slovenian talent: look around before you look around

August 12th, 2013 § 11 comments

Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

Statistical office of Republic of Slovenia has announced that we had a terrible brain drain in 2012. Surprise surprise, who would have known.

We have been seeing signs of it for the past 18 months. First by people temporarily living abroad, deciding they are not coming back. Later people living in Slovenia, who started seriously thinking about leaving. And finally, when we started hiring a lot of engineers, and a lot of people ‘just started’ working abroad.

Of course, a year from now, Statistical office will report that the brain drain was even higher in 2013, all the media will write about it then, and the country will have lost another 12 months when it could have done something.

I have several issues with this situation, which worries and saddens me a lot. But I want to write about just one today – opportunism vs rational thinking.

Yes, the crisis is annoying, yes the economy is still winding down, yes you lost ton of job last year or the clients you’ve been calling on for the past decade have stopped ordering or paying. All very true and solid reasons for looking to change something, in order to defend the quality of life you got used to. And I understand completely that working abroad is a rational option in this decision-making process. I’ve done that, and the decision isn’t easy.

After all, constructing a nice way of life took you a couple of decades, right?

Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

But moving or working abroad shouldn’t be your default answer. It doesn’t have to be. I humbly call on you to try hard to find options to work for globally focused companies in Slovenia. By relocating yourself and your family you are risking as much as you are hoping to gain, but only the ‘gain’ is visible in the offer you have on your desk.

This is one of rare situations in which I’m arguing that it’s smart to be a bit more conservative. But fact is, that if you are deciding between bad past in Slovenia and shiny one offer from somewhere else, you are comparing human fish to dolphins. Try harder to add the lynx and the salmon to the table, and then evaluate you options.

In other words, companies like Zemanta, Celtra, 3FS and similar, are amazing, global, product companies. We are unlike anything you have worked for before in Slovenia. We are all looking to hire a lot of talent. We are all paying well above average and we are all growing. Consider applying for jobs with Slovenian startups, before you decide to change everything in your life.

And dear readers, please tell your friends that as well. I know 20% of them are thinking about moving right now.

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§ 11 Responses to slovenian talent: look around before you look around"

  • Miha says:

    Boštjan, don’t sell BS. You are paying above average? Yes you do. Because average salary in Slovenia is 1000€ per month. And companies you mention pay maybe 1500 – for top programmer if he has some self selling abilities. How much is a salary in Germany, USA, Australia, Austria?

    And btw. Zemanta is no longer a company anyone would like to work in. Sooner you admit it is a failed start up the better.

    • Bostjan says:

      hi miha, thanks for commenting,

      /1 I didn’t say ‘above national average’, I meant ‘above industry average’, actually not incomparable with other places in the world. I even linked an article with specifics if you dared to explore the topic before ranting.

      /2 not sure what definition of failure you are using, but almost profitable and growing is not one I would use.

      /3 using contact email that includes word ‘spam’ is a really bad habit in public debate.

  • Hi Boštjan, Thanks for your article.
    I’m a foreigner, living in Slovenia since 2002 with a pause of 2 years in America.
    I came back with my family a year ago, to the green and peaceful Prekmurje.

    Miha is measuring success based on amount of money he wishes to receive for his time invested.

    I learned in Slovenia that more than money what is important is quality of life. Obviously money is important, but more than money its is vital to feel appreciated for the work we do.

    I went with my family to NYC, and I loved it. I returned because I disagreed with the company I was working with. Deciding wasn’t easy, since returning would mean starting from zero again, in the middle of a bad moment for Europe. Anyway we did it, and I’m not sorry.

    What saved me from trouble? I have 2 micro business that produce a fixed income per month without the need of my time or involvement. I have paid credits and debts in the past so I have no big expenses. I opened a company in the US and I operate it from Slovenia (S.P.). Today I’m able to live in one of the most peaceful and beautiful countries in the world, run my business without rush.

    Living in Prekmurje is of course less expensive than living in Ljubljana. That adds pleasure to my experience when I go to Lj for any purpose. I enjoy it more cause I’m not always there.

    I measure success in the amount of happiness I get per year. I add +1 when at the end of the day I feel good about my day.

    • Bostjan says:

      hi jose, thanks for a great comment!

      very good point that people have to know what is most important to them. this also changes during lifetime a lot. I fully respect that. curiosity, order-of-magnitude better opportunities, very specific expert interests, are all great personal reasons to leave Slovenia. we cant change that.

      I was mainly responding to my observation, that large part of the current brain drain is not entirely justified economic migration. hundred years ago, when people migrated to US from this country, there was a promise of a significantly better life overseas. we are not that backwards in opportunities anymore.

      but the reasons I see/hear these days sound more like panic than rational decision. in my mind, even 100% higher salary in an Anglo-Saxon welfare society with the hassle of relocation of a family doesn’t makes sense without some irrational reasons. and there is nothing wrong with irrational (or: personal) reasons, but one has to be honest about them.

      I don’t judge any individual about these decisions, I am simply worried that significant part of these decisions are less informed than they should be, and that I (we) are in part to be blamed for not talking about the issues.

      there is a whole other related topic, of Slovenian immigration policies and opportunities for immigrants, like yourself. more about that some other time 🙂

      best, b

      • I agree with you.
        Even we are a very rational kind of creature we are very emotional for making our most important decisions.
        Today, what is important is to let them know that Slovenia will welcome them back.
        I see this issue as social and not political. And that’s good! 🙂
        My sons, both born Slovenians, went to America and returned. The experience was amazing for them, the global background they have today is never going to be provided by the local school or friends. It is not necessarily so bad to go abroad… but it is for sure not easy. Deciding to return is even more complicated.
        In any case, for the ones that stay, we have to be ready to welcome back and welcome in more people. Building up our businesses, getting a global vision and embracing cooperation.
        Otherwise… who will eat all the šunka! 🙂

  • Miha says:

    @Bostjan

    /1 I meant programmers average salary in Slovenia is around 1000€ net plus some add-ons for transportation and lunch 🙂
    And you didn’t negate that companies mentioned are paying around 1500€ per month to their employees. OK to be fair companies are paying shit more money but country takes almost 60% so employees get the amounts I’m speaking off. Its a huge difference if you compare to 50-120k $ annually in the countries I mentioned above. Don’t you think?

    /2 maybe I was quite harsh on Zemanta but you know it’s true. You’ve been selling Zemanta in media as a successful startup for how many years now? How long can a company be a startup? And when we can start preaching about a success? IMHO in first few years startup should be able to stand alone. But hey I’m not the one that was capable to convince investors to put millions of $ to my company. Thumbs up and hats off for that 🙂

    /3 I didn’t realize that contact email has anything to do with the debate itself 🙂 Although I know the comment was on the verge of good taste and I appreciate you’ve published it. However email is real and in case you need you can reach me there.

    Otherwise I agree with your second comment. It’s not only salary (that you admited can be much higher elsewhere). But also in perception that situation in Slovenia will not turn around in next few years. You say you are sad to see people go. I’m sad that we are all so apathetic that we are still staying. I still can’t forget how the former Hermes (I think it was still Hermes then) behaved when crisis started. They lowered all salaries for engineers for cca 10% back than. In the same year board of the company gave itself millions € award for good management. This sucks man, its not the capitalism as it should be. And in such cases programmers should much hastier to move (at least to another company).

    @Jose – welcome to Slovenia. It is in fact a beautiful country. But you came here without any debt and with setup that enabled you easy living. You are not burdened with all political and economical shit that is going on. How will you explain 23 year old that came out of college that he’ll need to work till his 80s for 1000-1500€ per month, support his family and pay cca 200k€ to afford a modest home? At the same time we are listening how corrupt politicians and managers can get so much money in a matter of months? And when you see how many different possibilities are out there you usually consider if its worth it …

    • Bostjan says:

      Hi,

      First, regarding /3, i believe in open discussion, that is why i was happy to publish your comment and respond the best i can. Nicknames and strange emails dont help.

      /1 not sure if you saw the article on restreaming about real salaries, but they are btw 1000 and 2500 net, which means btw 25k and 50k eur gross yearly. In ny, typical salaries are btw 60k – 120k usd, which is at worst 50% mor e than in slovenia. In london, senior engineer with 10y experience makes 50k gbp, which is similar ratio.

      Average salary outside of startup sector in slovenia is as you described, around 1000 eur.

      So no, i do not agree with your statement at all. Startup salaries in slovenia are very much above slovenian average and on par with global opportunities. Salary alone cannot be rational reason for someone to leave slovenia or not at least apply for jobs here.

      /2 i have learned two things over the years. First, from steve blank comes a definition of startup as “temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model”. The second comes from my friend eric marcoullier who told me that building a company takes 6-9 years. I was lucky to be supported by investors who understand that.

      And i never claimed we were successful yet. Andraz and i have stated that in every interview we ever gave – we have a lot more to prove.

      You are absolutely right that our capitalism is not done right. I just believe that it never will be unless we start changing it. Each his or her own little corner of it.

    • Hey Miha!
      I feel encouraged by the energy you invest in the topic. That means you are really looking forward for a better way of living and that is awesome.

      I arrived to Slovenia with debts, I payed them 10 years later. I built a house in Slovenia and that means I will be paying until my 65th birthday. I had a company with 5 members and I had a big responsibility on my back.

      Having some monthly income is essential, specially if you do not have to work much for it. But building that costed me 10 years of work. Changing your country of residence is not easy et all. You lose many things and starting your life in a foreign country, isn’t easy.

      Everyone dear Miha hast it tough. You ought to visit Peru, you’ll get that most are having life even tougher than you.

      I would never say a 23 year old that needs to work until her/his 80s for 1000 or 1500. I believe that is a personal decision. Actually a 23 years old today has much more options than when I had 23 years old.

      The story of politicians, corrupts, cowards, and all crap that exists is true, and not exclusive of Slovenia. Worrying about that isn’t going to solve anything. Expressing peacefully your opinions will.

      It looks to me as if you are trapped in a cycle of frustrations, as most of us are for a while. Break off the concept of money as a measuring unit, you can replace that for success or happiness, etc. You’ll reframe your frustrations and most probably you’ll come up with interesting, positive and encouraging motivation.

      Your life is worth Miha, as it is mine and hers. Your satisfaction, peace of mind, and your future is worth every effort. Pessimism, negativity and frustration are not good friends, they cause fear. We, humans, aren’t so good dealing with fear.

      I would challenge you to read more, learn more and keep your energy focused on finding great opportunities. You’ll need to chose how to live your youth: with anger or with optimism.

      If you are interested I’d be happy to share with you some online resources that could be interesting for you.

      All the best for you!

  • Boštjan, great post. I’ve only just gotten around to writing my thoughts about it. It turns out I had a lot to say, so I published it here: https://medium.com/lessons-learned/811baa5c4d94

    Looking forward to your comments too!

  • Tadej says:

    A great read, both articles and comments.
    Absolutely agree about the need for balance (both professionally and personally).

    Fortunately, there is still a lot our government(s) can do to improve support for entrepreneurship in Slovenia.

    Not only startups, but small businesses in general need good incentives and a good environment to grow and help strengthen the economy.

    Creativity has been known to thrive under pressure.

    And the only way left the trend can turn right now is upwards.

    A lot of us are staying put not out of apathy but rather stubbornness (or call it courage) and the will to help things get better.

    Cheers.

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