Thriving in the Workplace: Borut Mali Interview
Explore the incredible journey of Pareto AI—a story filled with innovation, remarkable growth, and a commitment to balancing work and life. In this interview, we talk with Borut Mali, one of the first team members who played a key role in Pareto AI’s beginnings. His story takes us from a quiet village to excelling in electrical engineering, and eventually crossing paths with Pareto AI during its early days in the world of artificial intelligence.
BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
Can you share the story behind your journey to becoming the inaugural team member at Pareto AI?
I hail from a quaint village, where my childhood was filled with outdoor adventures, from football games to bike rides. Excelling in science and mathematics during my school years, I continued to tutor these subjects even in high school. Post my high school years in Kamnik, I honed my focus on a career in electrical engineering at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Ljubljana.
In my third year, my passion for electrical power engineering emerged, leading me to pursue postgraduate studies. My master’s thesis, ‘Electric Energy Price Forecasting in Day-Ahead Market with Time Series,’ played a pivotal role in catching the attention of Pareto AI, an emerging company at the time.
Without a guaranteed job post-graduation, I spent the summer engaged in student work. By October, I had attended a few interviews and was considering potential employers. An opportunity from Dejan, a co-founder of Pareto AI, arose through LinkedIn. The alignment of my master’s thesis with their work in electrical energy distribution sparked our initial contact. Subsequent video calls and technical discussions led to a job offer, and despite competitive offers from more established companies, the positive energy with Dejan and Miha drew me to Pareto AI. Three years later, I have no regrets about that choice.
What captivated you about Pareto AI and its mission?
During the early interviews, Pareto AI was only a month old with two employees and a single ongoing project. The company’s existence was a well-kept secret on the web. However, the chemistry established in our first call and subsequent interactions made a lasting impression. Despite concerns about the company’s youthfulness, the prospect of a slightly riskier choice aligned with my phase of seeking my first regular job. Beyond the chemistry, the diverse range of work and growth opportunities, initially tied to my recent studies, solidified my decision to join Pareto AI.
Describe the collaborative dynamics within the Pareto AI team.
Given our remote work setup on diverse projects, collaboration has its challenges. Nevertheless, we actively cultivate a positive atmosphere within project teams and across the company.
Daily challenges are met with collective problem-solving efforts facilitated by dedicated channels in our communication tools. Employees proactively share solutions, creating a supportive environment. In project teams, supporting each other and aligning toward common goals take precedence. Planning sessions, refinements, brainstorming, and one-on-one calls foster an environment where team success prevails over unnecessary competition. This collaborative approach ensures seamless integration for new employees, receiving support from all directions
INNOVATION AND GROWTH
As the first employee, how have you seen the company evolve and grow since its inception?
Having been part of Pareto AI from its early days, I’ve had a unique perspective on the company’s evolution and growth. When I first joined, the future seemed uncertain, but the conviction of Dejan and Miha instilled confidence in our collective success.
In the realm of AI services, achieving rapid growth presented initial challenges. Yet, over slightly three years, we’ve expanded into a robust team of over 15 professionals, managing nearly 10 diverse projects from our humble beginnings with just one. This growth is a testament to effective leadership, the trust woven among our team members, and the consistent delivery of reliable work. Maintaining strong internal and client relationships fosters an atmosphere of ease within the team, making us not only effective but also appealing to potential clients and team members alike.
The company’s growth parallels its development, with processes naturally evolving since the early days when we were just a trio. Our collective efforts focus on nurturing a positive team atmosphere, driving continuous improvement, and aligning toward shared goals. This collaborative approach, where each team member contributes, propels Pareto AI successfully forward.
Maintaining work-life balance can be a challenge, especially in a startup environment. How does Pareto AI support its employees in this aspect?
Maintaining work-life balance is a universal challenge, particularly in the dynamic environment of a startup. At Pareto AI, our work approach, grounded in a few core principles, addresses this challenge head-on. Remote work, flexible hours, and non-simultaneous communication among team members are foundational. We prioritize a relaxed work atmosphere, emphasizing task completion within designated timelines over rigid daily schedules.
Communication expectations are realistic, with no pressure for immediate responses, and mandatory meetings are kept to a minimum. This holistic approach creates a laid-back vibe, empowering employees to manage their work schedules independently. This autonomy not only enhances productivity but also fosters a better balance between professional commitments and personal time. Importantly, there’s a seamless process for taking time off, and weekends remain sacred for everyone.
How has your role at Pareto AI contributed to your personal and professional growth?
Joining Pareto AI right after completing my studies marked the inception of my career, filled with the conventional aspirations for a stable job and steady growth. As the first employee, my bosses became mentors, guiding me through tasks that expanded my knowledge in programming, document writing, project management, and general problem-solving.
Over time, my role evolved, encompassing additional responsibilities beyond project work. This expansion allowed me to develop ‘soft skills’ and enhance my capabilities in employee and client communication. The progress, though not always apparent day by day, became evident during annual performance reviews, highlighting significant improvements across various aspects. These recognitions serve as a driving force, motivating continuous improvement and offering ample opportunities for personal and professional development at Pareto AI.
What achievements or milestones of Pareto AI are you most proud to have been a part of?
As a dedicated member of Pareto AI, I take immense pride in our collective achievements, particularly in navigating the challenges of remote operations while fostering strong interpersonal relationships. Our growth, both in team size and knowledge, is a testament to our commitment to excellence.
Our project engagements stand out as sources of pride, where meticulous planning and precise task execution ensure our clients receive top-notch support. A noteworthy accomplishment during this period involves optimizing operational processes for a client, resulting in a remarkable acceleration of calculations by up to 300 times in less than six months.
What excites you the most about the future of the company?
The future of Pareto AI holds tremendous excitement for me. I eagerly look forward to the company’s continued growth, the expansion of projects, and the myriad successes and challenges that accompany such a journey. Witnessing significant positive changes over the past three years, both in our operations and employee development, fuels my anticipation for what lies ahead.
ADVICE FOR POTENTIAL EMPLOYEES
For those considering joining Pareto AI, what qualities or attributes do you believe are essential to thrive in this environment?
For those considering joining Pareto AI, certain qualities and attributes are essential for thriving in our dynamic environment. A foundational requirement is domain knowledge, applied with precision in task execution. We value autonomy—the ability to approach problems innovatively and devise and execute plans independently.
Despite our remote work setting, being a team player is paramount. Proactive engagement and a positive attitude within project teams and broader interactions are crucial for success at Pareto AI.
An often-highlighted quality in potential candidates is experience. While valuable, we prioritize a candidate’s receptiveness to acquiring new skills. With enthusiasm, even an inexperienced candidate can swiftly become an invaluable part of our team, contributing to our shared success.
RELATIONSHIP WITH LEADERSHIP
What is the dynamic like between employees and the leadership team at Pareto AI?
Exploring the dynamic between employees and leadership at Pareto AI unveils a deliberate effort by our co-founders, who currently serve as the sole leadership. They actively cultivate a friendly rapport, inviting constructive feedback from each team member. Whether it’s praise or criticism directed toward them or the company’s operations, these discussions spark debates and ideas that often lead to positive changes. This approach creates a relaxed atmosphere where everyone feels a sense of belonging and values the impact of their contributions.
How does being the first employee at Pareto AI hold a special place in your heart as you reflect on your journey?
Being the inaugural team member at Pareto AI holds a special place in my heart as I reflect on the journey so far. From the early days, I embraced the company as my own, and this commitment is evident in the effort I invest and my engagement with all aspects related to the company.
While my focus is currently on one of our many projects, I make a conscious effort to stay informed about the happenings across others. It feels like my responsibility to connect the team through a proactive approach and to represent the company positively, even beyond working hours.
Reflecting on the past three years, it’s a privilege to hold the title of the first employee at Pareto AI. I am committed to continuing to justify this privilege to the best of my abilities, considering the remarkable evolution the company has undergone during this time.
As we conclude this insightful interview with Borut Mali, the inaugural team member at Pareto AI, we extend heartfelt appreciation for his invaluable contributions to the company. Borut’s journey is not just a professional narrative but a testament to dedication, innovation, and a collaborative spirit that has fueled Pareto AI’s growth.
We express our sincere thanks to Borut for not only being an exemplary employee but also a trusted friend within the Pareto AI family. His commitment and positive influence have played a crucial role in shaping the company’s culture and success.
With deep gratitude, we wish Borut Mali continued success in his endeavors and look forward to witnessing the continued growth and impact of both Borut and Pareto AI in the exciting journey that lies ahead.