Europe, Interviews

Vedrana Miholić – Sales Director at CROZ

It is enough if women want to be part of tech world. I am sure they can make it if they just give it a fair try. There are so many different needs we have in our industry and in my opinion we lack diversity. I do not mean (only) gender wise, but mindset wise and educational background wise. Technology is a very transparent field. You are either ready to learn and follow this fast pace of change. Or you are not. 

Vedrana Miholić’s professional background includes almost 20 years of successful and efficient work in different fields ranging from programming to consultancy and management. In the past 8 years, she has been successfully running sales organization at CROZ, Croatian IT Services company focused on developing sustainable tech solutions for complex environments. Vedrana is well known in public for advocating for coding and STEM education for kids and supporting and empowering women to study and work in tech. She is the founder and president of NGO Programerko which provides Scratch courses for children and an eSkillsforJobs Ambassador. In 2016 she became a Member of Advisory Board of Croatian startup STEMI.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

My job is to build bridges between the business needs of our clients and technology solutions our experts’ team can build. I currently serve as Sales Director in CROZ. But over the years I was lucky enough to change different hats in IT.  I started as a programmer, then spent a couple of years being in different roles from system analyst to project manager.  There were even times I spent installing middleware (not very successfully to be honest ☺). At the beginning of my career, I was afraid if I would be able to keep the pace with the ever-changing world of technology. Now I am aware I am addicted to novelty and possibilities that technology shifts keep bringing to our lives.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

As I already mentioned I started as most of the young graduates with a computer science degree. I majored in Math but there was not much I could do with Math in that time so it was pretty logical to work as a developer. I loved the job, I felt as if I was playing all day long.

I still often say that I keep on doing the same job my entire life. I solve problems. In the old days I used Visual Basic to do so, today I use English or Croatian. But it is pretty much the same thing.  I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great people, coworkers, and bosses. And it seemed to me that somebody always had an idea what my next career move should be. I feel I never really asked or even wondered what to do next.  Doors would just emerge in front of me and there were people (I am very thankful for) who helped me out in these transitions. 

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great people, coworkers, and bosses. And it seemed to me that somebody always had an idea what my next career move should be.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

It is hard to say because I am old enough to remember pre-internet or pre-mobile era.  And it is hard to weight on what is more disruptive. It is often not the state of the art technology that changes everything, but the smart use of any given technology. From my perspective most of trendy technology we are all following these days like AI, IoT or Cloud came one step at the time. I see most of these technologies evolutionary not revolutionary. But as I mentioned being able to fit them to the perfect business use is magic and it can lead to real disruption of markets and maybe even society.

What has been your most challenging project so far and why?

The most challenging projects are always the ones that are still ongoing.  My soft spot is definitely uncertainty. And although it is a vital part of my job, uncertainty is a major challenge for me.

I do not mean the risks we face or fear of failure. But I find it difficult when I am not able to predict the possible outcomes.  For example, penetrating new markets, especially if you are not too familiar with cultures in new countries. Or building a new product for a business segment that is still too fresh and the market is not mature enough. 

When I glance back and think about past projects, none of them seems too hard. Because they have been either successful or I’ve learned a great deal out of them. 

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

I must admit my mind is compromised by so many initiatives regarding women and tech.  But maybe Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Julia and Ada.  It makes me wonder how many AI or programming languages are named by women. Hopefully, because history has proven women had a major impact on tech. Or maybe it shows we still have many prejudices that women still need to be, first and foremost, a nice decoration.

Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Julia and Ada.  It makes me wonder how many AI or programming languages are named by women. Hopefully, because history has proven women had a major impact on tech.

Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority. What needs to happen to change that? 

I am a huge advocate of education especially when it comes to small kids, even preschoolers. For the last decade, me and my colleagues contributed a lot of time and energy to reach as many kids as possible to show them the beauty of STEM. NGO Programerko (‘Young Coder’) created its own curriculum based on Scratch and apart from that, we are a national coordinator for Code Club Croatia.  I am proud and happy I have participated in building new computer science curriculum for public education as well. All these can be vital in attracting girls in tech as well. I am confident that the sooner girls get to love tech and the sooner they discover they are more than capable to be part of it, the better the chances are we will get them to tech.

What would be your message/advice to women trying to get into technology?

It is enough they want to be part of the tech world. I am sure they can make it if they just give it a fair try. Because there are so many different needs we have in our industry. And in my opinion, we lack diversity. I do not mean (only) gender-wise, but mindset wise and educational background wise. Technology is a very transparent field. You are either ready to learn and follow this fast pace of change. Or you are not. If you are ready, I have no doubt you can be successful.

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and why?

A hard one. Although, I kind of do something like that every year. We at CROZ organise a conference called QED every year and the idea is to bring speakers we would really like to meet and hear from.

One of these guys was John Cohn, IBM fellow. He impressed and influenced us all for life – not only because he can see the future of technology so clearly but he is able to see the humanity in all of us. I would also invite Korado Korlevic, Croatian charismatic teacher and astronomer who made an immense influence on many generations. Last but not least is Sandy Carter, AWS vice president. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Sandy and I never seemed to really grasp how she is able to put so much energy in initiatives she holds dear. She is absolutely an amazing person.

Technology is a very transparent field. You are either ready to learn and follow this fast pace of changes. Or you are not. If you are ready, I have no doubt you can be successful.

Vedrana Miholić’s professional background includes almost 20 years of successful and efficient work in different fields ranging from programming to consultancy and management. In the past 8 years, she has been successfully running sales organization at CROZ, Croatian IT Services company focused on developing sustainable tech solutions for complex environments. Vedrana is well known in public for advocating for coding and STEM education for kids and supporting and empowering women to study and work in tech. She is the founder and president of NGO Programerko which provides Scratch courses for young children and an eSkillsforJobs Ambassador. In 2016 she became a Member of Advisory Board of Croatian startup STEMI. In her spare time, she is devoted to her family and friends and enjoys different sorts of outdoor activities. Among her achievements are the ascent to Kilimanjaro summit and finishing the Berlin, New York, and Chicago marathon.

This interview has been made possible by Mia Biberović, Editor in Chief and COO at Netokracija, organizers of Ladies of New Business event, who connected us with Vedrana Miholić.

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