Marija Stanojević

From: Serbia

Age: 24 years

Activity: Talent Acquisition Operations Consultant

My name is Marija but all my close friends call me Maraja (in English that sounds like Mariah). Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to work with people. I could always find a way to motivate them and figure out what makes them going but also discover their passions and desires even before they knew it themselves. When I tell people that I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up since I was in elementary school they usually laugh (because even now, when they are in their twenties or thirties they don’t know what they want to do) but I consider that I was quite lucky to be able to discover my passion in such early age. I have graduated from Faculty of security studies in 2015. and the focus of my bachelor studies was human resource management. When I finished my studies I got myself an internship at Société Générale Bank (now it is OTP Bank). I spent 2 months in their HR department where I had a chance to learn from everyone and to understand firsthand how HR works in real live and in big companies. As soon as I finished my internship I enrolled in master studies at Faculty of organizational studies. My main focus was on marketing and PR since I wanted to combine my existing knowledge of HR with that. Along with starting my master studies, I got a job at NCR as a Talent Acquisition Partner.

I consider myself as an ambitious person. I want to develop in the field of HR as a recruiter and after that to focus all my existing knowledge on employer branding. I am fascinated with both HR and marketing and that would give me a chance to combine those two and use the best of two worlds.

The beginning of my professional career had some obstacles. It is hard to find your first job with the position you desire as you don’t have much experience at that moment. But, I was determined and at my interview with my current manager I showed that determination, willingness to learn and love for the job you want to do, can sometimes be even more important than the number of years in your CV. As I started working since I was 15 (many different jobs during the years, sometimes more than two at the same time) I have learned to be patient with people, to understand the way different people think and to appreciate the knowledge I was given, no matter how irrelevant it may seem at the time. All that was quite handy as I was the youngest person in my new job and not everyone wanted to treat me as their equal. But over time, I showed them that my age can just be an advantage for the team.

I can proudly say that I had many academic achievements over the years, but the thing the I am most proud of is the fact that numerous friends and people who were just acquaintances told me that some of my advices and conversations that they had with me, changed their life.  Every time I heard something like that it made me work even harder on myself and to keep fighting for my dreams.

People are quite sceptical about career development here in Serbia and the number of opportunities someone can receive. I can agree that it is hard and that you might have a lot of obstacles, but it is definitely possible to fulfil all your dreams. The only thing that makes a difference is if you work hard enough every day and don’t let yourself give up when things get a bit tricky. I always try to keep an open mind and to use the best of what I have at that moment.

I hope I will be able to grow in my field and that soon enough I will have a chance work as a recruiter. Then I will have a chance to work with people, find what is best in them and help them find a job that will make them happy to wake up every morning.  At the same time I will have a chance to motivate young candidates to show what’s best in them and to break down the prejudices about their abilities. Even though I am 24 years old, I had a chance to travel the world and meet people from different cultures. I hope that in my career I will be able to do the same and also spend some time during my professional development teaching young students about the HR and everything amazing that comes with it.


Tornike Pirveli

From: Georgia, Tbilisi

Age: 22 years

Activity: Data Science Intern at Bank of Georgia

I am a senior student at the Free University of Tbilisi. I have a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a manor in Computer Science. Currently, I am pursuing machine learning at the Bank of Georgia. Next year I hope to continue my studies in Germany. That is a short description of where I am at and where I would like to end up in a near future.

I think my journey began right after I finished high school and applied for the Free University of Tbilisi. The competition was high here; hence I think of it as an achievement. I knew beforehand that students of this university were quite smart. I am the type of guy that is dependent on the community that surrounds me. If I have intellectually challenging friends, I try to keep up with them as hard as I can; otherwise, I can not challenge myself and improve.

The thing that I am proud of is that I don’t lie to myself and my family about such decisions. From my perspective, it is already too difficult to be successful, at least here in Georgia. I think it is because of motivation. It is hard to obtain. I am not sure if people are aware that the economy is pretty bad. One dollar is equal to nearly 3.3 of our national currency. For me, it is like telling the whole country you will be paid 3.3 times less than is average in developed countries.

I am aware that people are living in a much harsher environment, but that is not the reason to be glad of what we have, at least that is what I think. There is nothing wrong with wishing for better. That is what keeps me motivated – I want more than I already have. Not just for me, mostly for the people who helped me along the way. I simply want to return the favor.


Andrej Jakovljević

From: Belgrade, Serbia

Age: 20 years

Activity: Student at the University of Belgrade

Hi, I’m Andrej and I am a third year student at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Since I was little, I have loved reading, and for me, books were a magical portal to new worlds. For the first ten years of my life, I was reading every book that I could get my hands on, technical and non-technical all the same! 

Reading those technical books has drawn me to Mathematics, Physics and Programming, in which I had won multiple national awards for elementary school students. 

This has allowed me to enter a prestigious high school in Serbia, with the best 20 students in Mathematics, Programming and Physics in the country. It was an amazing experience to talk with and share ideas with like-minded people. That has help me develop into a better person, as well as an engineer. 

My first experience doing academic projects was at Petnica Science Center, a place for students to do their own year-long projects in a scientific field of their choosing. There, I learned how to collaborate with my peers, develop a project just from an idea, communicate with a mentor and present my work to a larger audience. I had the necessary equipment and guidance to follow through on four year-long experiments in physics, each with a different subject. It was exhilarating to witness an idea come to life. I am hoping to recreate that feeling every time I do research, with my eagerness to learn and improve driving me forward on my academic path. 

I am deeply motived by a desire to make the world a better place. That I why I got into engineering. For me, it is a path which will allow me to build products that will help ordinary people live better. 

Being from a non-EU country, it is a challenge to break through in the field of engineering to a wider audience. Although we have very good professors at our university, our school isn’t well known in other countries which makes it difficult when applying for academic and industry positions abroad. I am hoping that our country will help students like me to have better mobility with other countries around the world, in order to broaden our horizons and return home with those experiences.

I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering at my university. It has shown me that there are many other areas of computer science that I have yet to discover. Throughout courses in Operating Systems, Computer Networks and Computer Architecture, I now have more understanding of the inner workings of the computer, and the software that relates to it closely. I excelled in coursework, having perfect GPA in my first two years of studies and being given the award for the best student of Software engineering in my year for two years in a row. During this summer, I had an opportunity to intern at Microsoft, one of the biggest software companies in the world. Being on the Maps team there, I worked on a large-scale product which was used by millions of people around the world.   

In the future, I am hoping for an industry or academia position abroad, which will help me experience different cultures and people and make me grow as a person and an engineer. Being from Serbia, it is harder, but I am hoping with hard work, I will be able to make to world a better place!


Aygul Ismayilova

From: Baku, Azerbaijan

Age: 32 years

Activity: Builder

I am creative, responsible, industrious, intelligent and hot tempered. These are the five words that best describe me, as I have consistently heard from my family, friends and colleagues. I couldn’t say any of the five above mentioned traits is my cardinal trait. My central traits are friendly, careful, humility, industriousness and intelligence. I consider my temper an individual personality.

Having an ambition in life gives you focus and determination. It gives you a great purpose to get out of bed every day and go after your goals with vigour and positivity. This motivation gives you a reason to be alive that goes beyond yourself. We all have a purpose in life, we just need to find it. We have something that we can give to the world, to society, to those around us, to the future. I agree with the artist Salvador Dali, who once said, “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” To achieve something great requires dedication, time, energy, and motivation. My ambition in life is to become a professional person in IT field. I also want to create a higher level ERP system using the analysis of all erp systems.

In the future, I want to establish a school that will allow talented students to innovate in the field of IT with a rich material and technical base and a high level of education. Technology is growing fast and changing our lives, which our future depends on. But technology  is developing slowly in our country despite many talented young people. We must guide young people in the right direction and use their potential for the future. 

I have faced many challenges in my career and also achieved many successes. Sometimes I decided to give up halfway through difficult times. However, our goals, our love of our job, our desire to succeed prevent us from doing this. The biggest challenge in my career was when I started my managerial career. Because you are starting to work with people with different personalities and knowledge. The most important thing is to organize the work process by directing these people correctly and using their potential. In the process of work, all the responsibility falls on you. Then I started to improve my managerial side.

My biggest dream is to work in a company that makes discoveries in the field of technology. Because I have a creative talent, and my desire to discover innovations that do not leave me comfortable. In our country, such companies have not yet developed much. 

Life isn’t about possessions and accomplishments. It’s about what you’ve done with those things – what you have given back. It’s about caring enough for others and seizing the opportunity when you have the chance to do some good. Nothing feels better than giving someone an honest, heartfelt compliment.  When you start acknowledging beautiful things about other people we can guarantee the positive messages you put out into the world will come right back to you.  Plus when you start focusing on the best of others it will literally change your view of the world.


Aytaj Kalbaliyeva

From: Azerbaijan

Age: 23 years

Activity: I am currently working as a Junior Specialist in the field of International Relations. 

My name is Aytaj Kalbaliyeva and I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1997. For me, being born in this place appeared to be a challenge during my adolescent years since I have observed a lot of issues that needed to be handled properly. Later on, I made a decision to invest in my education and capabilities more in order to be a part of the solutions, not the problems in my country. After all, we are the ones that can make the world a better place, and contributing to the minor steps of progress in developing countries can be a sound starting point.  

       Taking into account that obtaining a high-quality education should be my primary target, I have pursued my bachelor’s degree in the field of International Studies at one of the best universities in Azerbaijan – ADA University. Even though it was newly established, the university provided plenty of opportunities for personal and professional development, and it was exactly what I needed. I am of the opinion that university plays a significant role on lives of people as I would not be who I am today without the education and qualifications ADA University bestowed on me. The fact that graduating from this university takes a lot of diligence and sleepless nights made me even more motivated and hardworking, along with contributing to my educational background positively. Throughout the university years, we worked on diverse projects together with the fellow students for the purpose of solving problems in our native land. One of them was related to reducing the amount of paper waste with the assistance of recycling as well as raising awareness in society, thereby mitigating the negative consequences of this action on the environment. Despite the fact that it was a small-scale project in the beginning, the reverberation it brought along was colossal in Baku. Also, it is worth to emphasize that working on such projects refined my team working, critical thinking and problem solving skills to a great extent, together with making me a more accountable and creative person.

       Furthermore, I reckon that international experience is one of the necessary elements for being a highly-skilled worker; therefore, I applied for an internship opportunity at the European Parliament. I was one of the few selected people who had a chance to witness how one of the EU institutions functions and deals with the issues of its member states. Being an intern in this organization was influential, in the sense that it assisted me to advance my knowledge and skills further, and to determine which branch of my field is more intriguing for me. Thus, after gaining sufficient job experience in Azerbaijan, I plan to specialize in the sphere of International Law by pursuing my master’s degree abroad. 

       As for the challenges I faced in Azerbaijan, graduating from the university during a pandemic, and afterwards encountering with war was demotivating. People were losing their jobs, businessess were being shut down and ironically, we were looking for a job with inadequate experience. It was quite apparent that this process would take a lot of efforts and time; ergo, I decided to volunteer at one of the non-governmental organizations. Translating documents, organizing awareness events and helping the people in need became valuable parts of my experience in this place since I felt as a useful member of my country. Later on, I got an opportunity to work as a Junior International Relations Specialist at one of the private organizations; however it is just a starting point for me. Even though life is not like a fairytale and full of challenges, I do not give up making big plans and aiming high. I keep working for my goals towards becoming a required professional in my own field, thereby bringing the change into the political sector in Azerbaijan. The country needs people who are able to propose plausible as well as practical policies for innovations in political sector, and I hope I will be one of those professionals in the future.


Beka Barsonidze   

From: Tbilisi, Georgia

Activity: Internal audit of Geo hospitals (one of the largest medical organizations in Georgia). 

Also student of IT Step academy – digital marketing

Hello my name is Beka Barsonidze. I graduated from Free University and am currently a specialist in Internal Audit at Geo Hospitals.  In my opinion the qualities that make me more competitive in the market are: adaptability, good time management skills, team player, detail oriented,  sense of responsibility , etc. These are the habits I developed during my university activities or participating in various projects.

I am from georgia, it’s small post sovietian country located in caucausus. The GDP per capita (nominal) is $ 4289, It may seem to you that Georgia is an underdeveloped poor country, But your point of view will change when I tell you that 20 years ago GDP was $ 802. This 20 years is the time when my consciousness was being formed and I was seeing progress with my own eyes. It was the tendency that was the source of my motivation to stay in this country and contribute to the development of this country through my work. 

   I graduated from public school and was an average Georgian teenager with above average ambitions. The price of the best university in my country (free university of georgia) when I had to pass was higher than GDP per capita. So the only way I could get there was Various grants. I received a 100% state grant as well as an in-house university grant. This little success doubled my motivation and gave me more self-confidence. While studying at the university, I participated in various programs and activities, which allowed me to better understand the market needs.  In my fourth year at university, I started working as an intern in the Audit Department at Geo Hospitals 3 months later I was officially registered in the Audit Department as an assistant, but soon the situation changed I became an internal audit specialist where I still work. But all this was not so simple. Getting a job is quite difficult for inexperienced staff in my country. The biggest disappointment for me was the 6-stage interview at one of the strongest financial institutions where I went through 5 stages in 3 months but was eventually rejected. But that whick does not kill us makes us stronger. So I continued to work for my goals.

  The family also has a huge role to play in this process. In my country, the involvement of parents in the lives of children is quite large, which often has a negative impact on the child. But in my opinion my family best defended the middle ground to give me freedom and at the same time stand by me.

  I think it was these three components that created my indeterminacy.

Many think that being born in a developing country is a punishment, but I tell them it is an opportunity to make you and your country better. Of course here you have to work harder to achieve the goal and this is really a negative factor, however the coin has two sides, so if you work hard enough and take the right steps then everything will be easier. Because human resources are relatively cheap here, it is also a small country and it is easy to find contacts. So I can not agree with anyone who thinks that being born in Georgia is a punishment and this will be confirmed by my and my friends startup that will start in the autumn. (I can not reveal more details unfortunately). 

So I want to tell you one piece of advice: never give up the possibilities are endless, no matter where you are from.

As for the future world, in my opinion  the world will never be the same as it was before the pandemic. New needs have arisen in the world, There has also been a reassessment of many values. I suggest conservative approaches on the part of managers (e.g. it is necessary to work from the office) will change, which will save companies quite a lot of rent, as well as allow employees to work wherever they want, which will bring more people to the labor market and increase competition. I, therefore, suggest a faster increase in quality and more productive use of the salaries paid. Employees, on the other hand, will be committed to constantly evolving and arranging their work comfort space. Of course, you can not go to digital work, this will apply to low-level managers and assistants in the first instance Which is the vast majority of people employed. All this will lead to a completely different distribution of money in the world and create new opportunities.


Dino Kečević

From: Zagreb, Croatia

Age: 17 years

Activity: High-school and music high-school in Zagreb. Also working in a startup called  VeeMee.

I am Dino Kečević.

I’m a 17-year-old going to a secondary school in Zagreb. Actually, I go to two secondary schools – a general one, and one at which I learn more about the art of music. I play an accordion. But this doesn’t sum it all up; I’m also very interested in economics, finance, business, in general and investing. I would like to delve into these things deeper after I finish school. I am also proficient in English.

8 months ago I found a summer job through Linkedin. I work for a company called VeeMee. I work as a social media marketer and data entry guy.

VeeMee is the first Croatian digital platform in the agricultural and trading sector where consumers can find out all about the origin of the products they buy.

By scanning the QR code of the product, every consumer equipped with a smartphone can access profiles on our platform that contain all relevant information about the origin of the product, its manufacturer, certificates, capacities, and distributors.

The purpose of the VeeMee platform is to improve the visibility of the producer to the end consumer and also to promote the product’s origin. 


Dominik Metličić

From: Split, Croatia

Age: 23 years

Activity: Marketing Strategist 

Hello, my name is Dominik and I come from Split, Croatia.

I finished my bachelor’s degree in Tourism at the Faculty of Economics in Split, and then I continuted for my master’s degree in Tourism and Hotel Management at the same Faculty, but with a strong interest and focus in Marketing. Now I am currently on my Erasmus+ program in Valencia, Spain, for my final semester. The field of study that I am doing in Valencia is Marketing. This means that I am finishing my 5th year study in Spain, if we don’t count that the final master thesis will be defended in Split.

Regarding my work experience, I have worked in dozen companies at various positions since the age of 17. Basically, I have constantly been working for 6 years now, including the international worldwide corporations such as Radisson Blu, Red Bull etc… The local companies that I have been working for, as well as having my internships at, were Zagrebačka pivovara, Ipsos Puls, SeekandHit, Split Tourist Board and Bontech Research Co. I have also been an associate in marketing and guest coordination for a Slovenian yachting company called Goolets Ltd.

My field of interest are mainly inbound marketing strategies, with a focus in marketing planning and researching, as well as content creating, advertising and lead generation.

I have also volunteered in some organizations, such as: hosting a radio show for a student association Students for Students Split, organizing events for a European student organization Erasmus Student Network, and also volunteered as a project associate in business planning for an entrepreneuiral project GoToBot at the Student Business Incubator Split, that we have won first place for at a student competition called SPI Demo Day.

I have done more than a dozen of projects and papers in the fields of Tourism and Marketing, and also have been a demonstrator at four university subjects, as well as a guest lecturer at two conferences.

Some good professional habits, which I gained in the past 12 months, include: reading marketing books and blogs, watching educational videos, listening to marketing podcasts and taking marketing courses.

Next goals that I am looking forward to are:

  • seeing how will my master’s thesis, called “Marketing management in premium priced product sales”, contribute to the profit of the company that I am working for;
  • finishing my first scientific book, as a co-author, called “Marketing strategies in tourism and hospitality”;
  • gaining a dean’s od rector’s award this year, either for my GPA or academic references
  • possibly going for a PhD in Marketing;

I want to make a tiny part of the world around me a better place by providing value to business owners, as well as educational growth to students that I hope I would be educating some day, at a university level.

What drives me to succed and grow in life the most is the fact that I learned to love the process and not the end result, so I know that I have my whole life ahead of me to learn, develop and gain experience.

Factors in my own country that have helped me are mostly regarded by one of the professor that I have met at Faculty of Economics in Split, who as also been my life coach and business mentor for most of the projects so far. He opened some business doors for me a couple of times, as well as mentored my in life decisions also. With him, I think that I had a good base for achieving my full potential, but I have always been trying to work harder than anyone else in the room, so I definitely know it was well deserved!

I am really passionate about marketing and some day I will be everything I can around marketing – an author, lecturer, consultant, top manager and an entrepreneur. My goal is to work hard on further strengthening my good sides, and not spending time on improving skills I am not good at. Self awareness is the game for me, loving the long-term results and being completely patient and ambitious at the same time.


Jelena Arsic

From: Serbia

Activity: Hotel Management 

At very early age I discovered something special about me – that I am intended to be more focused on spiritual pursuits and helping others and I could naturally sense what people need and where their unhappiness lies. I have strong ability to merge with others and It was clear to me that I am not driven by materialism and often find myself drawn to experiences that bring me outside of mundane reality. 

During my primary education I have discovered a keen wish, deep in myself, to become a cosmopolite, travel the world and I wanted to commit to work that feels like a calling – something that is sacred for me and something I was born to do. While on one side, it was a bit challenging to find meaningful career that’s also financially rewarding, on the other side I knew that something will seem amiss if my work doesn’t align with my values. After graduation from secondary school, as expected, I decided myself to study Tourism and Hospitality. I found hospitality as a perfect career choice because motivation for me means being of service to others and making a genuine difference. Hospitality allows me to tap into my sense of empathy and kindness and let me open the hearts of others.  

I was born in Belgrade, Serbia – a Balkan country in Eastern Europe and studying abroad was a dream for most of my coevals and I knew that studying abroad will be much more beneficial than staying in country with unstable economic and political situation. At that time, joining European Universities for non-EU citizens was hardly accessible as application process could be long and implied getting studying visa and resident permit. I was sort of lucky as I managed to get a scholarship to continue my studies in Austria and this meant a new challenge in my educational and personal improvement. Completely new environment at internationally profiled Austrian Tourism College helped me a lot to mature as a person and to improve my personality. Apart from making wonderful friendships, international education helped me to upgrade my German, English and Spanish language skills, as well technical knowledge about tourism and hospitality branch and most importantly capacitated me to put it into practice.  After graduating at Tourism College in Austria and College for Hotel Management in Serbia later, I opted for work experience and was honored to begin building my career with some of the most luxurious and world famous hotel chains such as Hyatt, Conrad Hilton, and InterContinental, from Europe to Middle East. 

Again, I chased professional challenges out of my native country, because of many different factors – larger labor market, more favorable business climate, constantly available vacancies, better standard and quality of living and most importantly priceless experience which could be gained in countries with developed tourism industry. Still, holding a Serbian passport wasn’t advantage at all and again my possibilities to work abroad were limited. Obtaining work permit for USA or EU zone for Serbian citizens is almost impossible – back then, likewise nowadays. Therefore, a hunt for professional challenges directed me to Middle East – a region very open to different cultures. 

I relocated to a “different planet” called Dubai, and joined the well-established and most luxurious brand of Hilton hotels – Conrad Dubai hotel. For someone who is willing to pursue his career in hospitality and tourism, there is hardly a more opportune place than Dubai nowadays. 

Two years after, I left Dubai and moved to Doha, Qatar to be part of a great project and I joined the pre-opening team as a Team Leader of the new VIP Club Lounge opened in InterContinental Doha. This experience was significant base for my upcoming professional move. I moved back to Europe to be a part of InterContinental team to open a first five-star hotel in Ljubljana, Slovenia. 

I have spent 7 years out of my native country, Including my studies and work engagements. For me, and I believe for most of my coevals born in countries with economies in transition, life equates to a career, and from work it depends on where we will live next. Opening of a first Hilton hotel in my hometown in 2018, brought me back to Serbia and it was a project worth of coming back. Opening of Hilton hotel in Belgrade made a remarkable “boom” on regional market and reunited the top talents of Hilton family and successful local hospitality staff including those who returned from abroad especially to be part of this significant investment.  

Today, two years after of this very important event for local community and for myself, not only hospitality, but entire world economy is facing a turbulent upheaval and upcoming years will show the new world face, while once again we are forced to adapt and cope, left to ourselves. Consequently, I was also forced to drop hospitality for a while, and all my experience, talents and knowledge put aside until pandemic is over. 

It is terribly hard to comprehend how hospitality and tourism will look like in the future and it became almost impossible to answer to a popular interview question – “Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?”. 

Some turning points are staggering experiences; others are teaching moments, and if we’re lucky, some lead us to fulfill our purpose in life. Current events made me think profoundly, about where I could redirect my natural talents for helping others and where I should position myself in the future. Even though I have not yet found the answer on that question, I want to stay positive-minded when predicting a future. I use this time to do things I was too busy for. I work on personal development and I devoted my spare time to read books about professional and personal improvement, and to meditating and practicing yoga, every day visualizing ideas about perfect career life with lots of hope. 


Jovana Jakovljević

From: Belgrade, Serbia

Age: 30 years

Activity: Credit Risk Modeling Officer

First of all I am matematicin, hence sorry for my non creative answers and sometimes confusing. I have bechlor degree from Mathematics on Belgrade university (it lasts for 4 years). Previously I finished high school (gymnasium) and whan I thought what would be best to study, I thought about Economis, as most of the pupils my age at that time. Here was widespread opinion if you do not know what to study, take Law or Economic studies. But, back then, my parents had a friend who was math teacher in one high school, and he told me: “Too little pupils takes Maths to study, and on Economic faculty there are too many students. Also, you have new module (Financial, statistical and actuarial mathematics) to take to study which is connected to Economy and if you want you can take master degree after that on Economics. So, If you fiish Maths it will be easier to find a job, comparing it to Economics.” That was break point in my life. I decided to take Maths.

In my head, in high school, it looked so easy to study Maths, since I loved it, just to practice it while listening to the good music. Of course, it was not like that on Faculty.

As I am stubborn person, it helped me to do my best and finish Maths.

When I look back now, I think that was the best decision in my life.

Your ambitions, drives and motivations to succeed and grow in life

I find myself as very ambitious person. I knew that I was not so, if I can say, talented for mathematics. Sometimes it took so many hours of practicing in order to learn something, but I knew I cannot give up.

I was always dreaming big – about some specific job in Bank, to work as some specialist in some area in which it is difficult to find so many specialist and to be well paied which would allow me to live life with lot of travels (taking into account that people from my country do not have money to travel since the average salary here is around 500 EUR and flights are pretty expencive) and life without much renunciation as I had when I was a liitle. And it  happened, just as I was dreaming.

Sometimes it seems to me that I have gone the hard path in life while lot of my friends were taken the easier one. My faculty was very difficult to study. Also, my first job was very difficult to me. While working as intern in audit, long long hours for very little wage, job suitable for economist, not matematician.

But I found every step as woth that chosen difficult path in life. I knew I must do that in order to become successful, and acomplish my dreams, and help parents. It was very difficult for them to provide to me and my brother everything that one child had at that time (to go to every excursion in high schol, to go on seaside every year and to study and eat everyday).

The journey you’ve had so far, and challenges that you have met and overcome

There were a lot of challenges in my career. For example, working long hours in audit, finish everything on time, and handle all stat stress when its “audit season” (from october until april). It was very difficult because you work all the time, and your friends stop to call you to go out for a drink and talk. At that time I was living with my parents, but I was not seeing them, because I was working all day. When I came home they were sleeping. But young colleagues and good atmosphere at work was the thing that pushes you forward.

In order to earn more money for a life, since as, I told my salary was too small, I was giving private classes in Maths. It was very hard to hande two jobs, but I knew I must do that. I loved to give private classes of maths. Its about be a good psychologist for that child and make a good influence on child, not just teach how to solve problem.

For me, the most important thing in work is that I learned to say no. That something is not possible to be done in that short time. As I realized, here in Serbia, almost each job is designed so that one person does a lot of things while on the west the same job is done by several people. SO people here are usually overload with work, and because of that is important to learn to say no.

Factors in your own country/region that have helped or hindered you

There were no factors in my country which helped or hindered me. The situation in my country is very bas. Here are a lot of coruption, most of people have average salary, or below average, which is too little when you have a family. People here live in fear to speak their mind. People in state-owned company got job only if they support president and its associates… and so on.

Achievements you are proud of, next goals you look forward to

I am proud of finishing Maths, I am proud of working in company full of economists who new a lot of things from faculty with one matematician (me) who did not know anything and had to learn while working. I am proud of that I found every job on my own, not with help of someoone (which is case here in my country with lot of people). I am proud of HRs in lot of companies recognises me as person capable for doing the job in their companies. I am proud of the thing that people recognizes my effort and my knowledge.

Your outlook for the future, hopes and dreams

I am dreaming of working in European Investment Bank ☺

How you want to make the world (or tiny part around you) a better place

Oh, there is so much that can be done. I am so sad that place where I live is really bad, in way that so much can be done for ecology, so much can be done for health care, so much can be done for economy, and president is doing nothing.

Whenever I see something place for improvement, I am writing to government institutions to do something, but I think people here gave up on those attempts because usually there is no response from government institutions. But I know that it is important to be persistent and you will win, unfortenatelly maybe afer 6 months of writing e-mails and or 1 year.


Luka Radjenovic 

From: Belgrade, Serbia.

Age: 25 years

Activity: Second year student at the ESCP Europe Master in Management, currently finishing my internship as a Price&Promotion intern at Nelt D.O.O.

I am a 25 year old student from Serbia. At a young age I left my country with my family and moved to the North-East of Italy, where I lived for more than 13 years and completed my primary and high-school education. I later got my BScEcon at the Bocconi University in Milan and currently I am enrolled at the ESCP Europe Master in Management program. In between my studies I worked for almost 10 months in a Swiss NGO called “Diplo Foundation”, specialized in capacity building aross topics such as cybersecurity, AI and virtual technologies, which allowed me to travel across the Balkans, Malta and Switzerland. During this experience I was also delighted to collaborate with the Internet Society in publishing the global report “The effect of Consolidation in the Internet Economy”, where we analyzed the effects of the acquisition of several digital startups by big tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. 

I would say that my main traits are an inner sense of curiosity for discovering new things, a genuine passion for travel as well as an open mindeset towards new cultures and experiences, but at the same time a sense of belonging to my home contry an most importantly, my family, which is the thing I value the most. This pro active attitude allowed me to learn five languages, three of which I speak fluently. Since I come from a sports family, I also value a healthy lifestyle made of consistent physical activities and a balanced diet which is based on the key feature of “moderation”, an element that is very much present in the Italian/Mediterian nutrition too. I am not a supporter of the so called “work hard party hard” life motto, since I found it to be very distructive for a person and the people around him. 

What drives me are not material things, such as money or other sorts of physical possessions, although I do understand their importance and that we have to include them in our life. For me the most important thing is to grow professionally and personally every single day, by travelling, meeting new people and it this way absorbe as much knowledge as possible. I believe that in this way you avoid the risk of staying complacent and stagnate. Sometimes it is not easy to do so, since I have to go out of my comfort zone, but I have found that eventually it always pays dividends. I also value getting recognition for my work, especially from my colleagues or peers. For instance, during my first year of Master studies in Berlin, together with the members of the university association called “Oikos Berlin” I was very proud to work on and create an ecological garden on campus, where different organic vegetables and other plants are now grown. All the people involved in the project received a small commemorative plate for our university, a small gesture, which however shows you that your effort is being valued. 

At the same time I strongly believe that in order to have a good work-life balance you have to pursue the passions you have outside your professional life. In my case two of my biggest passions are Cinema and manga comics: by attending several conventions and events such as the Lucca and Tokyo Comic Cons, I was able to meet some amazing people who come from a completely different professional background than mine, which makes my personal connections much more diverse. 

During my student career I faced many financial challenges: both of the universities I went to are private institutions, with annual fees far above the financial capability of my family. In order to finance my studies, I was able to get merit based scholarships that covered completely or at least partly those expenses, something that Iam very proud of. Furthermore, I was able to get an additional source of money by working on campus as a staff member for many events organized the university. Another challenge that I faced was the one of constant relocation, especially during my Master studies: the program that I enrolled to gives you the unique possibility to study on six main European campuses (Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, Turin and Warsaw) across the time span of four semesters. In my case, I spent the first year in Berlin, while I split the second one between Paris and Madrid. Apart from the cultural experience of lving his gave me the opportunity to meet several other students from all over Europe and the world, However, this brings also a set of logistical challenges, since many times I had to find a cheap accomodation in a very short time period. I also discovered how much bureaucracy some of the countries have when it comes to paperwork for an accomodation. Fortunately, I was always able to find a good option, and the experience improved my ability to be self-indipendent, as well as my negotiation skills.

The main issue that has hindered me from a professional  so far in my home country of Serbia is the lack of meritocracy due to flawed public institutions. Without getting too political, as in many post-war transitional countries the leading political parties have a huge influence on someone getting a job or not. Hence, many times it is the connection or political affiliation you have, and not the talent or skills, that lead you to get a job. Of course this rule does not apply to all the industries and all the companies, but as a general rule it is unfortunately true. On the other hand, the fact that I come from a poorer European area, motivated me to work much harder than my peers from my earliest days and I believe it was one of the key drivers for my future academic path. During my early education, I was at the top of my class despite being the only foreigner, even in subjects such as Italian language, and I don’t think this was a coincidence.

From a professional point of view, in the next few years I hope to work abroad and gain as much expertise as possible about the FMCG as a whole, and more importantly on how to make the products being produced more eco-friendly. In fact, my long term goal is to come back to Serbia one day and with the experience I have gained try to push for a more sustainable working approach across the country and the region as a whole. I am aware that it will not be an easy fit, but I strongly believe that any kind of change is a good place to start, whether it be an internal change from an existing big company, or a new startup platform pushing for such a transformation. Serbia and Belgrade in particular have a big problem when it comes to pollution and recycling waste, with standards well below the European ones. My dream is to leave this region of our planet in a better state than it was before, so that my children and future generations could benefit from it. 


Marijan Smetko

From: A small town Lipovljani in Croatia

Age: 24 years

Activity: I study Computer Science at Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, University of Zagreb. I am also part-time interning as a computer vision engineer at RealNetworks in their Zagreb office.

My name is Marijan Smetko. I am the only child of Damir Smetko, my father, a local news reporter, and mother Dubravka, a tailor. Since a very early age I showed particular interests in all things science, from applied physics and chemistry, all the way to Queen Math. I did a lot of physics and chemistry experiments in my childhood and I dreamed of becoming a scientist, discovering something new and pushing the boundary of human knowledge, and I still kind of do. I read a lot (my parents often left me in the library as a kid when they had to run errands) and I built a lot (I had a big sandbox in my backyard in which I spent a significant portion of time as kid). My house had literally no roof and no water, which we got from our well in the yard, but it had infinite love and closeness many families would be envious of.

I was a nerdy, (almost) straight A student in my elementary school and pretty communicative with others, but not especially popular, as kids can be really mean at those ages, which I’ve learned to ignore. My parents and teachers all saw a potential in me, so my highschool education was never a question – it was to be continued in the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb, where the best schools in my country reside. I wanted to be a pupil of one of the best high schools in Zagreb, but was not admitted, which meant that I was ineligible for most of the other good schools due to the national highschool admission procedure at the time. This in turn meant I had to choose from a pool of schools which had free capacity after the first round, so I chose the Electrotechnical School of Končar; but this was only temporary. The plan was to transfer to another great school at the end of the school year. I, personally myself, went to the principal of that highschool and requested if he would accept me, and this bold move of mine charmed him so much he made sure I was transferred there at the end of a semester! So I started my second semester at the Vth Gymnasium Zagreb, one of the best schools in my country with a natural science and mathematics program. I am thankful to Mr. Petar Mladinić for this unique opportunity to this day.

My main strength throughout life is that I am incredibly versatile – I am not very good at dedicating myself to one and only one thing, so I often did all of them. I was always pretty competitive and I was a part of really numerous knowledge competitions in my youth, mostly math, physics and chemistry, sometimes Croatian and English language. I would often beat the school level which would promote me to the regional level in my country, and twice I was promoted all the way to the national level competing as a team in Ecology while I was in the elementary school. After I started highschool, my ambition grew and I was competing (in addition to those aforementioned competitions) at the world level in a famous ACSL computer programming competition. In 2014, I was even invited to do the final round of ACSL in Denver, Colorado as my results were in the world top, but due to insufficient funds, the team of students I was a part of never actually went.

That computer programming competition confirmed something I have been feeling since childhood – I was always interested in computers, but at that moment I had proof I was also very good at it, and it was around that moment I decided to make exactly programming my career, although I never just stopped loving physics and math. Due to financial reasons (again) I was never in the game for studying abroad, so my next logical step was to start studying at Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, locally known by the acronym FER. For that, I had to excel in the SAT equivalent called Matura, and excel I did: I achieved 100% in Maths and Information Science, and 98% in Physics, my two favorite subjects, which put me in the top 10% of admitted students at FER. And it was at FER I realised that there was a lot of discovering to be done in computer science, mostly due to the relatively young age of the field, which naturally sparked my scientist mind. So this is what I am specializing in: artificial intelligence and deep learning.

In my life I have learned that the talent is rather overrated: you just simply cannot succeed in any way if you don’t put enough work towards your goal. For instance, I teached myself how to play the piano when I was in my 6th grade of elementary school (I was around 13 y/o then). I got interested in playing while I was a part of a school choir, I put a lot of time in learning how to read sheet music and understanding the theory, and I put the most time in practice. And now I can proudly state I can play the piano, but I will never say I have a talent. Similar thing happened in my second year at FER where I learned how to play the accordion. In another instance, there was a phase in my life where I wanted to be a weatherman, so I explored everything there is to an art of predicting the weather and now I can say I can predict the rain about 1-3 days in advance just by looking at the clouds. I have also come to learn that money (or lack of) is still, unfortunately, a pretty important constraint in this world, or at least in Croatia. Although we do have free healthcare and education here, this alone will never be enough to fulfill one’s potential. I may come from the more extreme end, but there were dozens of situations in which just a minor financial boost would have made my life way easier – from attaining all learning materials to owning a more decent computer/phone/tablet.

I was actually a TV star for a part of my life, as I was participating in Croatian version of “The Beauty and The Geek”, a tv show where all the stereotypes get amplified – and destroyed, for that matter. This in turn sparked my interest in acting, and I am seriously considering going into the amateur acting scene here. I have also learned that I love other people, which is weird if considered from the popular stance of my generations on the internet. I like making jokes and seeing other people laugh. I had a lifetime to practice with my incredibly witty father (who is to day my best joke buddy), and I suppose I can say it is paying off, as I have acquired a big circle of contacts.

Now, I am a student in my last year at FER, getting ready to graduate in the midst of the COVID pandemic. I am also at the crossroads of sorts, since I am getting the offers both from the industry, to continue doing the Computer Vision Engineering job, and academia, as my mentor suggests I could go for a Phd in deep learning. I would be most happy if I could combine the two and this option is what I am exploring the most. Other than that, I am in a happy relationship with my girlfriend Amalija, I look forward to seeing what the future will bring me, and all of us. I want to be able to travel everywhere I want, and I want to be able to walk into a store and buy anything without looking at the price. I want to take good care of my parents and thank them for everything they’ve offered me. Some goals may change, some goals may come later on. But deep down, I am still a little kid that wishes to discover new things, push the boundary of human knowledge, and maybe occasionally show the weather on TV.


Matea Vučetić

From: Croatia

Age: 24 years

Activity: Chemical Engineer

I always knew what I wanted to be – everything. I grew up on an island in the Adriatic Sea with the closest city with hospital and everything else you take for granted about 4 hours away and dependent on the ferry schedule for the first 18 years of my life. It is well-known that no social arrangement of space doesn’t determine the identity of a man as the island does.

Throughout my childhood I had so many extracurricular activities: I played handball and chess, danced in folklore group, sang in chorus, played clarinet and guitar, researched for school meteorology team, wrote for school newspaper and even had a radio show. Besides that, I was a great student both in elementary and high school with a little bit of struggling with Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

When the time has come to choose the subjects for the State Exam and a field of study, I had chaos in my head. Was there a job to be everything? I didn’t even have a perception what jobs do exist in the big world, so I packed my bags and went to the University of Zagreb open doors. My brother listed all the Faculties that are part of the University and read their names and I was saying yes or no to the each one of them. When we summarized it was clear that I was interested in all kinds of engineering – something I did not know until then.

After couple of weeks of research, I liked the way that Environmental Engineering sounds. It was relatively new field of study, interesting and a bit of futuristic for a little country like Croatia. I decided to take a challenge and applied for needed subjects with Physics and Math at the highest importance. Everybody around me was surprised with my choice (my Chemistry teacher the most), especially because there’s no way to come back on the island and work with that type of degree – so I basically bought my one-way ticket with that decision.

I had more than 80 % in the Physics exam and was 3rd of all the applied students (about 300 of them) for the Environmental Engineering. I was so proud but not just on myself, but all the colleagues from class who mostly got onto their first choice Faculties. Island high schools are always underestimated and we showed everybody that quality of education does not care about the geographical location.

Years on the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology were challenging but beautiful. There were lots of sleepless days and nights trying to combine all the lectures, seminars, laboratory and computer exercises. I also played for Faculty’s handball team, volunteered in the Student Council and participated on several scientific congresses with my research. I was also a Student Assistant for 3 years and shared all my passion with others. 

All the hard work paid off and I was one of three people (of 55) that got bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering during the 3 years and without any delays and earned Cum laude title. But that wasn’t enough for me and I decided to expand my knowledge and took Chemical Engineering for the Graduate study. I didn’t have a sight of what my ideal job would be and I was driven by that I will have more options in the future with having two different diplomas and more options were always my thing.

When the future came and I graduated with the master thesis in the field of pharmaceutical development I somehow accepted the fact that I should have no ambitions about my first job if I wanted to stay in Croatia – and I did. It somehow became normal that young people in Croatia, after they gain University degree don’t have the safeness that they will even have a job. Educational system is not coordinated with the market and lots of young geniuses are stuck in-between.

I knew my worth and started sending my CVs around couple of months before I even graduated. I applied for dozens of jobs and received as much rejections, mostly because I had no working experience and nobody wanted to pay for someone who needs some time to learn. After I graduated some doors started to open and I had about 5 interviews and tests and I wasn’t really sure if I even wanted that jobs, but in the end it was a job and I was said how I was lucky even to have any options. In the meanwhile, I started cleaning peoples houses to have some money so I could stay in the city.

One afternoon while I was cleaning my phone rang and I didn’t hear or answered it. Luckily, they called again the next day and I found out that worlds famous electric hyper car company wants to have an interview with me. I applied for some other job in their company months ago, but they kept my resume and offered me another job that I’m suitable on. Couple of weeks later after I began to work as their materials specialist. 

I always knew that nothing good comes easy and that we must be patient and believe in ourselves, even if no one else does. I really want to believe that in the future both educational system and job search process will be more settled and organized – starting from compatibility with the market to the salaries that are way under the worth. But the most important thing for each one of you is not to underestimate your worth. In the end, we are all islands – inside of us there are many worlds, invisible and not understandable to people from the mainland. Unsinkable in the sea, we turn to the sun and shine. 


Mihailo Knežević

From: Kraljevo, Republic of Serbia

Age: 23 years

Activity:  Graduate (Master) studies

My passion for engineering started somewhere in final grades of elementary school with one accidental look at introduction level programming book and book regarding basics of electronics. That moment created inspiration and fueled my desire to enroll in electrotechnical secondary school (ESTŠ „Nikola Tesla“, Kraljevo) with focus on computer technology. In starting months of lectures at secondary school I struggled with few subjects (mathematics, physics and basics of electrical engineering). Fortunately, I didn’t quit but instead I started putting extra effort into studying and accepting the systematic approach to studying which turned out to be very well at the end! My marks become much better and professors noticed my potential for technical and natural sciences! Since that initial success, I started taking extra interest in electronics, computers and mathematics. My secondary school offered preparation for national competitions in mathematics, electrical and electronics engineering and I was very eager to take part. We took part on regional and national competitions in three consecutive years and during that time we managed to place our school in top 3 on national electrotechnical school ranking. My personal accomplishments during that time are: two first prizes in basics of electrical engineering and one second prize in electronics. After completing secondary school I was looking forward to enrolling in local university on Electrical and Computer Engineering studies (University of Kragujevac, Faculty of Technical Sciences, Čačak) where I started having big interest in software, microchip design, FPGA and microcontrollers applied in human service. During university studies I took part in many meetups of students of Electrical and Computer Engineering and was open minded toward new experiences as well as new professional connections which opened me chance to do professional internship in Fujitsu Technology Solutions GmbH (Augsburg, Germany). During internship I created first-hand experience regarding work in big company and its structures of organization, as well as professional experience in software testing and Quality Assurance. After my return from internship, I became student member of IEEE Society and was busy preparing my final thesis with the topic in design of multistage pipelined CPU on FPGA development board which brought me to graduating from university with highest honors (I was promoted as Best Graduating Student of the faculty). I am aware that Serbia has a long way to go regarding high-technology community, but it already has (although relatively young) a network of Science and Technology parks which contribute to gathering of smart people with good ideas, so I am hoping that I would be able to use my German experience to bring my modest contribution to their popularization and development. Right now, I am student of graduate master studies hoping to contribute to local and global technology community and striving to become very knowledgable in engineering with intention of passing that knowledge and expertise to new generation of engineers.


Nikola Vukojicic   

From:  Serbia, Belgrade

Age: 22 years

Activity: Product Designer at Microsoft

When I was born and growing up we truly didn’t have much, I was living in a pretty  undeveloped part of the city in a one-room flat with my sister, mom, and dad. Going  to a middle school where I didn’t really fit in and which I didn’t like. I just couldn’t sit  down and spend hours learning about certain subjects I didn’t care about. 

I remember having my history book open for hours as it if I was learning for a test,  but would actually end up drawing graffiti on the book pictures that were from the  renaissance period. I ended up spending my middle school days flunking a lot of  classes and being told by my teachers that I would never amount to anything in life  and would eventually fail and end up working a minimum wage job. My only interest  then were games, doing graffiti, and street art. I knew I had an eye for colors and  knew that I liked doing everything that was related to art.  

At the end of middle school, I knew I had to choose a high school that I would go to.  I wanted it to be art-related but I was never really good and drawing by the book and  knew that I would never be able to pass most of the subjects. Lucky for me I  remember my mom approaching me and telling me about a new high school that  opened recently and that it was focused on information technology. I thought about  it and realized that combining my love for computers and art would be a perfect fit  for me and that this could be my chance of exploring new fields like computer  multimedia, graphic design, and more. My mom and dad scraped up all the money  they had, paid my first year, and I was on a road that would lead me to where I am  today.  

While in high school I quickly started exploring different fields of design and started  learning graphic and User Interface / User Experience design on my own. Most of  my classes were programming-related so I had to learn those things on my own. I  instantly realized that I was more interested in U/UX (User Interface / User  Experience) design and how with it I’m able to control how people interact with their  everyday technology. I was amazed at stories on how design can have an enormous  impact on our everyday life and global phenomena. I remember an example that had  deeply shaken me at the time, a story about how more than 500k people are  hospitalized each year because of misused prescription drugs that have bad package design.At the time I knew what I wanted to do in my life and it was never more clear.  

I started designing at home and uploading all of my work online. Started  volunteering at design events like Belgrade Behance Reviews, helped organize  Belgrade Behance Campus, and was part of the team that helped bring Behance’s New York-based conference 99u to Serbia! The design community was growing and  I was responsible for that!  

All of that brought attention to me and I was contacted by a small startup to join  their team! Vlogr was a startup that helped small businesses grow through a  platform where they could easily make Android and iOS apps according to their  needs. I was there for 1 year and am still pretty pleased by what we achieved, what I  learned, and who I met. I was 16 at the time and all of my time while working there I  would have to wake up early in the morning, go to school, study from 9 am to 2 pm,  then grab a bus and go to the office, come in at 3 pm and work a lot of the days  pretty late. I would come home at 11 pm when everybody in my family was already  sleeping. Those were almost all of my days back then.  

After my adventures and Vlogr, I did an internship at a design agency called  Evoke where I had the chance to take some of my first steps in doing design for  some huge projects. I worked with some of the biggest retail brands in Serbia to  help design the UI for their product apps or web sites. I stayed there for 1 year and 4  months in total and was battling with finishing high school with good grades,  working and studying 12 hours a day, meeting crazy client deadlines, withstanding  the pressure from my parents, professors, and colleagues, having to deal with bad  public transportation in Serbia and to top it off getting compensated with the bare  minimum amount.  

I quit my job at Evoke and started trying to build my own startup with two of my  friends from school. We started our company The View that offered software  solutions for real estate companies that had an integrated VR experience. We  wanted to help real estate companies sell their properties by allowing them to  convert any apartment into a virtual reality experience in just 2 clicks! We were  featured in Belgrade’s Innovation space ICT Hub, presented the product at the 2017  Future Park event, talked about VR and AR in Health and other industries, visited the  famous We Are Developers conference in Vienna 2018, had a popup VR presentation  at SmartCity festival and even had the chance to collaborate with the Novak  Djokovic Foundation.Even with all our accomplishments, we were still unable to get  the funding that was necessary to launch our product to the outside world. We came  so close but were in the end denied mainly because of our age and lack of life  experience. We were 18 at the time getting laughed at by a lot of investors and other 

more successful entrepreneurs. I even remember my parents telling me to quit  fooling around and find a real job. Despite all that, we pushed forward as much as  we could, even getting our own offices in the city center and working days and  nights fueled by energy drinks and cheap fast food.  

Unfortunately, our road ended pretty soon and we had to shut down The View. I  started pursuing my Associate Degree in Computer Multimedia and everything was  back to normal. I quickly realized that everything we were learning I already learned  myself in high school and that I was really not challenged at all. Having the  experience of working in a startup, at a design agency, and running my own  company felt like college wasn’t the right place for me. After I finished my first  semester with perfect grades, I received an email that came out of nowhere. I was  invited to come in for an interview as a U/UX Designer at Realday and help them  build a new top-selling workforce system. Before I knew it I was packing my stuff and moving everything to my new and fancy office in the center of Belgrade. I  worked with a team of 25 with 2 other much older and experienced designers. I  came in and got imposter syndrome pretty much the first day. I was faced with a  huge project before us, an enormous team of people who were all almost doubled  my age. As a 19-year-old everybody was looking at me with a confused face as to  what was this kid doing here. After a couple of weeks, while talking to my 30-year old college about how the 20s are the best years of a person’s life, I realized that I  want to drop out of college, focus on my work, and start traveling the world.  Tomorrow I came to my parents, told them I was dropping out and that was that. I  could finally focus on Realday and design. I started rapidly improving, got a raise,  contributed a lot to the project, made some really good friends at work, and was at  the top of my game. Started traveling to exotics destinations like Sri Lanka and  Thailand, experiencing new culture and cuisine, worked on some freelance projects  for a couple of New York based agencies, started winning almost all major  hackathons in Serbia with a team of my previous founders from The View, started  consulting for startups and even help one of them go from $0 to $1,000,000 ARR in  under a year. 

After those 2 years, I felt like I’ve reached my limit and was looking to pursue new  endeavors. I had the opportunity to quit my job at Realday, reunite with my colleges  from The View once again, and try to conquer a new project for Zepter  International. Zepter International is a Swiss consumer goods enterprise, which  produces, sells, and distributes consumer goods through direct sales and through  stores. We were at Zepter for 1 year building a product that would educate  their salesmen about Zepter products, and that streams webinars for the entire firm.  Multilanguage supported with thousands of users using and watching every day. As  three 21-year-olds we were successfully able to complete the project and make even  a bigger mark for ourselves.

I left Zepter and stayed as an on and off consultant. I moved on to a new opportunity at Kroon Studio where I was leading and designing SoleSavy, a members-only community with more than 1,500 people across North America.

I’m also so excited to announce that after my journey with Kroon Studio, I joined Microsoft as a Product Designer for their Microsoft Office Team! After many years of waiting for a design position to open up in Microsoft Serbia, words can not express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be the first one.

That’s my story thus far, everything that happened, happened for a reason and I wouldn’t change one thing!

Sabina Zulfiyeva

Sabina Zulfiyeva

From: Azerbaijan

Age: 19 years

Activity: Bachelor of Laws – LLB student at The Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Editor at INJURIA Law Magazine and Director for Law Schools at ELSA Azerbaijan

Hello friends. I am Sabina Zulfiyeva. 

It is an immense pleasure for me to share my short story with you 🙂

I am a law student in Azerbaijan which is one of the developing countries in the world. Being a student in the developing country requires more effort as you need to work hard, get good grade, study abroad and get financially secure future.

I always approach my work in an enthusiastic and responsible manner. Loving my work is a constant source of motivation that pushes me to do my best. Sometimes this passion even makes me challenge myself and enables me to learn new skills to do a better job. For example, while working as an Editor at INJURIA Law Magazine, I attended additional courses to improve the visual design of the magazine and learned to work professionally in many new design programs. I think thanks to this trait, I received two more job offers after my first job. 

I always set short-term goals and strive to achieve it. Because it is especially important to be ambitious on the path to the success.

Certainly, we should be careful that this feature does not turn into arrogance and complacency. In this case, one does not see his or her deficiency and always left behind.

We should always be results-oriented. I make constant inspections to determine how close or far to my goal and what I would do for its realization. I think this trait is inspiring and an incredibly good source of motivation. During my preparation for the university entrance exam, I aimed to enter the faculty of law with the highest score. I moved forward in this direction confidently and achieved my goal and became only entrant who got the maximum score in the entrance exam among the 3rd specialty group students.

To my mind, the next factor for success is to be sociable. I think that sociable people are one step ahead in life. If you cannot express your feelings, it is impossible for anyone to see you and know your skills. The emotions that people get from your communication form an opinion about you. It is very important for one to introduce himself or herself and it can only be achieved through communication. During my work as an editor in the magazine, when interviewing and communicating with lawyers and attorneys from Azerbaijan and Turkey, I realized once again that decent communication and correct information delivery greatly affect to the quality of my work.

Setting and achieving goals on time always motivates me, because it gives me a sense of success and I say, “I achieved”. Unfortunately, some factors may prevent us from achieving our goals. These obstacles may be caused by several factors, such as the country and environment we live in, and the people around us. Currently, I study to get my bachelor’s degree in jurisprudence in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the level of legal education in our country is lower than in European and American countries. There are several reasons for it. For example, Europeans focus more on practice, but we on theory. In my opinion, if the teaching was more practice-oriented, it would help us a lot in our future professional life. To fill this gap, trainings and seminars are held in our country instilling practical skills to students. ELSA Azerbaijan is one of the organizations organizing such events. ELSA – European Law Students’ Association is the world’s largest law students’ organization. ELSA brings together more than 50,000 law students and young lawyers from more than 350 universities in 43 European countries. To my mind, ELSA Azerbaijan is a valuable organization for our country in terms of Azerbaijan law students’ management, team working skills, practical work experience, sharing European values and taking advantage of other opportunities. This year, I am a Director of Law Schools at ELSA Azerbaijan. It is a great pleasure for me to be a member of ELSA family and to contribute to the formation of legal thinking in my country.

I would also like to see Legal English among the subjects that taught us in our universities. I think, this will allow students to adapt more quickly when studying abroad.

But note that, the presence of some obstacles on our path should not prevent us from achieving our goal. No restrictions can stop us if we really want something. In any case, we will try to fill the gaps ourselves. We should work patiently and restrainedly. I like Bill Gates quote: “Patience is the key to the success.”

One of my immediate goals is to continue my education on the specialty of law at Harvard University in the United States. Although it is exceedingly difficult to get admission to Harvard University with full scholarship, I think the key is to believe and work. To my mind, it is too early to decide in which area of law I will continue. So far, I try to make the most of all opportunities and develop myself comprehensively. I think I may decide about it in the last year of my bachelor’s degree education. But I confidently say that no matter what area of law I work in, I will do my best to approach my job in a responsible and honest manner and add value to my workplace.

I always wish justice to prevail in the world we live in, as well as in my country. A country’s strength is not only measured by economic growth. No matter how much the country develops economically, if citizen rights and justice are violated, such society is finally doomed to decline. As one of the ancient Greek lawyers said, a state may be built on distrust, not on injustice.

I will always strive to make my country and society a better place, by contributing to the restoration of justice.


Safura Aliyeva

From: Azerbaijan

Age: 24 years

Activity: Human Resources Specialist, Job Analyst at Ekvita Consulting Company.

 I am full of traces that others have left on me. For finding myself, I should dive into very deep of myself and when I dive there I get lost. And there I see how I am alone and lonely because I have left all others beyond me on the surface.

When I am looking around, I see only ideas. Even the shape of trees is God’s idea. The life consists of ideas. A human had got an idea and came to the world, then started to operate the life. Here, I agree with Descartes: “I think; therefore, I am”. To add up, I know the Creater by its Creatures, thus, I also exist as much as I create. I exist because of the words I have spoken, the poems I have written, the drawings I have painted, even the problems I have created. It is our creativeness and productivity that make us exist. One of the places where I get chances to create, learn, and be productive is my workplace. One undeniable thing I have learnt throughout my work experience is that a competitive environment is crucial for self-improvement. And for surviving in this kind of environment, you should not try to be relatively better than others, but you should try to be actually the best, even though you cannot be. Not always, but usually I have tried to be best and at least good at whatever I like to do. 

Till now, for whatever seems as my success – my education, work, and any achievements, I am thankful to my character. I can look at myself from aside and see a girl with determination. I am ready to drop from 15th floor and clean the dust of my clothes, then go to the 16th one. With my pain, injures, and wounds. Even if I died, “Lift me to the 16th floor” would be my testament. Usually I prefer not to emphasize on gender, but due to the mentality in a small settlement where I was born and have grown, the gender matters to describe the challenges in the way of any success. Here not everyone gets an opportunity and investment on education. Especially for girls’ parents, it seems meaningless to invest on their education, and it seems dangerous to allow the girls to study in abroad. Therefore, for the opportunities I had, I am thankful to my parents’ open-mind and trust on me too. 

I should confess that, at some points of my life, I had a fear to have similar fortune with others and always had a desire to be distinctive. Thus, my fear from one side and my desire from another side made me strong and determined. I do not get under influence when I know what is good for me. When others try to involve in my life and wants to avert me from my decisions, I remind to myself that no one else lived my life, know everything in detail and feel like me. Hence, me and only me in this world can decide the best on behalf of me.

However, I am generally indecisive because I think that I don’t know anything about life. Notwithstanding, sometimes I understand that the only thing I don’t know, is my value, unfortunately, and this is because of the requirements of the life. Life is paradoxical. It sometimes requires being selfless for yourself. You should sacrifice one thing to get another thing in your life. Not all things can go along. It matters to have punctual scales to choose better thing for yourself. This scales should work for your justice too. You should treat others fairly even though you never get fair treatment. Because maybe being fair doesn’t give you anything, but it makes you not lose your conscience at least. I believe, true people can never loose since they already have conscience which cannot be substituted with the biggest material gain. Therefore, usually I try to not expect anything from anyone when I do goodness for others, even a sawab (reward) from Allah. Notwithstanding, if you continue to try to be good to others without getting anything in return it leads to self-sacrifice. Being selfless hurts, when it is not for yourself. And I frequently hurt myself. Here, James Keller’s words console me: “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”.

Yours selflessly,


Sonja Babic

Sonja Babić

From: Belgrade, Serbia, Europe

Activity:  Brand manager in beverage company Rubin AD

My journey started long time ago when I started my university experience after finishing Russian embassy Highschool in Belgrade. I used to live in Belgrade when I was young but because of my father’s work we had to leave as a family to live in Moscow, Russia.  After three years we came back and I was sure that I would leave for Moscow again as my wish was to study Political sciences there. But my adventure lead me to Faculty of organizational sciences which was believed to be the best university in Serbia. I have studied Management and Organization on Faculty of organizational sciences University of Belgrade and got my Bachelors degree after 4 years of studying. During my studies I was a part of several student organizations such as ESTIEM, FON’s career center and Students’ parliament. After all this experience I was sure that my interest in life is to study, learn and practise more in marketing. I found that this was my passion and during studies for my masters’ degree in Marketing engineering and communications on Faculty of organizational sciences I had my first employment. My first employment was as a Digital Media Manager for a big FMCG company called Vodavoda which main product was bottled water. I was really enthusiastic  for working there and I learned a lot but I was a little disappointed. This company wasn’t doing right by their employees since you never knew when will you or if will you get your salary. So after working for three months I decided to quit working at this company and be focused on finishing my master studies. Since I had already worked at my bachelors degree work on theme of Social Media, I decided that my masters work would be the part two of it. I finished succesfully my master studies after one year and after two months I got job in the best company in Serbia – NIS Gazprom Neft. I worked there as business assistant for 8 months and after showing interest in marketing I got promoted to change a colleague that was on matternal leave as a Coordinator for CRM and Loyalty programs. My job was harder and different as I worked in two departmants of marketing and I was really involved in their digital marketing. There was only one other colleague and me working for digital marketing and working hours were always 9-10 hours or more.  I tried to make ammends with anyone and do everything as a team, cooperate but there was a difficult situation where I didn’t know what to do anymore. There were to colleagues bullying me everyday, yelling at me, make me guilty infront of everyone despite my hardwork. I had also really difficult job and worked for 12 hours and more daily to get everything done. But I guess it wasn’t enough. The colleague I was changing came back from maternity leave and they didn’t want to give me another contract. I came back home and after 10 minutes that I was jobless I got call from HR manager from the same company to come back for interview for the same position as I started off as – bussiness assistant. I got the new job and my new boss was great, salary was even better, there were no big responsibilites but that was a huge step back in my carrier. So after less than two years I got a job interview at company called RUBIN AD that is the biggest company in selling all alcoholic beverages. After 2 days of interview they called me and I got the job. Now I am working as brand manager in this company and I am really glad, although the salary isn’t that high as on my previous job but I am finally working in my niche. I am feeling happy going to work and motivated to do more and learn more everyday. Every morning I wake up and I can’t wait to come back to work to work on my projects and to develop my new ideas. I got amazing boss and she always supports me so I am really grateful for all this. Sometimes you have to risk it all to have it all. If you keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone you can get much more and maybe everything you dreamt off so you just got to take the leap.

My hopes for the future are to get my own digital marketing agency and to have a great team that will work together and provide the best marketing services in my country. I will take step-by-step but I think I am on the right path finally. After achieving my main goal I would do a lot of humanitarian work as I also do now, since I send everymonth gift box and financial donations to children with health problems and children without parental support. I think it is also important to take care of animal shelters specially in Serbia where are a lot of people commiting crimes against animals and I would like to work legally on that problem so I would atleast do something that will matter in my small country and in Balkan generally.


Tanja Milojević

From: Belgrade, Serbia

Activity: Account manager at Pioniri Communications, recently finished my Master academic communications studies

My name is Tanja Milojević. I am from Belgrade, Serbia.

I graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences and finished Master academic communication studies on the same faculty.

After graduating from high school, I thought about what would I like to do in life, and the support of my family directed me to enroll in what I love and what I want to do.

However, as I come from an average family, I knew that I had to fight for a scholarship and a place in the state budget.

I had to be honest and say that there were almost countless challenges during my studies – a school system that conditions and forces students beyond any limits to pass the year, unclear conditions for scholarships, poor opportunities for additional work, bad materials, and if you want to gain professional experience during studies, the only option is volunteering.

Also, one of the biggest problems in Serbia is nepotism. Because of nepotism, many of my colleagues work in fields that are unrelated to their profession, give up on what they love and want to do, or move to more developed countries. Privileged ones, do not need to worry about jobs and paycheck. As I belong to the majority, I had to gradually build a road to where I am now.

My path meant that during my studies I worked, volunteered, and went to lectures. Let”s say that my days looked like this: After I finished volunteer shift in a public institution I went to a university lecture, and after that to work. Maybe because of that rhythm my college days flew by. However, when I look back on that period, I am happy because all my small successes (passed exam, salary, praise at work) were a sufficient incentive for me to continue even stronger. My greatest achievement – I managed to graduate on time and finished master studies. However, after graduation, my pride was shaken by the questions – what and how next?

I felt like at the beginning, without and background and basis for further, but I still believed that hard work can achieve the goals.

And, once again, I started from scratch, the position of an intern, every day learning new things, and trying to overthrow old goals. I think, that my superiors notice that because I passed the path from account management intern to Digital account manager.

Today, I work with the biggest global companies on their marketing campaigns, I love my work, my surrounding because it fulfills me.

However, I believe that I still need to learn more, to create, and to experience because continuous work is needed for any accomplishment.

The country where I live is stimulating only for a handful of happy ones. The rest of us are left to themselves and to struggle for work, for practice, for a place in the student dorm, and it would be a lie if I said I see progress in our near future.

I hope that one day, our environment become supportive for all of those who are now, where I was. I know that it is not easy to face a devalued education system, a system that is not stimulative and supportive for young people that are eager to learn and work. Our country has top young experts that go abroad wanting a better life, and I would like for their choice to be to stay. Not to be afraid of fighting for their place under the sun.


 Tatjana Burg

From: Belgrade, Serbia

Activity: Marketing manager

Hello world! 🙂 It’s hard to say what defines me but on the other hand my driving force is curiosity and eagerness to constantly learn and develop myself. When it comes to formal education, I have a bachelor degree in management and public relations and an MBA degree with a specialization in marketing. In the last 10 years my professional path is mostly linked to marketing and communication fields. Personally, I love to help and to give – and I use my views and personal values as a foundation for creating business strategies as well. I find social responsibility to be one of the most important aspects of successful business matters, and that budgets geared towards these types of projects are the smartest choice a company can make in their business practices in today’s world. 

My biggest motivation lies in seeing the end results of a work project whose final goal is success in supporting local communities. I find active participation in improving the quality of life of end users (of any product) to be the surest path towards a win-win situation, where a company, organization or institution and local community have equal gains, along with the growth of mutual respect and trust. As an example, if I’m working on a project such as the opening of the National Museum (which was closed for nearly two decades), my satisfaction is tied to the fact that I have actively participated in ameliorating the culture of our city. I feel the same about each project contributing to the local community I work on.

My career path has been, like that in most countries with a weaker economy, quite thorny, which is probably unavoidable in such countries. The real question is how that thorny path affects you as a person. Every trial and tribulation which I have come across turned into a business lesson which allowed me to more easily adapt to various work environments. What I’ve learned is that you always have a choice. If something didn’t succeed, you have the choice to try something new. 20 years ago, these choices weren’t as easily accessible.

This is a very interesting question. One of the things I’ve come across most often is the fact that foreigners and international companies are offering more chances and opportunities for career growth. In our country, a degree or professional experience and qualifications is unfortunately not an end-all to success. Because no matter how much a person invests in themselves, there are many side factors that are affecting building a career. Political and business connections and who do you know often trump someone’s experience and knowledge – especially in Serbian media environment. When political affiliation or power of money becomes more important than qualifications and knowledge, it reflects to the entire business. In such an environment, opportunities for growth and advancement of employees are pretty limited. Employee engagement and wellbeing as a concept, is lately being introduced here, but again mostly by international companies and local ones are still struggling with it. Because of this, people often look to build their future out of Serbia, somewhere where their efforts and investments in themselves pay off, and where employee evaluations are based on work results and capabilities.

My outlook for the future is connected to freedom, as we are currently in the midst of a sort of paradox. We live in a world where the availability of information was never greater, but on the other hand, censorship is at an all-time high. Journalism and reporting are no longer tied to truth, but are used solely as a tool for manipulation. As I would love to say –  the problem is not that you can’t do anything without money, but that you can do everything with money. I would like for my child to be able to one day live in a world with true values, rather than in a world embedded with short-lived sensations which serve only to numb and dull the intelligence of the masses. 

I strive to make the world a better place by making sure that I’ll use any opportunity to contribute through projects I work on, and tie them to the improvement of quality of life and knowledge. There isn’t a TV commercial that can substitute help and participation – both in local communities and on the global level. Marketing is the greatest resource in the world if it is geared towards support rather than profit. Profit will arise on its own once trust towards a brand or company is being created and well-maintained.


Tihana Petricevic

From: Zagreb, Croatia

Age: 39 years

Activity: CEO at Silver technologies

My name is Tihana Petricevic – born in the ancient city of Split (Croatia). It’s a small city on the Adriatic coastline, with rich cultural history dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times. I was born into an upper-middle-class family with a strong tradition of practising medicine. My family very much values of education. From an early age, my parents had encouraged me to seek knowledge in various fields. For example music and foreign languages for which I displayed certain talents as a child. Also, it was very much obvious from the beginning that I had an adventurers spirit. I liked to explore, be active and I very much enjoyed various creative activities. I didn’t respond well to routine, constraints and have shown tendencies towards abstract thinking, unconventional behaviour. These characteristics were best displayed in my hobbies and interests like experimental music, movies, photography, abstract art, philosophy, psychology, etc. Besides having various interests, one more characteristic became distinctive, I was very ambitious. With age, this ambition became bigger and bigger. I always wanted to be and needed to be amongst the best. This was displayed in my academic results and then later in my career. Mediocrity, conventionalism, and mainstream were never good enough. Now when I look back I could say that I had nothing but contempt towards them. I wanted to leave my mark in this world. It had to be something unique and special, but I didn’t yet know what or how.

My entrepreneurial journey didn’t start conventionally. I didn’t finish an MBA, worked as an intern in some company and later opened up my business. Now when I look at my academic education and my path it was more similar to Steve Jobs than Ray Dalio. I studied history and philosophy, during that process, I got familiarized with various philosophical concepts and some of the greatest philosophical minds. I’ve learned a lot about the way the world works, politics, geopolitics, and various cultures. At a certain point, I particularly became interested in Japan and its history and culture. What happened then and I was not aware of it at the moment is that I started to think like an entrepreneur. I said to myself Tihana –

 future geopolitical epicentre will be on far east China, Japan, etc. When it happens it would be wise to know more about these countries, their economy, culture, and their values. 

There was nobody in Croatia who is specialized in these matters.  I had little or no competition which would enable me to better position myself, basically a high barrier to entry. It was a blue ocean strategy at it’s best, but I was not aware of it at the moment. Therefore there were multiple opportunities regarding future employment and academic career. From my position, it was a logical thing to. Soon I’ve received a job invitation from the history department at Faculty. I’ve also started my Ph.D. studies and  things were looking good, but little did I knew what the future beholds for me. There were much higher forces at work in that time. Markets worldwide crashed and the recession started.  A lot of people lost their jobs, Croatian economy was at its knees. In the end, I didn’t get the job at Faculty and I had to seek job elsewhere. It was one defeat after another, one rejection after another. Long story short I was unemployed and hitting the rock bottom. For someone who spent a large amount of time and energy focusing on a career, this was a terrible blow. But somehow in my lowest of the lows, I manage to get back on my feet and made some crucial decisions. I was in desperate need of change. So I said to my self –you’re more than content of your wallet and more that it says on a piece of paper or diploma. If no one wants to employ you, then you will build your own business.

And this is how I’ve got involved with technology startups. But this meant more learning. I’ve joined one of the first accelerator programs in Croatia- Founder Institute. The results were astonishing I’ve learned more and achieved more in these few months in this program than in many years of my college education. I was fascinated with lean startup methodology and the whole movement. I’ve opened up my first company, earned my first paycheck, and started working on my new innovative high- tech project. During this period, I’ve spent a lot of time reading books from Eric Ries, Steve blank, etc. I even went on multiple entrepreneurship courses – MOOC’s. I was consumed by these topics. Eventually, hard work paid off. I’ve received multiple national awards and recognitions for my project, but still it was very hard for me to find partners. Especially it was difficult to find engineers. Then I became aware of all the aspects of building a high tech startup in Croatia. The ecosystem was not very developed, with little or no funding available for early-stage startups. Especially those based on hardware and led by women. No VC funds and no adequate legal and government support. Troubles with engineers was another big issue. The competition was huge, big IT companies from all over the world were looking for engineers in Croatia and paying them top dollars. It was very hard for me to find adequate partners and it took me years to find the right people. My first wearable tech healthcare project, didn’t pass MVP stage, but I’ve learned a lot. Also, I’ve built a very strong network. I was known by now. I’ve built a brand of myself and it was not all for nothing. After many years of hard work on an on and off basis with engineers I’ve finally managed to find a technical co-founder. We started to work on a new project its name is the Silver monitor. Now with decent support, I  could finally start to build properly. We’ve opened a new startup company, also based on hardware and software.  Thing were going well. We’ve received multiple national and international awards. We’ve been featured in most Croatian newspapers and TV programs. We’ve received our first investments. I sat at the table with high officials and representatives from Ericsson, General Electrics Healthcare, Medtronic, Allianz, Axa Insurance, Signal Iduna, Infobip, etc. At one point in my life, I said to myself Tihana – 

Are you aware of what happened? You were sitting in a room with senior management from Medtronic explaining to them what kind of product you’re creating and how did you build your startup. You… once unemployed history and philosophy professor. You must be doing something seriously right.

But things didn’t go so smoothly as anticipated. We didn’t receive any VC funding or closed deals with big corporate s. I’ve got a bit frustrated, one rejection after another. By that time some things became pretty much obvious about the business world in general. It’s a predominantly male sport and it will be much harder for a female-led startup to get funding or  a deal. Statistics were pretty much clear about this. I’ve decided to ignore this and continued to work with my team. Results were there, we received one award after another, one recognition after another. In total we received 9 startup awards and 25000$.

I’ve decided that I will not stop,  I will not quit and I will not take no for an answer. My voice will be heard and I will not quit until I’m taken seriously. I truly believe in what we are doing. Our products and services are creating value for many by improving the health and safety of senior citizens and their families. What we’ are building makes sense from the perspective of technology, healthcare, and business. The application of this technology can do a lot of good in the world. 

We performed very well with moderate resources and a very small, but efficient team. 

No one can deny it. I thought no one can ignore us now- We will get the funding for sure. 

It’s hard to bootstrap a hardware company you can go to a certain point, but to scale this type of business globally you will need  capital. We’ve started initial negotiations with international VC’s and things look good. But then came 2020. To be continued…

Vusala Sarkhanova

From: Azerbaijan

Age: 31 years

Activity: Currently I study Master in Science of Marketing and Commercial Management at ESERP Business and Law School, Madrid. I work as a freelancer in Digital marketing (SEO, SEM, SMM, Copywriting, etc.)

I am 31, and currenly live in Barcelona, Spain. I came here to receive European education and one more international job experience (after Central Asia and United Arab Emirates). When I arrived, the second war in my homeland and the Covid19`s second wave just started. And to receive student visa I had to go to Ankara 2 times as in my country the Embassy of Spain does not provide with student visa. It took me much energy, time and money to achieve this goal. No one beliived that I could come as in july I had corona too. I am here thanks to my perseverance and dedication. I have limited budget at the moment, if I can not find a job soon, I should go back. But I will never give up, until there is no any other way. And I also do have plans B-C-D in case if I should leave Barcelona soon:)

In Baku I had nice career. All time. Until the 31st of October I have been a Thematic Product Specialist at Azerbaijan Tourism Board under the State Tourism Agency of Azerbaijan. Was developing several niche and luxury tourism products such as Birdwatching, Yachting, Luxury Shopping, Authentic Shopping, Fly-fishing, Cycling, Caspian Caviar and Saffrom as a tourism products, etc. I loved my job. But I had to realize that was my comfort zone and I should start a new challenge, because I have just one life and limited time, I want to receive more experiences. It would be bad choice to sit and wait when the Pandemic would finish or what will happen to tourism industry.

It is not my first time when I started new life in other country. Previous country were UAE. I started as a guest relation agent in the hotel Rixos Bab Al Bahr, gained new experience, improved my English, met new friends and understood that my life should be intensive. I do not want ordinary life. I am not an ordinary person. When I first went to school, I did not even know Russian for example (it was a Russian school), but now it is my second native language. When I entered University (the education was in English) I did not know English well, but I speak fluently now. Here, in Spain I try to speak Spanish, I have some knowledge, and I am 100% sure that after 3-4 months I will speak it fluently too. All my jobs were a kind of challenges for me. I have experinece in different areas: Sales, Marketing, Customer Care, Product development; in retail/fashion (clothing, perfumery, cosmetics), in tourism (state and private sector), in hospitality… And most of them in niche and luxury segments.

I always have obstacles in my life, but I always pass them.

In my homeland, traditionally I have to marry and give birth to kids by 24-25 y.o. But I am not married, I want to discover this world since I have time, energy and passion. I do not know what is next in future. I definitely know that I want to receive what I could not receive in my childhood and early youth. When I was 2 y.o the Soviet Union collapsed, then occupation of Armenia started, the 1st Karabakh War, our country was poor, it just started developing when I was 10-11, some problems started in my family, I could not receive a higher education outside of Azerbaijan, because my family had not money, and many not kind things happenned in my life.

But as my country, I am strong enough now, I survived. Now girls and boys, women and men take an example from me. Now I help people to understand themselves, what they really want and explain them what a big potencial they have. In 2016 was founded the charity organization “Help Society Baku” by me and friends.

I am self-motivated person. I had sad story of life, but I do not want to talk about it. I am a positive person. And belief is my everyday motivation.

Achievements I am proud of I mentioned above and many of them skipped. But the greates achievement is “me”. I found the answer to the question “why?”. Answer follows: “Because you are strong, beautiful, kind, intellectual, brave and energetic enough to live your life in your own way!”

Next goals: to find a job in Barcelona, to speak spanish fluently, to marry 🙂

My dream is to be rich enough to help people and nature.


Meerim Akimova

From: Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek

Age: 23 years

Activity: Social media manager, graphic designer

My independence and understanding of my way in life began when I was 20. 

Until this moment, I did not know what to devote myself to, what am I interested in? What should I do with my life? 

At that moment, I got a job in the Ministry of Transport. For the young me, it was a huge success and surprise, as I began to work not with local people, but with foreign Finns. My whole family was proud of me, and I had to improve my English and try my best at this job. Honestly say, it was pretty difficult. I knew English, but I immediately had to speak it without oral practice. There were many stressful situations when I didn’t understand what I was being told and couldn’t speak fluently myself. Sometimes I wanted to cry Thinking that I’m an extra burden for the boss and many times I thought that I should quit. But this job helped me a lot, because if it wasn’t for this chance, I still wouldn’t understand English, but now I can read whole books and understand everything, and I speak better now. I gained experience working with foreigners, and at the same time began to study the freelance work, so that I could work remotely. It’s like I anticipated the coronavirus situation, haha. This job helped me a lot in correspondence and raised my English so that I was able to move to a foreign exchange. For a poor country like mine, this is a great opportunity and I am happy that I was able to find my vocation in this. 

As a result, I left the Ministry because it was difficult for me to work in the office every day, I just felt that the office was not my path. Realizing that I was good at freelancing, I began to develop my graphic design and SMM skills. In the end, I realized: I love to create and be creative, and this is where I found my meditation. Making posts, graphics, design – it’s all very attracted to me, I just love this craft and continue to develop this skill. 

Then, I got a job working in several foreign projects, combining them. One of the first stable projects is FELS, this project is about an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Over the years of working in this project, I have already begun to have a love for working in it, I like the message of FELS, I can be called a true fan of this movement! It’s a great feeling when your work is your favorite thing ☺ 

Speaking about my life now, I can say that I feel better times, as if every day is better than the previous one. 

I’m working in four projects, as well as study at an online university, going to courses and trying to keep up with everything. Working as a freelancer makes me think about physical activity, since I don’t have to leave the house every day (I work from my room). So I took up yoga and meditation, I love this activity and I advise everyone to stretch your back and maintain flexibility! Also, do not forget about proper nutrition, which will preserve your health and youth for many years and will create your tone and good mood! Smoothies are cool!

This year, the fruits of my work came out in the result as the first trip abroad. It was a vacation in Dubai – a wonderful city, I was inspired by it after arriving as if I was on another planet. This city has become close to me in spirit, so I plan to visit again in the future. This trip has awakened the spirit of a traveler in me and now I plan to go to Germany in summer. 

I want to see a lot of countries and my dream at the moment is to visit the Maldives and the Singapore city. 

Thinking about my life, I come to the conclusion that my work is my passion, it is an energy that does not let me give up and every time I am inspired again and again by my mini-victories in work. After FELS, the second project is the Facebook page of Coach Farida Ryan. She is a student of Bob Proctor, the founder of the theory and the book “The Secret”. And I love this project, It teaches people to use the power of thought for a positive attitude in life, I think it’s an interesting experience for me. 

The third project is a page about sports news. 

Yees, I am a girl, but I was hired to manage such a direction as sports. I had to delve into football, basketball, UFC, hockey, cybersport and so on. Now I know all about sports! And it’s cool, I like to watch tennis games, my favorite tennis player is Aslan Karatsev and Djokovic. The subject of sports is very extensive and there is a lot of content here. I think it’s a kind of pleasure for the SMM to work with sports-related topics. 

My fourth project is a local project for the sale of electric scooters, which is also a flight of fancy for various posts in my native language and cooperation with local bloggers. 

And now, I can say that I try to be responsible and constantly improve my skills, now I am studying SMD at a serious level ☺ SMD is a Social Media Design, so I’m going to be making animated posts soon and I’m so excited! I think it’s going to be super cool!

What I want to say it’s “Choose a remote work!” This type of work is our future, during the coronavirus period it was not so difficult for me financially, as it was difficult for my friends and relatives. They were simply left without work and money. It’s scary. Therefore, always look to the future, think and plan 5-10 years ahead, learn languages, improve your skills, travel more and be talented in everything! Everything you do-do with your soul and conscience!

Maria Iakovleva

From: Russian, living in Dubai

Age: 26 years

Activity: Freelancer

Hi I’m Maria, I’m a UI/UX designer and design is definitely affects on all my life — the place I live in, the way I look, the films and exhibitions I choose to see. I believe in visual, I believe in better solution for everything and I believe that a good, aesthetic and functional lifestyle is the key to success and sustainable growth and development.

I’m so much into technology and I LOVE see the work of engineers and scholars — this motivates me so much to work every day, to learn new thing, to keep going on the same line with the whole world. Can you imagine that people did all this amazing wireless, nano, fast tracking things? And we are literally placed on the flying rock somewhere in the space. Whoah!

All my life I tried myself into different things – filmmaking (I have degree in documentary journalism), fashion industry but all of them was always about visual and not functional. I wanted to make things beautiful but also something which will help people. Thats where I meet design itself – the product  UI UX design is symbiosis of technology, art and deep research, that’s where I stuck. I started with a different ways — I worked on the dating apps, personal sited, eCommerses but the thing I found as my passion was fintech.

I realized one day that the most of banking app are need to be improved – the are inconvenient, old fashion looked, they’re boring. I started from creating a concept for NBD bank and posted in on Dribble – just for fun, cause I’m an nbd customer and always struggling with the app. After I get noticed by small startup, which now known as Zand Bank — the first in the world fully digital cross platform for retail and corporate banking. It was a great year of creating something from the scratch — the biggest challenge in my life, cause I didn’t have a banking experience before and I was the only one designer in the team. But it was so special for me — cause finally I could create something which will really respond to my requests to the modern banking systems.

Dubai is super open minded in terms of technology and young talents – if you’re brave enough to speak, to suggest something, if you’re not afraid to say loud – you’ll be heard. And that’s the best thing that Dubai can offer you as a young specialist.

I’m really proud of Zand Bank project — the most amazing product I’ve done so far, but looking forward I want to make something bigger, currently I working on some cryptocurrency projects, cause I believe it’s something that will run the future and I want to be the part of it.

I really wish that in the future all the gender, age, race and financial borders will disappear for the specialist, cause even now I could see really young people (like 12 yo) who can’t start career cause of society kind of thinking. And as of myself I thinking about own business where I can give the golden ticket for the talented and motivated people no matter who they are.

I believe in kindness, and I always tell that it’s cost zero to be good person. Now world going through the hard time and be kind to each other for me is the key to make the world a better place for everyone.

Anastasija Babarikina

From: Riga, Latvia

Age: 20 years

Activity: A sophomore year student of Business Administration, for now unemployed 

My name is Anastasija and I am a russian girl born in Latvia. This was the reason why I was raised in an international environment. I speak russian at home, latvian at school, english with my international friends. I believe this is a reason why I am very broad-minded and tolerant. I quickly adapted to the situation my life conditions prepared for me and learnt to accept everybody no matter what color is the skin, what kind of religion or cultural mindset a person may have. And I am grateful for that. 

All people that met me can admit that I am a huge perfectionist. I always work quality over quantity in all the possible cases – homeworks at university, tasks at previous job positions, and in a help to surroundings. I cannot forgive myself for my failures and mistakes, so I always try to get the most out of myself. To my mind, it is a great personality trait, but it is also destroying. Because of that my mental health is not a priority. 

My ambitions are very high. I am thankful to my family for this. I was raised with the idea that I need to study and educate myself in all the possible ways endlessly. I cannot imagine my life without learning, growth and development. I am scared of a life where a woman is a housewife and all she does is take care of her children. I have a lot of respect for these women, because I would not be able to live like this. I strongly believe that in the 21stcentury a woman has a huge power to share her energy with the rest of the world. I want to be an inspiring person, who does what she likes, who works in the position she likes. I am more than sure that it is a key for sustainable happiness. When it is achieved, I would be able to create my own family and teach my children this beautiful wisdom based on my life story and experience. 

I am only 20 years old now, but my life journey already has its ups and downs. My parents separated in my early infancy, so it made me grow not in a full family. Now I understand that this is why I have such high standards towards anything – people around me, partners, things I invest my money, time and energy in. For my whole life I have carefully observed how the pain, failures and sufferings my closest ones could go through, analysed every single detail in order to avoid the same in my own life. I would not say it actually worked. I am very sensitive and emotional, I take everything very seriously. I went through a lot of disappointments and betrayals. But bad experience is also an experience, right? I am thankful for that. Life broke and keeps on breaking my mindset and personality in many ways, but it builds and lifts me everytime. I try to overload myself with work and projects, so I gain as much as it is possible. Even if it means that there is a possibility I am going to be stressed, unmotivated and broken after all. 

Factors in my country that helped me? A good question actually. Cannot think of any direct factors, to be honest. I love my motherland, I love the people around me. I love latvians and latvian traditions. Nevertheless, Latvia was always too small and too narrow for me. This is my biggest motivation – to learn, to grow and to expand. I am not sure what exactly I am going to do in the near future, but there are 2 possible options: to create something big and loud in Latvia or to escape to a different, bigger country. Although, Latvia is a safe place. Here we have a sea, soft climate, no earthquakes or any other natural disasters. Also there is a low level of crime. I was raised in conditions, where I did not have to survive. I am extremely thankful for that.

I am proud of being the one who takes risks. I almost always accept all the possible offers life gives me. I participate in multiple projects, try out new things, and regularly get out of my comfort zone. One of the recent events was that I went on an Erasmus trip for 5 months in Madrid, Spain. After that my life completely changed. Because of the distance and misunderstandings I lost my beloved boyfriend, who meant a life for me. Anyway, a while later I healed, I grew and I am powerful. I have changed my mindset and learnt much more than I lost. I am proud of being the way I am and that I do not need to justificate myself to others. My next goal would be to share this way of thinking with others, to make them speak about things they really care about and destroy all the possible borders past generations or society may create. I do not really know for now, how exactly I am going to do it, but I am definitely thinking about it at least once a day. 

I pray for a good future. I am sure I am going to be alright, because I define myself as a strong, independent and intelligent one. But I also care about the rest of the people my age. I imagine how perfect the world could be if all of us just have more or less the same values. I mean, it is obviously impossible, but this is something we could work on together. My dream is to live in a safe and enjoyable place, where I do not need to be scared of getting fired for no reason, dying in a spotlight of terror attack or economical poverty. I want myself and my children to live, not to survive.

I want to work on and invest in diversity. I cannot believe the fact that in 2021 we still know words like “racism” or “homophobia”. Indeed, people can have their personal opinions on anything and they have all the rights for it. What I want to do is to convince them that it is not worth their time and energy. We live only once and life has so many beautiful angles to discover. I want to popularize the careless mindset of being tolerant. No hate and no war. That is the future of a modern society between which I want to live.

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