PitechPlus is expanding through Pluria network

The pandemic has pushed us towards a full hybrid system, gradually reducing office space and bringing about a paradigm shift.

Interview with PitechPlus founder: Bogdan Herea 

When you read about a business that aims to make businesses "more human," you automatically check the first condition for an interesting interview: curiosity. Who is PitechPlus, part of the Webhelp group, beyond the information available on their website? What are the principles, mission, and values that underpin their 17-year success? How do they approach the challenges related to the future of work, and how did their collaboration with Pluria begin? 

I invite you to a discussion about flexibility, education, and artificial intelligence with Bogdan Herea, the founder of PitechPlus, a Bucharest-born entrepreneur educated in France, who established a full lifecycle software development company in Cluj-Napoca. 

Bogdan, if I were to outline a map of our discussion, the route is simple and can be summarized by an adapted phrase: from the company's origins to the future. We will start with the desire to found a tech business in Cluj-Napoca, explore the various stages in the company's evolution, taking into account market challenges, and finally we will delve into how the pandemic has changed and will continue to change technology in our future. 

Certainly, we will also incorporate the collaboration with Pluria into this journey, which represents the story of a successful partnership between two entities with similar visions of the future of work. 


v2 Bogdan Herea

Therefore, let's set off on our journey: why did you want to establish an IT&C company in Cluj-Napoca, and how did you position yourself in a competitive and fierce market in terms of the battle for human resources? 

My business story is closely linked to my personal journey. I graduated "Mihai Viteazul" College in Bucharest, and then I went to France, where I studied engineering at the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon. 


In France, I started working for an IT services company that still exists today, and that's where I began my learning journey. I started as a developer and then moved through various positions with the idea that eventually I would start my own company. Initially, I didn't plan to start a company per se, but rather about to work for a company that had connections with France at that time. In 2001, I came to Romania and conducted market research in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca. I looked at the companies that were present at that time, with the intention of collaborating with existing companies. I chose a company in Cluj-Napoca, which was later acquired by a British IT services and solutions company. With the burst of the dot-com bubble, I put the plan to return to Romania on hold until 2005. 

In 2005, I told my manager that I wanted to take a sabbatical year to start a company. In France, you have the possibility to take a sabbatical year to try to start a company.

I arrived in Cluj-Napoca at the beginning of 2006, initially with the intention of buying a company. I looked at several companies in the market, but in the end, I started greenfield, with two particularities. One particularity was that we were targeting the French market, which was not necessarily being approached by many Romanian companies at that time. 

France was the market we started working with. The second particularity was that we were targeting a relatively new niche: we worked with startups right from the beginning. This was one of the triggers that made things happen in 2006, and that's how the story began. After that, leveraging the network I had built in France, the business scaled, and we started bringing in more and more projects. 

In 2007, we started working with a digital marketing agency in Paris, which was a former startup transformed into an agency and was later acquired by the Publicis group. From 2011, we began to scale significantly in terms of connections with startups and scale-ups throughout Europe. It was a glorious period following the crisis of 2008-2010. 

We also entered the German market, as well as Benelux, Switzerland, and the UK, so we expanded across the entire Western European region. Meanwhile, I continued to develop other businesses: I founded another company in 2011 and invested in various ventures, both internal and external. 

In 2013, we opened a PitechPlus office in Târgu-Mureș, which brought its own opportunities and challenges being in a smaller city. From there, we learned how to improve our operations. 

In 2014, we established a non-profit organization focused on education and opened a vocational IT school, following a model imported from France. The NGO operated for 4 years in Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest. At that and shortly after, we, like the rest of the world, went through the pandemic and had to redefine our way of working. 

What did this process of redefining the work system mean and what working model have you adopted in the company? 

We are in a hybrid work model. How have things changed? The pandemic has pushed us towards a full hybrid system, gradually reducing office space and bringing about a paradigm shift. 

There are two trends that we currently see in the market regarding work and office spaces: on one hand, there is a need for much more flexibility because teams are distributed, and people are working from anywhere, forming core teams. 

Apart from the offices in Cluj-Napoca and Târgu Mureș, we now have a hub in Oradea, and others are starting to take shape. Office spaces are no longer just workspaces, but more of meeting places. So, you go to the office to meet with colleagues, conduct workshops, prepare for projects, or work together on certain initiatives. 

Individual work is done remotely, and I believe it works better this way because there are fewer distractions, and with all the infrastructure we have available, it is much easier. On the other hand, we are currently operating on a global scale because as a group, we have a presence in 50 countries, with 250 offices open worldwide. However, these offices are primarily designed for call centers and business process outsourcing (BPO). They are slightly different from what we need, which is why we started collaborating with Pluria. 

What are the main benefits of collaborating with Pluria and how did you establish a strategic partnership? 

Pluria is currently assisting us locally in Romania. We met the founder, Andrei Crețu, last year in Portugal at the Web Summit. During our conversation, we shared our expansion plans and mentioned that we were looking for a solution for our office in Oradea. We suggested working together, and that's how our collaboration with Pluria began. We also suggested a workspace in Oradea that we wanted to have, which was subsequently added to the Pluria network. We are considering utilizing other locations within the Pluria network, including in Europe or Latin America.


So in Oradea, you no longer have a fixed office, but rather a flexible workspace through your collaboration with Pluria. 

Exactly! Currently, we have 11 colleagues in Oradea. We were looking for a solution for them, and we chose to go with a flexible approach, utilizing the infrastructure provided by Pluria. 

In Oradea, we now have an open workspace with a mix of fixed desks and hot desks. If we continue to grow in other cities where we have colleagues (such as Iași, Brașov, Bucharest, and so on), there is a high chance that we will expand our collaboration with Pluria. 

What we currently see is that these colleagues in Oradea are very satisfied, things are running smoothly, and we have all the infrastructure and support in place. Therefore, we have elevated this collaboration with Pluria to a level of strategic partnership where we mutually support each other. 

We are also assisting them in the area of business development, for example, so it is a collaboration that works in both directions. 

What does the hybrid work style mean for PitechPlus? 

We have tried to adapt to what is happening in the market and adjust our way of working. 

Before the pandemic, a part of our work could be done remotely: we had 24 days each year that could be worked remotely, and we had set up the infrastructure to enable this flexibility. There were rules that needed to be followed, such as the number of days per month that could be worked remotely. Therefore, we had already started exploring the concept of flexible work. 

Currently, we have become fully flexible, meaning that people are not required to come to the office - they come to the office only if they choose to do so.  We have project meetings or technical community gatherings. Additionally, we hold career development workshops at the office or other off-site meetings where people can socialize. 

This is one of the challenges we need to manage because without seeing each other in the office every day, there is a loss of the structure and culture that was established through socialization. So, the way we currently implement organizational culture has become digitalized, using the internal communication tools at our disposal. These are the things we had to adapt in order to preserve the soul of the company. 

If we have covered the challenges, let's turn the coin around and discover the opportunities of flexibility! 

The great opportunity we see now is that we have started recruiting colleagues from other cities. 

In 2021, we started recruiting colleagues from other cities, and in 2022, we expanded our recruitment efforts to other countries. As a result, today we have colleagues working in the offices in Cluj-Napoca and Târgu-Mureș, in the workspace in Oradea, and remotely in over 20 cities across 6 countries on 3 continents. This means that we have access to a much wider range of skills, but it also brings diversity that we need to manage. It is a positive development and something we aim to embrace. 

What are the trends for IT&C services in the coming years, both from the industry's perspective and from the standpoint of human and artificial resources? 

What we are currently witnessing in the job market is a rebalancing as we go through an economic crisis year. 

In the past two years, there has been a trend towards FLEXIBILITY, including in terms of collaboration. 

People have been trying to reconfigure their work and engage more in freelancing, which became a strong trend, especially last year, with the conflict in Ukraine. 

Companies from the United States and other countries that had operations in Ukraine had to adapt to the new context. They started massive recruitment efforts in Romania and the region without necessarily establishing legal entities here. As a result, the only possibility for collaboration was to work with individuals. However, we are currently seeing a reshaping of this trend because, in times of uncertainty, people need security. Therefore, the discussions are shifting from collaboration to employment contracts, which provide greater stability. 

Regarding industry trends, the hybrid work model will remain in place for the long term. Some companies have tried and tested bringing employees back to the office, but if employees have been able to work efficiently remotely for two or three years, it is difficult to bring them back to the office. Obviously, there are companies that require employees to be in the office due to security or hardware constraints. 

Beyond the work model, the trend in technology is towards accelerated automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). The acceleration towards AI that we have seen this year will likely continue in the coming years. 

I really liked a tagline that describes the company on your website: "Entirely software, completely human." Will you remain more "human" at PitechPlus? 

I don't see technology as a threat. I grew up with technology from a young age, and I have read extensively in this field, including science fiction, so I am somewhat prepared for what is happening today. What is happening today was written about 60-70 years ago. For someone who is not familiar with technology, this evolution is not natural or intuitive. 

Technology may seem very complicated, especially when you don't understand what happens behind the scenes. If you only use technology, you have a certain perspective. But if you know how technology is built and what can happen behind the scenes, you understand that it can go both ways: technology can improve people's lives, but it can also do harm at the same time, and these things intersect. 

Technological progress has always come with challenges - less-skilled individuals performing simpler tasks have been affected. Throughout history, the world has always reconfigured itself. 

Now, the change is happening in a domain that hasn't been as extensively touched: creative services. Until two years ago, everyone talked about robots and process automation, but they all declared that the creative field would not be affected, and that's where we needed to invest and focus because robots would never encroach upon us in the creative domain. Yet, they have entered, and I believe that creativity will be greatly impacted, but in a positive sense. 

I believe we will have new champions: those who know how to utilize technology and mix human capabilities with the assistance provided by artificial intelligence. 

Artificial intelligence itself does nothing; it's like a car that stands still if you don't know how to drive it. The better you know how to drive it, steer it, or utilize it, the more value you will extract from artificial intelligence. 

The value will emerge from the collaboration between humans and machines. In some simple cases, machines will completely replace humans, but in most cases, they will accelerate productivity and the way we work. We will be able to focus on tasks that have high added value, which machines won't be able to cover. We are approaching the point of singularity now, where machines will be able to train and develop themselves. Probably, models like GPT-5 or GPT-6 will be models that can self-improve. 


Doesn't the fear that we humans will become irrelevant grip you? 

Those who do not educate themselves will become and are already becoming irrelevant. This is universally true: when you stop educating yourself, you become less relevant, with or without technology. Even if we were to live in a society where technology was halted, there would still be competition among people, and the least relevant would be the least educated. 

I have invested in education because education is the answer to many of the problems we face: in society, in companies, organizations, and so on. Every time I have taken this step and invested in education, things have changed for the better. 

For example, at PitechPlus, during the pandemic, we started focusing on the education of our management teams and the general education of our teams. This education is not only focused on hard skills, maintaining a high level of competence in the IT&C industry, but also on soft skills such as management, organization, strategic knowledge, negotiation, and more. We also have a reading program that we have been implementing for about a year and a half, and we are already seeing beneficial effects within the team. 


Beyond building a business, you also faced the challenge of building an organization and, more importantly, an organizational culture. What were the core values you relied on when founding PitechPlus? 

This is a topic we have been intensively focusing on since 2014, and it has gone through several iterations, I would say. But if I were to highlight the core values that I personally feel, discuss, and strive to instill in the organization, they are humility (knowing what you don't know, acknowledging that there is more to learn), equity, and continuous development. These are my personal values, first and foremost, in addition to those listed on our company's website: collaboration, adaptability, passion, continuous improvement, and personal accountability towards results. 

Building on this strong set of values, what leadership style do you guide your management team with? 

My leadership style is highly participative, and personally, I have gone through various phases of development along with the organization. I have sought to create a space for the individuals I work with. 

Currently, I would define myself as a leadership coach. In addition to my responsibilities in business development, collaboration with key stakeholders, and establishing partnerships, my primary activity revolves around coaching the leadership team. My goal is to become irrelevant within the organization. 

When you have become irrelevant within the organization, you have achieved your goal and mine is to develop the organization to a level where it can operate without relying on my support. 

In a brief pitch, what is PitechPlus and what is its mission? 

PitechPlus is a company that accelerates the development of technology companies, making us a technological partner for our clients. It is not just a business relationship, but a strong partnership where we learn from each other. 

Those who lack the experience we possess benefit from our expertise in building their internal capabilities, not only in terms of products or technology but also in building teams. Additionally, where we have the opportunity to learn, we take advantage of partnerships with advanced expertise in certain domains to further expand our own knowledge. 

What is the long-term development vision of the company? 

Our positioning is one of excellence, meaning that we have never focused on rapid growth based on volume and numbers alone. 

We have transitioned from the initial stage, where we offered simple outsourcing services, to the stage where we are technological partners. Our goal is to consolidate our position in the areas of expertise and consultancy. We aim to bring this expertise to as many organizations as possible, while upholding our values and ethics in everything we develop. This is particularly important as we anticipate significant challenges in the field of artificial intelligence. 

For the past five or six years, I have also been involved with a foundation that works in the field of ethics and how AI is built to uphold certain values. When you have a closed AI system, it becomes quite challenging to understand how it functions and how that particular artificial intelligence was constructed. For this reason, it is somewhat misleading to use the term "open AI" today. Only the name is open, but in reality, it is not open at all anymore. 

Why did you return to Romania to start a business? 

Ever since I left Romania, I wanted to come back. I didn't leave with the intention of staying abroad permanently. I took elements from the French culture and combined them with my own culture, and it seemed easier for me to build the company at that time in Romania. 

In France, things are more established, while in Romania, the opportunities were much greater. The industry was not as developed as it is now - and there was a void that needed to be filled. Each founder I started with at that time has a similar story: they are people who left, worked abroad, saw what could be done elsewhere, and then returned to rebuild what they had learned during their time away. 

I now consider myself a global European citizen. Even through apps like Pluria, we become global citizens. 

I moved to Portugal because we are in an industry and space that allows us to do so, and we will continue to enrich things both in Romania and in Europe. That's how I see things—not at a national level, but at a continental and community level. 

Having this global experience, do you consider technology a priority for Romania? 

Let me get back to the basics for a moment. Technology is a tool, not a focus. We should focus on education. As a company, we work with Switzerland, for example, and I can say that Switzerland has reached its current level of development because it has invested in education. Singapore, too.  

All countries that have a fast-paced development trend achieve it because they invest in education, with double-digit percentages of their GDP, at least 10% to 20% or even more. In these countries, people understand the power of education. 

I believe that technology will greatly transform the field of education and the way we learn. In the coming years, we will witness a massive transformation in the way we educate ourselves, from the youngest to the oldest. 

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