Jelena Grubor Stefanović, Head Representative Of The Serbian Chamber Of Commerce & Industry In China

Wealth of Diversity

In retrospect, I believe that all of my major life and business experiences have prepared and led me to this calling and the job I do today. I’m finally where I should be

And this journey has been interesting every step of the way. Already as a young girl, my first journey to another country was to faraway India, as the child of diplomats. Being exposed to such a different culture over those four years defined my personality to a large extent. That was the beginning of my connection to everything with connotations of internationality – as was my choice to study International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science, and MBA studies in International Business in Italy. And why is everything international? Because no culture has ownership over universal and proper solutions to the human condition (regardless of how much some might think they do), and it is a real wealth to know as many existing solutions as possible and to take the best of everything. Living in an international environment does not reduce the importance of one’s nationality, as an essential part of an individual’s identity. That’s a thin line that requires constant balancing.

It was when I gave birth to Sofija that I realised I wanted my children to also know that wealth of diversity. Thanks to my husband Nikola, that’s where our family adventure began, with us first going to South Korea, to Seoul, which will always have a special place in our hearts because that’s where our first son, Stefan, was born. And the road finally led us to Shanghai, where our second son, Luka, was born.

We came to China at the most interesting moment, during a time when it is shifting from a country that relies on exports of cheap products and copies in all sectors to a country that’s becoming a leader of the world’s fourth industrial revolution. It is extremely fascinating intellectually to be here at this moment and to experience it, both professionally and privately.

No culture has ownership over universal and proper solutions to the human condition (regardless of how much some might think they do), and it is a real wealth to know as many existing solutions as possible and to take the best of everything

Such a life path as this has also required that I change jobs many times during my career, with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings. What I learned thanks to that is that the first question in a job interview should be – ‘What kinds of skills do I need to be successful in this job and in your organisation?’ If those skills don’t match your character, then it’s not the job for you.

I’m an extroverted introvert who enjoys solving problems and creating opportunities for others to succeed. I chose between international politics and international business according to the process of elimination – in contrast to politics, trade takes its own course and the best course is the one led by the law of supply and demand, because trade between nations should primarily be fair. “Trade has always been a great catalyst for international peace that enriches people by creating understanding and links between nations.” It is thus a great honour for me to open the CCIS Representative Office in the country with the world’s second largest economy.

Apart from helping our companies to enter this market and position themselves successfully, I believe it is also of great importance to establish a platform for the transfer of knowledge between our business communities. “The global digital revolution creates many new opportunities for developing countries, because most essential knowledge and tools are available for free or at low cost through digital platforms, and key skills are learned through general education, the entrepreneurial spirit and understanding of the market.” It is thanks to these conditions that Serbia has the opportunity to accelerate the development that would enable its full integration into global production chains and allow it to cooperate more effectively with industrialised economies. That’s why I’m proud that we enabled the arrival of the first Serbian start-ups in China at the very beginning of the work of our office, with which all three companies showed – with their innovative solutions – that Serbia has always been fertile ground for innovation.

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