“We choose to support other local businesses and be a part of their success story”, – Sergiy Fitsak, Softjourn, Inc
Sergiy Fitsak, Managing Partner of IT at Softjourn, Inc
- I always knew I wanted to combine my life with computer studies. It affected my decision to enter IFNTUOG. While studying at the university, I had a chance to start working for various IT companies that started to appear.
- For more than 20 years in the IT-sphere, I made my way from a programmer, project manager to a successful company leader.
- “I truly believe that the main asset of any company is its employees, and the main thing that needs to be learned by current and future managers is communication and relationships.”
- As of now, Softjourn, Inc is known to be one of the 100 best companies in the world in its field. They are recognized in Silicon Valley as one of the best private companies in the industry. Currently, the company employs almost two hundred employees, with offices in Ivano-Frankivsk, Wroclaw (Poland), and Silicon Valley (California, USA).
1.Please, tell us about your company.
I can talk about Softjourn for hours (laughs)
I am proud of how we do our business and how we grew organically – for many years in a row, our growth outperforms the market.
Our company motto is “People have infinite ideas – Softjourn gives them life,” and we really stick to it doing our best to provide our clients with the best service and effective solutions. And Softjourn being named as best of the Global Outsourcing 100 by IAOP only proves that.
2. Do you have a core team or a partner? If so, please tell us about them. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in collaboration?
When Softjourn was founded, it was based on cooperation and partnership. I can say that it hasn’t changed ever since. The composition of the management team consists of 4 people, two from the US side and 2 in Ukraine. Each of us is a professional in a certain sphere and contributes to company success.
When it comes to core teams, we do have them. Our managers coordinate assigned business areas: finances, HR, development, R&D projects, and so on. I am extremely proud to work with my core teams as they have already outgrown me in their knowledge. And I am not afraid to admit it!
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in collaboration?
I only see advantages now, but one of the things that can slow down the process is that working in collaboration requires a lot of discussions about some decisions, and the final decision can be made with delays.
Our work relation is built on trust and professionalism, so it is not a rare occasion when one of us makes a decision (because of deadlines, etc.), and later on, we conduct a retrospection to discuss the situation. The key point here is that none of us is afraid to make a decision and take full responsibility for it! If I was put into a situation where I had to choose to work alone or in partnership – I would choose to work with partners.
4. What are you most proud of regarding the company?
I am proud of Softjourn’s reputation of being a strong partner for our clients, and our business ethics! When we started the company, a heavy-handed management style was trendy, and a lot of companies followed it. It was a real challenge changing people’s mindset and do business based on trust and partnership. Now I have only added to my insight concerning that.
I am extremely proud of how we grew up. Now our Ivano-Frankivsk Development Center numbers around 200 employees, and the office itself is a 5-storey building with excellent accommodation. Back in 2005, when the office was just established, everything was considerably leaner, but due to strong work ethics and a real passion for providing our clients with the best solutions, we were growing faster than ever!
I am proud that today Softjourn is a regular attendee at various exhibitions and events. What seemed to be impossible at the very beginning is now our day-to-day routine!
I am proud we can provide Softjourners with various career opportunities, such as growing horizontally and vertically in the company.
5. Was it hard to launch your business in Ukraine?
Looking back from a distance of many years, I can say it was easy because we chose to do it professionally and under the law. It saved us from a lot of troubles.
It was challenging to change the mindset and realize that from now on, you are responsible for whatever happens. It was a new period in life that required a lot of self-improvement. I was ready to take that chance because if I didn’t, I would regret it.
6. What are the pros and cons of developing business in Ukraine?
The biggest con is unsteadiness – you never know what to expect tomorrow. But at the same time this is a pro as the world itself is unstable, and thank this, we can come up with new ideas and new solutions to problems. You see, it all depends on how you perceive it.
But in general, doing business in Ukraine is risky due to various reasons. We are a global company working with clients from all over the world, and they perceive us as a country as a whole. If it’s the war on some territories of Ukraine – they believe the whole country is involved, when they hear about corruption – they assume everybody does business this way. But if working right with these risks, the company will only benefit from it. I remember the period of Euromaidan when we had to learn how to communicate this situation to our clients to ensure it does not affect our cooperation. We were creating digests and were simply informing them of a real state of affairs.
7. What were the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge we had to face was when our two key clients left the company, and it resulted in losing half of the revenue. It was a difficult period, but we managed to keep almost all of our employees and overcome the situation in general. I believe such situations happen during the lifecycle of all businesses, and it’s up to the management team to solve it and not lose the business at all.
8. If you have an opportunity to address the Ukrainian government, what will you ask to do for investment climate improvement in Ukraine?
I would ask the government to work towards creating stability and stress reduction. Having one set of rules for everyone would also be excellent as well as transparency and openness about the changes they apply, with clear instructions for people to have a sense of predictability.
9. Would you launch another business in Ukraine? Why?
What is unique about the sphere I work in is that every project we start is a business to some extent , and as of now, I don’t even think about launching a new business simply because what I do not is extremely interesting for me. We choose to support other local businesses and be a part of their success story!
10. What is your own “killer feature” as a manager?
I am a person with a big career story, and I had a chance to run the gamut, and I tasted the feeling of satisfaction with what I have achieved. That is why I choose to give the people I work with a chance to do the same, to walk their path. Sometimes, from a business perspective, this can be a con as everything has to be done fast. But I take this risk and let people feel themselves, discover themselves, and what they can achieve.
11. How many failures do you have? How often do you fail?
It happens every day! Sometimes it’s simple things: communicating something wrong, saying something I shouldn’t or even staying numb when I had to say something… there are a lot of fails. But what’s right in it, I can reflect and see what I did wrong.
12. How to inspire your team?
I simply do not interrupt them! If a person is involved in doing what they like, they already are inspired, so why should I stand on their way.
But if there is a situation when a person feels down and really needs some inspiration, I choose to simply talk with that person. Usually, when a person is down, it is because of obscureness and not understanding the situation they are in. In these cases, I choose to have an open and sincere conversation as it can change a lot.
13. What is the best motivation for you?
I find my motivation in people. It’s my family, the people I meet every day, and of course, people I work closely with.
When I was at the very beginning of my career, I was motivated by well-known people whose experience I could read about in business books. Now I know for sure there is no way I can replicate their success because it’s not my path. I do my own thing!
PATH TO SUCCESS set
14. What was your occupation before doing business?
It’s been a long journey. My major at the university was System Engineering; that’s why even being a student, I was already engaged in IT projects. After I graduated, I started working for an IT company specializing in Software Developmentfor Bankingand Financial Services. When I started working for that company in 1995, I was holding the position of software engineer. My career was evolving, and I was promoted to the position of a Technical Director. It was a very interesting job as I was involved in various sectors, from development to sales. But at the same time, I began getting an inkling of what I really wanted to focus on – which was management.
15. When did you decide to become an entrepreneur, and who did inspire you?
I wouldn’t say someone really inspired me, and it was rather a logical progression of my career. I felt I was mature and ready enough to start a new period of my life.
Analyzing my experience, I can say I always exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit. Even prior to entering the university, I was working on a few business plans in different sectors, and the biggest one was constructed to start a bakery. It was long research, and I put a lot of effort into it, but unfortunately, I never found enough supporters, and this plan didn’t work out.
I never thought of my entrepreneurship as an instrument to earn money. I had my ups and downs, but even in the hardest times, I knew that my goal was to create rather than to receive.
16. Why did you start this company?
The story of Softjourn creation dates back to 2001. If you measure it on the scale of time, you will say it’s not that much, but that already is a history for us. Softjourn Inc. was founded by Emmy Gengler and Jeff Kreuser in 2001, and our headquarter office is in California.
It was the time when we had very few IT companies, but the market was evolving really fast. I knew this was a good initiative to start an IT company in Ivano-Frankivsk, and I had a perfect feeling this will work out.
17. What was the path you took?
When we agreed to start a company in Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, it was a huge risk. But we knew from the very beginning how we wanted it to work – legally an according to the law. We wanted Softjourn to grow and become a global company one day, so the proper start was a must. We couldn’t risk our reputation.
This is a thorny path, but we are true to our principles.
When talking about my path as a manager, I had to start from scratch. As I mentioned previously, I never had a managing experience. So I had to learn the basics: how to make decisions, how to make decisions that won’t cause problems for others, how to make uncomfortable decisions, how to work with mistakes and learn from them. This is just a tiny part of what I had to master, and I still learn something new every day. I don’t even have a settled management style, and it changes with every new book I read, and with every project, we work on. But the only thing that is stable throughout the years is that I choose to trust people I work with and trust their decisions as we work on a mutual goal!
CLOSING BLITZ set
18. Investor or business angel?
From my perspective invertor is a person who invests some sum of money and it works for them, while businessman is a person who is involved in the business at all the stages. I like the involvement so that I would choose a business angel.
19. California or Ukraine?
I love my home country, and I like California. But I don’t want to choose; I love our planet in general. There’s a good saying, “The grass is greener on the other side.” So, I simply work on watering mine!
20. Entrepreneurship all the life or happy exit?
Moving is living, so I guess I would choose to stay business active for as long as I can. I simply cannot imagine myself sitting at home doing anything; it won’t be me.
Of course, with time, I am giving out some areas of control to my core team managers, as they are professional, and, to be honest, there’s no need for me to control everything. But I still choose to be present in their work as they also need me, and they know they can rely on me in stressful situations. I once heard a very nice phrase about fire and light. Youth – is fire. Young people have a lot of energy to achieve things; they are very driven. When light – is something that is left after the fire is burned. The older you get, the more light you accumulate, and I choose to share that light with those who need it.