#30 of the most influential women in the European Channel
The well-known Sarajevan, former director of Kaspersky Lab Europe, and now Chief Sales Officer at VMRay, its German competitor, the European portal Channel Partner Insight ranked in the 30 most influential women in the technology industry.
With 25 years of technology industry experience in sales, management and technical roles, Ilijana worked for several global software giants such as Oracle, Microsoft, Kontron, Saba Software, Juniper Networks.
She talked with organization Restart about the nomination, the reasons for leaving Kaspersky Lab, the challenges she faced as a woman in the industry that is considered typically male, about the IT industry and the BPO potential of Bosnia and Herzegovina and many other points of interest.
Being named among the 30 most influential women in the industry for Ilijana is significant, but it is not the only confirmation of her success and years of hard work.
”Channel Insight is a highly regarded portal and being listed as one of the most influential women in the industry is a big deal. I do not know how much it means for my career, because I have already made a career that I am happy and proud of, but any additional recognition is good and certainly has a positive impact on the future,” says Ilijana.”
After two years as General Manager for Europe (Eastern and Western Europe) of the world’s leading cybersecurity software giant, she decided to move over to the competitor, the German company VMRay.
“Kaspersky is a very dynamic company and in addition to cybersecurity they are engaged in other interesting missions such as assisting women’s expedition in conquering the south and north pole, sponsoring the World Chess Organization, F1 Ferrari team, etc. Last year, I signed a sponsorship with the German football club Eintracht Frankfurt. All of these sponsorships required my presence at major events such as the opening of the World Cup, giving speeches at all these events to our guests of very high status from various industries, all of which were not part of my daily routine, so everything was very interesting especially when it came to a world I was not familiar with before, as all the details of moto sport and chess are, ”points out Ilijana.
Ilijana had previously worked at Kaspersky and she decided to come back to restore the reputation of a company that had been damaged by geopolitical campaigns and she had successfully completed that mission. The company is no longer mentioned in a negative context and she felt the ease of mind to move to new business challenges.
The challenges she faced working in an industry that is considered typically male and at a position considered more natural to men, did not discourage her from boldly stepping forward and achieving success after success.
“I have faced many challenges, especially at the beginning of my career when I was doing purely technical assignments and when many clients could not believe that a young and beautiful woman could be an IT consultant,” says Ilijana.
“I was often asked if I was a secretary, and then they would be ashamed of their question. However, this proved to be handy later on and it turned into my advantage over my male competition from other companies that would compete for the same project. I experienced a lot of different situations, from being excluded from the narrow circle of information, to disparaging. One of my managers even told me that I could not be a mom and a manager at a company and that my place was in the house, i.e. in the kitchen and with the child in the playroom, and not in a high-ranking company, ”she recalls.
“But one gets used to everything, even that. I simply realized that in order to succeed, I must be much better than my male counterparts and that my best weapon is to fight for that recognition, my knowledge, my education, and my hard work that one day has to produce results. And so it was. Today, I am generally accepted everywhere as an equal or competent person to whom people come for advice and to help solve their strategic problems. I am appreciated by people who are highly regarded in our industry and beyond. It is a reward for all that pain that I once suffered as well as for my hard years of work, ”Vavan points out.
Women today have much more opportunity to advance in the business hierarchy, however, many women do not have the strength and support to break the glass ceilings and use their full capacity.
“Unfortunately, the glass ceiling phenomenon still exists, and many women have not been as persistent and self-aware as I am in breaking it. There are so many prejudices and stereotypes preventing women in advancing their careers. A recent study has shown that a large number of people are sceptical of women in management positions regardless of the fact that women have proven to be very capable leaders. I also read one study that analysed the reactions of governments to the coronavirus. It turns out that the countries with female prime ministers and presidents such as Germany and New Zealand, dealt with the crisis best, ”said Iliana.
Ilijana believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina has many advantages and very few disadvantages compared to the countries in which she lived and she adds that we can leave Bosnia, but Bosnia cannot leave us.
“The benefits are natural wealth and beauty, mines, minerals, water and forest wealth, the advantage of a nation that, no matter that we are called stupid Bosnians, we have proven numerous times to be smart, hardworking and capable. Geographical location, proximity to sea and mountains, skiing and swimming at the same time, the advantage is rich history, the advantage is climate. The advantage is the educational system, which, fortunately, is still largely based on the system of the former Yugoslavia, which has brought out from its educational system exceptional experts who are highly respected around the world. BiH has only one flaw, and that is its political system and corruption, which has so much taken hold that it has become a barrier to itself. ”
She states that this is the main reason why Bosnian men and women are much more successful in other countries than in their own.
“These countries give them a chance that BiH does not give them. Take Germany as an example. I think it is the country with the largest number of Bosnians after or alongside America. All these people, no matter what position they are in, are highly regarded here as hardworking and quality workers and are in high demand. Why? Because they are not hired because of family connections or friendship, but purely and solely because of the quality of their work. Nation, religion, family background does not play a role here. People are hired at the positions solely because of their results. Quality is appreciated here, and Bosnians and Herzegovinians have it. In BiH, this quality is unfortunately not appreciated. Nepotism rules BiH.”
Ilijana believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great area for the development of the IT industry. She states that there are relatively few IT companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but those that exist are extremely good.
“I had extremely successful cooperation with Authority Partners, which I consider to be the most successful company in BiH. Lanaco from Banja Luka, which was my partner with Kaspersky, is also a very good and company of quality. I am very pleased to note that the number of IT companies is increasing daily which is very good for the overall situation in BiH. I know a couple of our people, such as Muamer Babajic and Edi Custovic, who live abroad but tirelessly invest in the development of the IT sector in BiH, which is commendable, ”Ilijana said.
As there is increasing talk of developing a new business services industry (Business Services Center (SSC), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), Research and Development (R&D)) in BiH, Ilijana states that the potential human resources are huge, and that very little investment is needed for IT Outsourcing and R&D. She also believes that these are the reasons why, for example, the Germans would choose to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“A few years ago, while working for the German Kontron, I was on the verge of opening one centre of that kind in Sarajevo, but unfortunately at that very moment Kontron got into financial problems, this project was stopped. However, this does not mean that I completely gave up on this idea, with a new company there are new opportunities. And the best proof that outsourcing is very successful in BiH is Authority Partners, which, led by Amin and Tarik Karic, has been successfully producing software for many large California companies for many years, ”concludes Vavan.
Finally, the advice she has for everyone working hard on building their careers and advice she would give herself at the beginning of her career is: “Don’t look back at the comments of incompetent and envious people”.
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