Even though the meaning of the word immigration hasn't changed during the whole history of humankind, the reasons and things we search for have drifted a bit. Our prior search was focused on finding fertile lands and new settlements. Nowadays, the list of reasons goes on and on. Among the main ones are escaping a bad economical situation and trying to accomplish something in more organized and developed countries. Anyhow, one thing is certain - globalization broadens our horizons when it comes to possibilities for traveling and living abroad.
While speaking of immigration in our country we came to the realization that there are different narratives and reasonings for leaving. We had a feeling that this topic was going to be an evergreen one in our community, so we decided to speak with our CEO and find out where he stands in regards to the famous question around - “Should I stay or should I go?”.
It has been nine years since you started your own business and thirteen since you got into the IT world. We are sure that each of us, at some point, dreams about a future path and opportunities lying ahead. Did it ever occur to you that, perhaps, a job in a foreign country could be a perfect fit for your desires, wishes and imaginations?
Back at faculty there were a lot of stories around my campus about the onslaught of people to Germany, and all of them seemed to indicate that success (mainly knowledge and money) could only be achieved by going abroad. Since I was being exposed to the stories revolving around this trend among students and without any real reason, the idea of seeking a position in an IT company based in a well developed country came to mind. My goal back then was to work in a company where I could learn as much as possible, from communication with ‘big fish’ clients to working on challenging projects. And doing so in Serbia sounded absurd.
What was the moment that made you reconsider and redirected your decision?
My first interview was at the very end of my academic days. I didn't have any expectations or hopes out of that one. During that time my only truth and imperative was that it is impossible to get a well paid job in Serbia. This doubt of mine was shattered when I got my first job offer - when I was told what the salary would be, I began to wonder. Honestly, this event was like an epiphany for me. Now I was sure that I could make my ultimate dream of creating a company come true. In the end, it seemed like going abroad would be the fastest solution to the problems I had faced. That was crossed from my wishlist once I got myself informed and introduced to the technologies, standards and projects which you can find here, in Serbia.
It has now been 15 years since you were exposed to stories about possibilities that are not available to us here and that only exist in some foreign countries. Looking from a different perspective now, as CEO of an IT company, is there an interest in leaving Serbia among people in Vega IT?
In nine years we have had three colleagues that have left our country, which implies that they also decided to leave the company. I’m not really sure about the reasons two out of those three had for leaving, but one of them left for private reasons - his wife was accepted to participate in a doctoral studies program abroad. What makes this statistic much more interesting is that four people came back from abroad and wished to work for us.
We might, perhaps, all be too overwhelmed with the same old thoughts of a bad political situation, the state of general dissatisfaction and powerlessness to be change makers. Do you find this to be a solid reason to leave the country without even giving it a second thought?
I believe that each and every one of us can be at least a carrier of the list of reasons which needs improvement, if not the change maker. The situation in the IT sector is encouraging and significantly better. Plenty of my colleagues and people I know have told me that, upon leaving the country and following the initial adjustment period (six months, a year, two years) they would again find themselves in a situation where they would feel powerless to change a society which, at a first glance, seemed perfect. It all comes down to the fact that they left Serbia with a feeling that they are unable to change a system out of order only to feel the same again in a system a bit more aligned. Running away has never helped anyone feel better.
Would you like to point out one of the problems you’ve faced but decided to change something instead of leaving for good?
When I began to consider schools for my kids to attend, I realized that no option was good enough in terms of fulfilling certain criteria. Now, I didn't decide to leave the country just so my kids could go to a school abroad, one where their friends couldn't possibly go with them. Instead I supported opening of a school, here at home, where the values important to me and my family are cherished.
Some IT professionals are hungry for challenges and they state the lack of big development centers in Serbia, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. as one of the reasons why one should leave the country. Can that be reason enough to leave?
It all comes down to the fact that young people and students in Serbia are not really familiar with the work being done in Serbian companies. They don’t know what type of technology is used and on what kind of projects we work. They are not privy to how much emphasis is put on personal development. How similar it all is to the work done in all of those big companies. If young people were to get familiar with the way many IT companies in Serbia work then they would lack that one argument for leaving the country. Vega IT develops software products used by some of the biggest companies in the world.
One of the best things today is the availability and flow of information. I see that more and more companies in Serbia are trying to reveal themselves and be there to eliminate any doubts students might have. Just as a number of other companies today, we also have a program where we invite students, groups or individuals to come and visit us - it is called book a tour and try the slide. Additionally, we have internship programs for students which also helps them get familiar with technologies and types of projects we do.
In the end it is all about our personal reasons as those are what we base on our decision of leaving or staying. Still, it seems there might be a space to send out a message which can affect someone's decision or at least make them reconsider. What is your message?
I am going to tell you a story about two travelers and a monk.
One day a Traveller was walking along a road on his journey from one village to another. As he walked he noticed a Monk tending the ground in the fields beside the road. The Monk said
“Good Day” to the Traveller, and the Traveller nodded to the Monk.
The Traveller then turned to the Monk and said “Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you a question?”.
“Not at all,” replied the Monk.
“I am travelling from the village in the mountains to the village in the valley and I was wondering if you knew what it is like in the village in the valley?”
“Tell me,” said the Monk, “what was your experience of the village in the mountains?”
“Dreadful,” replied the Traveller, “to be honest, I am glad to be away from there. I found the people most unwelcoming. When I first arrived I was greeted coldly. I was never made to feel part of the village no matter how hard I tried. The villagers keep very much to themselves, they don’t take kindly to strangers. So tell me, what can I expect in the village in the valley?”
“I am sorry to tell you,” said the Monk, “but I think your experience will be much the same there”.
The traveller hung his head despondently and walked on.
A while later another Traveller was journeying down the same road and he also came upon the Monk.
“I’m going to the village in the valley,” said the second Traveller, “do you know what it is like?”
“I do,” replied the Monk “but first tell me – where have you come from?”
“I’ve come from the village in the mountains.”
“And how was that?”, asked the Monk.
“It was a wonderful experience. I would have stayed if I could but I am committed to travelling on. I felt as though I was a member of the family in the village. The Elders gave me much advice, the Children laughed and joked with me and people were generally kind and generous. I am sad to have left there. It will always hold special memories for me. And what of the village in the valley?”, he asked again.
“I think you will find it much the same”, replied the Monk, “good day to you”.
“Good day and thank you,” the Traveller replied, smiled, and journeyed on.
Finally, we are the ones who make up our life. It is our attitude towards life, the people around us and the way we chose to change the world what will, eventually, define it all.
My advice for all those who are torn somewhere between their love for our country and the possibilities they see outside of it is to think it all through carefully. Each system and community has its own set of problems and difficulties.
I would love for as much people as possible to stay here so they can help us who have already decided to stay, to the best of our abilities, influence the world around us, in order to make our surroundings a better place to live.
So far Maja has lived in Serbia, Poland, Spain and Thailand. It is safe to say that she loves traveling and getting to know the world. Different cultures intrigue and inspire her.