In February, I joined Andreas (software architect and CC manager) for a week in Albania’s capital Tirana. Our aim was to recruit an initial team of three software developers to work with Elison (the local supervisor) to support our product development. But we were also excited to get to know this unfamiliar land and its inhabitants. In this blog post, I want to express some of my impressions of Tirana.
We felt great hospitality right from the start. We experienced a level of kindness and cooperativeness that is rarely seen in the western parts of Europe.
The interviews were very exciting. Many of the applicants were very young, coming right from public or private universities and searching for a chance to start their working lives, develop themselves and build a good livelihood. It was shocking, however, to discover how often they were disappointed, exploited and even betrayed by their prior Albanian and western employers. Understandably, many applicants could not really believe what we were telling them about working in our company.
This is why we’re more than thrilled we picked Erida, Klevin, and Andi – three great candidates who almost immediately approved our offer. We’re happy to welcome them to our team in April and get to know them a bit better, too. This collaboration not only pushes our product development further but also gives Communardo a larger international presence.
Besides the numerous job interviews, we had some free time in the evening to get to know Tirana a bit better. We promptly noticed the great contrast between the designed nightlife areas like “Le Quartier du Blloku” in the city’s center and the partly decaying buildings and infrastructure in most parts outside the center. Tirana is a young city that has grown quickly over the past few years. Actual antique architecture is missing, and only parts are carefully restored. In the city center, office buildings have sprouted up right next to old buildings that are now empty because of failed speculation. The remaining buildings (museums, theaters, magnificent buildings, bunker and others) from the communist period are interesting, both touristically and architecturally. The residential area is dominated by concrete, although the use of colorful paints has created a friendly look in some areas.
In Tirana, you find a lot of modern academy and university buildings, which are financed privately and surely controlled from other nations for a strategic reason. It is also noticeable that many big call centers are located in the city, which seems to be an important part of the local economy.
Quite remarkable in Albania is the peaceful coexistence of people of different religions. Albania has been completely sparred from the conflict that has dominated its neighbor, the former Yugoslavia, only several kilometers north. In the center of Tirana, orthodox churches are just steps away from mosques. The muezzin’s call can be heard regularly, but only a handful of religious people are seen throughout the townscape. Religion seems to play a minor role in the everyday life.
While strolling through the city, we not only saw market halls and street vendors with fresh vegetables, fish, meat and of course traditional spices and herbs, but also cafés and bars with the typical coffee culture. There are many small diners and elegant restaurants, where we ate often, and plenty, and enjoyed the tasty dishes from the different parts of Albania – with quite affordable prices.
Albania is a country with a turbulent history and an abundance of cultural and personal traditions and values. It fluctuates between big economic and societal problems, like corruption and drug commerce, and the great hopes of the young generation.
Our stay in Tirana was one of the most impressive experiences of my working life. It is surely not the last time we will visit Tirana. We’re looking forward to a successful collaboration.