Ivana’s Tech Leadership Triumph: Scaling New Heights

15 Apr, 2024 | 8 minutes read

Ivana has been part of ⋮IWConnect for almost 3 years. She is a Director Business Development for EMEA, and her story is a master class in forging one’s own path to the top. Her journey underscores that with tenacity, emotional intelligence, and a commitment to lifelong growth, there are no limits to what one can achieve. Dive into the blog to find out more.

Ivana, how do you manage the demands of frequent global conferences and your role as a Business Development Director – EMEA in the IT industry while maintaining a work-life balance?

Balancing the demand of frequent conferences while leading the EMEA Business Development team requires a strategic blend of prioritization, planning, efficient time management, and self-care. With a frequent influx of invitations to prestigious global tech conferences and summits, where I am often featured as a keynote speaker, panelist, or chair of round-table discussions, I ensure that both professional and personal spheres thrive harmoniously, driving sustained success in the ever-evolving landscape of the IT industry. Central to managing these demands is careful planning and strategic delegation. Each invitation undergoes a thorough evaluation process, ensuring alignment with our company’s business objectives and potential for meaningful engagement. By strategically selecting conferences that offer the most outstanding value regarding networking opportunities and industry relevance, I aim to maximize our company’s visibility and influence while minimizing time away from essential office duties. Yet, amidst the hustle and bustle of professional engagements, I remain steadfast in prioritizing work-life balance. A commitment to self-care and well-being is non-negotiable, acknowledging their pivotal role in sustaining long-term success. Whether indulging in hobbies or spending quality time with loved ones, I am committed to nurturing holistic well-being alongside professional pursuits.

"TechEX – Digital Transformation Europe" Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sep 2023
“TechEX – Digital Transformation Europe” Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sep 2023

As a woman in a male-dominated field, what challenges have you faced in your journey to success, and how did you overcome them to thrive in your role as a Business Development Director – EMEA?

Oh, I could write a book about the biases and barriers I’ve encountered throughout my 16-year career journey! But I learned early on that the best way to shatter glass ceilings is to be excellent at what you do. I let my competence, credibility, and strategic insight do the talking. There have been pervasive challenges along my career, and unfortunately, some of those obstacles can still be witnessed today, especially when it comes to gender bias and stereotypes prejudice based on gender, and last but foremost, gender inequality in general. This imbalance is often due to unconscious biases and stereotypes about women’s abilities in the workplace. Studies confirm that men are more likely to receive promotions and leadership positions, even when women demonstrate equivalent or superior performance. According to the World Economic Forum, females are still clearly underrepresented in the Tech industry, with only 26% of the tech jobs globally. However, I am happy to say that this is not a situation within ⋮IWConnect, since this percentage is higher (46%) and is constantly growing, hoping to reach the balance soon.

Despite these facts, I have always perceived and converted the challenges into motivation, which is one of the crucial factors for running my successful career. This has been my driving force, and for me, there is only a play and fast-forward button. I constantly welcome and grab the challenge by trusting in myself and my team. With an honest and truthful approach, I bring a pragmatic and confident message to the team while trying to make a positive impact on a broader scale.

Equally important is building authentic relationships. I lean into empathy and emotional intelligence to create connections based on trust and respect. Ultimately, my journey as a woman in a male-dominated field has been defined by perseverance, persistence, and a steadfast commitment to excellence. By confronting challenges head-on, fostering authentic connections, advocating for inclusivity, and prioritizing work-life balance, I’ve overcome barriers and passionately paved the way for future generations of women in the industry. We rise by lifting others. 

Conferences often provide valuable networking opportunities. Can you share some strategies you use to build and maintain a strong professional network on a global scale, and how has this contributed to your success in the IT sector?

Leveraging networking opportunities at conferences has been instrumental in my success within the IT sector. To build and maintain a strong professional network on a global scale, I usually apply several vital strategies:

Firstly, I prioritize meaningful connections over quantity. Rather than collecting as many business cards as possible, I focus on building genuine business relationships with clients whose values, expertise, and goals align with our company’s goals. I take the time to engage in meaningful conversations, actively listen to others’ perspectives, and find common ground to foster authentic connections.

Secondly, I understand the importance of nurturing and building relationships beyond the initial meeting, so I stay engaged with my network by sharing relevant industry insights, offering support, and celebrating their and our mutual achievements.

Furthermore, I believe in the power of collective expertise and collaboration to drive innovation and mutual growth. Therefore, embracing diversity within my network is pivotal to actively seeking out connections from different backgrounds, industries, and regions. This diversity enriches my perspective and opens new opportunities for learning, collaboration, and cross-pollination of ideas.

Lastly, I recognize the importance of reciprocity in networking. My team and I always strive to be valuable resources for our connections by offering support, insights, and expertise whenever possible. 

Overall, my strategic approach to building and maintaining a global professional network has been pivotal to my success in the IT sector. I have built and grown C-level relationships and friendships with many international organizations, which today are ⋮IWConnect’s long-term clients and partners.  

"Dutch Blockchain Week – Blockchain for Impact", Limburg, Netherlands, Nov 2023
“Dutch Blockchain Week – Blockchain for Impact”, Limburg, Netherlands, Nov 2023

Working in the IT industry, which is often characterized by diverse and international teams, how do you leverage your cultural background from Macedonia to bring a unique perspective to your business development strategies?Growing up in a culturally and historically rich country, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of embracing different perspectives, which honed my ability to bridge cultural gaps and build strong connections within diverse and international teams. My cultural background has instilled in me a sense of resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness as one of the invaluable aspects of the fast-paced tech industry. All these, combined with my understanding of emerging markets fueled by the Macedonian dynamic environment, help me develop innovative strategies that resonate with global markets while aligning with our company’s growth strategy. In short, my cultural background empowers me to create strategic partnerships and globally relevant strategies that propel our company forward and drive sustainable business growth.

In the fast-paced world of technology, staying updated on industry trends is crucial. How do you ensure that you remain knowledgeable about the latest developments in the IT sector, and how does this knowledge contribute to your effectiveness in your role?

Tech is constantly evolving, so staying updated with industry trends and cutting-edge technologies is crucial to being ahead of the curve. I stay sharp by being an insatiable learner. I constantly enjoy books on emerging technology topics, industry publications, podcasts… you name it. Moreover, participating in global events that present the latest technological development trends helps me easily anticipate changes while bringing innovative solutions to the table by absorbing cutting-edge insights and best practices.

"Valencia Digital Summit", Valencia, Spain, Oct 2023
“Valencia Digital Summit”, Valencia, Spain, Oct 2023

What aspects of your role bring you the most satisfaction?

It’s an absolute fulfillment to be part of and work in a business environment where diversity and authenticity are truly encouraged, an open field for growth, and a lot of the company’s success is built on the female masterminds we have at ⋮IWConnect. The most rewarding part is seeing your team overachieve defined goals and set KPIs, especially when clients hear about how our work has made a real impact, that winning moment when we helped them achieve a specific goal or reach a significant milestone. Moreover, one of the critical intangible rewarding aspects is knowing that I’ve played a part in helping others succeed and the impact I left on my team members when inspiring and empowering them with empathy, enthusiasm, and teamwork.

IWC Ski Team building, Vigla Pisoderi, Greece, Feb 2022
IWC Ski Team building, Vigla Pisoderi, Greece, Feb 2022

What’s your boldest prediction for where the global tech industry will be in 10 years?

Oh, that’s hard to predict, but I would do my best, and let’s chat again after a decade to check if I was right 😉 I would say it will be the widespread integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into almost every aspect of our lives. AI will underpin nearly every facet of our lives with a seismic shift, and today, we’re just scratching the surface of those possibilities.We are already seeing AI-powered systems seamlessly assisting us in decision-making, automating mundane tasks, and personalizing experiences in previously unimaginable ways. The advancements in AI will lead to breakthroughs in fields such as medicine, with AI-powered diagnostics and personalized treatment plans becoming the norm. We’ll also witness the emergence of AI-driven creative tools that enhance our abilities in art, music, and design, pushing the boundaries of human creativity. This will be driven by a high level of empathy and compassion in AI-powered systems and tools, as I explain in my article recently published by Corporate Investment Times magazine- “Empathetic AI: The Future of Customer Experience”.  But as we move forward, we can’t put ethical and social considerations on the back burner. Complex issues around privacy, bias, and workforce displacement will demand our full attention and foresight to ensure that the tools we build benefit humanity.

Last but not least, who is Ivana outside the office? 

Outside the office, I have a profound passion for sports, photography, music, and travel. Sports have been an integral facet of my identity from a young age. You’ll often find me chasing endorphins through sports – whether crossing the finish line of a triathlon, conquering a marathon course, hitting the ski slopes, or exploring a new trail by hiking or biking. Being granted an Olympian Goddess award at the ⋮IWConnect’s Olympic Games, where I achieved dozens of medals and contributed to our team’s collective success, is one of my dearest prizes. Particularly drawn to outdoor sports, I cherish solace and exhilaration in the serenity of nature, reveling in the simple joys of basking in the sun or gazing at the sky. I am a morning person who dislikes waking up with an alarm but enjoys starting the day by listening to the birds chirping. Embracing a philosophy centered on appreciating life’s simple pleasures, I find fulfillment in the tangible beauty of the natural world and the intangible rewards of gratitude and inner contentment. Fortunate to have traversed the globe, I’ve had the privilege of immersing myself in diverse cultures and histories across more than 40 countries worldwide and 10 US states. From the sun-kissed shores of Hawaii and California in the West to the vibrant landscapes of India, China, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia in the Far East, each journey has afforded me invaluable experiences and fostered deep connections with friends spanning the globe. Framing the world in new ways is endlessly energizing and that’s how I express my creativity through photography. By keeping diverse interests and prioritizing self-care, I’m able to bring my fullest, most energized self to the professional sphere which translates to a culture of positivity, productivity, and overall, successful leadership.

⋮IWConnect's Skopje Office Opening Party, Sep 2022
IWConnect’s Skopje Office Opening Party, Sep 2022