To truly be successful, companies and organisations need employees who reflect and understand their diverse client base and the world around them.
Thanks to her years and years of ex-pat experience, Sanja Licina – who joined host Daniel Fellows for episode 10, season two of Inside your Brand – is undoubtedly well-placed to bring valuable understanding and insight to employers and employees D&I topics.
Born and raised in Serbia, she spent "20-years in America at school – every school you can think of – then popped over to London as I was looking to find my way back to Europe - before life brought me to Latin America,' laughed Sanja.
She continued: "I've been in sunny Buenos Aires for a little over five years now where I am an occupational psychologist [an individual who places psychological knowledge, theory, and practice to organisational issues in the workplace, such as culture and change, as well as issues at an individual or team level] and a happy mother of a wild three-year-old."
As to how her current role as President of Questionpro.com's workforce experience division came about, Sanja explained: "I used to work at CareerBuilder, and we were one of Questionpro's clients – we ran all of our candidate experiences using the QP platform, and so I got to know the CEO.
"And then last year, amid the pandemic, he reached out to me and said 'I have this wild idea. Would you like to come over and lead our employee experience business unit?' Everyone thought I was mad to change jobs in the middle of a pandemic, but I felt it in my gut, which is crazy because I am such a data person, but the business just made sense, and I thought I could make a huge difference here.
Sanja continued: "My role at Questionpro.com provides me with an incredible way to connect with workers across the world and what they love about their work, what they do not love about their work – and reshape the future. By connecting with workers and organisations globally, we can create a better future together that we are excited to be part of."
Host Dan was quick to concur: "Creating a culture everyone wants to be part of – that's the dream from both an employer's perspective and an employee perspective."
The host of IYB and founder and CEO of Get-Optimal was curious to know whether "as we continue to work remotely, which is unlikely to change soon – especially across white-collar roles – you have any ideas as to how we can keep our arms around people metaphorically?"
Sanja responded: "It's something I am so passionate about professionally and personally. I've moved around so much, so I have so many people I love who are not in Buenos Aires and have had to use technology to stay connected.
"From a professional standpoint, I've never had a team working in the same place – we've been not only in different cities but in different continents. One of the things that work well for me is transparency and vulnerability. How do you make sure you are human, and, as a leader, how do you open that door to your team? I always start a meeting with 'how are you? – it sets the stage. I am human. They are human."
Inside your Brand's host, Dan, raised the issue of psychological safety [a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish you for speaking up], particularly online. He said: "I am happy to share – thousands are watching this video – but why do I sometimes focus on the one negative as to the thousands of positives, and why does the one negative occasionally ruin my weekend?"
"It happens to me too," exclaimed Sanja. "We are humans, and we aren't perfect. The trick is not to beat ourselves up – put it in a compartment, push it aside as much as possible and exercise mental muscle."
The episode ended with Dan touching on Sanja's incredible international experience, which has encompassed travelling to 60 countries and living on three continents, and how her experiences have shaped her inclusive view.
"I do feel so incredibly fortunate to have had these experiences," shared Sanja. "The vast majority of my life, any money I managed to save I spent on travelling. I didn't know about D&I until later in life when we started to think about those terms. I just enjoyed meeting people with different backgrounds – I found it fascinating.
"Travelling and living in different destinations has opened up my mind so much that I want others to have this experience. I see what happens when people live most of their life in one place – it becomes harder to be open-minded. I think it is precious to get to know different people – it changes the way we think."
Catch episode 10 of season two of Inside your Brand over on Get-Optimal’s YouTube channel.