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Ana Krešić, EBRD Acting Lead Economist, Western Balkans

Asking Questions Is The Answer

I enrolled to study economics and management thinking that I wanted to be a manager. But I realised very early on that I had a strong preference for economics. What appealed to me the most about economics was trying to strike a fine balance between using rigorous research methods and taking into account all the complexities of human behaviour – a factor which, in one way or another, influences everything around us.

During my first job at the EBRD, I quickly realised that my character is poorly suited to an academic setting that’s devoted to answering lifelong research questions. These days my job more resembles that of a simultaneous translator: I stand between rigorous economic research, policymakers and various businesses, attempting to ensure that we all understand one another. In other words, I apply economic principles while taking into consideration countryspecific nuances to current developments in the Western Balkan region, in an effort to analyse economic trends and support the EBRD’s investments and policy dialogue (I joined the Belgrade team in September 2021, after spending a number of years in Kyiv and Tbilisi, covering the Eastern Europe and Caucasus region).

My experiences to date would never have been possible without circumstances that were very much beyond my control. I was very fortunate to have access to exciting opportunities, to be able to pursue my interests, to build my skills and to live and work in supportive personal and professional environments. Enjoying the kind of privileged access to opportunities that I do, I find it highly motivating to work for an international organisation that prides itself on its mission of ‘investing in changing lives’. One of the core principles of all our investments and policy engagements is, ultimately, to promote the equality of opportunities.

Indeed, curiosity has always been my main driver, alongside bursts of stubborn determination. My grandma still jokes about my childhood stubbornness over the most random things. After being asked why I was so focused on a particular subject, my reply apparently was ‘I have to’

Not all of this has been luck – some of it has come as a result of being curious. That might mean curiosity about a new topic, country or nation. I have so far lived in eight capitals or major cities in the wider European area, four while working for the EBRD. Indeed, curiosity has always been my main driver, alongside bursts of stubborn determination. My grandma still jokes about my childhood stubbornness over the most random things.

After being asked why I was so focused on a particular subject, my reply apparently was ‘I have to’. This combination of curiosity and occasional stubbornness doesn’t always make for balance. It can often lead to long evenings and weekends spent in front of the computer screen trying to navigate a new situation that I’ve so optimistically thrown myself into. But more often than not, the satisfaction of learning and understanding a new topic pays for itself many times over.

Feedback and constructive criticism from good mentors represent other key pieces of the puzzle. When I joined the EBRD as an intern, my first task was to support a team of economists in producing a paper. I was fresh out of a master’s degree and keen to showcase the skills I’d acquired. Once I produced my first draft, one colleague who also worked on some chapters sat down with me to review, comment and fit the pieces together. Over the course of nearly two full working days, we examined both of our drafts sentence by sentence. The lessons I took away from this joint review were numerous and enduring. In addition to being an exercise in modesty as we uncovered (and addressed) my mistakes one by one, I also realised the importance of asking questions, giving feedback and enabling open discussions. Unsurprisingly, these tend to be among the defining characteristics of good managers and mentors – and I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some outstanding examples.

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