Company Culture

What it means to be a geek

Bojan Kovač


Oct 03, 2021

I walked through the awakening downtown of Novi Sad. It was early. People with their briefcases and laptop bags, rushing to work. A sunny day was breaking on the rooftop of the cathedral – a real treat in a period of predominant cloudiness.

I stopped by my local bar and ordered an espresso… black, short, no sugar. I was told to avoid coffee, but the rebel inside wouldn’t have it. The waitress was just opening the cafe, still doing the prep work of cleaning and setting up the outdoor seating (December edition, courtesy of global warming… all rights reserved) and getting ready for a busy morning of sun-thirsty customers perking up with their morning cup o’ joe. A familiar face at the bar passed me the newspaper. “No thanks”, I said. I avoid the news, it’s too depressing and controlling. In my mind, I thought, “I have a better plan for today. A conference. With international speakers and my fellow hackers, people that see the world as they want it to be – better”. I felt a feeling of excitement – it was my day off of work, a day to feed my mind with new ideas, new people, new opinions, and new learning. A piece of chocolate that came with my espresso made me smile – a reminder I’m in Europe now. What a glorious morning. What a joyful day!

It was the sunny morning of Wednesday, 3rd of December, 2015 (…year of God) – Geekstone Conference day. Novi Sad. Serbia. Europe. Earth. Solar System. Milky Way. Cluster MC2005A8D2.

Having been rather busy lately, this day felt like my birthday from the beginning. As dorky as it sounds, it’s true – I even had a hard time falling asleep the night before. Yeah, a nerd excited about a learning opportunity. An image comes to my mind… the image of Neo sitting with a cable plugged into his brain and the look on his face as he just experienced a download of kung-fu knowledge straight to the brain (hope I get to experience that one day btw. An advanced thank you goes out to Google Labs).

I arrived in front of Arena, the Geekstone conference venue and not much was happening on the outside, the usual suspects – smokers. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, on the inside… it was a jam-packed hallway filled with familiar faces. Some I haven’t seen in a while, some I should be seeing more often and some I have yet to meet. The vibe is cool. An unspoken respect, support, and understanding fills the air. This is why I love what I do… The IT industry is full of special kinds of people. People who are all about evolution, striving for perfection and wanting to make their mark on history. Not for personal glory, but for bettering the world. Geeks. The true heroes in the environment of numbing mainstream brainwashing, corporate control, and crash course of humanity. People who have realized that the only true weapon, the only chance we got is our brain… but not without our heart. This is why, actually, I loved the keynote speaker and the topic of happiness at work – a topic that I’ve been exploring actively in the last few years of my career. I strongly believe that the human element is the beginning and the end of our success or demise.

I lived in the US for 13 years, and moving back to Serbia was as much of a culture shock as it was for me to arrive in the US when I was 17. Having truly grown up “on the other side of the pond” (as locals say), especially in the professional sense of that word, I realized how backward management is in most companies. I interviewed most of them and got the picture quickly. Simply put, management was “old school”. Hierarchical, often detached from teams due to lack of proper middle management layer, formal business education, and often on the borderline of unprofessionalism – especially from my point of view, from a perspective of leading professionalism that I was blessed to witness, learn, and adopt as a norm. Most of them are just starting to realize that it takes more than a salary to motivate people. Or, in some cases, not realizing it and wondering why people are leaving the company. And that’s the IT industry! Probably the most progressive and open-minded than the majority of others! Let me just say here that this is not a case only in Serbia, but rather a worldwide syndrome (brought to you by an outdated education system and human weakness for power/corruption).

What’s most bizarre of all is that software development is not (consciously) recognized as a creative process by top management, although I will even go as far as calling it art-like. What? Logic cannot be an art form!? Oh yeah? Just look around you with a romantic open-mindedness and see the connection in everything around us: see math as the language of nature and hear music as the language of energy. And then see it’s beauty with an artistic eye. Experience the API of the universe and consume the waves around you. So why is it so hard to understand that energy at the workplace might just be your silver-bullet solution for success?

As Alexander Kjerluf said at the pinnacle of the presentation, “There is a popular belief that success will bring you happiness.” Not true. It’s the other way around. “Happiness will bring you success.” (not an actual, recorded quote. Editor’s limited liability – brought to you by human RAM limitations). I strongly believe in this, and sooner or later everyone will get it. The question is, do you as an employee have time to wait? Sorry, let me rephrase that. Do you as a human being have time to wait?

Before you answer, do keep in mind what Hans Eilers has taught us right before the lunch break: “In today’s world, empowered by Moore’s law, what you think is a thing of tomorrow is actually a thing of today’s afternoon” (brought to you by progressive advancements by geeks like us). Change is happening faster and faster, and a period of stagnation in personal and/or professional growth is becoming more and more expensive. And this is what being a geek is all about. Evolve. Adapt. Learn. Grow. And maybe one day… Lead!

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

P.S. Special thanks to #Geekstone, Maja Bozic, and her team for putting together this sunny day in December 🙂

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