How do you see the current situation in our country when it comes to the perception of work for the general social welfare? Would you say that the responsibility of the economy to act in the best interest of the entire society has increased in the past couple of years, or is it still on the same level?
Socially responsible behavior has been brought to Serbia with multinational companies and foreign investors, because for them that is a natural way of doing business and of investing into the market with which they cooperate and from which they make profit. Our companies are, I should say, still learning how to do that and I think that, in this moment, we are on some preschool level. Since I lived and worked abroad for a long time, I brought that philosophy along when I returned to our country and to Belgrade in the nineties, considering it a natural thing any company should do, and I have never seen it as an expense but as an investment in the society and the people who are going to use the services that our company offers. Receiving and giving, in my opinion, goes in an opposite order; you have to give in order to receive. Giving back to the society and raising cultural and any other awareness, and investing in the truly marginalized ones is extremely important, just as important as it is to support culture, art, education, and that is what we are, privately and in business, dedicated to. I would also like to mention the area of sport as an activity, especially with preschool children, in which TeleGroup invests, because only healthy children can be successful in their careers one day and become successful members of the society.
You have graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. How did it happen that today you belong to the world of technologies?
Graduating from a university only teaches you how to learn and nothing more. Everything else comes from the challenges life puts in front of you, but also the ones you choose. After the Faculty of Philology, I had many different educations, some of them personally chosen, some of them imposed by life. That is how I acquired knowledge at Sorbonne, and at the Technical College of London, and at Wharton University in America. What I am today is a compilation of the knowledge I have gained and the knowledge I am still acquiring, because I am still eager to learn new things. I think that the faculty should not condition you what to do, it is just a phase of learning which can teach you to see things from a wider perspective, and information availability is limited only by your approach and the desire to reach for it in order to change your profile. Since I am a restless spirit, I would be probably bored to do the same profession for years. I recognized that when I was very young and decided to change professions, but only after I recognize and define the necessary knowledge that would make me successful in each new profession.
In order to illustrate the importance of digitization, could you tell us what promoting digitization means, how does it influence the lives and habits of people as end users?
It accelerates thing. Digitization implies quick access to information, data and documents, and that is important for each individual, for each citizen of our country, and also for the companies and the institutions which should share the information with them. Digitization will definitely make certain professions redundant, especially in the field of administration, finances and some inspection jobs, because all those tasks will be taken over by machines and software. What I am primarily concerned with is that it will jeopardize the women employed in that area. I think that it is a problem this society should try to solve. My approach is to encourage girls and young women to learn IT and to be aware that they could do it as well as boys who have a natural inclination towards those professions, and are encouraged in that direction both by upbringing and by education. That is how we can create new opportunities in the area which mostly employs women who would lose their jobs as a result of digitization. We should work on that in a faster and more organized manner than currently is the case; not only in our country but in the world too.
Your results show that you are a successful business woman with numerous achievements in different professional fields. You have once stated that “women in our country have no limitations except their personal predispositions, attitudes and upbringing”. Still, what would you single out as your biggest business challenges in the IT world, technological and digital industry, which is, unfortunately, still defined as a “men’s world”?
Unfortunately, I am experienced enough and I can deal with all the challenges and solve them mostly to my benefit, because experience is just another term for all the mistakes you have made and learned from them. So, I have learned how to deal with the business surrounding. Having entered the IT world from aviation, which is also men’s industry, I have learned how to live in that world and how to fight for my opinions to be acceptable and accepted. That is not an attitude most women share. Most of them are in the position to be praised, or to do what they have learned at home, and those are either some completely different or humanitarian activities, or humanism as a general direction in life, rarely is it exact science, let alone IT. I do not think things are nowadays much different than back then when I said that for every woman it is important to organize things in her head and say: “I want to do that, these are my weapons, this is the knowledge I need, that is the problem I need to solve, and that is how I will walk side by side with the world, with the times, and with men”: But not in the sense woman-man, but in the sense capable or not, motivated or not, with a clear aim or without it. That is how each woman should feel, instead feeling inferior.
What are your plans? Which projects are you working on, in Serbia and abroad?
TeleGroup does not have a limited geographic area, we are always ready and capable for the new challenges. We employ a great number of young, capable and ambitious young people not tied to geographic space. The projects we are running range from Africa, Near East, to the European Union, and our attitude that it is possible to do project management and business localization at the very location but also virtually from any other location, has made us truly independent from where we will work in the future. My great ambition is to try to compete with the Asian countries, with the Far East, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, India… I think that we have enough knowledge and capacity for that, although those companies are ambitions, progressive and quick at the positioning and in proving their capacities. Working in Europe is not interesting anymore, what is interesting is to learn to compete with the countries of the future, and that is what Asian countries definitely are. That is the challenge we will have to rise to. What is important are the new modes of acquiring knowledge, especially in agriculture and in medicine, because those two fields will definitely undergo significant transformation and will not manage to continue without the IT. We already took the initial steps in that direction some three to four years ago, so I can say that now we can already talk about it and assume the position at the market with certain experience, and with plans for development in the future.