Milen Marinov, Managing Director of Atos IT Solutions and Services Bulgaria, on the importance of creating the perfect work environment
When Milen Marinov took the leadership of Atos IT Solutions and Services, in 2017, he had an important task. The global digital service leader, Atos, had just acquired Unify, a Bulgarian finance shared services provider. As a manager with a background in finance and education from top universities in Bulgaria, Canada and the US and previous experience in outstanding local and international companies, Milen Marinov had to build a strong team that offers impeccable finance services. He did more than that. Under his guidance, the Bulgarian Atos team expanded and its range of services now includes fields such as HR and cybersecurity. The key to this success was Milen Marinov's understanding that creating an encouraging, inspiring and nurturing work environment is key for the success of the company. Today, Atos IT Solutions and Services has been certified 4 times in a row as a Great Place for Work. We met with Milen Marinov in the offices of Atos IT Solutions and Services in central Sofia to learn more.
What are the main goals that Atos has as a global leader in digital transformation?
Atos is a global company with business in 73 countries with an annual turnover of over 12 billion euros, and is listed on the French stock exchange. It is a global leader in digital transformation, system integration, cybersecurity, big data, cloud services and AI. We have joint artificial intelligence labs with Google and are a platinum partner of Microsoft for implementation of technology and products. Atos has a crucial place on the global market being a global leader in system integration according to Gartner. We always strive to help our clients' business to become more successful with the help of IT – software, hardware and everything in between.
After the Covid-19 pandemic the IT market is bound to change, and Atos is changing as well, taking up new market niches. Cloud services, AI, big data, advanced computing and cybersecurity will remain our focus, but with an added new priority – critical response systems.
How is Atos developing in Bulgaria?
In Bulgaria, the group has 2 companies, Atos IT Solutions and Services and Atos Bulgaria Competency Centre.
We, at Atos IT Solutions and Services, currently have over 1,100 employees and offer services in 15 languages to over 40 Atos companies in more than 20 countries. These are mainly back office type services that generally do not require direct contact with the end clients.
Our growth steps on the foundation of our results. When Atos acquired Unify, the group already had similar centres in India, Romania and Poland and other countries. Creating another one in Bulgaria was not a part of the initial strategy, but it happened organically, based on our results. Our team is very proud that our hard work and professionalism has won the trust of our stakeholders.
Currently we are supporting over 20 key back office functions – finance, HR, separate business cycles such as order to cash, supply chain, treasury as well as critical functions like sales support, market intelligence, global service desk etc. Our main advantage is that these processes are interlocked. We capitalise the synergy of these separate functions and see them as one whole, improving the processes where one of them ends and the other one begins. In this way we, here, in Sofia, manage over 1,000 processes and over a billion euros of turnover globally, delivering high added value and quality.
Atos IT Solutions and Services grows 15-20% annually. We started with about 300 people in 2017 and now we employ 1,100. Our biggest achievement so far was the creation of a HR shared services centre, in 2020. We started it with zero employees and now over 400 people work there, in close cooperation with the main HR shared service centre, based in India.
How do you motivate your talents?
Experience taught me and my managerial team that big salaries are not enough to attract and retain talents in our industry. We have a very strong and competent HR team that works hard to make the company more present on the talent market. This year alone we hired over 300 people.
Importantly, our attrition is also significantly lower than the average for our industry, at about 11-12%. We achieve that by offering our talents not just a well-paid job, but an overall experience. At Atos, they feel happy and satisfied, they realise that they grow and have the opportunity to develop their potential.
This strategy works. We are very happy with our team and trust them, and they give in return great commitment, engagement and excellent results.
We believe that our people need to have a reason to stay with us. This is why we have created an open, transparent environment where talents can share what bothers them and we, together, can seek solutions.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect this environment?
The situation was rather challenging. We had the technology to send everyone to work from home and we effectively did it within 2 days after the lockdown was announced, on 13 March 2020. The bigger question was how to motivate people working from home, along with "distractions" such as children, elderly relatives, pets.
We succeeded, the quality of our services remained as high as ever. Currently, we at Atos IT Solutions and Services are using a hybrid work model. Each team has the freedom to decide for themselves when to go to the office, as long as they keep their effectiveness and levels of engagement. However, experience has shown that when people communicate face-to-face, they are more efficient and creative. For us, at Atos, collaboration between talents, teams and companies is crucial for our success as we constantly seek how to make our services better.
How do you select the talents working at Atos?
We are very proud that we successfully attract young Bulgarians who have graduated from top international universities to return here and start their career in Bulgaria, with Atos. It is a win-win situation for the three main stakeholders in this process.
The young professionals benefit from the opportunity to start a family in their home country and to apply their knowledge in a global company where they can start an international career. Atos benefits from having on its side professionals trained at some of the best places in the world. However, the biggest winner is our country, as we bring some of its brightest children back, mitigating at least partially the ongoing brain drain.
Of course, we are also interested in Bulgarians from the country.
This March, you opened a cybersecurity centre in Sofia. How is it going?
The opening of the Cybersecurity Centre is our second great achievement so far. By green-lighting it, the Atos group recognised our potential to manage such a critical function. The idea is that the new centre will eventually become a competency centre, similarly to the rest of our core functions.
This is our main goal – to turn into centres of excellence for the functions that we offer. This is already a fact for the finance, treasury and HR, and we are working towards this in the supply chain as well, raising the bar constantly and setting the benchmark for quality in our company globally. We achieve this with constantly training our people and, after they show results, by trusting them to play a bigger role in our global organisation. In the end, we are able to provide to our clients a wider scope of services with a bigger added value.
In 2017, the great majority of our talents were entry level. Today, a much bigger percentage of them are at higher positions. For professional development, we always prioritise our own people, this shows them that we care and motivates them to give their best.
As a nearshore service provider, what makes your output outstanding on the market? What is the difference for the customer?
Our strength is in offering custom made solutions that fit each stakeholder's specific needs. We offer more than services – we are also consultants and can be valuable business partners. As we encourage thinking outside of the box, our professionals are able to plan two steps ahead of the stakeholder and to offer unique solutions to their situation. We might be more expensive, but the added value overcompensates.
We, at Atos IT Solutions and Services, also proved that we are capable of performing analytical and controlling functions from Bulgaria, like market intelligence. Our Rainbow team analyse large business deals for tens of millions euro and play a crucial role in the offering process of products and services to our customers globally.
This is good not only for Atos, but also for our talents as they see that they matter, that they can make a difference. This is possible thanks to the conditions that we have created here, at Atos IT Solutions and Services, to identify people with potential, to allow them to grow and to entrust them with decision making.
My ambition is one day Atos's core financial team to be based in Bulgaria. We can do it.
Which of your realised projects make you proudest?
The Cybersecurity and HR centres that we opened here. For the latter, we competed with other Atos companies and successfully argued that Bulgaria was the best place for it.
The cybersecurity centre is the 16th one within the Atos group that, according to the latest surveys, is the leading provider of cybersecurity services globally. Cybersecurity is crucial nowadays for businesses big and small, for governments and individuals. It is the future and we will push to develop the centre in Sofia and to attract the talent that will allow us to go a level up and become an R&D centre.
As a manager, I am the proudest of my team. It is hardly a coincidence that for a fourth year in a row we have been certified a Great Place To Work by the French Institute of Great Place to Work. This certification is the gold standard for employee satisfaction and engagement, a recognition that our corporate culture creates an encouraging and inspiring work space for our talents.
This is extremely important for us as we are living in times of tough competition for talents. If we need to continue growing, we have to continue investing in talents, culture, work environment, and professional opportunities. We want our people to feel comfortable, happy and satisfied at Atos IT Solutions and Services.
It is a two-way street, actually. When we invest in people, they answer with loyalty, creativity and top results. It is crucial for us to preserve and maintain this work environment.
As a professional with over 25 years of experience in finance, I started as a manager of Unify's centre for shared financial services but eventually focused on general and people management. This was the period in my professional career when I felt the most satisfied with my work. This empowers me and my managerial team to push forward and to seek new ways to develop the company and its portfolio of processes, helping the global organisation to cut expenses and to offer ultimately better quality of services to our end customers and higher sales, and eventually to gain new market ground. Each of our colleagues realises this responsibility and gives everything they can for the success of the whole group.
What is your professional philosophy?
I believe that nothing is impossible. When you want and believe in an idea, you can make it a reality. In difficult situations I have always told my team that the glass is half full, and that optimism should always be our starting position before making any decision and taking an action. I believe in the power of the team and the motivation and energy of people when they are properly led. The results can be astonishing. My success and everything that I have achieved is due to being surrounded by loyal, younger and smarter people than me, being united by one common goal – the wellbeing of our team and the success of our company.
What do you dream about?
I often catch myself not dreaming big enough, but the truth is that only the one who does not dream cannot fulfil their dreams. Dreaming does not cost a thing, but can inspire you to achieve even what you have thought was impossible.
I want to help talents achieve their dreams, too, with Atos IT Solutions and Services. Currently we have opened over 100 positions that can be the start of a stellar career for motivated, ambitious and clever professionals.
Sofia, 2 Knyaginya Maria Louisa Blvd, TZUM Business Center, floor 4
phone: +359 2 8141 419