Founded in 2007 with a small team of seven employees, UNIQA Software Services (USS) Bulgaria has been a reliable IT partner for UNIQA for 15 years. The company has grown significantly in the last few years, adding over 60 employees in just the past 18 months. A new modern office space in Plovdiv was inaugurated at the end of June for the growing team.
We met Elina Pavlova and Juliana Boja, Managing Directors at USS Bulgaria at their office inauguration party and interviewed with them to discuss the success stories and challenges, which accompanied the expansion strategy of the location.
What is it like to be in a top management position at an international IT company? The IT industry still has the reputation of being a male domain. Are there any other challenges beyond that, and what are they?
Elina: You must be ready to solve different problems all the time and be prepared to make changes, if necessary. With the significant growth of USS Bulgaria, we are constantly on the learning path to improve our internal processes and to keep our focus towards the customers' needs. I am happy that together with Juliana we have a strong management team, and we can manage all challenges that we have ahead of us.
What achievements and results are you proud of?
Elina: Within two years, we had a substantial increase in the number of our employees. We have succeeded in hiring young, high potential professionals with the right work-attitude and the desire for further development. And we are proud to have colleagues who have worked with us for many years and know the IT landscape of our company very well. We can count on this know-how, it is priceless.
Juliana: With the expansion of our office, we have recently succeeded in creating a great collaboration space that promotes cooperation and attracts visitors from other locations to Plovdiv. We have succeeded in improving the integration of nearshore colleagues into the UITS teams. This is a ongoing task and requires close collaboration between the locations. The first achievements are evident in the positive feedback and the willingness to invest further in our location.
What advice would you give to young women who aim to work in the IT industry?
Elina: To have the ambition and the will to constantly improve their surrounding and themselves and to be ready to learn. To stay persistent. To establish long lasting connections with other colleagues and to make the most out of it.
What do you like about your job? What motivates you?
Juliana: For me, it is fulfilling to work on projects with a long-term impact on the overall organization. The importance of our service is also a driver for me - we have a big responsibility here, namely, to operate critical systems that ultimately determine the satisfaction of our end customers.
Elina: I am really motivated and feel that I have done my job well when results are being achieved without having to micro-manage teams or team members. Autonomy and enablement are key here and I love to see the “can-do” attitude, which is crucial. This approach is not only good for the business, but it also improves the working environment and teamwork. At the end of the day everybody is happier because they have put in the effort, which paid off as they contributed towards the achievement of our goals.
What makes a team well-functioning?
Juliana: Besides a "we" mindset, trust is the basis. Without trust, the desired failure culture where mistakes can be made and open discussions can take place, cannot manifest itself. Conflicts might be avoided, but that also leads to the lack of initiative to take responsibility and stay committed. As a result, team performance suffers, and the sense of achievement fails to materialise. A functioning team wants to be successful, takes responsibility and learns from its mistakes.
Elina: In our team I rely on my very talented and motivated colleagues and believe that as a team we must have the same direction. The most important skills are persistency and social competency and understanding that everyone has different experience and know–how and this helps us to complement each other.
What are the biggest leadership challenges you are currently facing at your location and in general?
Elina: They are not very different from the challenges in other locations and regions. The biggest challenge is the war for talents in the market – there is a huge lack of skilled IT workforce out there. At the same time, we are following a growing strategy. Therefore, we put a lot of effort in being a good employer and in attracting talented people and to provide good working conditions. However, we are also in constant competition for talents with the other market players.
Juliana: Monitoring labour market developments and pro-actively engaging in talent scouting is one of the most important management tasks in the IT industry today.
What are your plans? What can be done better, where do you see the greatest potential for optimisation?
Juliana: Fast onboarding and effective integration of new colleagues into UITS is an aspect that requires active management and optimisation in the context of rapid growth. We are working closely with the head office and developing various approaches to this.
In addition, we are also considering new office locations in Bulgaria, as we employ some staff from other cities such as Sofia and Burgas.
Elina: The main take-away of our success story is that the strongest asset one company could have, is a stable team with knowledgeable experts. Teams that have the capacity to build innovative and reliable software solutions and help big ideas come true. Our focus should always be the customer’s needs. Technologies are changing rapidly, hence flexibility and the willingness to adapt to changes goes along the way.
Elina Pavlova holds a master’s degree in IT Project Management and has an experience of more than 14 years in the software industry. As Managing Director, she is successfully managing the administrative and financial affairs of the company. She joined USS Bulgaria as one of the first employees and has since been part of several projects related to the implementation of systems for UNIQA Bulgaria, UNIQA Romania, UNIQA BiH and the development and growth of USS BG as a company.
Juliana Boja took the position of Managing Director in February 2022. After graduating in Applied Computer Science and Business Administration, she gained valuable experience as an IT Consultant in software implementation and roll-out projects, carve-outs and integrations. For the past five years, she has taken on various leadership roles in transformation programmes in the insurance industry. In addition to her role as Managing Director, she is Team Leader at UITS and responsible for building the Properties & Casualties Value Train.
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