From Bosnia to Sweden and back again – a programmer’s journey

At the height of the dotcom bubble of the late 90s, Himzo Music, a young man of Bosnian descent, was studying computer science at university in Sweden, the start of a remarkable journey that would let experience several historical moments and trends up close.

By the time Himzo concluded his studies early in the new millennium, the dotcom era was coming to a catastrophic halt. As businesses died, capital dried up and speculation and optimism faded, the job market for computer engineers took a nosedive. Skill sets that had been in high demand two years earlier were now more than saturating a wounded economy that couldn’t support nearly as many jobs as before.

“There were simply no jobs when I got out of school,” explains Himzo. But rather than feeling defeated and getting off the computer train, like many did, Himzo persevered and decided to start his own business. “I did everything related to computers, from repairing hardware to building websites.”

“I’ve been a developer for a long time, and I’ve been making mobile apps since way before smartphones were a thing,”

Himzo ran the business for about four years, honing his skills and riding out the crash as the IT economy started picking up again. He met Mats Petersen, who gave him a job at Teleca, a consultancy that later became part of Cybercom. In the years prior to eventually joining Softhouse in 2011, Himzo worked with companies like Vodafone and Sony Ericsson.

“I’ve been a developer for a long time, and I’ve been making mobile apps since way before smartphones were a thing,” says Himzo, musing on the mobile ecosystem before the iPhone and Android changed the market forever. At the time there was a premium market for business phones, and software for these mobile phones was a wild frontier. Many concepts we take for granted were born in that era, but wouldn’t become widely adopted until many years later.

”Good ideas are important, but you can’t discount being in the right place at the right time”

“Sony Ericsson had a lot of great ideas, but their timing and execution was off. Good ideas are important, but you can’t discount being in the right place at the right time. Timing matters.”

”When the smartphone revolution began we were well positioned.”

His experience in the early mobile ecosystem meant he could bring Nokia with him as a client when he joined Softhouse. “We became one of their most trusted suppliers. I think we had eight people working with them the first year, then we added Blackberry to our repertoire and did another stint with the same gang. Over the years, Softhouse steadily became a regional leader in mobile software, and when the smartphone revolution began we were well positioned.”

 

Back to Bosnia

But Himzo’s greatest undertaking with Softhouse was yet to come. The market had transformed entirely from the pessimistic aftermath of the dotcom bubble that shaped his first years in the industry, and software engineers were in high demand again. Finding enough talent to execute on all the ambitious projects in the market was starting to become difficult, and suppliers started competing on price to grab market share.

“We eventually took on a project with e.on”, continues Himzo. “They wanted to help people reduce their power consumption, and I was brought in to assist with the initial feasibility study. We ended up placing twelve people with them for two years, but it really changed our outlook on things. We were one of 14 suppliers, and each and every one of the others were trying to beat us on price with offices in places like India.”

”Bosnia is a close neighbor culturally”

A year after Himzo joined Softhouse, his former colleague Mats Petersen had come on as well to take over the reigns of Softhouse Malmö. In the years prior he had run an office in Poland for Cybercom, and he supported Himzo in a brave new vision:

Softhouse was going to open a full and independent office in Sarajevo.

“I thought we could do better than a lot of our competitors abroad. Sarajevo was not only in the same time zone but a short flight away. Bosnia is a close neighbor culturally, with a lot of shared customs, values and language,” explains Himzo. “I wanted to give something back to my old country, and bring something back to the community that would make a difference.”

“Bosnian drive with a Swedish system leads to crazy performance”

Today the Sarajevo has grown to two dozen highly qualified colleagues, working on international projects independently and in collaboration with Sweden. Himzo explains that the marriage of Swedish and Bosnian values has been particularly successful.

”We’re transparent and have a flat hierarchy, and involve our colleagues in all aspects of the business.”

“Bosnian drive with a Swedish system leads to crazy performance. Bosnian work ethic is in many ways similar to the traditional German mindset of hierarchies, discipline, and excellence, but Swedish culture encourages you to question tradition and authority, and that promotes creativity and flexibility. What we’ve done here is run a Swedish office in a Bosnian environment. We’re transparent and have a flat hierarchy, and involve our colleagues in all aspects of the business. Flat hierarchies is a Swedish value, but transparency and involvement is something quite remarkable about Softhouse culture – I’ve never been as involved and invested in a workplace before. Softhouse encourages you to be involved and to grow.”

Softhouse makes you grow is our core principle

The Sarajevo office was highlighted in our post about Certus last week and is another great example of why we say our product is our culture. Softhouse makes you grow is our core principle, and we see that culture at work in the way we supported Himzo in his ambitions to start an office in Sarajevo, how we contribute to the ecosystem there, and how we have helped clients like Certus grow and excel.