Putting business expertise to work for humanitarian causes
“B&H,” as Asja refers to Bosnia and Herzegovina, seems cursed with a war every fifty years. How else to explain such insanity, she wonders still. She was six when the last war started and ten when it ended, but the horrible legacy continues to oppress the region. Among her relatives and circle of friends, lives and property were lost, families torn apart, educations ended or disrupted, and a devastating inflation saw paychecks’ value dwindle to “the price of a pack of cigarettes—all because of a few people and their crazy ideas.”
Though a casual visit to Sarajevo would not at present reveal the damages of war, the outward appearance of normalcy is deceptive. The GDP per capita is far below that of EU countries, and free travel is restricted. There are three main nationalities and four major religions, making for a “diverse and interesting cultural mix,” she says, yet instead of seeing this as an advantage in problem-solving with many approaches, B&H officials resort to conflict over petty self-interests and prejudices, slowing the return to stability and hampering the generation of prosperity. With such uncertainty, Asja learned to seize the moment and find advantages in every opportunity. While still in high school, she also attended the Soros School for Foreign Languages, focusing on English, but she also acquired Spanish and basic French.
When she entered the University of Sarajevo, she majored in economics and marketing. In her third year, she joined AIESEC, the largest non-profit student organization in the world with active groups throughout 110 countries. With a membership of 150, Asja, as vice-president, developed and implemented projects; organized, led, and facilitated conferences; recruited and trained younger members. Working with domestic and international partners, she coordinated international internships around the world.
In her final college semester, Asja won a competition for the best marketing campaign for Agrokor, a huge “field to table” food corporation.
Upon graduation, she earned a summer school scholarship to attend the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems, held in Prague, Czech Republic, organized by the Georgetown University and Charles University.
Then in the fall, ASA Auto hired Asja to manage the marketing for nineteen Skoda dealers in B&H where, among many duties, she conducted multi-media national and global marketing campaigns. Managing a project, she learned, isn’t the same as managing a team, and she’s grateful for the invaluable experience leading and being a part of a team, developing people and organizational skills and more.
The following summer would prove adventurous as Asja’s job took her to Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, and then to Crete where she participated in the International Institute of Political and Economic Studies, summer school, organized by the Georgetown University and Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation. She focused on conflict management and economics. As she learned more about international relations and European integration, she decided to pursue her master’s degree in international relations and European studies from the Central European University in Bucharest. Though she is an excellent business person, she wants to put her skills to work for NGOs that make life better for people.