Filip Naumovič, Senior Front-End Developer for Salsita Software, polishes off a beer while sitting comfortably atop one of the red, waist-high stools that line the bar. As he fields my questions, I scribble notes and play bartender. “Is there another beer in that fridge?” Filip asks with a sly smile. We work in Prague; there’s always another beer.
Life by design
Filip Naumovič has been working at Salsita Software since 2012. He was first introduced to Salsita CEO and founder Matthew Gertner through a headhunting agency. Matthew convinced Filip to join the team by speaking passionately about Salsita’s projects and impressive technical capabilities. Filip’s first impression of Matthew was that he’s “very much a visionary.” This positive impression along with Salsita’s cutting-edge projects was precisely what Filip was looking for.
When internet technology started to gain popularity, Filip turned his attention there. He became interested in how browsers worked, how web pages were rendered, and everything else related to the internet.
At the time, there were no university courses offered in this field, so he studied everything on his own. “There was nothing to study back then, but I acquired the experience nonetheless,” says Filip. For years his technical strength was knowing the quirks of all the different browsers and figuring out how to make them display what he wanted.
Filip’s self-study and passion for technology matured over the years and led him to start his own webdev studio with a friend in 2002. This self-employed venture was where Filip gained the majority of his initial experience by working for various businesses.
Later, Filip went on to work at several high-profile IT companies and startups. These included major Czech search engine Centrum.cz and e-commerce technology provider PrismaStar, where he worked on their award-winning product search solution, the PrismaStar Selector.
“There are two types of developers: those who tell you something is impossible as soon as they get outside of their comfort zone, and those who put their heads down and figure out a way to make it work. Filip is resoundingly in the second category.” – Matthew Gertner, Salsita Software Founder & CEO
One of the ways Filip “figures it out” is by thinking in emotional terms. He says one of his strengths is the empathetic part of his design process. “I’m almost overly concerned with the emotional response someone gets from my work,” says Filip. “I try to take a step back and think in terms of the user without the tunnel vision of daily development. More often than not, 10% of the design makes 90% of the impression.”
He enjoys going beyond the bare minimum and focusing on the details, whether it's making slick, interactive elements, smooth view transitions, or architecting complex visual interactions. “People have come to expect high polish and entertainment value in today's applications, with form taking the spotlight over bare functionality,” says Filip.
The special sauce
Like any successful team, it took Salsita years to build the design team they have today. “We are quite careful in finding the right talent,” says Filip, who helped interview most of the current team. Salsita has a reputation for taking on difficult projects and being able to deliver; the design team plays a big part in that.
“We honestly enjoy the hard problems and expanding our know-how,” says Filip. “A deep understanding of the technologies is the basis for being able to deliver high quality work, but it’s not a means to an end. At the end of the day, it’s a tool to create a design, a thing.” Salsita’s design team attributes their progress to having an organic work atmosphere. They let ideas flow freely and aim for a deeper understanding of their client’s businesses.
By striving to maintain this open and egoless environment, the design team has been able to deliver on a variety of difficult and challenging projects for their clients. One of their recent demanding projects was called Sapphire, a fully scalable UI with complex animation and interactive features, for tech giant SAP in collaboration with Netherlands-based Purple Creative Innovators.
“Filip thinks quickly and can orientate himself in a minute, which is useful during client meetings. Even if I don’t understand some of the deeply technical stuff, I can trust what he is saying.” – Eva Lešková, Salsita Software Project Manager
Flexible and successful
Salsita provides solutions for its clients in a number of ways: by helping them improve their app’s UX or UI, by focusing on the implementation, or by creating the entire app from concept to deployment. To keep up with this project variety, Filip and the design team must have great flexibility.
That flexibility is on full display during design sprints when the designers are grouped with developers, a project manager, and client stakeholders. Here, the selected team efficiently works from problem to tested solution in less than a week. The week-long schedule is broken down into the following segments: understand, diverge, converge, prototype, and test.
Filip's ideal spot is when the project is starting and there’s a lot of open discussion about what it’s going to be. “You want to learn as much about the business as you can to build the right solution,” says Filip. “I like to exhaust the particular problem I’m facing which gives me confidence to make definitive decisions. Being well informed helps discover the essential concepts that drive a solution.”
One recent example where the initial conversation led to a satisfied client was Scuf Gaming. “They considered our advice about many details and I think it led to an overall better app,” says Filip. They provided Salsita a detailed list of their needs along with a realistic timeline. Scuf Gaming gave them some idea of what they wanted, and Salsita’s UI team succeeded in providing the specific mechanics of how it could work.
“Our Salsita engineers helped to design great UX while implementing slick visual effects and solid software architecture. Every member of the team has been fun to work with and great at their job. They are really keen to give advice and guidance whenever they see room for improvement.” – David Guerra, Scuf Gaming IT Director
A new gig
A while back, a new role in Filip’s life changed how he managed life at the office and home: becoming a full-time parent. On top of his steady diet of design and development, Filip manages his daughter Adélka’s busy schedule as well. “As far as things being systematic, I had to rediscover that in normal everyday life,” says Filip.
Balancing this new routine meant sometimes working from home. Fortunately, Salsita has a flexible work-from-home policy that lets staff work from outside the office one or more days a week. This policy is especially appreciated by employees with families. Thanks to tools like Slack and Google Hangouts, they are able to stay in constant touch with colleagues and clients no matter where they are.
Whether he’s at home or the office, Filip continues to be highly productive. If anything, these communication tools have helped keep his life behind the screens.
Down the road
Filip’s quest for great design continues to be fueled by his colleagues’ passion for their work and drive to maintain Salsita as a top development and design agency. When I asked about future plans or projects, he didn’t elaborate on anything past the New Year. “I’m looking forward to the moment Adélka opens her presents on Christmas,” says Filip.