Panel discussion Honoring the past. Building the future.
It’s nice to look back and see how women in different eras battled different professional challenges and gained different opportunities, but after discussing it through with four women from different generations, we can say with certainty that all of them agree that nothing can stop women when they have a goal in mind.
Every year in March, in light of International Women’s Day, we devote some time to the position of women and aim to raise awareness with our campaigns that revolve around the position of women, their success and/or career path.
This year, we decided to make a campaign under the slogan “Honoring the past. Building the future.” to also remember all the women who paved the way for the women today in STEM and the IT field (still an industry dominated by males, but the numbers are getting better by the year). While women like Amelia Earhart and Margaret Hamilton are globally known, we tried to find some of the remarkable women in our country that made important shifts in the industry.
We invited women who contributed and still contribute to the STEM field in our local community to discuss the role of women back then and now in STEM and IT.
Our guests were Amila Omersoftić, probably one of the most influential female engineers during Energoinvest’s prime time, who made significant changes within the company and in the automation field.
She recalls some of her biggest achievements being implementing the latest systems in tech at that time into the workflows of Energoinvest, as well as inventing the first email at the company level in 1989 to improve the communication and bring in transparency and a daily overview of different activities in real time.
To reflect on the present and today’s current events we had Klika’s Senior Client Delivery Manager Slađana Čuljić reflect on her experiences and her career path. We learned that during the war she went to Sweden and studied at Lund University, where she found her passion for IT driven by the desire to facilitate life for people with innovation and tech solutions.
We had Lamija Gutić, second-year ETF student and part of IT Girls initiative, tell us more about the new generation of females and how they navigate living in a rapidly changing world.
Our fourth guest was Zerina Mandžo-Čolić, Women’s Economic Empowerment Officer at UN Women, who was also the moderator for the night, leading the discussion and asking some profound questions.
In front of a full room of guests at our Klika Sarajevo hub, the ladies got into different topics, their personal experiences and their stands on the role of women, the space for opportunities and professional development then and now.
Amila Omersoftić told us about her beginnings as an ETF student who later got a scholarship from Energoinvest and subsequently was offered a job at Energoinvest after her studies. Our of 110 students in her generation, she was one of the 10 female students studying ETF in the mid 1960s.
In an era of rapid industrialization of BiH as part of Yugoslavia, when efforts were focused on development and innovation, Amila took a central role at one of the most prominent companies at that time, Energoinvest and was tasked with implementing the latest systems used in Europe and the world at the company. Being a woman in a male-dominated field did not slow her down at all and she said she had great support from her family, bosses and immediate circle.
Amila credits the company’s CEO Emerik Blum for the company’s success and for putting her in the innovation and research department where she got the opportunity to travel and learn about the latest systems used in the world and its implementation and the role of computers in operations management. Here is what she says about creating one of the first real time software systems in Yugoslavia:
“In 1974, I implemented the first system for operations management in Steel Mill Zenica. After that, we became a fierce competition on tenders. We would bid and get contracts in Sweden, Switzerland. We were not only the best in Yugoslavia, but were acknowledged worldwide when it comes to tenders and bidding for contracts.”
Slađana Čuljić was set to become a dentist, but a set of different circumstances brought her to IT which she fell in love with and has been in love ever since. Before joining Klika in 2015 as a Client Delivery Manager, she worked as a Project Manager on different EU projects, but never shying away from new challenges, she made a leap at a time when IT companies were not what they are today and is now helping shape the IT market in her role as a Senior Client Delivery Manager at Klika where she plays a key role in meeting and exceeding client expectations. She says she is driven by turning innovative ideas into tangible products that make the world a better place.
When asked what keeps her motivated all these years working on a series of significant projects, here is what she shared:
“Once you start something, naturally, you want to be successful at it. I think my motivation comes from, when we are talking about electrical engineering and IT, the desire to create something to make people’s lives easier, to develop a product. To me, it was more interesting to build something with my own hands, and I was motivated by that a lot, and I often say engineers will save the world along with other significant stakeholders.”
She also had a powerful message for young girls out there pursuing a career in STEM:
“Don’t give up, get into the industry if you haven’t yet and keep going if you have. We may not know specifically how much and in what ways women influenced some systems and applications, but I am sure they did, with their personal features and their skills.”
Lamija Gutić, even though still in university, showed an immense level of maturity and understanding of the world around her and the role of her generation. Her optimistic views may have surprised one or the other person in the audience, but they certainly inspire hope for all what is yet to come.
Asked about opportunities and challenges for women today, she emphasized that she didn’t feel constrained or limited in achieving anything she wants in IT or the electrical engineering field. One interesting thing about Lamija is that she managed to overcome her own prejudice. She shared that she once thought she would have to give up on her creative side as she was to devote more time to math-based tasks, but that did not happen. As a matter of fact, she gets to utilize her creativity and apply it in her studies, bringing innovation to the tasks she gets assigned at university.
She also shared that her generation is not scared of what technology will bring and that they adapt fast to changes and they embrace it. AI in the future, she thinks, will not bring about the downfall of humanity but will just be a facilitator in work and life.
“The future that is waiting for us is that everything we have in our lives will be directed towards a more comprehensive reality and to things we will yet get to learn about and concepts that first have to take shape, as well as towards Artificial Intelligence that is slowly taking over everything that surrounds us, but I think that my generation and those younger than me, we are not scared of the change, and I am glad to see that all of us accept it with such an ease and have no issues coping with it, so if we keep going like this, I think the future that awaits us is definitely something positive and something that will make our lives better.”
We are glad we were able to give space to these incredible women and their unique stories, each created under different circumstances, but each telling us that women achieved wonderful things then and they achieve wonderful things now and that they probably will make spectacular things happen in the future.