Srdjana, tell us something about yourself and your career path in the cement plant. When did you start working and in which positions did you work?
My love for economics and finance and my desire to do auditing led me to enroll at the Faculty of Economics. On that path of development, my story with the cement company began with a scholarship, and later, during my master’s studies, I was invited to the Talent Pool program, which brought me my first job in 2014 and brought me back to my hometown. I started my career as a clerk in the procurement sector, and further upgraded it in the financial control sector – first as a financial controller and later in the position of sector manager where I am today.
So, you started your career in a male environment. What did it all look like for you, as a beginner, a young girl in the “male” world, who has yet to prove herself and climb the professional ladder?
The procurement sector in the then setting was a completely “male” sector and that was a bit unusual for me, but my colleagues treated me protectively and with an open heart. They selflessly shared knowledge, and I think that I, on the other hand, brought them some new, different energy. I carry fond memories from the procurement sector, I met people and processes in the company and freed myself in communication with other sectors, which laid a good foundation for my further development.
What did you find most difficult during the period of adjusting to the new business environment?
The exclusively male team in the office usually has some specific way of communication, so in the beginning it was challenging for me to get used to and fit in. On the other hand, strengthening the team with one young girl was certainly a big change for them, so they also had to adjust. Today, when I look back on that period, I think that it was a little different for everyone, but that it brought benefits to the sector and to all of us individually, because we really functioned as a good team.
For the last six years, you have been working in finance, surrounded mostly by colleagues. Can you compare working with women and working with men? Who do you personally work better with and does successful cooperation depend on gender at all?
A very interesting turn in my career is happening at the moment when I move from the procurement sector to the finance sector, which is typically a “female” sector – although we have a couple of colleagues who are, so to speak, blissful among women. From personal experience, men are more practical, women are more systematic, men usually start from a broader picture, and women are more detailed. It is for this reason that every organization and individual should be aware of the concept of diversity in their teams and use the full potential of a range of different ideas, opinions and experiences.
The terms diversity and inclusion have often been heard in multinational companies lately. What do these terms mean to you? How do you define them?
I see diversity as a unique, specially designed package of characteristics that each of us acquires at birth and upgrades through life, and along the way incorporates into the environment: society, family, company… Inclusion in this sense is my ability to accept the fact that the world is woven of diversity and that this is precisely its advantage. If we were to transfer that to the corporate world, I really firmly believe that the most successful are those companies that have a different team structure.
What is it like to be a woman in the men’s industry? Do you think that women’s opinions are heard as strongly as men’s?
In the environment in which I work, I as a woman do not feel any pressure and I think that in our company the division into sexes is completely irrelevant when it comes to expressing opinions, making decisions, progress and development. Although the topic of women’s equality was conceived a long time ago, in the corporate world I think it has not yet got the place it deserves, so I am glad that multinational companies are increasingly recognizing its importance.
How can women encourage each other in the fight for equal rights and opportunities at work?
Considering the position of women in today’s corporate world, I think we should be a “wind in the back” – more open, above all in accepting but also sharing positive and negative experiences, precisely because we can understand each other better. Understanding and empathy should especially come to the fore in some typically “female” life situations and circumstances, such as e.g. support for a colleague who has returned from maternity leave.
What would you say to young girls who have yet to enroll in college and start building their careers?
Work on yourself every day, but don’t forget – a healthy balance between learning (and later work) and time for yourself is the key to long-term success and personal self-satisfaction. And most importantly – choose a work environment in which the division into sexes will be important only when someone needs to hold the door for you.