The General Manager of Bosch.IO Bulgaria on helping people and business grow hand in hand
At Bosch.IO people bring the IoT to life. With decades of expertise in building connected solutions, Bosch.IO is the go-to destination of the Bosch Group for innovation – from the automotive sector to industrial, building and energy, and consumer products. It is the company’s belief that the key ingredients to innovation are passion, expertise, culture, and leadership at all levels of the organization. In this interview with Sinisha Djukic, General Manager of Bosch.IO Bulgaria, we discuss leading a team in a foreign country, his local experiences, and his leadership philosophy. Sinisha Djukic comes from Belgrade, Serbia, but since 1993 has been living in Sofia, where he graduated from the Technical University and met his Bulgarian wife. He started his professional path at Bosch as a Junior Software Engineer.
What is your most interesting experience in relation to your work in Bulgaria?
Out of the 22 years of working experience in Bulgaria it would be hard to point out a single experience or event. Probably the most notable and exciting times I had were during and shortly after the acquisition of our company and becoming part of the Bosch Group. The acquisition process and the post-merger integration activities were planned and executed carefully, without significant disruption to the business or the customers. The two corporate cultures were similar on operative level, which encouraged us to think about the possibilities ahead, rather than spending too much energy adopting a new working style. This is rarely the case for M&As between companies with disproportionate sizes, as typically the culture and the processes of the larger company are “forcefully installed”, which creates a lot of friction and anxiety.
What was rather interesting and challenging at the same time was the need to adapt our communication and decision-making habits to a completely different scale. Being a small company of about 120 people we knew exactly who does what, who knows what and who decides upon what. Entering a global organization of more than 400,000 people demanded a mindset shift about how the communication flows in the company. It also required establishing large personal and professional networks to facilitate this flow. Furthermore, it meant becoming much more proactive in driving initiatives and becoming part of decision circles across all levels. For me these were quite intensive, but energizing times professionally, during which I learned so much and established trustful relationships with many colleagues across the globe.
What are the challenges of being a manager in a foreign country?
Adapting to the “way we do things around here” simultaneously along two dimensions – corporate culture and national culture. Especially the latter can be a dealbreaker when building up trust and effective communication. Topics like direct feedback, open confrontation and speaking up one’s opinion may be a norm in the west but could be almost taboo in some countries in the east. Finding the right approach, adopting a different leadership style, having the ear for underlying themes, and feeling the pulse of the organization are among the key challenges I would point out.
You have graduated from the Technical University in Sofia. Does that help you communicate more effectively with your Bulgarian team?
I graduated Computer Science and Technologies back in 2001 but joined the company in 2000 while still studying. So did most of my teammates at the time, which was, and still is, in contrast to many other EU countries, a very common practice in the IT sector in Bulgaria – to start a full-time job while studying. Apart from the obvious financial upside, there is another benefit of starting a job early: putting the abstract theory into practice, and seeing it applied in the real world – as you study it. Furthermore, the work assignments can be transposed into a diploma thesis thus successfully marrying research work with business needs.
As we were all at much the same age, had similar interests and lots of passion for IoT (even before the term became mainstream) it created a special bond, a feeling of brotherhood, and a free flow of ideas – sometimes too crazy and ambitious not to be implemented. Fast-forward two decades and the spirit of innovation is still thriving, while the approach, expertise, and business orientation have matured significantly. Being part of this incredible journey, supporting each other across the different stages of our professional, as well as personal lives (marriage, children, their graduation), has for sure been an essential ingredient for building up trust and direct communication.
What is the best advice you would give to a foreigner, who has come to work in Bulgaria?
In one sentence: build trustful relationships. But that hardly says it all. Take time to truly get to know the people – also in their private lives. Play soccer together. Go out for a beer. Go hiking. Travel and explore the wonders of Bulgaria together. Taste the culture – there is plenty you might like. Learn the history – you will be amazed. Keep your mind and heart open for impulsivity and living in the now.
How do you see your professional mission?
My mission is to enable the people and the business to grow together, hand in hand. This leads to a natural, long-term success, and allows both the person and the organization to flourish.
In every endeavor there is a way to learn and develop oneself. Development, of every kind, is ultimately the centerpiece of the life process. Professional development is often taught to be strictly vertical – to become a better expert, or to achieve the next level management position. But sometimes it is lateral – to explore new fields, or to assume a different function. However, I strongly believe that, more often than we even realize, it is not about levels, achievements or checkpoints, but rather about constantly giving room for expressing one’s personality, dormant abilities and potential. The basis for this is curiosity, and the flipside of it is the openness for change. Helping people to nurture this curiosity and this openness, having faith in them, enabling them, lending them a hand, and being available for them – these are some of the key elements of my personal people leadership mission.
From the business perspective, my mission is to nurture an organizational culture, which unleashes and maximizes the impact of our people on our business goals. This means shortening the distance between actions and results, empowering people to “own” their work and the outcomes they create, and even “getting out of their way” when needed, so to say. It also means cultivation of leadership in its broadest sense – in my eyes, a leader is anyone, who aids the organization in accomplishing its purpose in a better way. A leader is anyone, who can rally the organization to improve. A leader has a mission to connect the dots, deal with uncertainty and tread new paths. And such behaviors should be nurtured to manifest on any level, any position and in any organizational role.
People development and business growth are the two key ingredients, which inevitably lead to success. This year we continue growing the capacity of our location by about 30% YoY. Furthermore, the variety of positions in the location is expanding from software development to new business roles, allowing us to have an even stronger impact on the success of Bosch.IO globally, as well as the Bosch Group.