Editors from Ziar de Cluj visited the new Fortech headquarters for an interview with Calin Vaduva, the company’s CEO and co-owner. They may have timed their visit right after the launch of the brand new and modern building since owning such a space is unusual for IT companies with 100% Romanian ownership. Their interest for Calin’s achievements could have also been triggered by the excellent financial results Fortech reported for more than 5 years in a row and led to this article , which was published on July 23rd, 2014.
Those who do not understand Romanian can find its English version below.
Calin Vaduva is the founder of Fortech, a major player in the local IT industry and a member of the IT Cluster. With an experience of over 10 years in software development, Fortech is one of the largest provider of software outsourcing services not only in Cluj-Napoca but also in Romania. Its growth figures place Fortech at the top of the list in the Cluj county, the company enjoying a spectacular and constant evolution.
“Our company does software outsourcing for companies located in Western Europe, North America and Australia and is not interested in promoting its services in Romania. All we promote locally is our job openings. While it is true that we serve only foreign customers, we have been investing all our revenues here. Over 1000 people have been working for us over time, did their internships at Fortech, became accomplished professionals”, told us Calin Vaduva.
For someone in his early forties, the entrepreneur has had an ample share of experiences , which he regards as opportunities for learning and growth rather than hurdles.
„I graduated from Communications in ’95, a period of real hardships. Back then I was working in IT and got the chance in 96 to learn a lot during a 1 year contract in Greece. The team I worked with was great and this helped me acquire plenty of useful skills. Despite being offered a renewal of the contract I returned to Romania, where job offers kept coming. I decided to stick to the academia and to write a book on Java programming, which brought me no real financial benefits. My salary from the University was insufficient even before the birth of our first child. The teaching and doctoral research were rewarding but couldn’t keep our child warm and well fed”, remembers Mr. Vaduva.
„My chance was a company from Japan that recruited me. The team included 5 top rank people. I worked with the best, specialists gathered from the entire world, and had a lot to learn from them. We were working both here and in Japan and got so busy we could never find enough time for everything. Luckily, one month after I joined this company its decision makers voted for an increase of the team to 15 people. They were all extraordinary people, brought from Hungary, Poland and other countries”, continued Calin Vaduva.
After the tenure with the Japanese company, Mr. Vaduva decided to use the expertise acquired so far in his first business, which was a joint venture. The project, the first software company in Cluj, was called Art Net and took off quite well. Unfortunately, the main partner went bankrupt, forcing Calin Vaduva to look for an alternative.
„We split and started Fortech with a part of Art Net’s shareholders. Whoever says (s)he knew upfront what and how to do, that this information can be found in books or on TV, is totally wrong. It is all instinct, a lot of work and perseverance”, the businessman said. The Fortech project kicked off in December 2003 and for the first year things went really well. The company started to grow and the mistake of relying on a single partner was avoided.
„There is no bigger sorrow for an entrepreneur than to be forced to lay people off. 2005 was a difficult year, when only 30 to 40 people out of 80 had projects to work on, but we kept them all until the situation improved. I witnessed the fall of the NASDAQ stock market. Those were really dire straits but we didn’t budge”, remembers Calin Vaduva.
Since March 2009 Fortech has been on an ascending trend. Its market kept growing and the company had an impressive portfolio of happy clients and completed projects to show to a prospective customer.
„Our most difficult challenge was to overcome the preconceptions that a service provider from Romania cannot be reliable. Fortunately, I stayed in touch with some business owners I had met in the past. These were people who trusted me and decided to do business with Fortech. Regardless of the level of trust and how well planned a process is problems cannot be avoided 100%. We have had our share and always found solutions to them. This was a time of organized execution and perseverance. I have a great team in which I have always put my trust and that has never disappointed me” said Fortech’s CEO with “fatherly” pride.
„I confess I would have liked to continue working in the academia, teaching or doing research, but we could not have made a living had I kept this path. I was working 12 to 14 hours a day.
93-94 was my most difficult year. I was walking to the university as I could not afford a bus ticket. Under these circumstances, I had to move the PhD down on my priority list and try to make money.”
„In 2007-2008 I realized that having a strong theoretical background was far from enough. BCR and OMV were offering a scholarship program supported by Ziarul Financiar to which I applied. I won a scholarship for an MBA program, which offered me a totally new perspective over management in IT. The PhD gave me a direction, helping me understand what global means in business and forced me to make decisions and learn to delegate. The MBA helped me open my perspectives in business”, said the Romanian entrepreneur.
„In IT you only need a computer, strong will and determination”
According to Calin Vaduva, „Things in Romania started to improve in ’94 with people who had spent time abroad. There were many freelancers back then, in the early days of the Romanian IT sector, when a company with 30 employees was considered big. In 2001 we were not at that level yet, but we had the chance to work through Art Net with a customer who had gotten funding”.
Fortech’s founder thinks we could split the development of IT in the following 3 stages: 1995 to 2003, when the premises were created, 2003 to 2011, when many IT companies were established, and the period following 2011, when the real software outsourcing companies appeared.
„The international market faces a major lack of engineers nowadays. The worst affected are developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, where experienced engineers are hard to find in all the fields. Recruiting them is difficult given that the pool of specialists available cannot keep up with the rapidly rising demand. Financial institutions need IT specialists and so do all businesses. The market that creates this high demand is not the one focused on technical products but the software outsourcing one, where the extended team model prevails, in which the client’s team is complemented by a team of specialists from the outsourcing partner”, thinks Calin Vaduva.
„When I interview candidates for auxiliary personnel such as assistant manager I am surprised to find out that people with little or no prior exposure to the IT field are so intelligent they would have no difficulty learning a programming language. This skill would spare them the worries of not having enough money for the day to day living. Programming is a job one with background in mathematics and some knowledge of informatics can learn easily”, said Fortech’s CEO.
„I believe in the idea of an IT Cluster. What really concern me at the time are the human resources and the lobbying with the Government. My personal interest in the Cluster is mainly in the Human Resources issue. I consider the Government’s program of assistance in recruitment outdated. Furthermore, the Government fosters disloyal competition by offering fiscal benefits on subjective criteria, mainly to multinational IT companies, which are supported by the central administration. We recruit people from Romania and reinvest our profit here, so it is totally unfair to be put in an unfavorable position by the mere people we sustain with the hefty taxes we pay”, added Calin Vaduva.
„The higher the level of professionalism you reach, the more effort you must put into keeping yourself at that level”
Fortech has between 360 and 370 employees and collaborators at the time and 20 new people are hired each month. The work environment is one that favors personal development and feedback from current and former employees are positive.
„This office building is not a very profitable investment. It would have been more economic to rent a building with all the required facilities but we preferred to offer our employees an environment that fosters both professional and personal development. We invested 3.5 million EUR in this building. We have fun areas on each floor, pool tables, terraces with panorama, a cafeteria and dining areas.”, said Fortech’s main shareholder.
„My vision has always had human resources and development at its heart. This summer we initiated the HiSchool Traning project together with the „Avram Iancu” Theoretic High School in Cluj, through which we offer support, sponsorship and know-how”, said Calin Vaduva.
From July 22nd to September 15th high school students are invited to attend a series of workshops at the Fortech’s main office. These workshops are focused on real life applications of the theoretical aspects and are offered by trainers from IT and professors of informatics. The objective of these workshops is to give students insights into what a career in IT means, whether it be of software developer, software tester, business analyst or project manager. They also include technical sessions such as OOP programming, databases, introduction to Web programming (HTML, CSS) or graphic design, as well as activities meant to develop planning skills and the ability to organize oneself and work in teams.
„I have always wanted to have stability and continuity in business. What happened in 2003, when I had to close the company, was a shock for me. Coordinating 360 people is not as difficult as it may seem, since these are intelligent people with high expectations not only from the company but also from themselves. We did our job and kept the promises we made both to our customers and to our employees. We have been working a lot in custom software development. When you create you need a different type of logistics, promotion and so on”, said the entrepreneur from Cluj.
A new product that Fortech developed and is about to be launched online is vreau-ceva.ro, a service matchmaking idea. The product owners told us it is not based on a new concept but its execution is innovative.
„On a personal plan I try to make up for the aspects I have been neglecting in my family. Even on vacation I stay in touch with the company and if I am not away I spend a few hours at the office. The adrenaline this business gives me is quite addictive. I would like to spend more time swimming and I want to have a successful product”, told us Fortech’s founder.