Looking over the last decade, our company has changed quite a bit – from branding and services we offer to projects and clients we work with. But one thing remains the same – the people. Well, at least two of them. 😅
Now, what would a 10-year celebration be without mentioning those who made it happen? Norina and I had the pleasure to sit down with the two colleagues who have been at COBE the longest and find out what stands behind their loyalty.
Meet Felix and Mladen! Felix, best known and further addressed as Menz, is currently one of the Managing Directors of our Munich office, while Mladen takes up the Finance Manager in Osijek role. Over the last eight years, these two have taken not only themselves but COBE to the next level, which wasn’t always easy.
Today, they’re making sure that everything runs smoothly, but what did it look like when they first started?
Menz, what’s your first memory of COBE? Do you remember your first day?
To be completely honest, I don’t remember the very first day, but what I do remember perfectly is my job interview! To this day, I still get made fun of for my outfit choice back then. In my head, I was thinking I’m coming for a job interview, so I need to dress up nicely… or at least decent. So I wore a salmon-colored shirt and white jeans (keep in mind this was 2014). I know there’s nothing wrong with that outfit, but style-wise, when I met the guys, I immediately didn’t fit in. Luckily, I had skills to show and a similar sense of humor, so they somehow overlooked my outfit.
Mladen, what about you? What did the beginnings in Osijek look like?
My first memory of COBE is getting lunch with the managing director in Osijek at that time, asking me and a few of my colleagues to join him at this “small German agency that’s just starting out.” As usual, the beginning was a little messy, but soon we found an office, and the first project we were working on was Kickbase (which is my favorite project to this day). I didn’t meet the bosses from Munich until Christmas time, the same year. I remember not knowing what to expect from them, but our first encounter exceeded all my expectations – they were refreshing, approachable, and very open.
You started your career at COBE as an iOS developer, right? How did your role change over the years?
That’s right, I started off as an iOS developer with about three years of experience and a team of three people. The team varied over the years; some people left, new people came. The only constant in the iOS team was me, which naturally lead me to the iOS lead position. In 2019, I also became part of the management team, and in 2021 I took an even bigger step and added the Finance Manager role to my job description. A developer in the finance department? How does that happen? Fun fact, I have a degree in economics, and before I began my development career, I actually worked in finance.
Menz, your first role was a UX Concepter, and today, you’re one of the Managing Directors. How did your responsibilities change over the course of the last eight years to lead you where you are today?
When I first started in 2014, I was mainly busy with taking requirements from customers apart, analyzing them, looking for gaps or open questions, and translating all of that into concepts. With time, I started including prototyping and sales into my daily work, and then in 2020, I also began taking care of finances. I have a minor in business administration, and a background in computer science, so the whole topic of numbers and technology isn’t unknown to me. In the meantime, I was also promoted to UX Director, and then, beginning of this year to the Managing Director role.
Since you already mention Daniel and Felix, how would you describe your relationship with our founders?
I’d say we always had a close relationship. They encouraged my growth over the years, respected my opinions, and always included me in big decisions. I mean, they even trusted me with the Managing Director role. So after we got over the whole “salmon-shirt-at-the-job-interview-incident”, everything ran pretty smoothly.
Mladen, what about you? Your situation differs a bit since you haven’t been working that closely with them, especially in the beginning.
To be completely honest, one of the things I value most about COBE is the relationship I have with the founders, their openness, and transparency. Daniel and Felix radiated trust from the very first moment I met them, and that feeling just grew stronger over the years. It influenced every aspect of work that came later. I think they instilled a mindset of teamwork and culture that we all continue to nurture to this day.
Would you say that culture is one of the main reasons you’re still here?
Yes, definitely. I’ve met a lot of people in COBE over the last eight years and I’ve grown fond of many of them. Each person here brings something new to the table and shares a similar motivation and drive. Another thing that makes our culture special is that every opinion matters – you can always propose an idea or a change. Nothing is really set in stone.
Menz, what about you? What draws you to stay?
I also love the culture, of course, but the thing I thrive on is responsibility. From the very beginning, my opinion mattered and I had lots of opportunities to re-shape already existing processes and also introduce new ones. This is something that hasn't changed in the last eight years and was always supported by the founders.
What do you guys think is the biggest difference between COBE eight years ago and today?
I think we can both agree that, compared to the beginning, we are professionals today. The initial chaos has given way to structure. We have also really grown – the number of colleagues alone has increased tenfold. And last but not least, the profitability has improved significantly.
Menz, did you ever think COBE would be here 10 years later?
Absolutely YES! Everyone on our team is extremely motivated and has what it takes to lead us where we are today. Of course, there were ups and downs, but I never thought that COBE could fail.
And what about the Osijek office? Mladen?
If I’m being completely transparent with you, at one point, I didn’t know what would happen. But luckily, we pulled through and in the last three years, I’ve seen immense progress. Sometimes, the results we get today catch me completely off guard. I have to stop and ask myself “Are we really here now?” All in all, it’s a good feeling.
Would you say that the company’s progress influenced your personal development too?
Yes, of course. I always say how it’s not just COBE that has changed, but I changed too. I think all of us did, and it would be strange if it was any other way. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve met a lot of people working here, and they all influenced both my professional and personal growth.
Menz, what about you?
Since the topic of mindfulness has become an integral part of my life through COBE, I would say it has also had a positive influence on my private life. Personally, I learned a lot about myself through the opportunities and responsibilities COBE offered me. It made me constantly work on myself and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without COBE.
As one of the Managing Directors, can you share any future plans for COBE? What can we expect?
Well, one of the plans for the future, which we already started working on, is broadening our services. Usually, the action starts when there’s already an idea of a specific digital product, but we want to offer a consulting part at the beginning too. We just brought a colleague who is setting up the Business Innovation area on board, so it’s slowly kicking off.
Mladen, do you like what you hear? Can you envision yourself at COBE in another eight years?
For sure! As the company evolves, it allows us to evolve with it. I feel like, if in a year from now, I decided to completely change direction, and become a Project Manager, for instance, I could do it, and still stay at COBE. So yes, I do see myself here.
Menz, looking back over your time here and all the cool memories you collected over the years, is there a special moment you’d like to highlight?
Again, I think we can both agree that the Summer trip in 2017 was amazing. It was our first team building as one team and it was the first time the whole team, both Munich and Osijek, met in person.
Anything to add, Mladen?
I completely agree with Menz. But aside from team buildings and Christmas parties, I’d highlight the Zlatna Kuna award we received for the most successful small company in the Osijek-Baranja County, based on our financial results. When you work with numbers daily, sometimes you don’t see the growth until someone else points it out for you. So this was a nice, objective reminder of how far we’ve come.
Thank you both for sharing your stories, it has certainly been an interesting ride. Even though the last eight years might have passed by in the blink of an eye, everything you’ve done, and you’re still doing, has certainly left a mark on the COBE we have today.
Here’s to another (at least) eight years of growth, fun, and success. 🥂 We can’t wait to hear new stories from you!
Katarina is a Marketing Manager at COBE. She loves creating content, showing her creativity, and bringing new ideas to life. In her free time, she's either reading, watching The Office, or learning the art of kickboxing.