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The five super finalists in the 9th generation of AmCham Young ProfessionalsTM are five individuals who represent the values of our next-generation leaders, as they are open-minded and are betting on connections between people. One of them will become the AmCham Top Potential of the Year 2019 and the voice of the 9th class.



Rok Koželj, Marketing and Business Development Director, Gea College

Rok Koželj is the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Gea College. His mission and purpose in life is to connect, bring closer and create. He is an advocate of entrepreneurship as a mindset and a modus operandi, and does not see being an entrepreneur as a job.

In response to the question of how to transfer the entrepreneurial mindset to society, he says: “Preferably with a magic wand, quickly and easily, if you could. Otherwise with a great deal of perseverance and consistency in education and lifelong learning, and the communication of key knowledge, skills and values. The entrepreneurial mindset is a way of thinking and a way of operating for the individual. It’s hard to eliminate our behavior patterns overnight and turn ourselves around completely. The entrepreneurial mindset is developed through the accumulation and combination of numerous skills and competencies, such as proactiveness, creativity, innovativeness, visionary thinking, self-confidence, optimism, passion, emotional intelligence, etc. It sounds logical and simple, and perhaps it is. However, we can think, who in our lives systematically taught us those exact skills and competencies, and when? State, society and the individual have to set goals for what they want to become, and education has to be a means of achieving those goals.”

With regard to change as the only constant and the impact of digitalization on work processes and life, Rok believes that certain professions will be less necessary and will even disappear, as work will increasingly be performed by technology instead of people. “But I’m not worried that there will not be enough work for people, as long as we encourage people’s passion for personal development and the development of their knowledge. I agree with the research that indicates that professions that require physical labor and technical knowledge will fall into decline. In the future, our ‘existence’ will unavoidably depend on good social and emotional competencies, from the entrepreneurial mindset to knowledge sharing, in combination with technological know-how from digital skills and advanced analytics to programming. But without continuous education and personal growth, it won’t work,” says Rok.

“To empower people who want to change and/or want to set out on their own entrepreneurial path and to help them actually achieve that,” is what leaving a mark means to Rok, as he is aware that “the more such individuals there are, the more positive multiplier effects will happen around the world.”   



Katarina Gašperlin, CEE Data Science Center of Excellence Data Scientist, IBM Slovenia

Katarina Gašperlin works in data analysis at IBM. The sincere, optimistic and inquisitive young woman says that ever since she realized that she really enjoys the fields of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, things have gone in the right direction and the right opportunities have appeared at the right time.

In a world awash in data, it’s hard to recognize the right and relevant information, as it requires critical evaluation. Katarina believes that it would be possible to achieve this if critical thinking was taught in schools. “Instead of rote memorization, I think it would be more reasonable for high-schoolers to know how to take a position and how to defend it. I believe that reading is another area that encourages this,” says Katarina. “On the other hand, in organizations, we have been talking for some time about big data, which gives us a better insight into certain processes and improves them. We have to be aware that data does not mean information, and that people are not the best at recognizing patterns in large data sets. Therefore, nowadays organizations are using various machine-learning algorithms when trying to detect patterns and information. The goal is obviously to use the findings in order to make faster and better decisions. If these are systems that to a certain extent imitate qualities that we generally attribute to human beings, we call it artificial intelligence,” explains Katarina.

She works a lot with the issue of healthy ageing, and is working on a doctoral thesis at the Laboratory for User-Adapted Communication and Ambient Intelligence at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Ljubljana, where she works on the planning of a system of contextualized recommendations which will recommend activities to older people in order to promote healthy aging. She believes that the establishment of various processes and systems that promote an active role in society for the elderly will be of key importance. “This not only about extending independent living at home, but also improving their quality of life. If we are talking about longer working lives, what will be important in my opinion are on one hand investments in education, and on the other the automation of various processes. The introduction of artificial intelligence to work processes will increase productivity and extend the working lives of older people,” says Katarina.

And how does Katarina hope to leave her mark? “I would like to contribute to the development of the digital society of the future. A lot is happening in this field, such as artificial intelligence, the processing of big data, and automation. These technologies are affecting and will affect people’s role in society. These changes will allow the expression of our human qualities such as creativity, emotional intelligence, empathy, connections, cooperation, and reason," says the super finalist for AmCham Top High-Potential 2019.



Žiga Debevec, Associate, BCG

Žiga Debevec, an associate with the Boston Consulting Group, is passionate, decisive and strict – first of all towards himself, and after that also towards others. He believes that the great insights in life come slowly and with a lot of effort, and does not take a binary view of things and events, as everything is not black and white, but mostly shades of gray.

When he was young he was an enthusiastic sport climber, and that discipline now helps him in his business dealings. “Climbing is a sport that requires concentration and being focused on the moment. If you want to climb a route that is at the limit of your physical capacities, you have to focus and commit to your moves, otherwise, you have to start again from the beginning, even if you were just below the top. Psychologically speaking, your desire to reach the top makes each attempt more difficult for you. It’s only when you learn to control your desire to succeed and shut out everything that is not connected with your next move on the wall that you can succeed," says Žiga, who believes that it is the ability to focus on a given moment that makes us more efficient and productive at work and at the same time the thing that we are losing most in the whirlwind of events in modern times, due to the constant stimulus of technology and social networks. “For me discipline was a precondition for success in balancing my ambitions in climbing, school and private life – during training we climbed, at college I used every break to study or engage in constructive debates with my classmates, and when I had free time I shut out everything else," was Žiga’s recipe. And ten years later he is still doing the same thing, balancing his work activities so that he does his work well and then has as much time as possible left over for his partner and the activities they love. “If I look at it from a slightly wider perspective, sports taught me patience and perseverance, and later, when I started to work as a coach, a feeling for working with people and the realization that every individual is unique and that there are no universal rules for leading others," says Žiga.

Žiga has an exceptional analytical ability to understand and solve problems, and he left mechanical engineering to pursue a business career. “The problem-solving logic is always the same," says Žiga, whose analytic skills help him converge on a solution more quickly. “But analytics is merely a tool that you have to know how to use intelligently and apply to a problem, and if we look at the business environment in the broadest sense of the term, for example from the perspective of managing an organization or setting up a company from the beginning, it is never a sufficient condition. Having a nose for business is, in my opinion, the other half of the equation that you need for a winning combination," says Žiga, who seeks exactly that type of balance in his business activities.

Asked about how he would like to leave his mark, Žiga replies: “The old saying says ‘never say never’, so I’m not yet ready to think about that out loud." However, he adds: “My ambitions are definitely large, but slowly but surely, step by step things are turning into plans for me. Otherwise, I want to remain part of the Slovenian business environment and to help make the Slovenian economy more efficient".



Matej Gostiša, Regional Manager, Triglav INT

Matej Gostiša is a regional manager at Triglav INT. His moral compass is guided by honesty, sincerity and good intentions. He does not have role models, but he likes people, and when we asked him what he has learned the most from, he said: “My family was crucial in giving me a healthy foundation. While I was growing up my greatest love was basketball, and my hero was Kobe Bryant, a player who defined his era, not just with championships, but above all with his unrelenting work ethic and his responsibility to himself and his team. All of the personality layers that I have developed since then are a reflection of my experiences and encounters and the relationships I have built.”

He is as comfortable in the startup world as he is in the corporate world. In comparing the two and offering his view of the business world, he says: “At the beginning of my career I thought the saying ‘people are the key’ was just a cliché. Now it is clear to me that without a real, heterogeneous team full of talent and ability, no corporation or startup can reach its targets. Having realistic goals is the key to making work make sense to all employees. It sounds obvious, but the logical hierarchization of goals in corporations and the setting of appropriate goals at younger companies have a significant effect on both the motivation of the team and the efficiency of operations. Every organization, large or small, needs management that guides the organization sensibly, makes mature decisions and then stands behind them." For him, a coach or a manager is “a credible communicator with his or her co-workers or players, who knows how to get people excited about a common goal, how to make sense of everyday work or training, and when it’s time for a game or an important meeting, how to trust them to play.”

After getting to know Germany and China during his studies, he now focuses on operations in Slovenia and on the markets of the former Yugoslavia. “This German-Balkan dualism is full of contrasts, but I like it, as it taught me to be attentive and hard-working, but also taught me the meaning of relaxing, socializing and having a genuine relationship with others," says Matej.

In his life, he is most proud of the relationships he has created. “All problems and all solutions are hidden in people, therefore I try to bring something positive to everyone I meet. This could be constructive criticism, a relaxed conversation, advice, listening, laughing – all in the hope that people progress and work to create a better future," says Matej, who wants to make his mark as a person who created more solutions than problems.



Zoran Bosančić, Partner and Co-founder, POINT OUT

Zoran is a partner in and co-founder of the digital marketing agency POINT OUT, and in the business world he bets on the value that goes by the name of knowledge. “The vision that an artist has before he begins to create a work of art. The focus of a skier who goes through every gate and every turn in his mind before his run," is his metaphor for leadership.

He created his own company, which now has ten employees. “I am not one of those people who knew that they wanted to be an entrepreneur when they grew up. I wanted to be everything. Until high school I wanted to be a doctor, then an actor or a director. I first really sensed the allure of entrepreneurship when I started college. At that time I joined a club that first stirred these new feelings in me, when a few heads join together and create something out of nothing. And that’s when I realized that I am at my best in an entrepreneurial environment. I am by nature the type of person who doesn’t look back after a decision has been made. I think very strategically. Once I figured that out, I didn’t have to gather my courage. I could tell that I was on the right path," says Zoran.

The entrepreneurial path is also marked by tests, and for him two were particularly decisive: the first time they hired someone and the first time they fired someone. “In the first case because it’s like the first time you drop your child off for someone else to take care of. The irony is that just like with your child, you realize that sometimes it’s great to have a free Saturday night. When it’s time to let go of your first employee, it’s hard to take that step, and at the same time you’re asking yourself what you did wrong. You don’t ever get any answers, you can only analyze the situation, and for me that’s one of the tough parts," says Zoran.

In the 9th class, he was one of the organizers of the Charity Improv Spectacular and the head of the social responsibility group. He believes in the concept of a ‘circle of influence’ and the idea that “you try to work within a circle in which you have a direct and therefore major impact, and are at the same time most effective.” “The advantage is that by focusing on it you ensure that the circle is constantly growing," says Zoran, who adds: “Although I also donate to large foreign organizations, such as Pencils of Promise, I try to do most of my work in my own environment. Money has a great short-term effect, but it’s not everything. You can also do humanitarian work by lending a hand or by sharing your knowledge.”

Zoran would like to leave his mark in entrepreneurship. “The sense of appreciation I get when someone tells me that they learned something from me means a lot to me, maybe more than anything. I want to share my knowledge with others. Therefore right now I want to leave my mark with a story with a technological and educational theme,” says Zoran.