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From Junior Software Engineer to CTO: 10 years at Notch 

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People & Culture
From Junior Software Engineer to CTO: 10 years at Notch 

When Marko Štefančić started working at Notch straight out of university, we were just a small company with no more than four people, several dedicated team projects, and a plan to grow in developing enterprise solutions.

During the years that followed, Marko grew from a Junior Software Engineer to a Head of Engineering and then to the role of Chief Technology Officer, leading technological growth and competence development for the company.

Landing in Software Development

Marko opened our talk with a fact and a wide smile:

I always wanted to become a pilot, but it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t have perfect hearing, which is essential.

So, Marko enrolled in Aeronautics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture (FSB). He soon realized that aeronautics wasn’t his cup of tea, but his excellent high school professor had already helped him take off in another direction: programming. Marko created betting applications and games using Pascal, C, and similar languages. 

Programming became my new direction. I studied at TVZ for three years but didn’t pursue a master’s degree because it wasn’t available then. However, I don’t regret my time at FSB because I realized early on what I truly wanted to do, which I consider very important.

First interview, first job 

We can call it luck, all the stars aligning at the right time, but Marko’s first job interview was with Notch. After several rounds of interviews and a task, he started as a Junior Software Engineer.

When I joined Notch, it was challenging because I was immediately assigned to a large banking project. They needed someone specifically for that project, and my knowledge and experience were similar to what they needed.

As luck would have it, the project was similar to a task he had already worked on at TVZ. 

Of course, the project was much more extensive and challenging, but essentially, it was the same, using the technologies we learned in school. University prepared me well for the project I worked on at Notch. I was able to apply all my knowledge immediately. Technically, everything was clear; I just needed to improve my understanding of business.

But luck really doesn’t have much to do with anything after that. Marko took it upon himself to develop his career further. 

Setting himself up for success

Keeping up with the team was challenging. Everyone seemed more experienced, so he knew the first few years would be crucial for his career development. He took every opportunity to learn and grow. In addition to Domagoj Madunić, the company’s co-founder, Marko found a mentor in Jan Čustović, a colleague on the first project he was working on.

Once, Jan, Domagoj, and I sat down for lunch while working on a project. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I asked Jan how many years it took him to become independent in his work. He said five years, so I set a personal goal to reach his level in five years.

During those five years, Marko worked on the same project. But, there was always something new he could learn and expand his skills on. 

The most excellent skill I acquired from this project was debugging. I learned to debug effectively and quickly identify and resolve even the most complex issues. 

Leadership: A balancing act

But after five years, he felt he learned all he could from this project. His experience grew from Junior Software Engineer to Senior Engineer and Application Architect. He worked on numerous projects in the next three years before Notch opened one more door for him.

I became the Head of Engineering. Initially, I needed time to think about the responsibilities and obligations of the role. After some consideration, I decided to give it a try.

As the Head of Engineering, Marko’s focus shifted to people management. During that period, a strong management structure was established, with division leaders overseeing team leaders to delegate decision-making as much as possible. 

The Head of Engineering position was the most challenging because it involved managing many people with diverse desires. I had to balance many things, saying “yes” to some and “no” to others. We established the hierarchy then, and many issues needed my attention. It was difficult to manage different expectations.

The next stage: Technical Guidance

In three years as a Head of Engineering, Marko also became an executive board member. But, Notch co-CEO, Mihael Sedmak, and COO, Dragan Eldić, recognized that Notch needed more focus on developing its technology strategy, and that’s where his most recent career move in Notch happened. 

The role of a CTO can vary greatly depending on the size and nature of the company. This role makes the most sense when the company grows more extensive, which is why we didn’t have it initially. I spend about 20% of my time programming but also step in when specialized expertise is needed on a project. Currently, my team consists of 11 people. We focus on education, research, and development (R&D).

They developed a Competence Matrix (CMX) platform, which offers a clear view of employees’ skills and interests, supporting career development and team effectiveness. It allows each person to list their technical and non-technical competencies, find mentors, and help leaders track team progress.

At Notch, it’s not just about the tech. We’re like a big community where everyone’s unique views and backgrounds are valued and supported. We focus on creating a friendly, supportive vibe that helps everyone grow. Everyone pitches in and works closely, no matter their role. This helps us support one another and means we’re always giving our clients our best.

Growing together

Although Marko didn’t have a CMX application to help him at the beginning of his journey, he created his own career roadmap and learned as much as he could from those who surrounded him and the various projects he was working on. It was a pleasure watching Marko grow, supporting his career development, and growing with him. We’re grateful for his loyalty since the very beginning of the company and can’t wait to see where our journey together leads us next.  

And we’ll end with Marko’s advice to young engineers and anyone at the start of their career:

Don’t expect mentors to approach you – go after them yourself, and don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time!

Younger generations expect mentors to approach them today, but that’s a mistake. When you start a job, you must be proactive, find solutions, be persistent, and sometimes even be insistent because that’s the only way to progress. Sometimes, seniors may not have time, but they will help you if you ask a second or third time. Persistence is crucial.

Another thing I would say to myself when starting a career is not to worry too much, to stress less, and to accept that you can’t learn everything. And be kind to yourself.

If Marko’s story piqued your interest, check out our open positions and join us. 

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