Meet the members of /Alumni FER International team and get inspired to contribute to the initiative!

I am Vana Jelicic and I am a FER alumna living and working abroad, and I am leading the Alumni FER International initiative.

At this early stage of interacting with the Alumni FER International community, I have met our alumni with remarkable careers all over the world and I believe that establishing a strong network of Alumni FER will significantly increase the reputation of FER, which will be advantageous for both us individuals and for FER. Looking forward to unwrapping this potential!

I invite you to join us: here is how, and more importantly, why you should do so!

Which role did FER have in your life?

Being born and raised in a small place in the south of Croatia, coming to Zagreb (and especially to FER) in 2004 was a big change and an amazing experience for me. Already from the beginning of my student days, FER was extremely organized and digitized which made our everyday life as students much easier. My best memories from those times are hanging out with friends (some of them became really friends for life), studying together in the library, having lunch in the canteen in the breaks from lectures.

I am grateful for all the knowledge and skills gained in those times, in particular the solid and broad technical base and support to my natural curiosity, which set a strong foundation for my future path. I was the last generation before the Bologna system, graduating in 2009. The graduation ceremony was very memorable, as well as the mixed feeling of pride and fear of uncertainty in front of me.

After graduating, I stayed as a PhD student and afterwards as a postdoc researcher at FER. I was at ZESOI, mentored by Prof. Bilas, focused on smart sensor systems. It was the time of global crisis and it was extremely difficult to find a job, a project, partners... However, I enjoyed my research activities a lot, as well as the friendly atmosphere at the Department.

Did you participate in some mobility scheme during your studying? What influence did it have on your career?

When I was a student, it was not very common to study abroad or go for an internship. An encounter at my first conference at the very beginning of my PhD opened the door for me. I would like to thank my mentor Prof. Bilas for encouraging me to attend that conference.

There I established a contact with researchers from University of Bologna in Italy and a few months later we agreed on a 3-months visit, and then 3 months more... and in addition 10 months supported by the Erasmus Mundus scholarship. At the University of Bologna, I was working on HW/SW codesign of smart sensor systems together with top experts in that field, led by Prof. Benini. It has been a very important experience for me, both professionally and personally. Those contacts I established in Italy are still active, both for me in my new professional environment, and for FER and the research group I was a part of.

I am glad that mobility for Croatian students has become much easier since then and I can only encourage everyone to take an opportunity and visit some other institute for a longer or a shorter time.

I look forward to the new mobility opportunities that the Alumni FER initiative will offer to young researchers.

Where are you now and what do you do?

I am at the Lake Constance area: I work in Dornbirn (Austria) and live on the German side of the lake. As a Domain Expert Sensors in Tridonic, I am happy to be contributing to innovation in smart lighting systems.

I am focused on technology scouting, technology roadmap and pre-development, as well as establishing collaboration with research partners. This interface between academia and industry - creating the conditions to transfer innovative ideas to the market - has allowed me to sharpen my analytical approach and strategic thinking and it suits me very well.

In addition, I teach at the University of Applied Science Vorarlberg, which allows me to keep track with new technologies, as well as with young generations and their innovative spirit.

Where do you see yourself in the future; any possibility of coming back to Croatia?

I enjoy the opportunity to work in a challenging international environment in a region where three countries meet and people come for vacation to enjoy nature. In addition, I appreciate very much the social system that both Austria and Germany offer to me, with a very stimulating work-life balance allowing me to put the time dedicated to my family first.

However, I notice some indications of positive changes in Croatian society, which is opening up and becoming more international (Alumni FER initiative being one of them). Coming back some day is not completely excluded.

Tell us some more about FER Alumni International; why did you choose to participate? How can other alumni join the initiative?

I would like to contribute to the Alumni FER initiative by sharing my experience and reaching out to our alumni around the world, as well as to FER, which has been my second home in my very formative years as a young adult. In the initial phase of network establishment, we approach the FER Alumni International community in the following way:

a) Connecting people in order to re-establish contacts, and to establish new connections: 1) globally (location-independent, using digital communication channels starting with /Alumni FER LinkedIn group); 2) locally (opening local FER Alumni hubs in the areas with a certain concentration of FER Alumni, facilitating members to socialize and network). In case you are interested in contributing to this activity, please let us know.

Two main topics we start with are:

1) Mobility - offering FER PhD students short-term or long-term mobility (in academia or in industry). In case you can offer visits or internships within your institution, please let us know.

2) Transfer - opportunities to come to FER as a lecturer (for a shorter or a longer period). In case this sounds interesting to you, reach out to us.

In the following weeks and months we will work on those activities and topics and share with you the progress. Your inputs are very welcome anytime, regarding the mentioned topics, but also any other you might consider useful to address!

Autor: Tomislav Marković
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