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SmartCat Values: Aim to Impress

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Standards we have set for ourselves and the work we do reflect on the standards of our service provided to the clients. It is very easy to let yourself get lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy day, a tight deadline or complex problem that needs to be solved. This is why the third of SmartCat company values is:

Life’s too short
Do it right or don’t do it at all. Aim to impress.

We really want to be the best at what we do, and we are proud of our relentless quality standards. Our goal is to have SmartCat brand synonymous with top-notch talent - globally. This really stems from our own experiences as customers and I’m sure you’ve had similar ones too.

Have you ever been blown away by an experience at a restaurant or a customer service agent that really made a difference in a time of need and you thought “wow, these guys rock!”? That is something we want our clients to think when they work with us. There are a number of people or companies who can get the job done, but only a few that really impress you - we strive to be one of those very few. There is no more rewarding feeling than hearing a praise from the client on a job well done - the sense of fulfillment and reward for your hard work is something that sticks with you, something that makes your day and puts a smile on your face. Every time you put all your effort in, when you give it your best shot, it always pays off. The funny thing is, we always know when that is, even before we get the feedback - it’s like a sixth sense almost. We all remember that presentation we practiced to perfection and rocked the show, or that final exam that you really prepared for - even before you got the grade back from the professor you knew it was a good one.

When you say “do it right” it’s subject to interpretation since the definition of “right” is always subjective. Nonetheless, the feeling that you get when you put your best effort out there, that subjective feeling, is actually always resulting in relative best performance - and that’s all we can do with our life: give it our best shot. Live each day to the fullest of our potential. Be happy with our own performance - because in the end, even if you don’t win, you’re OK with it. With that mindset and clear consciousness you’re okay with making mistakes, and you can notice and derive lessons learned much quicker. 

Ideally we would live each day to the fullest, ideally we would prioritize things we need to do in the most optimal way, ideally we could give it our best shot at everything we do, but we don’t live in an ideal world. More often than not, we are faced with time constraints, too many things to do or too much “noise” from the “always connected” lifestyle we have developed. This makes it even more important for us to learn how to switch off, to snooze notifications when we need to be focused, to stop looking at our phone when we’re at a dinner table or catching up with friends face to face. To get things done, especially to get things done “right” we need two things: focus and time.

Coming from the project management background, I was taught that quality is always defined as producing a result that matches acceptance criteria which was defined up-front. This notion behind the definition is relatively defined for a reason - because we live in a world where resources (time, money, goods, people) are limited we need to be able to determine the definition of “right amount”. If you don’t have clearly defined goal and desired level of quality then you need to create one. If you don’t get it from the client you need to take charge and define it - even if you define it on your own and don’t share it with anyone, at least you’re clear with yourself as to what you’re setting out to achieve and what impact that outcome will have on your goals, or your company goals, or your client’s goals. 

I have often been called an “all or nothing” person by my colleagues and some of my friends have used those words to describe me too. People also call me a perfectionist. As I’ve come to realize, this trait is a blessing and a curse. You always strive to do your best and you expect the same from people around you - this second part is something that I had to learn to control, to take it in with a grain of salt and not to judge others without context, because, realistically, we are not that person in that position at the moment we are judging them. There are thousand “why” questions and answers that we’re not seeing from our perspective.

Through years I’ve also come to understand that with this attitude of exclusivity has another downside - if you live by it you may miss out on a lot of things, because most often than not you’re forced to sacrifice your standards and be flexible to get things done, otherwise you would need to go down the “...don’t do it at all” path. For some things doing “good enough” is okay. The hard part is figuring out which things are important and which are less important at the given time and context.

Where do you want to impress someone and where do you want to get things done and move along - that’s more of an art than science, in my opinion. It also takes courage and honesty with yourself to say I can’t do this now, I’m not ready for it, or I don’t have time to do it right. With this exclusivity comes sacrifice. It also takes the right environment, the right kind of people that know you, trust you and believe in your decision making process, your prioritization to accept the answer like “I didn’t do it because I didn’t have enough time”. It takes a deeper level of understanding, trust and respect - that’s the environment we’re nurturing at SmartCat. We select our people carefully, and trust them that they will put out their best effort - in return, they trust us to provide them with exciting projects, motivating and stimulating environment and many learning and career opportunities (i.e. each year we send each team member to at least one leading IT conference world-wide). 

At the end of the day, when you’re happy with yourself and what you did, the world is a better place. When you give it your best shot, when you “do it right” or choose not to do it until you’re ready to give it your best shot, then you’re immersed in things you do, your mind and your heart are in it - that’s when you truly Shine. We can’t live our lives to the fullest each day, but at the end of the road, if we turn around and see there’s more days we spent to the fullest than others, then we’ve had a fulfilled life. And that’s where inner peace comes from. Carpe diem baby! Grab it by the horns… and remember to enjoy the ride, even when it gets bumpy.

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Bojan Kovac

A computer science graduate with over 10 years of experience managing software projects and product development while leading organizational changes towards operational maturity and efficiency.