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Ten years career reflections at ProductDock

by ProductDock

We continue the “ProductDock’s career reflections” interview series and celebrate our team members’ dedication and commitment to our values and goals and their efforts and work to make them possible.

Today, we talked with our Unit Lead, Nikola Lajić. He started his career at ProductDock as a mobile developer in 2013. From the beginning, he was someone we could count on for different tasks, and we appreciate everything he has done and will do in the future for our team.

What do you like most about your role?

As a Unit Lead, I appreciate having the opportunity to exert some influence over aspects I don’t like, not completely, but a little more than usual. In short, I value the level of autonomy and influence I have on the decision-making process.

Career reflection | ProductDock team building Dubrovnik

What is your biggest challenge as an Unit Lead at ProductDock and what makes being a Unit Lead at ProductDock unique?

Balancing client demands with employee needs presents a significant challenge. The role of Unit Lead at ProductDock stands out for its distinctive nature, unlike other roles in our industry. In our desire to avoid having too many management roles, the position of Unit Lead encompasses a wide array of tasks, ranging from daily operations to strategic planning, showcasing the broad scope of our engagements.

How did you grow at ProductDock? Tell us about your journey.

My growth unfolded as follows: I joined the company in 2013 as a mobile developer, and I more or less remained in that role until September 2020. Around mid or late 2020, I transitioned to the Unit Lead role. I wouldn’t say it was a sudden transition because even as a mobile developer, I took on responsibilities beyond the scope of my role, which definitely played a part in me reaching my current position. I remember when I started working as a Unit Lead, I was in a unique situation—I couldn’t immediately find a replacement for myself on a project. So, for a period of time, I worked in parallel, handling both roles. It was quite challenging but also interesting.

Career reflection | Logout Days by ProductDock

What is your best ProductDock memory?

We’ve been on many trips together, spanning from business trips, client visits, and team-building excursions. I’ve always enjoyed those experiences, primarily because the team was excellent. When the team is cool and interesting, getting along is easy and fun.

Career reflection | ProductDock team building Dubrovnik

What is the secret of staying in the same company for more than 10 years?

The first reason is the great team I collaborate with. It happens that people chase after better projects, but even the most interesting projects can become monotonous. I always consider the team I work with. Projects vary—sometimes they’re intriguing, other times not so much—but when you have a fantastic team alongside you, everything becomes easier. On the other hand, the company’s attitude toward its employees is a significant factor that has kept me here for so long. For ProductDock, profit isn’t the top priority. This is evident through the profit-sharing model implemented in the company. Additionally, unlike other IT companies that laid off their workers during the economic crisis, nobody was let go here. People come first, and that matters to me. I don’t want to feel like a mere number on paper; I want to work with people who see beyond labels like ‘developer’ or ‘unit lead’, valuing me as a unique team member capable of contributing and benefiting from our shared efforts.

The third reason is that I see growth opportunities here—both personal and company-wide. We started as codecentric 12 years ago in this market, trying something entirely new. Few companies had the chance to make the kind of transformation we did back then, and that spirit continues. We experiment, learn from what doesn’t succeed, and adapt. As a company, we’re open to various possibilities. What we are today doesn’t dictate what we’ll be tomorrow or in ten years. Perhaps it won’t be at the entire ProductDock level; maybe we’ll have a spin-off. Throughout codecentric’s history, we’ve had such moments—like the innovation budget and the CenterDevice spin-off. This dynamic environment suits me; it’s what I appreciate.

Career reflction | Nikola Lajić - ten years anniversary at ProductDock

What should a member of your team bring to the table?

Generally, I believe it’s a combination of personality traits and technical skills. In the long term, personality is certainly more important in this context. When considering a person for collaboration, we focus on mutual alignment and shared goals, prioritizing more than just technical qualifications to determine their suitability for us. Suppose someone demonstrates a desire and ability to learn, along with a positive attitude in line with our values. Even if they are not a fit for our current position, we may consider them for a future role. Personally, I view this kind of people as the people I want to work with and help develop to meet all the criteria. Ideally, we have a perfect scenario when technical skills and personality align from the start. But if we have two candidates—one who doesn’t culturally fit but possesses more technical skills than we need and another who fits culturally and can grow over the next year or two—we’d prefer to hire the latter. We choose based on the individual, their qualities, and the values they uphold.

Career reflection | ProductDock meeting

Which app do you find helpful and why?

Applications are useful only to the extent that they help you achieve something. For example, let’s consider financial apps. If you lack discipline or don’t follow the guidelines and input accurately, having the app won’t make sense. In other words, the app won’t magically solve your problems. An application is merely a tool to assist you in performing tasks more efficiently and easily, but it won’t work miracles.

I can provide two examples:

Duolingo: This language learning app allows you to spend five to ten minutes daily—realistically, over a year or two—to acquire a basic level of proficiency in a foreign language. You can achieve this without attending formal classes or spending extra time. Duolingo is something you can always fit into your schedule—even if you’re busy, dedicating a few minutes each day adds up. It’s about being 0.1% better every day, leading to a 10% improvement over a year in any context.

YNAB (You Need a Budget): I recommend reading Jesse Mecham’s book of the same name before using this budgeting app. While you don’t need to adhere to the book’s principles strictly, it provides a framework for planning your finances and saving for your goals. Ultimately, what matters isn’t how much money you receive but how much you retain at the end of each month. No matter the initial amount, if you spend without a plan, you’ll end up back at zero.

Career reflection | ProductDock team building Dubrovnik

What do you do besides work?

I handicraft things, renovate my house myself, make furniture, write, draw, design games, watch movies, and read books—in short, a bit of everything. My hobbies mostly involve creative pursuits where I can either create something new or improve existing things.

What is your favorite place you have ever visited and why?

Each destination I’ve explored has made an impact on me. Zagajička Brda stands out as particularly memorable. They are accessible to everyone and located about two to three hours’ drive from Novi Sad. Many people haven’t seen them because reaching the hills involves passing through a few fields. It’s a 45-minute walk to get there, but once you arrive, it feels like something out of a Hobbit movie—rolling hills and a picturesque landscape. Witnessing this scene just two hours away from Novi Sad is truly remarkable. I highly recommend it as a mini weekend getaway.

Zagajička Brda

Three things you like the most at ProductDock?

People, the type of work we do, and the company culture that prioritizes people over profit.

 If you were not a programmer, what would you be?

I would be a craftsman, carpenter, or something like that, in short – something related to my hobbies. If I weren’t doing this job, I’d probably still create something, especially if I could get paid for it. One of the reasons I became a programmer is because there’s a lot of creativity in this field. No matter what anyone thinks, creativity is essential in our work. When you encounter a problem, you have to find a way to solve it creatively. In my opinion, there are a thousand paths to the same goal of satisfaction, and the quickest way to get that dopamine rush is when you’re creating something.

Career reflection | Nikola Lajić, ProductDock team meetig

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant, what would it be?

Learning something gradually and experiencing the process is what I consider rewarding. Acquiring a skill straight away would strip away all the joy of learning. But to answer the question, if I had to pick something, it would be playing the guitar. I’ve already spent time learning to play, but I haven’t quite achieved the desired level of proficiency.

Coffee or tea?

Tea. While coffee is enjoyable, I can only drink a cup or two per day, whereas with tea, I can drink in unlimited quantities—especially if it’s not black tea.

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