Authority Partners 400+ Strong: Interview with AP Founders

Maja-Erol-400-strong-AP

Authority Partners has been creating excellence in the IT industry for almost 23 years now. Today, AP family is represented by their global teams, collaborating from 33 countries on 5 continents. Celebrating “400+ strong” – the milestone of topping 400 consultants worldwide, founders Maja and Erol Karabeg were talking about the path that led to what AP is today, global teams, social responsibility, and how they managed, together with their consultants, to make the whole world their playground, in this fast-growing industry.

1. How far has the AP team gone from the first days of its existence to today’s large and successful company, which has a team of over 400?

Maja Karabeg: First of all, we started many years ago. Coming to this point was more a marathon than a sprint. And as the late Steve Jobs used to say, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

We opened our US-based company almost 23 years ago and our office in Sarajevo, BiH, almost 16 years ago. From that point, it took us seven years to be 100 strong, three more years to be 200, and last year in December, we celebrated 300 consultants strong worldwide.

Opening our first technology center in BiH was a logical choice. We were born and raised in this country, started our first company there in the 1990s. We knew that BiH IT people are very smart and capable, so we decided to give them a shot.

As business started expanding, we realized that the whole world is full of great IT professionals, so 2 years ago, we started adding remote IT professionals to our teams.

Currently, we engage over 400 consultants from 33 countries and five continents. We opened our Istanbul office this year, and if the economy and COVID situation permit, we are planning to open one more technology center in Latin America soon.

2. What are the current activities focused on?

Erol Karabeg: As always, most of us at Authority Partners are busy delivering the highest quality software to our client partners. At the same time, we are updating our strategic plan for the following calendar year and carefully watching all developments related to the COVID pandemic. So, between keeping our people safe, continuing to master new technologies and methods, and managing our sustainable growth, we have to focus on many important things. But, one of the benefits of increased size is the fact that we have many super-talented, knowledgeable people who can focus on individual goals while we keep moving in the same direction, connected through our core values of Excellence, Growth and Development, Stability, and Social Responsibility.

3. What was your path to creating global teams? How do they function today?

Erol Karabeg: Our path towards global teams, and the methodology and company culture that can sustain them, has been filled with pushbacks and breakthroughs. The idea of a distributed agile team is a compromise between two realities: (a) agile methodologies are the most effective way to build information systems, and (b) it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a large number of talented software engineers in any single geographical location. While many software applications can be created and maintained by a relatively small team, the most complex information systems require many highly knowledgeable and specialized professionals, collaborating within a well-defined agile methodology. This is exactly the arena where Authority Partners thrives. I still remember when in the late 1980s, one of the best basketball players from the Balkan region – Drazen Petrovic, left the fame and high pay at Real Madrid, to play for Portland Trail Blazers, NBA. When asked why he took a pay-cut to move to Portland and start his career all over again, he simply said that he wanted to play with the best in the world. I must say, some of the same sentiment and a very large dose of overconfidence drove Maja and myself to test our coding skills against the best in business, in the land where it all started. So, while we continue to train and employ the next generation of IT professionals, we do promise all our new colleagues, both juniors and seasoned pros, a lot of teamwork and fun outings, with guaranteed growth and learning.

4. How much has Covid-19 changed the way you do business in AP? Has it slowed or accelerated the spread of the AP family?

Erol Karabeg: Through this pandemic, our main objective is to keep our people safe while maintaining the level of business that guarantees continued employment and the level of income. We are lucky to be in the industry where it’s relatively easy to transition to working from home and thus protect our consultants everywhere. However, even with almost all our people taking advantage of this option, COVID has not spared the AP family. We stand with our colleagues currently recuperating from the virus and looking forward to their quick recovery.

At the same time, our industry has been lucky to see the demand for quality providers of custom software solutions not only stay steady through the COVID pandemic but even grow. While we keep working with our client-partners who have been hard-hit by the pandemic-related lockdowns, our business development and account management team engaged several exciting new clients representing diverse industries and geographies. All the while, our talent, project management, and engineering departments were busy finding, hiring, and welcoming all the new colleagues into their teams. Thanks to many of our teammates’ concerted efforts, we managed to continue and even accelerate our growth this year.

5. AP, as a socially responsible company, continuously invests in the community. How and in what way is this done today? What are SR activities aimed at?

Maja Karabeg: We strongly believe in sharing knowledge and creating opportunities. In 2014, we started our AP LAB training program, and so far, we completed 27 sessions. 324 people had the opportunity to participate in 16 weeks of long (and free) training, and 120 of them became our colleagues. Our last session was the first one online, and according to feedback, it worked well.

We are also very proud of AP collaboration with Bosana Foundation that started 8 years ago. Bosana Foundation is a US-based charity foundation that supports the education of marginalized youth in BiH.

Since we started our collaboration, we helped BF provide 26 full annual scholarships. We managed to help with 2 full annual scholarships as recently as last week. Pretty cool. It makes my heart warm.

In the US, we’ve been supporting several charity organizations. The latest, last month, we helped the Firefighters’ Foundation that provides assistance to families of fallen firefighters. They’ve been doing a fantastic job in southern California.

For this occasion – Authority Partners “400+ strong” celebration, we decided to plant 400 trees in Sarajevo, BiH.

6. What are the plans for AP’s future: which markets (labor) will AP expand to, and what will the company’s day-to-day functioning look like?

Erol Karabeg: I have to say that even though I love technology, so I am pretty biased, I do think that this is the greatest time ever to be a software engineer, or indeed enter into any of the many professions in the information technology industry. Not only is there opportunity to help write software that is quite literally changing our world, but the benefits beat most other higher-education professions, and the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world is literally unparalleled.

As the explosion of technology and innovation goes on, we will continue to inspire and enable our consultants to realize Authority Partners’ vision – “to be the authority in creating information technology excellence for our client-partners”.

For us, this means adhering to our core values: making excellent software and providing opportunities for learning and development while maintaining stability through growth and strengthening relationships with our client-partners, all the while positively impacting our communities through socially responsible actions.

Today, information technology professionals are truly global citizens, practicing their art on the virtual canvas of “cyber-space,” collaborating across space and time-zone differences. At Authority Partners, we strive to be the best place to support the ambitions and needs of our people while we keep providing the best service and advice to our clients.

From our base in Southern California to technology centers in Sarajevo and Istanbul to colleagues in 30 other countries in the world, we are continuing to grow and look for the best people in our field, wherever they live.

To all of the AP family, huge congratulations on breaking through the 400-strong level.

Go AP!