Meet Pontis, the newest Croatian tech miracle
16 October 2022
Charles III advertises their company, they barbecue on their terrace, but they also know how to hire and retain workers: Meet the team of the newest Croatian technological miracle
(October 16, 2022) In April this year, Zagreb's IT scene became richer for another company - Pontis Technology - founded by the international Bridgewest group. These days, the citizens of Zagreb woke up to a billboard of King Charles III, and behind it is a campaign by Pontis, which they wanted to use to attract developers with a clear message that there is a faster way to progress in your career if you work at Pontis. What they exactly do, how they try to attract and retain young talent and what kind of projects they are working on, the executive director of the company, Nataša Zec, revealed to us in an interview for tportal.
Nataša Zec is a lawyer by profession, and although she found herself in the IT sector, she says that it was "the best thing that could have happened to her." At the beginning of her career, she worked at a law firm, but soon, she says, she realized that she did not belong in that world and that she wanted to develop somewhere else.
“Then I got the opportunity to work in the sales department of a large international corporation. It was a challenge that I had to overcome when I was just over 20 years old. And it was the right thing to do. That decision marked my further development. I progressed within that company, changed several positions and after six years decided it was time for something new. I spent the next five years in a company that provides software development services in the position of director of general and operational affairs, until the moment when the opportunity of a lifetime opened up for me, which is the position I am in today," Zec tells us. This opportunity of a lifetime is the young Croatian IT company Pontis Technology, which was founded six months ago, in April this year in Zagreb, by the international Bridgewest Group. Pontis Technology primarily deals with the development, maintenance and improvement of software solutions. Zec states "in addition to ready-made solutions, they offer client development teams consisting of project managers, front-end and back-end engineers, DevOps engineers and QA testers for which clients entrust the full cycle of software development into their hands."
Their founder, the Bridgewest Group, has been operating in the USA, China, New Zealand and Australia for 23 years and employs more than 3,500 people in its over 40 portfolio companies. The areas in which Bridgewest Group operates are software development, biotechnology, chip manufacturing, artificial intelligence, finance and real estate. Europe was identified as a strategy for further expansion of Bridgewest Group, and after two extensive analyses, Ireland and Croatia proved to be the leading investment destinations in Europe. In addition to IT, Bridgewest Group is currently investing in the real estate and tourism sectors in Croatia.
Proud of the projects they are working on
Zec says that Pontis Technology as a consulting company is ready to adapt to the client when it comes to technologies because for their employees it is just one of the tools."We use a lot of Microsoft's tech stack with an emphasis on .NET and cloud (Azure) technologies, we have teams for mobile application development, and we also work on projects in Java and Javascript technologies. At the moment, we are in the final stage of negotiations related to projects that will be based on blockchain technologies, so we expect to specialize in that area as well. Also, another area on which we are focusing is digital design engineering, which will give our employees the opportunity to work on the design of the most modern microchips,” announces Zec.
Their first project is an app, with which they try to combine the world of betting with a social component. At the same time, the director says that this area is quite challenging due to the various regulations that the application must comply, which is also the most complex part of the work - among other things, it refers to identity verification and rules for addiction prevention.
"In this project, our team is working on a mobile app for iPhone and Android, as well as back-end services that store user data and communicate in other systems with which we are integrated. We have been involved in this project from the very beginning and we expect a lot from its release on the market in 2023. In addition, we are very proud of our cooperation with one of the leading banks, and together we are exploring the possibilities of cloud-related technologies in the creation of predictive models for calculating the risk of clients who take out loans. The whole world of software is turning to the cloud, which we can also see by the fact that some of the well-known tools will soon not be available in on-premise versions, and in that area we can provide our clients with guidance and advice on the way to transformation into the cloud," says Zec.
Their clients are on one hand large international companies, and on the other hand small startup companies with great potential for growth. In the first five months of operation, 100 percent of the company's income was generated from abroad, and a month ago they started cooperation with Croatian clients, more specifically the company Light Film International. “We are also expanding into the banking sector, both in Croatia and in Europe. Large international projects are also being prepared,” says Zec.
An attractive campaign to attract workers
"A few days ago, the 17th employee came to their office, which Pontis considers a great success considering that they have only been in business for half a year. On one hand, this is due to a strong HR department that does the not-so-simple job of positioning a new IT company on the market. On the second hand, there is our sales department, which successfully cooperates with domestic and foreign clients, and on the third, of course, our engineering team, which achieves top results. In support of this, the fact that we have doubled the number of people on all projects three months after the beginning of our engagement means that our engineers justified the trust of the clients and enabled us to increase the number of people," says Zec.
But as the number of projects and clients grows, the need for IT experts is increasing, so Pontis constantly has open ads for several positions. Since qualified IT staff is not easy to find today, they tried a different approach. In recent weeks, the whole world has been talking about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the upcoming coronation of her son, King Charles III. Pontis' campaign appeared on billboards on the streets of Zagreb, and soon spread to social networks and gained the attention of the online community from Croatia and the region.
The beginning was challenging
IT personnel are in high demand, and the goal of the campaign was to draw the attention of IT experts to Pontis. "To our great satisfaction, we achieved fantastic cooperation with the Spellcaster agency, which designed the entire campaign and, I would say, did a fantastic job. One of the biggest challenges is to keep this type of personnel in Croatia. The world is an open market, especially for IT experts, and that is precisely why it is important to offer them the opportunity to develop in Croatia, the opportunity to work as employees of Croatian companies for large foreign companies on the most advanced technologies. This is exactly where Pontis positions itself as an important factor, offering employees work on challenging projects based on modern technologies," says Zec.
Recalling the beginnings, she points out that it was challenging to start as a new company that no one had heard of and hire quality people. But persistence and effort bore fruit.
"Candidates simply recognize our open and direct approach. During the selection itself, they get to know their superiors, find out as much as possible about the project they will be working on and get a sense of what kind of company we are. The culture we are building in Pontis is easy to feel, recognize and identify with. We want to be a company where employees will want to come to work in the office, even though they don't have to, where they will start the day with a morning coffee and a conversation with colleagues on one of our terraces, a company where we will together agree on which grill to buy for our roof terrace, and on the other hand, a company in which the work is approached as professionally and responsibly as possible. And this is what we managed to build in this short time and what we will continue to build our story on," she points out.
Mentorship program, women in IT and goals
They are also proud of their mentorship program, which has been led by one of their most experienced engineers since the very beginning. "The feedback we receive from young people who we have given the chance to develop and learn is invaluable. We have already employed some of the participants of our mentoring system, and we will certainly continue with this practice. I believe that people who are willing to learn should be given a chance," says Zec.
As the difference in salaries of women in the IT sector has recently been a burning issue, as well as the representation of women in IT itself, Zec is also aware of this and points out that every day we witness analyses that clearly show that women are still paid less than men and that it is something to be aware of and to work on. "My opinion is that the position of women, at least when I'm talking about women in the IT sector, has improved significantly compared to previous years. Pontis is a very good example of that, because three out of five key positions in the company are occupied by women," she boasted.
"We have very ambitious plans. Our goal is to position Pontis as a competitive company on the market, have the best quality staff and build ourselves as a company that enables its employees to grow and develop. Employees are our greatest asset, therefore one of the most important goals is to build Pontis into a company where our engineers will want to work, want to work on themselves, and thus build Pontis into one of the largest IT companies in this area," concludes Zec.