You think you failed or made a mistake? Better call it – experience!

The old quote that “everyone makes mistakes“, did not survive all this years just because it sounds smart. It is something that is real, and we should accept it as such.

There is no time for being sorry for the past actions, because they are very valuable and serve us in future, when problems occur. I see mistakes as lessons that no professor, parent, friend or adviser can provide us. It is a history of actions based on previous experience, and can later on be used to do things differently, and faster and better.

Learning from experience is self-improvement. I don’t mind making mistakes – it only means I gained something, and next time I face a problem I can think about it, analyse my actions and improve. Like that, I don’t repeat the mistakes, I take them as a lesson and go forward. Through life we lead ourselves by our past actions, and what we’ve learned to be good or bad, what hurt, or didn’t hurt, from what we have gained, or lost. It is simple, logical, and we base our new choices on the past ones.

Taking critics is another way of gaining valuable experience that books cannot provide. We were not born smart. Period! The sooner we realize it, the better and simpler life is. When being criticized, the first feeling is – failure, but time proves that it is one of the best ways to think, reevaluate, improve, become more mature, and self-aware of the actions. That means people should always be given points of improvement, because that is the only way they can achieve more, and reach the impossible, aim higher and dream bigger.

A saying I love the most is: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 50 years from now you will not be sorry by the mistakes you did! You know why? Go few years back. Are you sorry you took a computers course you didn’t like? Would you feel better if you didn’t take it, and never tried it? No, money weren’t wasted, now you know you don’t like that. Did you go with someone to a place you hated? So what? You can always advice your friends not to go there, and will never take your lover to that place. And if you were blond at a time, it was a change – maybe you and no one else liked it, but at least you gave it a try, and now you know what suits you better! And relationships and jobs… those are the best lessons. Based on my own experience, the next job or partner is always better than the previous one :).

And there is always tomorrow, so today’s dissatisfaction, will bring you something good in future.

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Student life experience is priceless

I will write about what I know – how experience through student life can be implemented in the daily work life.

While being in University, there are many associations, and organizations that students can be part of. I was an active member of EESTEC and I am still a member of IEEE, Women in Engineering and a Syster. EESTEC is a student organization for Electrical Engineering students, and the words are not enough to explain how grateful I am to have been part of it, because it opened my eyes, and made me think outside the box. What I learned later, as an employee, is that I could use the experience I gained while being part and working in a student organization.

1. Responsibility and Accountability

– No one calls it responsibility or accountability in student organizations. In EESTEC, we call it fun and EESTEC spirit. Student members are not paid to work. By work, I mean organize events, host people, give trainings, write documentation, etc., but they are still actively involved and LOVE it. They nurture the responsibility and accountability but never mention those words. When organizing an event, unless the fund-raising team finds sponsors, there won’t be an event (in EESTEC all expenses for an event go to the organizer, there is no fee for participants). They realize it, get down to work, and manage to succeed. Taking action when realized the need for it, becomes a daily habit, and a natural behavior with time. Understanding the chain reaction of “if-I-don’t-do-my-job” is the best thing a 19 year old can gain from life, and implement it afterwards.

2. Promotion and Networking

– It exists even in organizations. Those who talk more, work more and get involved more, have positions in board, local or international. It is called Promotion in real life, with the difference that as part of a student organization, you must apply to have it, and in your company, someone has to notice your talent, and Promote you. In student organization you can also be promoted (someone else to say you are good), but that is just part of your abilities for Networking. If most of the people you have worked with, say you were good, everyone else (who haven’t met you) will talk about you, and you will be nominated for titles and positions. The best and most competent ones are not always promoted, or became board members! The ones who actually have better networking and self-promotional skills are. That’s just life.

3. Organizational skills

– This is what is expected from all employees in companies, however, in student organizations, the name itself says everything. It is amazing how there are student organizations that exist more than 120 years, even since the Internet didn’t exist, and they still function well nowadays. Documentation, events, meetings, congresses, communication, building hierarchy  – students managed to do it all, and kept the habits for a century. No one told them so, they just simply managed it – while being active students, and studying to finish their degrees. Learning to balance studying and involvement in the organization, while still keeping a normal social life, is priceless. When working, balancing work and private life, still managing to keep the sanity, comes much easier if you have previous experience.

4. Leadership skills and team-building

– The ability to motivate students to do a task, on time, without getting paid, and still to be satisfied and ask for more, is leadership. In student organizations, leaders are developed, because they have years to evolve, while making mistakes and learning from the everyday experience. Student organizations vary in numbers from dozen members, to thousands, and include local, and international members, usually spread around continents. It is an experience money cannot buy, but worth it millions afterwords in the real world, while working in a corporation. The advertised term leadership is not a popular student term, but just cause they don’t use it, doesn’t mean they don’t own the skill.

Teams in student organizations are most challenging, because membership is voluntary, and everyone should be part of at least one team in order to keep them interested for a longer period. Identifying members’ potentials, creating teams and keeping harmony in those teams is not easy. Student organizations have contact persons, PR, Marketing and Advertising teams, logistics, IT, design teams, internal affairs responsible, external affairs responsible, fund-raising and treasurer’s teams, and all of them are coordinated by presidents and chairpersons. This reminds of a company structure, and when taken into consideration what every team’s nature of work is, it is clearly an entry level job, like an internship, with real obligations. Not to mention the experience to work with people from different backgrounds, different habits, religions and cultures, in general, with distributed teams from all over the world, and manage to finish all tasks. The strongest side a student organization has is everyone to act like a team, be happy and satisfied.

5. Problem solving and Knowledge sharing

– When problems appear, finding solution is done in the most unorthodox way. Students are not experienced, therefore they don’t weight what they could lose (position, salary, profit), so they focus on finding the solution, and they act, pushing their limits to the maximum. In that process, they learn, and often document and share the experience on solving the obstacles with the colleagues. Later on, in the working environment and real life, for these people many problems are a déjà vu, and become easily resolvable. People management, lack of funds, travelling, organizing events, good or bad PR campaign, distributed teams, lack of motivation, feedback….part of the daily problems in student organizations, and a good soil for being calm when resolving issues in the business world later in life.

6. Culture

– Different religions, cultures, habits, traditions. It is something student organizations value, and learn to respect. As well, sharing knowledge on how people live, or what projects they are working on, is something worth knowing, as you never know who you might end up sitting next to at an event – knowledge is always welcomed.

7. Clients

– All student organizations have clients – professors, assistants, Universities, companies. Keeping satisfied everyone, keeping their loyalty is not pure luck. It’s hard work. They are not called clients, but sure are a mirror image of the clients people try to handle their entire working life.

8. Daily happenings for a member of a student organization apart from being a student and having friends, and bf/gf 🙂

– Planning, brainstorming, branding, PR, logistics, fund-raising, team-building, motivation, giving a speech, monitoring, feedback, training, learning, evolving, being happy, team-building, hosting friends, organizing events, meeting deadlines, applying for state funds, going to meetings with companies, elevator-speech, writing guides, hosting friends met abroad, being streetwise, getting around a new city visited for the first time, prepare for the unexpexted…..and much more…

9. Stress

– Hm….I very rare word used in student organizations, although a feeling experienced daily. Imagine organizing an event for 25 people.

  • Plan the event subject, explore the needs of the market and the potential sponsors (called Business analysis)
  • Pick a name, and start working on the campaign (called PR)
  • Design and print brochures, posters, t-shirts, pens, folders, bags, umbrellas, key-chains, bookmarks, make commercials, find TV and radio stations, create a website, etc. (Marketing and Advertising)
  • Budget (finances)
  • Organize accommodation, food, transportation, parties (called Logistics)
  • Meet invitees on the train/bus station or airport and show them the city and traditional food (Hospitality)
  • Keep everyone satisfied (??? in the business world)
  • Have prepared speech of opening/closing
  • Keep organizers happy and smiling, and try to make them avoid arguing in front of the guests
Now comes the bad part. Money is not enough, organizers can’t pay the hotel -participants sleep on the street, or don’t eat. The solution is to IMPROVISE. Then, hotel is horrible…find something nicer, or make the food amazing and parties unforgettable. Sleep, and eat on the way, don’t loose the nerves. One of the main sponsors decides not to sponsor the event, the last minute….Improvise again 🙂 Stress is never mentioned when things go wrong…. cause wasting time on a word, is wasting time to actually solve a problem! Maybe grown ups can learn that.

This is just a drop in the sea of what experience can be gained in a student organization, and implemented later in the business world.

 

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Key to success? Is there a definition to it?

Why is someone successful? Most people would say it is because they were born with a gift, under the bright star, and they were lucky. Well….it isn’t really about luck, and I completely agree with Heidi Grant Halvorson from the Harvard Business Review that you were not born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others, because that is really just one small piece of the puzzle.

Nine things successful people do differently made me really think….what is it that some people do, which makes them different, which makes them reach their goals so easily? Is it really easy, or it just seems easy to us when we see other people do it. Success can be many different things, like finishing a very demanding project at University or at work, might be a start-up, climbing a mountain top…. If you don’t earn millions (or billions) doesn’t mean you are not successful, you can be, you just have to set your right goals, the ones which will make you happy, and put a smile on your face.

During the years, I learned one thing, you must have self confidence – the right measure of self confidence, or simply said – not too much, or too little. If you don’t have self confidence, you don’t believe you can reach your objective, and then you probably won’t, because you are more focused on the negative sides and the pessimism overwhelms you. If you only dream big and are not realistic of what can be truly done, the probability of not seeing the end, but only have an illusion for it, is huge. Having the right amount of self confidence is crucial. Things start to roll out from there. To be objective is very important, while focusing the energy on what can be done, on the solutions, not on what cannot be done and who caused the problems. Find the solution, don’t waste time blaming everyone else that you can’t do your job and be successful because of them. Change that perception that everyone does everything wrong, and you are the only one who knows what’s right. Cause you are not, and can’t be…ever. There is always someone who has more experience, someone who has more technical knowledge, or soft skills. Don’t be jealous of who the others are, think of reducing your own weaknesses, and to keep improving the strengths. Don’t be lazy and be specific when defining what you want to do. And stick to it! If you want to own a mansion in 20 years, means you should earn six figures. If you are into engineering or technology, you know what title level brings that salary. So try to reach that position.

Don’t expect anything to fall from the sky. It’s not about the luck. It’s something different….it’s your perception of creating imagination into reality, while being constantly on the ground. And I never said it’s going to be easy. But for sure worth it!

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If It’s Important, You’ll Find A Way. If It Isn’t, You’ll Find An Excuse

Taking things into your own hands is the golden rule of success, because waiting and hoping will not make things happen, or will solve problems out of the blue. Dreams do not come true by accident. The cool hunter inspired me to write this article. There are few lucky people, who were born with a silver spoon, and got everything on a platter, for the rest of the 99% of people in this world, things happen because they make happen, they put an effort, work hard, and believe in themselves. Success is a mixture of practice, working hard and not giving up. So if you don’t find an open door to success, draw a window :), make it happen, create an opportunity, put an effort to make ideas reality, and not only words on a piece of paper.

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Plan plan plan your business!

This week, reading many entrepreneurs’ stories, I realized that a good plan is the best start for a business. If you plan, research the market and industry, see the “need” the customers have, check out the potential risks you are on a safe ground. You must investigate whether your idea fits the market, and whether the customers are ready for the change you are offering, and how much effort they will have to put in order to accept the idea and the new business. “Unprepared you can’t go anywhere“, and that quote is also true about the business world. We should consider entrepreneurship as a test. You have to study, and then take a test. You don’t have to know everything for the test, but the questions you couldn’t answer, after the test you can read in your book, learn the answer, and know it for next time. Taking more tests will provide practice, will teach you the best ways to learn and prepare, you will not the repeat the same mistakes. With time, you realize that basic studying for a test is applicable in daily life, and in the business world. You can not all the answers, but you can try to find the solutions. The more question occur, the more answers you have to provide, but learn much more, and in the whole process, gain valuable experience, that no one can take away from you. Then comes the self confidence, and things get easier.

But also, we must never forget that it is also very important when entering the business world to love your idea, to believe in developing the dream and be patient, never get discouraged by bad times and obstacles, because everything good and bad moments happen, and they change. It can not be too perfect, or horrible all the time, it is a cycle, and the sooner we realize it, the easier it will be to survive the business world, because nothing is forever.



I remember an old quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt saying “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; It lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” Every story about successful entrepreneurs is about the excitement of expressing themselves, and managing their work and the people around them, and the financial gain comes at last. If everyday you get up, and you hate what you do, and your legs are walking backwards as you are walking at work, means you didn’t fulfill your needs, and you must change something in your business. To be flexible is not bad, and to change the path is never late. Therefore, everytime something doesn’t work, stop for a second, think and plan how to solve the problem, don’t be afraid to change the plans that you had when you started. Unless you are flexible, you will drown in the sea of all other businesses that struggle to exist. Don’t think of the money, they will come with time.

Having an idea will encourage you to start, but putting an effort into planning is what will make a dream come true.

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Some things to learn from other entrepreneurs – Nejc Zupan

When I was thinking who to write this article about, a person that I personally know and admire, and at the same time owns a business, the first one that came on my mind was my friend Nejc Zupan. I will write a 2-in-1 article here – Young entrepreneurs – Nejc Zupan, and the interview with him.

Nejc Zupan is a 25 year old, Slovenian entrepreneur who is involved in the IT Business in Slovenia. I met him when we were still students, years back. I joined a workshop where he was one of the trainers. At that time he was not yet involved in the business world. Few months later, him and few of his colleagues started a company in Ljubljana. It was back in 2006 when the idea first raised. He was disappointed from the academic life and the technical and soft skills he expected to get, but unfortunately didn’t see a chance at that time to gain.

E: What is your business about more specifically, and why did you choose it?
NZ: Secure web applications. Nowadays, people are not aware of the huge gaping holes which are present in IT. 99% of web pages don’t have even the minimum protection against security breaches. We help this get better.

Every company has highlights and bad moments. No one is lucky to only go up to the top, or even stay there without many breaks on the way. So is the example of Nejc’ company. They had many bad moments: “Mostly when clients/investors don’t pay the bill. You wait for it for several months, practically starving.” says Nejc, and continues: “Best ones are the ones where we get recognized in the community for what we do. That’s the real thrill. Decent money is just a nice side-product.”

Nejc and his colleagues recognize that not exploring the market was a huge mistake, because they didn’t know what product would sell, and which one wouldn’t. Investing time, money and human resources on a product that finally would not pay off your hard work and money and time invested is not only bad for business financially, but also can bring your motivation down.

E: Did you have a business plan when you started, did you make a market research before you started? Mistakes you made?
NZ: Sure we had a business plan. We just didn’t really stick to it. Internet is changing every few months, and our business plan was always outdated. Market research was a stranger for us in the first 3 years. Huge mistake. Now we know better, and first test if the product will sell, before actually investing money/time to produce it. 

E: Best lessons you learned in the process of the evolution of your company.
NZ: Tons of technical knowledge I could never get on the university, and soft skills.
Another lesson they learned on the way was that complaining will not make problems disappear, but taking matters into people’s own hands might solve them. When entrepreneurs start working, they have to realize they depend mostly on themselves, and their own mind, creativity, motivation, will and patience! Patience is a piece of the puzzle that can save a company in the hardest moments.

But no matter how many bad days were behind, an entrepreneur is always an entrepreneur, and lives for his idea to come true. Like actors and musicians, they never stop being themselves, even while working in a coffee shop, they are actors and musicians, waiting for the big chance. Entrepreneurs are a bit different than the musicians and actors, they take things into their own hands, do not only wait for a chance, but they create the chance, they make business plans, they try, fail, make mistakes, learn, earn small cash, then manage to put some food on the table, but there are alos times when they go back at the beginning because of bad planning. But if they fall 10 times, they stand up 11 times, and try again.

E: What would you suggest to a future entrepreneur?
NZ: Start yesterday. Seriously, it’s never too early. The sooner you make the first few stupid mistakes, the better. And you will make them.
E: Your future plans? Do you plan to expand, start up another company maybe?
NZ: Sell the start-up we (as a company) co-founded in 2008. We also just started (with some partners) an entrepreneurship incubator and office-sharing space in Ljubljana. We want this place to be the hub where people go for the first few months when they want to start a company. Promote open-source. Everywhere, every time.

Open source software is a key foundation for Nejc’ company. It is good to support something that helped them develop, because as it helped them it can help many others, plus it shows they didn’t forget how they got so far.

And my future plans are continue following this company, not because it has very bright aspects for the future, but also because of the level of passion the involved people show. I thank Nejc Zupan for his time and short deadline for answering this questionnaire.

And for last: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
Booker T. Washington

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Who inspired me?

I am inspired by different people and their actions on a daily basis. It can be a woman struggling to survive by selling fruit, a movie or a book, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, my parents, my grandparents, friends….anyone really. And when I read the stories of Frixos Papadopoulos, Marco Turco, Richard Branson and Massimo Annoni, to be honest, I couldn’t find similarities with me, but we share the common ground-entrepreneurship, so I used these stories (and all other from entrepreneurs) to learn something new that i can use later in life, which means I got inspired by each one of them in a different way.

Sir Richard Branson is a famous a multimillionaire, he is an inspiration, he started from scratch, and built and empire! Everyone can take him as a role model, but the entrepreneur that truly inspired me was Frixos Papadopoulos. Frixos was not successful with his idea of selling Greek souvenirs in Sweden, but after being disappointed, he didn’t give up, he found the “gap” in the consumer market – Greek products that didn’t exist in Sweden, and he made an excellent business out of that. He satisfied the needs the consumers didn’t know they have, and they started using products they lived without until then perfectly well! Moreover, his wife presented the Greek products to the Swedish people, how to cook them, which only spiced up the business which grew and expanded overtime together with the demand for the products. With this story I learned that I should get up and continue after I fail, I should explore the market before I start to see where my product and idea fits the best, and I should use my communications skills and approach the customers to explain how they can use the product in the best possible way!

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