Perspective from Mistral Technologies, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

You know that feeling when you walk in a space and there is something off about it, but you cannot pinpoint the exact reason why? Same goes with the opposite – positive vibe. You instantly feel it, even though there are no visible give-away signs of anything that would make you feel either way. Yet, the feeling definitely exists. 

Naturally, you want the place you spend most of your days in, to have that feel-good factor.

But who owns that “positive factor / vibe” in a workplace?

Why is my perspective relevant?

Azra Saric

A little backstory for the sake of context 

My current professional home is Mistral. A place where 180+ software development creatives choose to spend 8 hours every day working on challenging solutions that change the global digital landscape. Mistral is a well-known name in the IT world of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one of the most desirable places to work. The good reputation does not come easily anywhere, especially Bosnia. I had a privilege to see and play a part in building Mistral through various roles I’ve held.  

My first encounter with this company was almost 6 years ago, when I worked with 24 Mistral people on improving their English language skills as a consultant. Little did I know that they secretly lobbied to have me in Mistral full time in an HR type position.

I had previous HR experience in London, and immense love for people as I am a true extrovert and a social geek. This opportunity was right up my ally. The greatest worry I had was how will I  spend 8 hours a day in one place. Up until then, I was never the “stay-in-one-office-all-day” person. But even though the offices weren’t as futuristic and awe-inspiring as they are today, the feeling I had when around Mistral people made me comfortable, reassured, and eager to give my best in the role.

That marked the beginning of the end of my nomad days.  

What I’ve learned over the past 6 years as an English coach, HR Manager, Head of Communications, and now Chief Culture Officer?

I will not regurgitate the textbook definitions of organisational culture, but hope you will all agree that at the end of the day, the culture is determined and set from the founders (leadership). So, in Mistral’s case – you get a better sense of culture at the final interview with the CEO.  

Nine years and 180+ employees later, he is still someone who you meet at the end of the interview process. He is someone who genuinely listens to each individual sitting across from him. The conversation continues into your work experience in Mistral. The CEO’s sincere care for people in Mistral fascinates me to this day. Certainly, as a Chief Culture Officer it also absolutely motivates me.

People First and Culture of Trust

Staying true to the purpose of building the best workplace with the most desirable positive culture, means being agile in adapting to the constant dynamics of software development world. The definition of what “the best workplace” is changes with time. This is where a keen sense of hearing plays a vital role. Being an active listener can have a dramatic effect on the course of your business curve let alone culture. 

Good news?
When encouraged, people love to express their opinion, give suggestions or state their complaints. If you give them enough opportunities, platforms and forums for expression, and then really listen, you will hardly lose your way. 

Values play a fundamental role in staying true to the purpose as well as filtering the feedback noise. Obviously, values practised, not just preached.

As everything we do in Mistral, defining our values was done in collaboration with a working group made of various stakeholders in the company. After numerous creative sessions, the two things came on top; People First and Culture of Trust.

These two values are what underpins Mistral. All of us, especially the management is expected to uphold and practise the art of cultivating trust and showing care for people continuously. It is no coincidence that Mistral has two C-level positions – Chief Human Potential Officer and Chief Culture Officer that focus on the well-being of individuals, as well as general employee engagement. 

Who owns the company culture?

It is a popular opinion that Human Resources department nurture and represent culture. HR people are usually the first people candidates meet since they are responsible for recruitment, selection, and onboarding. But does it necessarily mean they own the culture too?

Before a candidate reaches the interview stage, they hear about the company through different external communication channels, events, or through friends who work in the company. 

In Mistral, our Human Potential department shredded the resources from its title years ago. Our HP team is responsible for recruitment and selection, performance reviews, professional development of individuals, while the Marketing and Culture department is responsible for external and, even more importantly, internal communication and representation of our brand, as well as employee engagement. 

We meet many amazing people through organisation of themed events where people meet, learn, and find out more about business, technologies, and Mistral. Since Marketing is the official mouthpiece of the company stating what we’re like both externally and internally, Marketing holds culture too. Our Human Potential and Marketing & Culture departments work closely together to ensure everyone has the best experience in or with Mistral. But still, do they own the culture?

I mentioned potential employees having friends who work in the company. Our colleagues are the best ambassadors and the ones who truly promote and contribute to the culture. That is why it is super important that they play a key part in defining the values that we all uphold. 

So, who ultimately holds the culture key? Nothing is so easily compartmentalized nowadays, and culture was never supposed to be. Hardly any work today is done in isolation, and in Mistal at least, every success achieved is primarily a collaborative effort. However, while every person nurtures and practises “the ways of Mistral”, the person who defines the purpose and has the vision, business acumen and courage to start or lead the company, i.e. theCEO, is the person who owns culture

Trust, but verify

Nothing should be taken for granted and neither should be the environment we work in. We are ending the 2019 with the company vibe survey, to measure where we stand, where we need to make improvements, and how we can grow together better. Last month, we conducted a short one question survey sent to a 100 people, with a single question “Why do you stay in Mistral”. You will not be surprised that positive work environment came on top with professional development and before the actual content of work or salary.

It has to feel right!

Going back to the start of the story, when going for an interview remember to be in sync with your gut! Remember to look for small giveaways of the company culture, and read through the spoken word. Once you decide to make that career move, consider the values of the company and remember the feeling you had when you walked around offices. The last tip: trust those inner feelings, and don’t hesitate to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Don’t be afraid to make an impact. If nobody is there to listen, you’re probably in the wrong company. 

About Azra Saric 2 Articles
An early adopter, eternal optimist, extrovert, foodie, adventurer, Alem’s mum, a curious human. The experience of working in different industries in various roles, running a business, teaching and learning, has shown me that the motivation for everything I do is a genuine curiosity to understand people: how they communicate, respond, behave, develop and change. I have a knack for starting new ventures or initiatives, and love the environment that offers me a creative freedom to explore new ideas.

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