

To Macedonian there is one native land and it is Macedonia. I would ask them to turn to Macedonia and believe in the country and in the people here, because there are many possibilities for cooperation, for building bridges in the business and social spheres alike. There are opportunities for building and developing and best of all is that this has direct effects all around. The best example of this is Israel. This country is a machine for innovation and an example for global cooperation between people who share something in common.

Are you aware of negative perceptions in the diaspora regarding Macedonia?

Many people have the negative perception that there is no rule of law in Macedonia, that everything is falling apart. I am one of the examples that this is not the case. My experience says that my company has gained support from different sides – the government, the municipality, nongovernment organizations, universities. All of these, in one way or another, have helped or have shown interest in helping us succeed. For example, the government helped us by subsidizing the employment of people under 29, paying contributions for the duration of one year. Then the government organized training with foreign experts and we had access to that. We applied for foreign experts to come from Germany and Holland, who helped us with the Marketing and Human Resource Managment. Macedonia2025 has also helped us on many occasions by including us in activities and in networking events with businesspeople from the diaspora and from Macedonia; one of the roads to success are personal acquaintances. There have been several networking sessions between the business community with the nongovernment and education sectors, where our presence has been aimed at giving and receiving help. Universities have invited us a number of times to do a motivational and business presentations and training and give a chance to their students for vocational work experience and employment.

How can people in the diaspora help Macedonia?

Everyone can help by simply being proud of Macedonia and by sharing good words about the people and its land. This may encourage people to come and see the country and explore the possibilities of doing something here. We all have to be ambassadors in our own circle.

Individuals or companies can also donate money to organizations that work for the betterment of Macedonia or to invest in funds that help Macedonian companies grow. For example, I am a member of Macedonia2025 which is a wonderful organization that is building bridges between the country and its diaspora.

You are an alumni of the Leader Project which Macedonia2025 offers to entrepreneurs free of charge. How was your experience with this training?

Leader Project definitely helped me advance. As an Electrical Engineer, I had to learn business skills on my own. If I had the opportunity to attend the Leader Project earlier, I would have had a much better starting position and knowledge in operating a business. I would have had an easier and more efficient time in growing the business. The training is like a condensed MBA which opened my mind to things I hadn’t known. All of that was quick, efficient and I congratulate Macedonia2025 on their cooperation with the Ivey School of Business in Canada which enabled this experience.

What is your advice to people who want to succeed and move further from their current point in life?

People have to choose wisely what kind of future they wish to attract. Some say, be careful what you wish for because it may easily happen. This is the starting point. Many people are afraid to wish because they are afraid that they can’t reach it. This is related to fear. My advice is that in each waking second of our presence in this world, whenever we make decisions, whenever we interact with people and face various situations, one must take a moment to notice when he or she is feeling fear and to face and try to defeat that fear in every moment and always. When I say fear I mean various fears, such as speaking in public, fear of uncertainty, of failure, of not have the capacity to do something, or various perceptions about oneself or prejudice for others. Essentially we need to face and conquer our fears and with that we will be free to give ourselves a chance to wish and to get that what we really need and want in life.

 

Source: http://www.macedonia2025.com/activities/single/822