Stefan Tzanev says his superpower is luck. The MentorMate Bulgaria Director of Operations was just named winner of Next Generation 2015, a prestigious award for young managers and entrepreneurs. But Stefan’s luck had nothing to do with it.
Stefan joined MentorMate in October of 2008 as a developer. Since then, his talent and teamwork have propelled him to lead our Bulgarian office. In his role, Stefan deftly manages a team of software development, marketing, human resources and administration managers. He and his team have expanded the MentorMate presence in Bulgaria from Sofia to include offices in Veliko Turnovo, Plovdiv and Varna.
Each year Stefan and team plan and execute MobCon Bulgaria, a conference responsible for taking attendees on a deep dive into the technology and trends shaping mobile and digital.
When Stefan isn’t helping lift MentorMate’s software expertise to new heights, he can be found hiking in the mountains. Stefan plans to use his winning scholarship to enroll in an Executive MBA program at the University of Sheffield. Until then, here’s how Stefan continues inspiring the MentorMate teams in Minnesota and Sofia.
What do you consider to be your key accomplishments since joining MentorMate?
My biggest achievement is that I was a factor in the growth of MentorMate from 25 to 250 employees. Throughout the years, I have helped the company grow both as a contributor and as a leader.
Over the the last six and a half years, I successfully grew a client account from 1 to 20 person team, working on complex software platforms, distributed in multiple locations in the world. I seamlessly transitioned from a contributor to a leadership role and now I am able to find the ongoing balance between all my responsibilities.
What was your reaction when you received the award?
It was unexpected as the competition was very strong. I almost didn’t attend the ceremony because of a very tough week in the office. I thought the winners would be told in advance. I guess not!
What is your vision for the future of development?
Development is going to become an essential skill that will be taught even to very young children. With more and more innovations around Artificial Intelligence and ubiquitous computing, we are on the verge of a new era where everything will be connected and enormous amounts of data will feed algorithms that will autonomously optimize and improve our daily lives. No doubt, the main focus in the future will be around security of this data and protecting ourselves from the impact of this broad spread of connected devices and algorithms.
What is your advice for anyone looking to become a developer?
Know that it is not easy, and stay persistent. Get exposure to a breadth of technologies and paradigms. Get a formal education in computer science theory and mathematics. Find a job where you will have opportunities to be exposed to different problems.
How do you motivate and inspire your team?
By being humble and always focusing on creating and improving an environment that is full of opportunities and lacks limitations. As a developer myself, I can relate to the needs and aspirations of my colleagues, and I try to have personal relationships with everyone.
How would you describe your development and leadership style?
To me, the management roles is a support one. It is the goal of the leader to create a motivating and inspiring environment where people can utilize their potential. A manager’s success is measured by the success of his team and that’s why I see this accomplishment as being a collective one — of the entire MM team.