“The benefits a diverse team can bring are huge”: Interview with Adeva’s CEO and co-founder Katerina Trajchevska

Nowadays, we are lucky to see that an increasing number of inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders climb the career ladder by fusing the power of technology with solidarity, empathy, a human touch, and sense of empowerment. And, by doing so, they pull others up with them.

One of these leaders is Katerina Trajchevska, the co-founder and CEO of Skopje-based startup Adeva (2015), an exclusive developers’ network that partners with companies to scale their engineering teams on-demand. In her mission to use technology for a greater good, Katerina is inspiring people to make a difference, no matter where they come from. Following Adeva’s vision, she aims to contribute to creating equal opportunities for developers everywhere, no matter their location, race, or gender.

Katerina stands for equality, inclusion, and giving back to the community, both personally and professionally. She actively participates in initiatives for women in tech, contributes to the local tech community, and volunteers as a mentor in different programmes and initiatives. Moreover, she is a remote work advocate and a strong believer that the future of work is not about where you work from, but what you deliver.

Already inspired by her work and initiatives, we sat with Katerina to hear her story and get first-hand tips on remote working, inclusion, and diversity.

Hi Katerina, We are excited to interview you, thank you for taking part. To start off, what does it take for a software engineer to become an entrepreneur? Could you tell us your story?

Regardless of your background, what it takes to become an entrepreneur is the drive to make a change and not be afraid to fail, stand up, and continue moving. 

I started freelancing right after graduating and 2 years later I co-founded Adeva together with a colleague, Tosho Trajanov. We both had engineering backgrounds, so managing a business introduced a new set of challenges: from finding new clients to attracting skilled talent – everything was new to us. We had to learn on the go and we failed a lot, but all of that contributed to what we are today.

With Adeva, you are bringing equal opportunities to developers everywhere in the world, no matter their location, race, or gender. Could you tell us a bit more about your company and the network you are building?

Adeva is a global network of world-class engineers. We partner with companies to help them scale flexibly and build products faster by working with distributed teams. 

As a team of 2 enthusiasts, we started Adeva to create better opportunities for ourselves. The company grew organically – from a freelance business to a global network with a team distributed in over 20 countries in the world. Over time, we made it our mission to create better growth opportunities for developers everywhere, especially those coming from emerging countries like Macedonia.

Speaking of inclusion, Adeva is a Winner of International Women in Tech Awards 2018: Best Inclusive Tech Company. What was it that brought you this award? What are the main challenges and benefits of implementing a D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategy?

I believe it was our remote culture where we embrace diversity in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. We invest a lot in creating an inclusive culture where everyone is appreciated and heard, which can be a challenge when working with people from different cultural backgrounds.  Still, the benefits a diverse team can bring to the business are huge, especially when it comes to creative solutions, brainstorming, and team dynamics.

Your team at Adeva is already 50+ people strong. What tips do you have for building a great tech team? 

I believe that apart from the technical skills, it’s extremely important that each team member is aligned with the company vision and values, so this is the first thing I’d focus on. Then, adapt the interviewing process to your company’s needs instead of opting for “by the book” interviews that won’t tell you much about the candidates. Finally, once you have the team in place, make sure that everyone on the team has the opportunity to grow and advance, establish regular feedback loops, and take some time for 1:1 meetings. 

How much of your company’s work is done remotely? What have been your biggest challenges in growing a remote team and how have you overcome it?

100% of our work is done remotely. We practice what we preach and our internal team is also fully remote. 

Transitioning from an office environment to remote work can be challenging and when we were starting the team was struggling to set up their home office and stay productive. So, we started small – first by introducing remote Friday, then extending gradually to being a remote-first company. I think this is very important, so the team doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the new environment.

Do you think big companies or startups are more equipped at remote working? How do you think the working culture of these two will change after the pandemic?

I’d say the mindset is most important, regardless of the company size. To be productive at remote work, you should be fully result-oriented and avoid micromanaging. 

Companies are learning to be more flexible with the pandemic and some countries want to incentivise working from home even after the crisis, which is great. Still, a lot of the businesses were suddenly forced to completely change their working style without having the time to adapt to remote work. So, there’s also the concern that by not having the time to adapt their working processes, they’re facing reduced productivity which can negatively influence their perception of remote work. I’m eager to see what the situation will be like a year from now.

What are your 3 work-for-home tips for founders who are managing a remote team now for the first time? 

  1. Find the virtual version of your in-person processes. Use online tools for managing your project boards; use Slack for informal communication with the team; organize virtual happy hours and team buildings. The list is long.
  2. Avoid micromanaging. Allow your team members to organize their time as they find most productive and focus on the results only.
  3. Build a strong remote culture. Schedule 1:1 meetings, encourage everyone to speak up, and invest in an inclusive environment.

You actively take part in initiatives for women in tech. What do you think would be the main challenges for the next generation of women in tech and what can employers do to advance gender equality?

Compared to what it was when I was starting my career, the state of women in tech is significantly improved. I believe that access to information, positive examples and the ability to learn from other women’s stories make all the difference.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m confident we’re on the right track. What employers can do to reduce the gender gap is to adjust the recruiting process in a way that will eliminate unconscious bias toward female candidates (or other underrepresented candidates for that matter) and create an inclusive culture where everyone can speak up and be heard. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to female startup founders?

See opportunities instead of obstacles. Women are still marginalized, but that’s the main reason why there are so many initiatives and communities for supporting female founders. Use the opportunities they’re creating and find your competitive advantage in them.

What is it like to startup in Skopje? How attractive is North Macedonia for launching a startup? 

Macedonia is still an untapped market and I believe it is a great environment for launching a startup. Digitalization is still a novelty here and there are so many opportunities to make people’s lives easier or improve business processes by introducing digital solutions. Even using an idea that’s proven to work abroad can make a huge difference for the local community and can be converted into a successful startup.