Tomislav Gojevic (Raw Fury): Answering a question of how to do things better for the company in a strategic kind of way is crucial

 In Sažetak razgovora

As a part of our program and talks with all sorts of experts relevant to the IT industry in Rijeka and Croatia, we talked with Tomislav Gojević.

Tomislav is an experienced guy who has been working in IT for the last 16 years as a project manager (Tele2/Siemens), product owner (Infobip), business developer (Nanobit), and currently as a head of a game development studio (Raw Fury). These roles are mostly occupied by individuals that are very proactive and can wear many hats within an organization and after you listen to Tomislav’s talk and his messages you will understand better the energy that we are mentioning.

Tomislav is not an entrepreneur but an intrapreneur, a person who demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit within an organization. They’re creative freethinkers who are passionate about sharing new ways to get things done and individuals who can pick up the management style and the vision that the founders had set-up and pick it up from there. They are building the company as it is their own. Tomislav is doing just that. 

Beginning with telecommunication business 

When I was finishing up the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Zagreb I knew I want to work in telecommunications but I had no clear idea what exactly. I briefly started working in Ericsson where I felt like a little cog in the system; a very, very small cog and I thought to myself “This can’t be my life, it just doesn’t feel right doing this for the rest of the life.”

I started looking up for other opportunities and I started working for Tele2, which was a small, almost like a startup company except for the part that Tele2 Sweden was funded so they were not struggling with that. But in terms of how many people worked and how we worked, it was very much like a startup.

At that moment I started thinking more about what I want to do. At one point I realized that working on projects, various projects, meaning doing always something new, something else, kinda stuck with me like a nice thing. I liked it a lot. I was never doing the same thing over and over again, it was always something new.

Entrance into startup and gaming field 

I joined Infobip, a Croatian unicorn. I was there for three years and I totally managed to find myself there with the experience I had, the mindset I started in Tele2 and I have been doing that ever since. After my experience in Infobip, I went to Siemens where I was working on a big project of over-the-top television. I kinda felt that people were selling me the idea „that this is Siemens and it is a big company with a lot of structure and hierarchy but we are kinda trying to do it in an agile way and I was like cool I like that, let’s see how it goes“.

After that I joined Nanobit where I was working for four and a half years. This was my gaming job and I kinda remembered that when I was in high school, at the end of elementary school that I really wanted to do games and this was like a dream come true. And I fell in love with the industry; it is very young, very creative, I would even say naive in a way…

I was performing the role of business manager and everybody I talked to was very transparent, honest. Sometimes when I was doing these meetings in the telecommunication industry, it is like we are talking in different languages and we have to learn how to understand each other. And in gaming it is like; they say everything, they feel and mean it. They are „You are right, we can’t do that, let’s go grab a coffee“ and I’m like „we can do something else, why are you giving up immediately. Let’s think about it.“

And I really liked that. I didn’t meet any sharks, people that are not very honest when they are talking with you or when they are working with you. I love that. After that, I joined Raw Fury from Sweden who opened a studio in Zagreb called Fury Studios. That was September 2019 and I have been running the studio ever since.

Between anarchy and hierarchy 

I would say that I am not like totally that far out on the spectre. I am more going in the middle; I don’t really like a lot of hierarchy or processes. Of course it depends on the size of the company. If you have a lot of people working in a startup kinda way, I don’t think it works, you have to do something. I like something in the middle.

I like when it is kinda messy, when there is not much people in the chain of command making the decision, when you can talk with who you ever want to talk and do something to solve some problems and you don’t have to wait for the decision, it can be done immediately. In that sense, yes.

But I also do like some kind of structure; it feels like if we template certain things it will help us in the long run. So kinda in the middle, more inclined to the messy side of things but not just messy I would say.

Restructuring of processes 

My idea at work immediately was to look at the way how things are done, how people and departments are working together so I could understand how it is all tied up together.

Then I started making suggestions on how to improve on this, how to improve daily communications in an agile kind of way that we were working. Let’s talk about it, maybe there is something I’m missing, let’s adjust so we can do it the best way possible. This is how our department is going to do stuff, how development is going to do stuff, this is how we are going to communicate with the marketing and then we started analytics in our department.

And also during that time I saw that we require someone to communicate with external partners because it wasn’t done in any structured way, it was all like „you take this, and that person will answer or whoever“ and it comes to info mail and it was people at the reception answering it and I was like; no offense, but let’s do it properly. So I started working on that and after a while, it crystallized that it is maybe a good idea to start calling this a business development role that I am doing and then I started doing that.

After some time I was also setting up a team that I called Operations. I called them my children; we were sending up developers to do things in a way that were maintaining some older games which were not done properly either. It was maintained only when something would break. But I saw there was an opportunity. And we could be earning some revenue. So let’s have a team that is dedicated to it and it will be filled with people that come to the company so this will be their first job, they will get to know the games, the code base and then after this, we will send them onto other projects.

I had some experience with this kind of thing from telecommunications because it is a very regulated industry and in that sense, I knew how things were done that way. I brought that experience there and introduced it. 

Between CEO and employees vision

I would say both visions are equally valuable. The owners started the company with the idea in their mind and that is very important. You need to understand what they want and do it according to their visions.

But then of course you have the people and sometimes you get the clash between these two. This sometimes helps you because then you can steer and manage those expectations better and try to push certain things. After all, you know this might be good for the company because many people like it and want it. It doesn’t interfere with what owners want.

I was always thinking about the broad picture of how to do things better for the company in a – I would say- strategic kind of way. I always like to do things hands-on; I never felt like delegating things if not needed. If I can do it and if it is fun and nice to do I always feel like doing it.

Sharing of knowledge 

A lot of our projects are being done in Unity and we also started getting a lot of projects recently in Unreal. When this started happening it became increasingly worrisome for me that finding people who are very skilled in Unreal, that pool is not very big in Croatia. We were looking abroad for external help. It was either very expensive or they didn’t even have the time for a lot of companies; they were so booked like „maybe in a year“.

Since we have a relationship with Epic who is the owner of UnrealEngine, we started thinking why don’t we do a course: we share knowledge with the community, we cover the costs, find the lecturers, and we do it so people gain knowledge and who knows, maybe we get to find some people with promise and talent and we get them to hire them so they can continue working in our studio.

You don’t have to be family at work… 

I don’t like people saying „we are not a company, we are a family.“ I don’t feel that bullshit. I’m not lying, we are not best friends but I’m here for you. I am not going to be your best man at the wedding but we are going to be in a really good position so if you feel something bothers you will be able to tell me and I will be able to help you and I will not use that information against you later on in any situations I might use negatively.

I kinda always strive to do all those small things for the team where I feel like it’s a small thing I need to do and it is a small cost you need to take and you gain a lot from the team. Many times when I tried to create great chemistry I would take out the team to get them for drinks, lunch, celebrate success with a nice lunch or a few drinks from a bar. One time it was a Thursday and it was a non-working day and many took Friday off but some people who came recently couldn’t take it. I could have taken it but I didn’t and I came with I don’t know 20 croissants and donuts. I told them I will bring chocolate milk because they are still growing.

You know It is not a big cost for me, like hundred kunas, but I like what I did for them and they liked the gesture. When we were in a tight spot a few months later I needed them to stay a bit longer, there were no issues. 

Proactivity as crucial trait 

I honestly love to work with proactive people. That is not a skill but a trait; that is what I’m looking for; those are the best people to work with; if someone is proactive, there will never be a problem, there will only be multiple ways to solve it. It is a breeze to work with such people. I don’t like to do micromanaging because I hate it being done to me so I’m not doing it to anybody.

Working under pressure

Sometimes I feel the pressure is needed. I don’t have problems working under pressure. Of course, it is not healthy if it is there for a long time.

I will give you an example with the last release of the game. We were having some issues and I was giving some freedom to people about fixing it. One day we are not done, the second, the third, fourth, fifth… And then we go the second week and I am like where are we with these; „Oh they have something to do…“ But we were supposed to finish this eight days ago and they were like „yeah but we ran into issues“ and then I was like “you know what I don’t care; in two days we need to finish it. Deadline is Friday.” and they said „there was a lot of work” and I was like „I know you better, hurry”. The game was done by Friday.

So I don’t apply it all the time because if there is pressure all the time that will be unproductive but from time to time the pressure is needed.

Entrepreneurship 

This comes more to thinking about the risks. When I’m thinking about it I see a lot of problems, issues, and risks and God knows what other things and it kinda always hinders.

I’m thinking I have two kids, mortgage on my apartment, what am I supposed to do if it all goes wrong, all of this things; what am I supposed to do then? Then all these things start popping in my mind; that is what stops me from doing it actually.

I even feel like doing it now, I would need a lot of cushions that I’m safe at least for a year or two before things start working and I’m not feeling like taking the plunge and like saying: „Yeah, let’s do it.“

Context of pandemic

It is weird. All the big events that we have attended are being canceled or being held online. Online is good if there is nothing but nothing can substitute for a good face-to-face meeting, body language, facial expressions. When I’m sending an email, it’s just words typed through bytes and sentry lines. It can’t appreciate what you are trying to and what the other party is trying to help you out or how you can help them.

In my time I had a lot of meetings that came to just sitting down for a coffee or coming to someone lecture and talking about certain things or have a beer later on and then maybe we came to collaboration. This cannot be substituted online. People can be online and drink at home but it is never going to be like talking face to face.

I think it is sorely missed and when people again start hanging at the conferences like GDC, Gamescom, or Reboot, it’s going to be very cool and there is going to be a lot more positivity.

Management approach at Fury Studio

It all stems from holacracy; that is the flattest structure you can have. The CEO doesn’t know what is happening in the company if it’s not related to him. That is kinda refreshing because you don’t have to report every single thing you are doing.

We don’t care about the titles, only about the role that you are fulfilling for the company. You can call yourself the master of the universe, we don’t care.

What we need you to know is that we hired you for a specific role and we need you to do a job here. We are not going to micromanage you. It’s more going to be like: this is the job we hired you to do, you are going to do this project, you are going to do this and that and the timeline is going to be up to you to come up with other people and then we just expect you to do your stuff. And that’s it.

If you need something, you ask whoever you need. There is no chain of command and you go directly to specific person and that person needs to help you. So it’s very refreshing new way of working that I have never encountered before.

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