Paško Pajdek, our first developer, the “Omiš Pirate”, as we like to call him, and one of the first employees of Determ in general, has been in Determ for more than 10 years (talk about getting old <3).
Once a Developer Intern, today our Head of Engineering, Paško couldn’t avoid the gift of the Marketing team – an interview.
In the conversation with Paško, we touched on many interesting topics, from the very beginnings and future of Determ to the perks of working in the media monitoring industry. But, we don’t want to spoil the whole interview, you’ll have to check the rest for yourself.
Paško, introduce yourself briefly – how long have you been working here, what did you study?
I studied at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER). I was thinking about FER or the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FFZG), but I realized in high school that I’m great at math and physics. I was okay at everything, but this went naturally well for me. And then I applied to FER, FFZG, and the Faculty of Science (PMF). In the end, I went to FER because I haven’t seen myself in a scientific or teaching career, and at that time I didn’t know that there are such cool companies that employ students who study humanities and social sciences. 😀
I’m more of an engineer, I was more interested in solving problems and leading projects than dealing with theory. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a programmer or an electrical engineer. Within the first college year, I realized that programming was better for me, and electrical engineering required more studying, to be honest.
How did you end up in Determ?
I ended up here by accident, actually. I realized I had enough free time while I was writing my Master’s thesis, and thought it’d be great to have some kind of a job on the side. I didn’t want to sit at home since I had time to spare. I didn’t plan on being here for over 10 years.
I was initially looking for a 3-month internship, just to earn some student allowance. Shortly after that, a friend who was an Intern at Facebook told me that some two guys, who were doing something with Facebook, had an idea for some tool and needed a good programmer. He gave me their contact, and I was like ok, whatever, I’ll check it out. Long story short – I came in for an interview with Tompa (CEO of Determ) and got a job.
What was your motivation at that time to work in such a startup?
A great atmosphere and a great team, that’s the first thing you see. Besides that, I was learning new things, as we were still a very small company at the time and our Determ project was still in its beginnings. I had a lot of freedom. I was free to work independently and learn from my mistakes.
Because of this, I gathered a lot more experience in the first couple of years of work than my college friends who worked in huge IT companies with 500 or 1000 employees each. They specialized more in specific fields, and I had the opportunity to develop a variety of skills – from server and programming to team leadership, budgeting, and communicating with people. I wanted to try everything, rather than specialize in a single field. That was great for me at Determ because I could do it here. I had the opportunity at every moment to try everything I wanted, explore my ideas, sometimes servers, sometimes a few other things. No one ever said to me, “Well, that’s not your job, you can’t do that.” Of course, you have to somehow justify your desire to mix interests, there must be some purpose behind it.
How was Determ as a company developing in the beginning? Did you encounter any obstacles?
The first problem was that we didn’t know what the exact product would be, or what it would sell. We only had an idea for viral news, but we realized that’s not gonna happen. Then we did some basic media monitoring. When we sold it for the first time, we knew we were going in the right direction. Then we realized that there was some interest and that we needed to continue working on this media monitoring tool.
Another thing that made it difficult for us is that we are in the media monitoring business which, product-wise, from the perspective of programming and building a product, is terribly difficult to develop from the beginning. To make a quality media monitoring system, you have to track everything. You can’t say “hey, we monitor 10 Croatian and 3 British news portals and 2 YouTube channels” and sell it to someone. Everyone will tell you “no, I want the whole webspace”. You have to invest a lot in a tool like Determ before you start getting something back. It has to be 100% done and 100% functional for that to be the case. That’s what it’s like in the SaaS business, and media monitoring especially.
What positions have you held in these 10 years at Determ?
I first worked as a Software Developer Intern, then a Software Developer, then a Lead Developer, then a Head of Product, and I’m currently working as a Head of Engineering – a position in which I have the opportunity to create an even stronger tech team.
What were some of your favorite moments in the past 10 years at Determ?
Among my favorite moments is certainly that initial period in the company when I was in my final year of college and I had no obligations other than work if we look at it from some nostalgic perspective. I also loved when Determ separated from the project it was a part of and turned into a more serious thing. And when the team expanded enough to get our own office. Well, in fact, every milestone you see makes sense and we grow, either through hiring new people or through some business success. From the perspective of the Team Lead, you are always happy when the people are satisfied and when tell you how much they like it here. Such moments are especially dear to me.
From a technical point of view, my favorite moment was definitely introducing the Determ tool as it is now, which took us a lot of time. In addition, some cool moments were following new social networks when they first started, for example, Instagram when it just started, then doing Slack integration for one client, and so on.
What have you learned in these 10 years at Determ?
(Laughing) Words of wisdom of an old man! Time is the most precious resource. At some point in life, you start looking at things through a different lens, you want to know how much time something will take from you. Well, you want to simplify things as much as possible and invest time in something that is important to you. I also learned that you are never so old that you have to take yourself too seriously. It is important for me to keep that relaxed and fun part of life, and always go with that “look on the bright side”.
If you could say one thing to yourself 10 years ago, you would say…
(Laughter) I have no idea. I would tell myself: invest in Bitcoin!
What is it like to work at Determ?
I’d say it’s great since I stayed for more than 10 years. I like the culture of the company, the fact that management allows people to try things on their own, and that, with the support of superiors, you have the freedom to try different things that interest you and which make sense. Also, there is no strong hierarchy, which is cool. The culture within the company is very friendly, and no one takes themselves too seriously.
What is your favorite Determ value?
Quality and ownership. Both are very important to me. A mix of the two is a recipe for success. Have good ownership and pay attention to quality, so that when you take something on yourself, it is done as well as you can.
Why would developers find Determ interesting?
Determ as a system is so complex and interesting, and that level of the system and the very issue of media monitoring is something that can rarely be found in Croatia. I thought so before, but now I got the confirmation from the Senior Developers who came to the company recently. I could’ve been wrong about that and subjective because I’ve been here from the very beginning, but, now they also said that it’s very HC.
Someone who wants to work on a product rather than in an agency would do well here. I am speaking now from an engineering perspective, but working on the product is similar. So, developers could like the complexity of the system, the fact that it has a lot of things and is done with quality, the quite high quality code. In fact, we pay a lot of attention to the quality of the code in general. We have many experts in our team.
If anyone wants to learn more about it, I think Determ’s a good address. And, we are not so much tied to customer requirements, we’re developing our own roadmap. We’re making sure the critical parts of the system are written more carefully, with testing and all. Less critical parts sometimes maybe not. Basically, we control the speed and amount of development ourselves. So, things are pretty well set up there. Anyone who wants to see how good things are made to work well, I’d invite them to check out what we’re doing.
And, finally, where do you see Determ in the future? Both as a product and as a company.
Quite a difficult question. It is difficult to predict anything in these times. But I see that we have a great team in general, capable of making a product from scratch, we have good engineering, good marketing, good sales, and so on. Well, we can do amazing things in six months because we’re already very experienced. And I like the fact that, despite experience, we’re constantly learning new things and gaining new knowledge. That can only come in handy in the future. 🙂