Mario Peshev is the CEO of DevriX, a distributed WordPress agency that provides business and tech consulting for SMEs startups. His team helps to serve over a billion of monthly page views across their client base and his background in tech has enabled him to disrupt the IT ecosystem with agile solutions and a mix of management and marketing skills. Peshev’s Quora presence as a Top Writer, LinkedIn series and videos, plus guest posts for top publishers around the world means he is uniquely placed to offer advice to all web developers looking to make their mark in the workplace. In this exclusive interview with Manning Global, Mario also talks about his career journey so far, plus offers valuable insight into what it takes to become a successful CEO…
Please could you give a brief summary of you become the CEO of DevriX…
My background is in tech. I studied engineering for a while (after being a geek for nearly a decade and repairing computers in a small PC shop nearby). My first formal engineering job was for an enterprise consultancy teaching technical courses, and I was actively involved in both. Mixing theory with practice was truly invaluable, bootstrapping my career. A few years later, I switched to full-time freelancing which slowly evolved into DevriX, being a distributed WordPress agency offering retainers for SMEs and high-scale sites.
How did the idea for DevriX originate and what was the key to your success?
My last on-site job required about three hours of daily commute, odd working hours, and lack of creativity. I was interacting directly with my client who was across the sea, while my management requested me to stick to the usual business hours, leading to just a couple hours of overlap.
I already had some freelancing background and felt much more productive this way. After a couple years of freelance, our inbound marketing funnel got slightly better and I hired our first teammate who is currently our CTO.
We took it slowly over the first three years until I stepped in and designed the right initial processes and a recurring revenue framework that scales. Nowadays, 95% of our work revolves around WordPress retainers, plus a mix of technology and business consultancy for our long-term clients.
What’s the most important aspect of your role as CEO of DevriX?
My strong technical background allows me to support our technical team and act as a mentor at times. Software engineers often face the disconnect between traditional project managers and the reality of building high-scale enterprise-grade projects. My expertise in having built such is really instrumental in growing the company past 20 people, and hiring the right leadership afterwards.
Having started as a freelancer, I’ve experimented with remote working, flexible work hours, consulting, and other less conservative models. This financial and legal frugality was a safe bet scaling forward.
Studying sales, management, recruitment and marketing as integral roles for a CEO was inevitable. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but practice makes perfect, and I keep pushing forward in all of those areas.
Please can you tell our readers more about DevriX: your structure, how you operate as a company, plus how your business model differs to other WordPress development companies…
With a background in enterprise development (mainly Java, some Python and .NET), I was able to study the workflow of traditional enterprises and large corporations – their business needs, the selection process of vendors, communication style, what it takes to deliver top notch quality to a top brand.
WordPress is primarily used by bloggers and photographers, self-taught developers (often designers who started selling themes). There’s not a lot of competition in the WordPress enterprise field while the platform runs 31% of the web and is actively used by some of the largest organizations worldwide.
From universities through to governments, intranet solutions, eCommerce applications running on eCommerce, front-facing banking projects, telecom user panels – we’ve seen it all developed on top of WordPress. And our WordPress retainers are a healthy mix of hands-on development combined with professional business and marketing consultancy, discovering best practices for monetisation and hidden tricks to optimise and automate complex business workflows.
We’re currently a team of 45 and half of our company is still remote. Distributed work has allowed us to cover different time zones, work on major holidays (having people from different countries, cultures, religions), and provide better solutions across the board.
Do you have any recent successful case studies you’d like to share?
We’ve just scaled a magazine we’ve been working with for the past six months to 450 million monthly page views. I suspect we’ll get closer to a billion over the coming two or three months! Plus, our AdOps team has developed a complex header bidding integration for a real-time bidding partner of ours. This has been deployed across multiple publishers serving 900M monthly views combined. We keep investing in analytics tools and data science, and will hopefully put some time in machine learning for our internal toolkit.
CEO, digital consultant, entrepreneur, public speaker, writer… that’s a lot of roles and skills, which are your favourites?
That’s a great question! Wearing the CEO hat carries so many responsibilities. It’s tiresome at times, but seeing how our team grows and works hard to deliver results makes me extremely happy. Providing opportunities to people who haven’t been able to start elsewhere is also paying off over time. Retaining people for years is a testament to our innovative agile workflow.
I also love consulting – it’s a safe way to test our workflow and how we approach a business. Plus it allows me to study different industries and verticals on a regular basis.
Writing is a combinatory activity that supports our inbound marketing, helps with building a transparency framework for our existing team and future applicants, and provides actionable advice to a broader audience.
Oh, and entrepreneurship is more of a state of mind. I’ve built startups over time and had some that succeeded, but the agency life is truly time-consuming and we’re waiting for the next big idea leading to an upcoming product launch.
You built your first website in 1999, please could you tell us more about this…
Oh my… It was mostly static HTML! CSS and PHP had been invented a few years prior, but they weren’t as prominent (or popular) yet and resources were scarce. I started in an online tutorial and took it from there. That’s when I had to study hosting infrastructure and how web servers work upon expanding the feature set of the site. The topic was a Pokédex for Pokémon.
What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence and how it will affect people’s careers going forward?
I feel that some people take AI too seriously – at least when it comes to job fulfilment and opportunities. Remember chariots? Cars were introduced and with cars, professional drivers were needed, so were mechanics, engineers, producers of tyres, etc. Computers haven’t replaced secretaries or office managers; they help optimise their work and increase efficiency.
AI is already employed in practice. Its current applications facilitate personalised content and data, monitoring usage habits for applications and utilities, making guesstimates and assumptions for large statistical sets. Yes, some jobs will disappear – and this has happened across generations for the past few millenniums. Boring, repetitive, predictable jobs will be replaced by tools and robots. Luckily, this moves humanity forward. And those machines require monitoring, maintenance, assembling, integration – jobs that don’t exists now and can be occupied by the first group of workers.
What do you feel will be the top trending tech topic of 2019?
I don’t foresee anything groundbreaking or innovative in 2019 per se. AI, blockchain, AR, IoT, cloud applications and robotics will keep evolving steadily.
Enough about business, what are your hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy blogging and documenting my experience across different specialties. I also like watching TV series and reading.
What was best piece of advice you were ever given?
‘Focus’. I’ve heard that over and over again. Chaos breeds procrastination. Focus hits milestones!
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’m working on a branding course for IT folks over the coming months and my entrepreneurship book is almost out of the door. In the meantime, check out my marketing series on LinkedIn (which you can subscribe for as a part of their closed beta Series pilot program).