Director of the Microsoft Development Centre in Serbia, one of the most successful development centres of this company in Europe, discusses Serbian IT market, its greatest potential, successes and ways in which Microsoft encourages IT education in this country.
Microsoft Development Centre in Serbia is a serious entry on the CV of the Serbian IT community and a story of great success. What does this success mean for Serbian IT?
Our Development Centre opened in 2005, and it was founded as one of the first Microsoft’s development centres in Europe. We are quite well ranked in Europe, among top five centres in which Microsoft develops its products, and it really is a big deal. If Microsoft is developing its products here and our team can be so successful and so highly ranked, it means that we as a country can be very successful in the IT sector. Actually, it is a model for other international companies, on how they can open successful development centres in Serbia, as well as a model for the development of the country.
Is SQL Server really „Made in Serbia“?
When it is said that the SQL Server is “Made in Serbia”, it’s actually correct. We coded, tested and prepared this Microsoft product for global deployment from Belgrade.
SQL team began operations in 2007 in Belgrade, same year that I came back from the United States. We started with one man on the team. Now, in 2017, when the SQL team is marking its anniversary, there are over a hundred of us on the team. Of SQL teams outside of America, we are the largest. For the latest version of SQL Server, launched in 2016, we did more than half of the work on the SQL Server Engine, which is the core of the product.
This is, to a certain extent, proof that young people don’t have to leave the country to work in information technologies but that they can work on global projects from Belgrade, too. What’s your view of the Serbian IT scene and its potential?
The current situation in the IT sector is the best it’s ever been. Microsoft is just one of the items on that list. There is Nordeus, one of the best gaming companies in Europe, perhaps even world-wide. Seven Briges is doing bio-informatics. In the long years we’ve been working, we’ve built a completely new industry together, and it’s the people of Belgrade that work in it. In Novi Sad, there are excellent companies both in gaming and in infrastructure.
Currently, our IT industry is beginning to blossom and we can only expect it to grow further. Still, we need to see how we can accelerate this growth, so that we overtake our neighbours in the region and contribute to the improvement of the current economy.
How can that be done?
Growth would certainly be easier and faster if we had more engineers. I don’t mean just engineers with university education, but also those with informal education. We believe that this number should be increased by a factor of ten, in order for the growth to meet its potential.
This is closely related to the educational system, and Microsoft is significantly contributing to its development?
Within Microsoft, we work on the most important products. On the other hand, our mission is for our work and knowledge that we gain, to be used in other domains too, for the good of everyone; for our country to keep up with the world and overtake some of our neighbours. That is our strategic idea. Since it was established, Microsoft Development Centre in Serbia has been contributing to the community through different competitions and educational programs. One of the most popular is certainly the Bubble Cup, a coding competition for high school and university students. In addition, in cooperation with the Petlja Foundation, we have made Petlja.org portal, to be used for education in elementary schools. This is perhaps the most important thing we’ve done. Fifth- and sixth-graders will be using the petlja.org portal in their education from the next semester, to lean algorithmic thinking; they will be able to test their solutions and get educated on a globally developed portal.
In Europe, there are not that many countries in which information technologies are taught in the way they will be taught here. In six years’ time, those kids will get to university and have knowledge in this area far better developed than the freshmen entering technical faculties at the moment.
There is a great tendency of popularizing IT careers among women. It is another thing you had recognized, even before it became a general trend.
Yes, we began bringing this profession closer to the female population before it truly became a trend. We always had the future of our Development Centre and this country in mind. Then the logical question came: “What’s our chance of meeting our target of a ten-fold number of engineers in ten years’ time, if we don’t include a half of the population from the start?”
From this basic idea, we started popularizing it. In our team at the time, the percentage of women was truly low. We managed to increase those numbers, but they are still far from what we’d like to achieve. We still believe in our vision. We still believe that currently, the greatest progress that can be made is among the female population, so we are focusing on that. In future, I think the IT will become a dominantly female industry. It meets the prerequirements for that.
Also, in our experience, the teams comprised of women and men get much better results. Different perspectives are always welcome, in any team, as that leaves more room for more innovative solutions.
By: Đurđa Petrović