Interviews

Mia Biberović – Partner & Executive Editor at Croatian Tech Magazine Netokracija

Today we want to introduce you to Mia Biberović, Partner and Executive Editor at Netokracija. She writes daily about the local tech startup scene in Croatia, but also in Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the whole CEE region. Other than startups, her favorite topics include social media, digital marketing and the impact new technology has on our everyday lives.

Mia, you are the executive editor of Netokracija, which is basically the Tech Crunch of South Eastern Europe. What role does technology play in your job?

Technology is my main focus every day, all day. I write about it, mainly from a business perspective. I use it every day both for private and business purposes, mainly for communication with my team since I work from another town, in a smaller office, remotely. I can’t imagine my day without some new titbit from the tech world. But to be honest, I’m mostly interested in how the technology and the new business models brought the disruption in every corner of our lives. I am old enough to remember vividly not only life before the Netflix or Uber, I remember the time before social networks, chat services, forums, before the internet! It’s a unique perspective only older millennials or xennials can have, however you want to label someone like me, and I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Tell us a bit about your journey? Where did you start and how did you get to where you are now?

Well, I’m a nosey little person. 🙂 I’m always hungry for new information. It made sense for me to pursue a career in journalism and I wanted to do that as long as I can remember. I always thought I would end up as a news reporter on some national television, and I did start paving that path. I worked in a daily newspaper as a journalist for a couple of years. Print, hey! Those were the times when the readers didn’t leave us anonymous comments under the articles – they used to send me handwritten letters as a reaction to my articles, by mail! 🙂  

Unfortunately, the global and local crisis had a huge effect on the media industry, so I couldn’t pursue my career as I planned. I had to move to another town and got an opportunity to work in digital marketing. It was a brand-new world to me, I learned a lot, but my love for journalism persisted. After some time, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse – Netokracija’s founder, Ivan Brezak Brkan, offered me to join the team as an editor. It was a perfect job for me, I could combine my love for journalism and all things digital. I’m still here, I became a partner in the meantime and I’m very proud of the team and the business we built, especially since the media industry still has a lot of challenges.

What’s your take on the local tech startup scene from a female perspective (in a nutshell)?

Well, the situation is much better than the first days of the startup scene. As you can probably imagine it, the startup scene in Croatia and other nearby countries, such as Serbia and Slovenia, where Netokracija is also present locally, looked the same as anywhere else in the world. Startup founders were mainly male programmers in their twenties. I remember the first startup conferences I attended – I felt like an intruder since I was one of the few females in the room.

That has changed gradually, and while the odds are still in favor of male co-founders, we have a few bright examples of how female perspective can bring interesting products into the market. One of the most obvious examples is probably Croatian startup Bellabeat. It’s one of the first startups that tackled the world of wearables in order to expand their market to females – it made them both usable for women since it was focused in their reproductive health, as well as it was fashionable. It might be a bit superficial, but women don’t want to wear a robust chunk of technology on their wrists. And I think Bellabeat’s cofounder Urška Sršen was one of the main reasons the company went in that direction. She is also a sculptor, so it made sense to wrap the technology with beautiful pieces of fashion accessories in order to reach the desired market.

That is the unique perspective that only she could bring to the table.

Seeing still mainly men working in the tech industry, what would be your advice for (young) women who look at pursuing a career in tech, but are too shy or reluctant?

Before you start wondering if you should pursue a career in tech, have in mind that the tech industry needs you. Not only that the industry is constantly looking for talented individuals, but it’s craving for a different perspective, even if it is still not aware of that completely.

Even if you are not a developer, you can still have a career in tech if you are tech-savvy. The tech industry could benefit from your unique skills, even if you’re a sculptor (remember Urška) or a writer. Hey, I studied literature, my cofounder studied anthropology and we’re writing about the tech-business world every day!

Of course, since this was a man-only… OK, maybe man-mainly world for such a long time, there are some issues that are present, but I think that the situation is changing constantly. The tech industry is young and it is adaptable so I believe it can adapt to having a bit more diverse teams in no time.

There are different initiatives that try to tackle those issues. My team and I have started a project called Ladies of New Business three years ago – we have organized 15 conferences in Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia where both men and women talked openly about different aspects of pursuing a career in tech and digital industry. I hope that we made a difference and shaped the industry to be a bit more female friendly.

If you had to leave home and stay on a deserted island for a year and you could only take one tech tool – what would it be?

This is the question I dwelled upon the most. I don’t even know how to answer it! I can’t decide so I will say something drastic – nothing. 🙂 Just kidding, I actually do a digital detoxing every summer. Even though I am a huge fan of technology, I understand that is affecting my habits and my attention span vastly. So I try to annihilate that effect during my vacations… Or I at least try to be more aware of the effect it has on me. Especially now, since I’m a mother. I need to be a good example to my daughter and teach her only the benefits of technology.

Even though wasting your time on some new app can have its benefits, but don’t tell that to my daughter! 🙂

Please continue this sentence: I have failed …. and these were my learnings…

I remember the time in my life when I thought my career in journalism is over. I was just finishing college, it was during the crisis, there were no job openings in the media industry, there were no job openings almost anywhere. So eventually I had to give up and take a job in customer support in the telco industry. I felt devastated. Like I took 10 steps backward in my career and that I’ll never be able to return in the place I was before.

A year and a half later, I was on a job interview in one of the largest Croatian communication agencies. It was my dream job at the time. I didn’t put on the resume that I worked in customer support because I found that experience redundant. Maybe I thought they would think of me less if they saw that I worked there. But surprise, surprise! The agency has just closed the deal with the telecom I was working for. Since I knew EVERYTHING about their products and services, it made sense to hire me and put me on that account.

And that taught me that every (work) experience matters. That job I hated at the moment also helped me in developing my communication skills which is an important part of my everyday job.

Also, it taught me to sit peacefully in front of a computer for hours, without even using the toilet, which is another skill I benefit from today, haha.

What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?

I don’t think that some new trend will appear in the next five years because we can already see the trends that are happening right now. We will see their further development and impact on our everyday lives. Some of them are the automatization, AI and more regulation in tech. We already see that in Europe, with the GDPR implementation and now with the modernization of the EU copyright rules.

What has been a moment of fame this week?

Certainly not new Game of Thrones episode! (I have just watched the fourth episode of the last season and, wow, it was b a d.)

Who’s your personal Shero and can you give us three sentences why?

Without a doubt, Kara Swisher, co-founder of Recode. She is my tech-journalist shero. I love her sharp style, her deep knowledge of the tech-business industry, her bold approach to the difficult subjects, even to the difficult persons, such as many top tech executives. I’m looking forward to the day I’ll see, or more accurately, hear, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey on her podcast, Recode Decode.

If you could go back in time or into the future, what advice would you give your 23-year-old self? What advice would you give your 75-year-old self?

Well, I’d rather travel to the past because I know, no matter what happens, I would end up here where I am, right now, but there are some things that can make that path a bit more… Straightforward.

So, my darling 23-year-old me, first and foremost, don’t anyone tell you that you’re wasting too much time online! It will be your full-time job one day!

And please, I beg you, don’t buy the Symbian phone! I know that you think that Nokia is on top of the world now, but please, please, invest in some Android device and try the Apple’s new product, iPhone, as soon as you have the chance. It will be a life-changing experience for you! 😉

Mia Biberović is Partner and Executive Editor at Croatian Tech Magazine Netokracija. The worlds leading technology blog TechCrunch has called it “TechCrunch of Southeast Europe”. Mia writes daily about the local tech startup scene in Croatia, but also in Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the whole CEE region. Other than startups, her favorite topics include social media, digital marketing and the impact new technology has on our everyday lives.



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