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Doing business with Ivan Seselj: ‘Only hire people who are smarter than you’

Doing business with Ivan Seselj: ‘Only hire people who are smarter than you’

The CEO and founder of Promapp espouses building ‘no ego, non-hierarchical cultures’

Ivan Seselj, Promapp: 'We just hire the best people we possibly can regardless of who they are or where they come from.'
Ivan Seselj, Promapp: 'We just hire the best people we possibly can regardless of who they are or where they come from.'

Name: Ivan Seselj

Title: CEO, Promapp

Twitter handle: @ivanseselj

How long have you been in your current role? 12 years

What business technology issue is your organisation focusing on?

We help companies manage and improve their business processes with our business process management software. Historically this hasn’t been considered a technology issue - since the 80s many organisations have managed their business processes in Word documents and flowcharts, and some still try to manage their process knowledge this way today. At Promapp, we help organisations communicate, manage, and leverage their critical process knowledge. It’s an exciting area to work in, and very satisfying to see the impact on our clients’ businesses.

What are your interests away from work?

In the last couple of years, I’ve become hooked on mountain biking. I have a young family who are my number one priority and I’m really enjoying introducing them to riding. I hope this will set them up with a passion we can share as a family and with a good attitude to fitness for life. I also enjoy traveling, I’m an avid reader and I love spending time at the beach.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

“Only hire people who are smarter than you.” Ken Morse gave this advice in an MIT training program for startups I attended a number of years ago. He reinforced the message with “‘A’ people recruit ‘A’ people, ‘B’ people hire ‘C’ people and ‘C’ people fill positions.” At Promapp, we really take our time over every recruitment decision to make sure that we gain not only a talented new team member, but someone who is a good fit with our team culture and values.

Read more: No shortcuts to becoming a digital business

Organisations where teams collaborate on processes and projects, take risks, fail, then try again are not only a really fun place to work, these are the key ingredients required to develop and foster an innovative culture.

Ivan Seselj, Promapp

Professionally, who do you admire most?

Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, stands out for me. I really like his ideas around building a culture of freedom and responsibility. Some of these ideas have certainly impacted the way Promapp has grown. I used to think that company values were just lip service, but defining and being true to our core values has really helped us articulate and be the sort of company we want Promapp to be.

How long have you been working in IT? How did you get into IT?

My first IT role was in the 90s during my OE, where I was a process stream leader on a global change project with a large multinational company. I’m an accounting and finance grad and I got into process management after my internal and external audit days.

If you weren't working in IT, what would you be doing?

Read more: The 3 phases of successful digital transformation

I’d love to be a writer on a comedy show. Sadly for me, but maybe fortunately for others, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.

Can you share a key pointer for fostering an innovative culture in an organisation?

Innovation feeds off teamwork and collaboration. There are specific conditions that can help boost innovation. Normalising things like risk taking (idea sharing) and no ego, non-hierarchical cultures are examples of approaches that can help teams build the trust required to develop new ideas together. Organisations where teams collaborate on processes and projects, take risks, fail, then try again are not only a really fun place to work, these are the key ingredients required to develop and foster an innovative culture.

I think Kiwis are particularly strong at the idea inception phase, but maybe less so at the latter yet equally important phases – the discipline to control, nurture and sustain ideas through to delivering sustained gains. We tend not to appreciate this part of the innovation cycle as much, and hence divert less (insufficient) energy to it. That’s why I’m proud of the role that Promapp plays in the innovation cycle for our clients. Innovation never stops, it’s ongoing, it’s all inclusive, it’s shared conversations, process ownership, leadership… all things that a good process management platform promotes.

...and for building a diverse team?

We just hire the best people we possibly can regardless of who they are or where they come from. I think the reason we’re such a culturally diverse team is a result of the cities we live in rather than any specific diversity intentions or goals we have at Promapp.

Read more: Use cloud to innovate like startups: AWS
Promapp CEO Ivan Seselj at a CIO roundtable on 'avoiding a process crisis'
Promapp CEO Ivan Seselj at a CIO roundtable on 'avoiding a process crisis'


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