ALUMNI SUCCESS

 

Nikolina Jovanović

RIT Croatia, Class of 2007
Hospitality and Service Management (IHSM)

Employment: ENGiE platform

Job title: Head of Sales UK / EMEA


 




Nikolina, tell us a bit about yourself and your RIT Croatia experience. 

I graduated from RIT Croatia (ACMT at that time) in 2007 after studying Hospitality and Service Management with a specific focus on Small Business development. Choosing RIT and this program was probably one of my best life decisions. Mainly, because I obtained an education which has proven to be essential in my further national and international career development. The program is structured in a comprehensive way that guides your personal and professional development step-by-step. It is aligned with the market's current and future needs. Instructors are highly knowledgeable, experienced and devoted. Everything I learned throughout the program helped me in achieving successes in my career. I guess what I really loved about the program was the simple fact that you are a part of a well-established, reputable and responsible community for the rest of your life, no matter where you are in the world. 

Upon graduation, you have taken on a very responsible role of Sales, Marketing and Project Management Director followed by a CEO position at Hotel Blanca Resort&Spa. How challenging was this for you since you have just graduated before taking on these roles? 

Like any other senior role, these jobs were above all exceptionally hard work. They were very challenging, particularly because I was just at the beginning of my career. I guess the most demanding thing about them was finding the balance between business profitability and managing people. Prior to my graduation, I had chosen to do a rotation internship with Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa. That internship gave me a solid base to cope with any subsequent challenges in future jobs. In addition to the standard rotation training program, I volunteered within the Marketing and Sales department for other tasks. I was lucky as the Marriott and Vail Resorts were undertaking an acquisition process, so volunteering - in addition to doing the rotation program - enabled me to explore a variety of hotel business perspectives. It taught me how to run a hotel business and to understand hotel sales, operations, customer satisfaction, brand positioning etc. It also taught me how to plan and handle the business in both the short and long term, and much more besides. I have been approached by a variety of hotel chains, well known corporations etc., but I was always drawn to private investments. This allowed me to enhance my knowledge and the experience in more practical matters. Handling multi-million dollar private hotel investments in your mid-twenties just after your graduation is at the same time scary and exciting. You are simply forced to find a way to deliver while business, people and investors are relying on you. Still, no matter how hard you work, it is crucial to have a good support mechanism, mentors and people who are encouraging you to succeed. Investors for whom I have worked, have been great mentors of mine who built upon my knowledge obtained at RIT Croatia and Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa experience. 

How important is career-oriented education and gaining work experience prior to getting a job? 

I believe that career-oriented education and gaining work experience prior to getting a job is essential. One of the reasons why I am grateful to RIT’s education system is that strategic approach throughout which they empower their students step-by-step without them even being aware of it. Having an opportunity to study for a couple of years and then implement that knowledge in a practical way through work is crucial. It also creates an opportunity for graduates to get themselves a well paid and reputable job immediately upon the graduation. 

You have conducted your mandatory co-op (mandatory internship) abroad in USA at Marriott hotels where you've stayed for 2 years. Would you say this co-op prepared you well for the work positions you've held later in your career? If you have the opportunity to do it all over again, would you?

Definitely! Today, I have an extremely strong CV and professional background due to my co-op abroad. It all started with going to the USA and undertaking my co-op with Marriott Vail Resorts and Spa. Employers do search for a variety of experiences on your CV. They want to see that proactiveness, entrepreneurship, skills and experience in different environments. I believe I am who I am today thanks to my co-op abroad. It pushed me to work hard and strive for more. It pushed me to explore and understand that anything is possible. My career went above my professional experience in hotel businesses. I started thinking and acting on an entrepreneurial level. I got drawn to replicating core hotel business knowledge onto national and international tourism strategies. I researched, evolved, created and implemented a variety of technologies to support such. That development led to getting involved and working with businesses from different industries which are based all over the world - London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina, New York, Berlin, Paris etc. I gained enough knowledge and the experience to move from hotel business into businesses which combine technology with travel. 

Over the past couple of years you have been working and living in London, UK. How did you end up there? 

I always wanted to live and work abroad. People who I met throughout some of my hotel projects, at the early stage of their business development, offered me the opportunity to join them as a Global Destination Project Director at their London office, back in 2013. European Travel Ventures was at that point of time a multi-million successful brand and business. We knew each other for several years and were always supportive of each other throughout business development. That’s probably one of the coolest organizations I worked for. They still are one of the coolest organizations in travel, and it's been an honor to be a part of that. Nevertheless, two years later, I got headhunted for a position of Business Development Director for EMEA for Ucloudlink Ltd. Ucloudlink’s HQ is Hong Kong based, but their London office was working hard on making the travel industry wireless and roaming free. The market was shifting towards "on the go” services and we were a perfect match to support businesses in travel to make this change. Shortly, we even went above that and started providing "roaming free wifi” to corporates. I partnered and worked with a lot of top global brands world-wide. It was great to observe the travelling industry developing from telecommunications and mobile perspective. I stayed in that line of business for years. I always believed that the telecommunication industry can be a great support mechanism for the travel industry. I even worked on a private project on a side with the Institute of Travel, Ministries of Tourism and T-Mobile to pursue such beliefs. It's been a remarkable journey for which I am highly grateful and I know it will continue to develop. 

You are currently Head of Sales UK / EMEA for ANGiE Travel Platform which belongs to and supports ABT UK and ABT Global. What are some of the things you enjoy the most in this position?

ANGiE Travel is a corporate travel platform which is a pioneer in New Distribution Capability content for airlines. It is all about making that end-user experience hassle free and real time. The ANGiE Travel platform unifies absolutely all of the travel content in the world by most affordable rates, anytime and anywhere. Angie Travel belongs to ABT Global, a company focused on reshaping the business travel world. We have 7 offices world-wide and our HQ is based in Israel. 35 years of experience in corporate travel have been put into developing the ANGiE Travel Platform. I guess what I enjoy the most is pursuing my passion for technologies in travel. It is admirable how many technologies are out there. Trying their best to support travel and make our travelling experiences easier. All the businesses I have been involved with are highly customer oriented. They care and they believe the same as me that we can always do better for the industry. They are all leaders within their own line of the business. I enjoy speaking to likeminded people, leaders who work tirelessly to fight for travelers’ rights. I also enjoy working with some of the most amazing corporations who appreciate that. One of the things which I truly appreciate about ANGiE and ABT UK is their positive attitude towards human rights, equality etc. They truly care and act with integrity. 

Since the industry you work in has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, do you see the changes that are occurring as a threat or opportunity? 

As always, there are two sides of a medal. We all always have a choice. My choice is to observe those changes as an opportunity, but it will require - as usual - a lot of hard and smart work. Travelling is an essential part of our businesses and lives. Even with all the on-line communication tools, you can’t substitute the experience of signing-off an agreement in person, giving someone a hug in person, or simply being on the go. That’s all part of human nature. We like to meet, know, feel and experience. Therefore, travel will recover. As a matter of fact, I believe it will be stronger than ever. That said, we must acknowledge certain AI and IoT tools as a priority, in addition to having greater global governmental support and more helpful international legislation. 

What advice do you have in one adapting to changes all around us – personally and professionally?

I live my work. Therefore, my advice combines both. Recessions (economic crises) are a well-known cycle which has been an integral part of economic and social development throughout centuries. Times are changing and as technologies are advancing, we are facing a new age which was kind of expected, and at the same time it is exciting! It is challenging to adapt to changes, but a positive attitude towards it will build you up professionally and personally, even subconsciously. Never give up! Give the best of yourself in any situation, no matter how difficult or draining it might feel. Try your best to always be ready! Study hard, read as much as you can, choose people around you and again - work hard! Most importantly, no matter what type of change, always act with authenticity. Don’t be afraid to face those changes with your own voice, work, experiences and the beliefs! Eventually, it all pays off, but just keep on learning, adapting, and acting while being conscious of other people and events around you. Even throughout these difficult times, I have been approached by several businesses that are offering me ownerships, partnerships, consultancies etc. The global market is huge and we all have a choice about how we will adapt. My choice is always to put in the hard work and believe in myself and others - providing they are the right people. 

How important is quality education in dealing with unexpected and challenging times? How has RIT Croatia specifically prepared you for this?

RIT Croatia has been an integral part of my life. I remember enrolling at RIT Croatia when no-one knew about it. I went through the program and immediately thought "this is it!”. RIT Croatia always strived for more! Programs were right on the spot with the market even though back then I knew so little of it. I disliked certain economic and finance courses and objected to a combination of such with languages and philosophy for example. Nevertheless, it was a smart and strategic educational approach tackling all my strengths and helping me make-up for my weaknesses. The instructors were always on-board, carefully chosen, supportive, and determined to build us up. As one of the students who has gone through RIT Croatia early development study stages, I remember our faculty putting so much effort into personal and professional development in addition to already well defined programs etc. They were facing market, educational and other changes themselves. They were just so dedicated and wanted to pass on their personal and often challenging experiences onto us in addition to educational ones. This mark of dedication and quality was imprinted on me by RIT and has stayed with me. Since then it has been an important concept and has helped me throughout all the changes I’ve faced throughout my professional and personal development. RIT Croatia does empower your personality on top of your professional choices. They give you all of the tools and seriously get to know you. You do become part of a community which is always there for you. Today, when I do business and connect to people via LinkedIn etc., it’s amazing to see ‘RIT alumni work here’. We are everywhere, no matter the type of industry while we were built to strive in accordance with our own beliefs and choices. That’s quality which can help you strive throughout any challenges you might face throughout your life - personally and professionally.
  

What is your message to our current and potential students?

There’s no magic formula for anything. Life happens. Nevertheless, working hard, believing and acting with integrity matters. You might be confused, fail or be unsuccessful. It doesn’t matter, keep on finding your way to make your dreams happen. Be and stay authentic, acknowledging your immediate and distant surrounding with care. I am truly grateful to RIT Croatia for building me up, providing me with amazing education and skills, but at the same time producing some friendships which will last for my lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, in RIT community - we work hard and we still have loads of fun! I guess I forgot to let you know, we truly had loads of fun along the way! If by any means you wish to reach out, need any advice or support to pursue your career development, feel free to contact me via my LinkedIn profile. 

Since the industry you work in has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, do you see the changes that are occurring as a threat or opportunity?

It is a very complicated situation. You don’t have a lot of maneuvering space when you are a restaurant owner. Lots of people are struggling to find a way to keep their heads above water. Of course there is an opportunity, but you have to be financially strong enough to make it work.

What is your message to our current and potential students?

You have to be resourceful and creative enough to turn a threat into an opportunity, and brave and persistent enough to make it work. Education is the key. You have to gain tools and resources to adapt to changes in life.




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