Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has an interesting history.
For us at DDC Outsourcing Solutions (DDC OS), it is one of our key nearshore locations. Recently, Chrissie Spencer, the Head of Group Marketing, was on one of her frequent visits and we asked her to share her experience with us. So, Chrissie, over to you…
I get the same reaction from most people when I say I am traveling to this part of the world… one of trepidation; is it safe? If you are of a certain age, then you will remember a time when Bosnia was in civil war, which ended in 1995. Yes, there are signs of war, but the city that is emerging is vibrant, and every visit brings a new adventure.
Sarajevo is the home to DDC MLS as well as many projects from The DDC Group, including OS. My first visit was in January 2016, and back then we had around 60 employees in a small office in the center of Sarajevo. Just over a year later, and DDC MLS now employs over 230 people, moving into new, larger offices on the outskirts of the city close to the airport. Most of the team here at DDC MLS speaks a minimum of two languages, some speak as many as 5. The majority are degree educated, and a good percentage of them are studying for a master’s degree or similar. Add to this that the average age of the team here is 25 and you will appreciate that this workforce is highly skilled and highly educated. Everybody here enjoys their job, and as clichéd as it may sound, there is a real family atmosphere within the team.
During the war, many families moved to surrounding European countries to live, and in recent years, many of these families have moved home to Bosnia. Because of this, Sarajevo boasts a melting pot of different cultures, languages and religions, and it truly is a feast for the senses. Getting to know my Bosnian colleagues has been a privilege, their compassion knows no bounds. In January of this year, one of the team heard of a small village near Buscovaca, where the families were struggling financially, to a point that the children had faced Christmas with no gifts. Within a few short days, our team at MLS had raised enough money to ensure that each child in that village received a gift from Santa. This, in turn, has led to the creation of the DDC MLS Humanitarian Fund. Each month the team donated money to the fund from their salary, and an elected council of their peers decided which cause will benefit from the funds raised. These past months have seen it donated to one of their colleagues who tragically suffered from a brain tumor and, without these funds, he would not have been able to afford the life-saving surgery he needed.
Those of you who travel for work know that it is not always as glamorous as people might perceive. Often you see little more than the inside of a hotel room and the offices. However, this is not so in Bosnia! My colleagues here are so very welcoming, and their pride as they show me their home city is heartwarming.
The architectural landscape of Sarajevo is an enigma. Next to a 5-star hotel, you have a 30-year-old ruin overgrown with trees. The old town of Sarajevo has been maintained entirely, and this set of cobbled streets and buildings, almost Moorish in their look and feel, hosts an array of shops, bars and restaurants where you will find the locals on any given night, drinking and sharing food in large groups of friends; such a social community. One of my favorite spots here is the Sebilj fountain, an ornate wooden drinking fountain, in a square full of cafes and bars where you can sit and watch the world go by whilst sampling the local coffee and pastries.
A short walk from the old town and you stumble across the most beautiful Mosque; the Muslim men arriving for Maghrib, their evening prayer time, beginning their ritual by washing their feet in the fountain outside of the mosque. Take a few steps more, and you will find the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral, strikingly beautiful when it is alight in its opulent gold and green. In a time when our newsfeeds are filled with stories of political and religious unrest, Bosnia is a shining example of how people of many different cultures can come together with no animosity.
I am lucky to have traveled to many parts of the world in my lifetime, but I can honestly say that Sarajevo is fast becoming my favorite place to visit.
Thank you for sharing with us, Chrissie, a great insight into the environment in which our colleagues work and live. DDC MLS was officially established in 2015, 20 years after the end of the civil war, and we have been rewarded with an incredibly skilled team capable of delivering excellent results, all within a beautiful and developing country.