Maja Trstenjak

Maja Trstenjak – Researcher at The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture at University of Zagreb

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Never give up and don’t be afraid to try something new. Do not underestimate anything or anyone. The most important thing is to set your goal.

Photo by: Filip Bušić

Maja Trstenjak was born in 1992 in Koprivnica, Croatia. She started her studies at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Zagreb in 2011, with a major in Industrial Engineering.

She got summa cum laude Master’s degree in 2016 for which she was awarded the Faculty’s Achievement Medal, and employed as a teaching and research assistant and enrolled in the Doctoral study of Industrial Engineering and Management.

Her scientific fields of interest include technological process design, multi criteria decision making and optimization, work study and ergonomics and sustainable production.

She is a PhD student, working on readiness factor calculation for Industry 4.0, which enables the companies to create an accurate and optimum strategic plan in the transitional period towards a complete digitalization of the working environment.

Maja published more than 20 scientific papers in some of the worlds’ renowned scientific journals and presented at international conferences on the prestigious Universities in Europe. From 2018 to 2020 she was head of Laboratory for Process Planning whose main roles are work on state-of-art scientific and educational projects in the field of digital process planning and manufacturing design.

Apart from her scientific work, she is Sound Report music web magazine editor-in-chief, a community manager and content creator for Vatroslav Lisinski, a concert venue in Croatia, and journalist for a magazine „Cantus“ published by the Croatian Composers’ Society.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

My job is basically all about the technology. I work as a research and teaching assistant at the Department of Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb. My scientific work is based around Industry 4.0 – the complete digital transformation of, not only manufacturing but also the service industry. Since Croatia is yet a traditional country, I have decided, as part of my PhD work, to focus on the readiness assessment for Industry 4.0, so I am currently developing a tool which makes an accurate audit of the company and helps to create an optimal strategic transformational plan towards the new digital concept. So, I’m an industrial engineer, which simply means, I seek for the possibility of improvement and optimization in the working environment. This kind of mindset, skills and knowledge of the industry and leadership I am aiming to give to my students because I find it very useful for today’s unpredictable and ever-changing market. Apart from that, I am doing research in the field of sustainable manufacturing and ergonomics.

So, that is only my 9-5 job, and since the day has 24 hours, I am also the editor-in-chief of the famous Croatian music web magazine Sound Report. And that is technology only. Really good music as well. As I say to my students, you can find and apply industrial engineering to everything in the world. That is why I use the philosophy of continuous improvement, strategic leadership and innovative mindset for editorial purposes. I am proud to say I see the positive results.

Industrial Engineering is an amazing field. MBA is overrated and overpriced. As an industrial engineer, you get the knowledge and skills of both MBA and mechanical engineering. Amazing, right?

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

The rise of Industry 4.0 and social media. Also, most recently, the urgent digital transformation due to COVID-19 crisis. I have been working in this field for four years, and yet many companies, especially in Croatia, have resisted the digital transformation due high investments and the possibility of certain job loss. And then the 2020 arrived. It was very interesting to see how remote working became very useful, although it didn’t arise to the level of the digital concept that is needed, but yet, certain changes have been made. Also, the importance of the human in the working environment has been recognized, so people are nowadays more convinced that the acceptance of Industry 4.0 won’t cause job loss, but a slight transformation of their professions. But that has already happened in the near history, hasn’t it? Not only the Industry 4.0 would improve their workplace and entire company, but it would improve themselves – the concept of life-long learning is essential.

Another thing is social media. So far, have been using it for personal needs, but also for the needs of my music web magazine. But, nowadays I can notice that its use is getting more and more professional and it has changed the users’ online behavior completely. It’s not only about fun and personal relationships; it has become a much-needed marketing and educational tool. You have no idea how many tech hacks I learned from TikTok. ☺ On the other hand, the disadvantage is that the change in that field started to happen too often, and we became too dependable on social media algorithm formation. It’s all about the numbers. 

And when you combine those two, you get a new trend in the field of management and leadership – the importance of work-life balance and the creation of sustainable leaders. Recently I have read an interesting research about the future leaders. Labeled as millennial and gen-Z. The traditional approach to the industry under their supervision would no longer be available because we are raised to be innovative and learn from many available sources. The importance of work-life balance now increases, but the higher level of workers’ well-being increases productivity and innovatively which may be scary to boomers, but we guarantee you that the future is in good hands that multi-task on daily basis.

Which advice would you give to female founders about communicating their venture / idea to the world?

Never give up and don’t be afraid to try something new. Do not underestimate anything or anyone. The most important thing is to set your goal. What do you want to be, who do you want to become. Then you have to define your target audience. If your audience is present on certain platforms you aren’t familiar with – learn how to use them. In my opinion, it’s all about the user experience. Never underestimate your customer and always be transparent. You want everyone to feel welcome and understand your product. That is why it is very important to keep things simple – to present your product so that everyone (within your target audience) can understand it.

At the Faculty, I am working in the PR team, so my task is to make the hardest and most demanding Faculty attractive to the future students. As a music editor, I have given myself a task to make classical music interesting and attractive to the young audience. Those two are both very complicated tasks, but my mission is to make everything clear, honest and approachable. Regarding my audience, I try to make them feel worthy of the product no matter how demanding it may seem and regarding the reputation it has gained over the years.

So, my advice is to create a comfortable customer experience environment and make the product as understandable as possible to your target audience. With social media, nowadays, you can make miracles with very small investments. But you must also be very wise and believe in your product. Customers are smart, they can spot the fake immediately.

I kind of have a feeling that kids nowadays aren’t so gender-determined when it comes to professions. That is amazing. So the problem of women in technology will solve itself before you know it!

Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority. Which steps should be taken to attract more women into tech??

Well, I think this problem will be solved in the near future. Because the encouragement for the woman to take part in the technology field is very strong. Just look at the new Barbie dolls available at the market today. I notice the increase of female mechanical engineering students at my Faculty in every new generation. They have higher grades than their male colleagues almost every time. Also, my colleagues, female scientists at the Faculty are one of the most successful in their fields, not only in Croatia, but also worldwide. I am very proud of them and find them inspirational. 

Then, I see the kids making their own robots at a very early age. And, I kind of have a feeling that kids nowadays aren’t so gender-determined when it comes to professions. That is amazing. So the problem of women in technology will solve itself before you know it!

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

As mentiones, female students at my Faculty are on average far better students than male, as well as the female colleagues doing the scientific work. From my experience, they are more cautious and put much more effort when approaching a certain topic. And a woman can multitask, which is always useful. So, I think we could get many great new inventions and improvements in technology and science if more women would work in STEM.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?

Again, it’s to never give up. There is always sunshine at the end of the tunnel. Don’t underestimate anyone. Don’t be afraid to learn new things, accept the change and make the most of it. Most importantly, think positive, shine and SMILE. And, when the things start to go down, put the red lipstick on, your most fabulous shoes as well, head up and you will conquer the world! 

Don’t underestimate anyone. Don’t be afraid to learn new things, accept the change and make the most of it.

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

Well, that is a hard one. I think the first one is a cliché, and that would be Elon Musk. I would really like to talk about the autonomous vehicles, because I really like to drive and don’t know how would I adapt to self-driving cars.

Second would be Mate Rimac, who is kind of a Musk’s opponent from our country, so it would be very fun to see the difference in their opinion, mindset, ideas and work approach.

Third would be someone who is working on a safe nuclear fusion development and is very close to the applicable solution. I have a huge interest in the nuclear technology. Of course, as long the solution is safe for the environment and human, also used in a good cause. The possibility of getting huge amounts of the energy from the small amounts of the resources has been fascinating to me since the high school.

Fourth would be Vedran and Brano from Dubioza kolektiv band, since they are one of the most creative and influential people on the Balkans and recently they formed a Robotic Democratic Party, whose leader is a robot. This is an indirect regional promotion of the digital technology on a completely new level! I would just take popcorn and enjoy the conversation when it escalates. So, this dinner could end with some world-saving ideas and solutions, or as a complete disaster. But, I’m an optimist.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Try not to be as hypersensitive. Keep walking your own path. You will make it. 

Maja Trstenjak started her studies at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Zagreb in 2011, with a major in Industrial Engineering. She got summa cum laude Master’s degree in 2016 for which she was awarded with the Faculty’s Achievement Medal, and employed as a teaching and research assistant and enrolled in the Doctoral study of Industrial Engineering and Management.

Her scientific fields of interest include technological process design, multi criteria decision making and optimization, work study and ergonomics and sustainable production. She is a PhD student, working on readiness factor calculation for Industry 4.0, which enables the companies to create accurate and optimum strategic plan in the transitional period towards complete digitalization of the working environment.

Maja published more than 20 scientific papers at worlds’ renowned scientific journals and presented at the international scientific conferences on the prestigious Universities in Europe. From 2018 to 2020 she was head of Laboratory for Process Planning whose main roles are work on state-of-art scientific and educational projects in the field of digital process planning and manufacturing design. Apart from her scientific work, she is Sound Report music web magazine editor-in-chief, a community manager and content creator for a concert venue in Croatia, Vatroslav Lisinski and journalist in a magazine „Cantus“, published by Croatian Composers’ Society.

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