People and Culture

Meet Aleksandar Garov: challenges and insights from a young leader at Zühlke

Aleksandar Garov joined Zühlke Bulgaria as an Expert Software Engineer in September 2020. He was promoted to Lead Software Architect and People Lead in January 2022 and now manages and nurtures a team of developers. He’s not yet turned 28.

5 minutes to read
With insights from...

Insight in brief:

  • Young leader Aleksandar Garov shares his story, learnings and guiding principles.

  • Discover how, at Zühlke, you’re encouraged to follow your dreams and interests, and shape your unique career journey.

  • Find out how Zühlke’s leadership team is focused on supporting the growth of their people.

Aleksandar said: ‘In the beginning it was not an explicit goal of mine to become a leader – I just wanted to help people. When I first started my IT career, in the first six or seven months, for some reason, I was asked to mentor the new guys, which was a really good experience. I think it started somewhere there.’

The way to leadership – sharing knowledge and building trust

‘I’m really into knowledge sharing, and I love being able to help others, to help them grow in any way possible – both on the technical side and the soft skills side. You need to care about people to be good at leadership, and I care about my team deeply.’

For someone that’s relatively young to be in a management role, Aleksandar has strong views on what’s important: ‘To me, empathy and trust are the two most important qualities in a leader. You can only help people if you understand them. And that’s how you build trust. So, if you’re not empathetic, then you can’t be a good leader.’

Finding joy in the leadership role

It’s a role that he clearly relishes, and for good reasons: ‘The thing I enjoy the most about being in leadership is helping people. Whenever I see someone struggling, I always try to be there for them, to listen and to help them, if I can. Then, when I know that they’re feeling and performing better, and when I see how far they’ve gone… I feel pure joy.’

‘I’m very proactive. You have to not only talk the talk but walk it, and that means being able to lead by example. You need to be present, not just the one giving out tasks.’

‘Also, different people have different needs. I like adapting to different personalities, finding common points and being able to talk about other stuff, not only about work.’

‘Becoming a leader has made me more self-aware, because you need to be, especially when talking with people. I’m way better at expressing myself now. Way better at talking with different people in different circumstances.’

Leadership at Zühlke – finding solutions to problems

Zühlke has helped Aleksandar both fulfil his hopes of taking on a leadership role, and also satisfy his hunger to solve problems, generally: ‘I shared my aspiration to be a leader in my interview, and then I had conversations with my team leader about it. I took on some responsibilities – managing part of our onboarding system, the buddy programme – and then they had an opening and looked to me.’

‘At Zühlke, I’ve been involved in all kinds of topics across the company, which require a lot of stakeholder management – sometimes this means having difficult conversations. Yet, I enjoy it. It’s kind of like I enjoy problems. I just want to fix them. Most of the time, it’s just communication – talking and finding a way through.’

Stepping into bigger shoes

Moving from working alongside his colleagues to managing them was something that Aleksandar describes as baffling, that he’s still processing: ‘It’s still weird because I’m younger than some of the people that I’m responsible for. At a certain point, you’re not just the next engineer, with people expecting you merely to do your job. There are bigger expectations, too.’

‘I’m getting used to it. I’m still myself. But I’m having to be more careful with the words I use, because I’m a very natural and emotional guy and I can no longer just talk from the top of my head. I need to be mindful of the message I convey to the team.’

Zühlke support – mentoring for leadership

Zühlke nurtured Aleksandar’s desire to become a manager from the start: ‘My previous line manager at Zühlke was the one who mentored me for leadership, and helped me seize the opportunity when it came up. My current line manager is an incredible mentor and has helped me immensely, as I move away from code, and more towards people, projects and management.’

‘When it became apparent that probably I’ll be the next to join the leadership team, my line manager did some additional mentoring sessions with me. I also had a few training sessions about giving feedback, doing performance reviews, and so on. The role I took on was quite a newly conceived one, and was still evolving, so I had various guidance.’

Training for excellence

‘My guiding principles – trust, supporting people to be independent, and building on the success of my people – these come both from instinct and also training. Without training, you can’t focus your instinct.’ There’s a big support system at Zühlke, he explained, and while a lot of training at first seems like common sense, it can be incredibly clarifying.

When it comes to leadership, Zühlke’s defining trait is that people really care about you, Aleksandar said. ‘The leadership really care about their people, there’s genuine thought about everybody, and I think it really shows. The business is built to empower its people.’

Contact person for Bulgaria

Aleksandar Garov

Lead Software Architect and People Lead

Aleksandar Garov holds master’s degree in Computer Systems and Technologies, but he has always been interested in developing his soft skills and leading people. He joined Zühlke in 2020 as an Expert Software Engineer. Now Aleksandar leads a team of software engineers, and his passion is supporting them to grow in all possible ways: as both professionals and individuals.

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