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From working as a photographer and journalist to becoming a Marketing and Sales Manager for Porr’s Slab Track Austria Technology, Ivana Avramovic has already had a varied life. Here she tells us about how she prepared for her current job thanks to the WU Executive Academy and her extraordinary career path.
We meet Ivana Avramovic, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on a sunny autumn day in Vienna. After years of traveling she eventually settled down in the Austrian capital. Avramovic left her home country during the war and fled to the United States, where she finished high school. “Through my stay in the U.S., English became my second mother tongue,” Avramovic says.
At 18, she moved back to Bosnia, where she worked as a translator and photographer. Photography became one of her greatest passions during that time. After the war the spotlight of the world’s media was on Bosnia which led Avramovic to working as a journalist. “At one point the newspaper I worked for stopped sending reporters with the photographers so I started to do both jobs,” Avramovic recalls.
But Avramovic’s aim had always been to go to university. “I always knew that I wanted to study something. I was most interested in engineering at the time,” she says. However, she also wanted to continue to work full-time during her studies, so Avramovic decided against a science degree. “I just thought that would take up too much time,” Avramovic says.
As a result she took a completely different path and enrolled in English literature. “Back in Bosnia I got a master’s degree of sorts. But that was not the end of the road for me: I was looking for an internationally recognized university abroad. In the beginning I didn’t have the money to even dream about studying abroad. But then I ended up working and saving money from 1998 to 2007. So I decided to go to study in Graz. That’s how I came to Austria,” she says.
In Graz, Avramovic earned her master’s degree in English linguistics – which is very different from her original idea of working as an engineer. Today, Avramovic doesn’t see that as a problem: “All the skills I learned during my education are skills I need today. Above all, communication plays a big role in my current job.” In the end, the Bosnian started to work at the Porr construction company where a knack for technology and a talent for communication are equally required.
At Porr, Avramovic is responsible for marketing and sales of the Slab Track Technology, a job that combines her passion for communication and technology. Slab Track Austria (STA), was developed by Porr together with ÖBB (Austrian Railway Corporation). It’s a modern and simple technology for attaching and building railroad tracks.
As the name suggests, the heart of Slab Track technology is the “slab”, an elastically mounted track slab made of concrete, which is manufactured at a precast factory and can therefore be assembled easily and quickly. “Slab track has many advantages over conventional methods. For example, it has lower maintenance requirements, better vibration protection for unevenness in the pavement and the construction of the prefabricated Porr system is more independent of weather influences during the construction process compared to the cast in-situ system,” Avramovic explains.
In the beginning, Slab Track Austria was mainly used in Austria and other German-speaking countries, but now this technology is being used worldwide. “In the United Kingdom, for example, a train line from London to Birmingham is to be built using Slab Track Austria. The maximum speed on this line will be 360 km per hour. That’s really fast,” Avramovic says. There are now about 800 kilometers of railway with the Porr slab track system worldwide, with another 800 kilometers under construction. Among them is the metro network in Doha, Qatar. Avramovic has successfully pitched for many slab track projects herself. This is where her communication skills come into play: “During my linguistics studies, communication was simply the most important part. That comes in handy for me today.”
While working at Porr, Ivana Avramovic wanted to continue her education and improve her sales skills to perform even better in sales conversations with future slab-track customers. That’s how she found out about the MBA programs at the WU Executive Academy. The WU Executive Academy is the business school of the Vienna University of Economics and Business and offers numerous MBA programs. Avramovic was interested in the Marketing and Sales program, so she attended an information evening at the WU Executive Academy. “At the evening, many alumni spoke and I asked one of them why they chose the MBA program at the WU Executive Academy. They said it was transformational for them. That answer really excited me,” Avramovic says with a laugh.
Like most of the WU Executive Academy’s programs, Avramovic’s could be completed in parallel with her daily work. So between 2017 and 2019, she attended the university regularly alongside her work at Porr. “One of the wonderful things that the WU Executive Academy does is organizing events for us after classes. Whether it’s a networking event or a career evening, you’re not just learning things like finance and marketing and sales, you’re also looking at yourself and reflecting on yourself as a person,” Avramovic says enthusiastically.
All the skills I learned during my education are skills I need today. Above all, communication plays a big role in my current job.
Although studying while working in a full-time job was quite challenging, it paid off for the Bosnian native: “I learned a lot about time management and setting priorities.” At the same time Avramovic benefitted from her MBA at the WU Executive Academy with regards to her future sales career: “It gave us such a wide range of skills and considerations that when you enter any of these sales and marketing discussions, you have a great foundation.”
Today, Ivana Avramovic is an alumna of the WU Executive Academy and about to become a mother for the first time. Her life has shifted, but she still remembers that time fondly: “It really was transformational. Not in the sense of changing and becoming a different person, but in the sense of gaining new insight and seeing things from a different perspective.”
The latest German-language Forbes Women’s Summit is all about the term Superwomen. When asking Avramovic how she would define a Superwoman it takes her a few moments to find the right answers. Eventually she says: “I would say a superwoman is someone who is confident, has an idea about who they are and what they want. They pursue those things. They’re not trying to be everything, and they’re also aware that they’re just a human and they’re okay and confident with that.”
Avramovic is trying to pursue these goals as both a WU Executive Academy alumna and a new mother. She has come a long way and has been able to gain many new experiences in her education and in her trips abroad, always trying to be the best version of herself. So in the end, she has indeed taken the train to success.
Ivana Avramovic is an WU Executive Academy alumna and is working at Porr for the Marketing and Sales department.
Text: Lela Thun
Fotos: Florian Rainer