UNSTOPPABLE STEM WOMAN!
I could consider myself lucky as I had the chance to meet Maja Ivanovic in person, during the first ConneXion Event of the season 2020-2021. Maja is traveling most of her time. Actually, she was traveling when we arrange an interview to make this article. Maja travels intensively and most of her time, she is out of Rome. This is why I consider myself lucky to have the chance to meet Maja in person. She confessed to me that she travels more than 260 days in a year!
Maja Ivanovic is an Electrical and Computer Science Engineer. A brilliant student all of her life, as she is one of the very few math-talented students of the prestigious Matematicka Gimnazija, a special school for gifted and talented students of mathematics, physics and informatics located in Belgrade, Serbia. This school is ranked number one at International Science Olympiads by the number of medals won by its students (more than 400), and Maja is very proud to be one of its former students. However, she finished high school in Paris and then back in Belgrade she started her graduated studies.
After she finished Belgrade University, Faculty of Electrical Engineering where she also took her Magister degree and PhD studies in Computer Science, she started working all around the world.
At Faculty of Electrical Engineering, she was teaching for 10 years at Department of Databases. There, she was Responsible of IT Centre at Faculty of Electrical Engineering.
For 11 years, Maja was teaching Software Integration in EMEA and USA and she was working in multicultural and international teams. She worked in all sorts of technical projects in Italia, Austria, Swiss, Spain, France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Israel, Mexico and USA. Just to name a few. Maja has worked in more than 32 different countries around the world. She is expert in Service-Oriented Architectures and Linux operative systems.
Of course this extensive working experiences and constant travel has benefit Maja’s abilities for language learning. In fact, she speaks Serbian, Croatian, Italian, English, French, Spanish, and basic Russian. She’s a very active person with lots of interests, including writing, driving, swimming, and of course being with her beloved ones and friends.
Following one of her passions, writing, motivates her to collaborate with a leading IT magazine in Serbia called PC Press magazine, as editor and journalist.
At the present time, she is working as Service Manager at Poste Italiane, taking care of more than 160 digital services and being Responsible for Service Management of the end-to-end service to the customer, SLAs, KPI, service problem resolution and Vulnerability assessment.
As anyone can imagine, Maja’s working environment is populated mostly by men because most STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) fields are dominated by men, as many statistics report. Men outnumber women in most STEM careers, but women know how to perform outstandingly in those kinds of jobs, and it is my impression that Maja is one of those women that had demonstrated her value in every working experience she had performed.
Maja recalls that her preference for the STEM fields of study and work has being a little bit lonely journey, since so few fellow women she encountered in her path, and getting along with colleagues wasn’t always an easy task being a minority at work. She also tells me an anecdote to make me have a better picture of the working environment in which she has been: “A few days ago I started to make order between my papers and found so many hotel reservation printings where my name wasn’t written well because almost every time I had to do field work and a hotel reservation was made for me, people at the hotel were expecting Mr. Ivanovic and get a huge surprise founding out that I am a female engineer, and the right name was Mrs. Ivanovic. It was like people couldn’t accept that a woman was doing field technical work”.
This refusal to see women doing field technical work has not disappeared, unfortunately, many female STEM professionals, like myself and many of my friends, are still fighting against the unequal treatment at workplace. However, Maja is a pioneer dealing with this kind of male predominant working environment and at the same time brilliantly performing her work, because she has been working in technical fields since there weren’t bathrooms for women at field working places, in particular in some Arab countries. She remembers: “They even hadn’t a bathroom for us (women). I’ve had to put a piece of paper on the door indicating that I had to use the toilet: “WOMEN’S BATHROOM”, while using the men’s bathroom”.
Talking to Maja is a real pleasure, she has so many stories to tell and interesting points of view to explain human behaviour not only at workplace, but also in general, because she has a very rich vision of life developed during her extensive traveling. She has discovered many new places and new people, and she is still willing to do it. She love to travel, whenever she get a chance she is on the road. Her international spirit has led her to become member of PWA, and now, also, to being a Board member, as Treasurer.
After attending one of the PWA’s high quality conferences, Maja appreciated the mixed international professional environment that only PWA could offer in Rome. She felt welcomed in a predominant female organization where she found liked minded people and for the first time she decided to become active part of an only women organization because she believes that women have to help each other to grow in their careers, as women could understand better the challenges that women have to face in the workplace.
I am sure that Maja can feel very satisfied of her professional and personal life, and she is, but she is always a very active person who never stops and prefer to spend her time with friends, meeting new people and being surrounded by stimulating people, as she really much appreciates human interaction, investing in friendships and being passionate about discovering of new horizons.
By Luisa Lopez