Meet the woman who helped redefine dev studio management, and paved the way for Nona to do things differently.
When Natasha Sunjich first approached Nona in 2014, the studio was still in its infancy. Picture seven team members, in a small office space, with some old wicker furniture and a few of the basics (a classic tech startup). It was a far cry from the thirty-strong employee development studio that it is today.
A Unique Fit
She didn’t have the perfect CVfor the project manager position she was applying for, but the directors all felt that with her experience in the hospitality industry — working on various yachts and running her own coffee shop, her knack for interior design, and her tried-and-tested management skills, she had the right attributes and drive to be part of the Nona team. So, they took a leap of faith and gave her the chance to start building the Nona space and finding her place.
It quickly became clear that the varied nature of her skill-set that hampered her from getting the project management position in the first place, had become Natasha’s greatest asset as a Studio Manager — a new role created specifically for her. Today, her role comprises a number of tasks and disciplines, such as HR, client relationship building, accounts, studio management, and leadership support.
Creating the the Nona Space & Culture
Natasha has been integral in setting up a conducive working environment for a group of skilled developers, who had little time to focus on much else.
My first task was to furnish the office and create a working space. It was fun, challenging and rewarding — and the beginning of my playing a role in almost every aspect of the company’s development.
When stepping into the Nona offices, her efforts are immediately evident in the interior design, which prioritises natural light and hues. With a very limited budget at her disposal, Natasha had to get her hands dirty with some DIY work — painting, drilling, and sourcing and arranging furniture to suit the requirements of each space.
Making Nona feel like home
In the early days, lunch at Nona was a group effort and everyone took turns to cook. However, although the healthy, home-made lunches and team bonding was appreciated by everyone, this arrangement quickly became hard to maintain due to the growing numbers, and the time constraints that developers know all too well.
It was a task that needed to be owned by an individual, and Natasha took this on, working closely with Ethol, who started out as our cleaner and eventually became Nona’s full-time chef — which is how “Ethol’s Eatery” started. “It felt good to encourage and inspire someone else to flourish in a position that they’d recently discovered a passion for,” explains Natasha. The daily lunches were soon complemented by a fridge full of beers and other beverages, encouraging people to take a break from their desks later in the day.
Feeding an army of developers and designers is no easy feat, but Natasha has used her keen business brain to help Nona approach consumption frugally, without compromising on quality. She’s also contributed to our culture of sustainability, facilitating recycling, implementing policies to save water, and emphasising the importance of these efforts.
In addition to ensuring everyone is fed and environmentally conscious, Natasha also looks out for the wellbeing of the team as a whole. This involves a range of activities, from boosting team morale, through events, and making everyone feel special and appreciated with unique birthday and anniversary gifts, to onboarding people, connecting to the many different personalities at Nona and being aware of their individual needs — all of which are key factors in keeping the team bonded and, happy.