A+ students: Ivan Protega - University of Applied Sciences Zaprešić - University of Applied Sciences

I believe everyone expects more from me now, and I am sure I will achieve it!

ivanIvan Protega, our student from Šibenik, currently living in Zagreb is a District Manager for eastern Croatia at JYSK Ltd. In 2015 he was awarded the prize Manager of the year by the Croatian Managers and Entrepreneurs Association (CROMA)! In an interesting interview he reveals how the knowledge he acquired at Baltazar helps him cope with business challenges, and where he sees himself in the future.

When did you start studying at Baltazar and why did you choose Project Management?

I started studying at Baltazar in 2010. When I graduated from high school, I got a job at JYSK and decided to enrol at the UAS’s branch campus in Biograd na Moru (at that time it was called the College of Business and Management). There were several reasons for this decision – since I had been playing handball for almost 15 years, I met many people from Zagreb who were studying at Baltazar at the time, and they recommended it to me.

Also, I found lecture schedule quite convenient due to the nature of my job. Upon completing the third year of Business Economics and Finance I didn’t continue my studies. Since I had very little time to study, I decided to take a gap year and focus my efforts on arranging all business activities at my new job. Afterwards, I enrolled at the specialist graduate professional study Project Management at Baltazar and here I am – already thinking about my final paper ☺

There were many reasons why I opted for Project Management at Baltazar among many other higher education institutions in this part of Croatia. The most important one is the fact that project management is a job of the future. Recently there has been an increased demand for project managers in comparison to a decade ago. The numbers speak for themselves.

Currently you are working as a District Manager for eastern Croatia at JYSK Ltd. How would you describe your path to this position?

Yes, currently I am working as a District manager at JYSK Ltd., and I have to say I’m the youngest person to hold this position in Europe. The path to this position wasn’t easy and it included a lot of hard work, lots of nights in hotels, countless miles on the road, but today I’m very proud of myself. I started working for JYSK right after it entered the Croatian market. I worked as a sales assistant in Šibenik, and in a very short time I was promoted to a store manager. Since my business results were excellent, I began running projects regarding new market expansion and new openings, so I spent a lot of time travelling (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia). As I continued achieving top results and showed potential for higher ranked positions, I was promoted to a position of a district manager, where I still work. In the beginning I was responsible for Bosnian and afterwards for eastern Croatia market as well.


Last week you were awarded the prize Manager of the year by the Croatian Managers and Entrepreneurs Association, which is another recognition of your outstanding business achievements. What does this prize mean to you?

First of all, I would like to thank CROMA and its expert jury for recognizing and following my work and results and for awarding me with the prize. Special thanks go to all people in JYSK who recognized my potential and invested their resources in my professional development. This prize means a lot to me and I am proud to be next to the best Croatian managers like Branko Roglić, Ivica Cerovečki, Ilija Tokić and many others. Also, I feel a certain responsibility, in a way. I believe everyone expects more from me now, and I am sure I will achieve it. My motivation is strong.

How does your typical work day look like? What are the tasks of a manager and which problems and challenges do you face in your line of work?

The job of a manager is quite inconsistent. I haven’t had the same two days throughout all these years. There are a lot of meetings, job interviews, fieldwork and business administration. It is highly dynamic, but that’s what I like about it. I couldn’t imagine having a monotonous job. Facing challenges on a daily basis is inevitable when you have 80, 90, 100 or more people below you. In addition, the market dictates this rhythm and if you let up for a minute, you will fall behind and someone else will outperform you. The hardest thing is to keep a constant pace and to have continuous results.

How did the knowledge acquired at Baltazar help you in your work?

I am sure it was very helpful. There are certain things I don’t come across regularly in my line of work. The best example is accounting – if I didn’t have the knowledge of accounting acquired at Baltazar, it would be much harder for me to understand certain business causalities. Let me take this opportunity to advise young people to pursue a study because one day the knowledge they gain will help them immensely.

Does your expert knowledge give you the potential advantage over your colleagues?

In a way, it does. Having experienced many situations in practice in my course of work, it is much easier for me to understand them. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, and I believe that the best learning model is combining theory and practice.

Do you think that young people are aware of the importance of education and gaining professional knowledge?

I believe they are, since the market dictates this, whether you like it or not. High school graduates do not consider whether to enrol or not, but which university to enrol to. This is my opinion and I believe that young people in Croatia are heading in a good direction. The question of getting a job after graduation is another issue, and something needs to be done concerning this problem. If this segment was improved, I am positive that the importance of education and gaining new knowledge would be lifted to a higher level.

Do you sometimes face difficulties in your work environment due to your young age? Have you ever been in a situation in which you weren’t taken seriously, your opinions weren’t accepted or were considered less important than those of your older colleagues?

The world is left to the young, ha-ha☺. Your attitude is very important, and so is the way you function with your colleagues in and outside your work environment. It is not so much about the age, but about choosing the right attitude and approach. Trust also plays an important role, because it develops gradually, but when it is built up, decision-making becomes much easier and more accepted. During these six years of managerial experience, I haven’t been in a situation where I wasn’t taken seriously or where my opinions and decisions were abandoned in favour of those of older colleagues.

How much free time do you have and what is your favourite way of spending it?

I try to organize my working week in such a way that I have free weekends. After a stressful working week, it feels good to take a rest at the weekend, to recharge my batteries and to prepare myself for the next working week. On weekdays I work and travel a lot and spend a lot of time in hotels. In addition, I have my obligations at the University. On weekends I try not to think about my job and I usually have some rest, go to the gym or out with my friends…

Do you see yourself in Croatia in the future or do you plan to pursue a career abroad?

You never know what tomorrow brings. For the time being, my short-term goal is to defend my final paper, and afterwards I will see where to head next in terms of the career. I’m even thinking of enrolling an MBA course or a doctoral study, but it is still too early for making these decisions. As for my business career, I am sure that I will stay in JYSK for a long time. It is a company which created me and I’m very grateful for that. Am I going to stay in Croatia or move to Denmark or some other country in the world? You never know. I could perhaps combine foreign MBA courses or doctoral studies with working abroad, but it’s still only my imagination. I would like to finish everything I have started in Croatia and defend my final paper. After that I will know better.

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