I was born in Eastern Europe, grew up in Idaho, and lived and worked in a few countries while also supporting my husband’s career. Eventually, his job brought us to Wisconsin and we settled here 14 years ago.
What was it about Mequon that made you decide to live there?
I love living in Mequon because it has a rural feel but has all of the amenities of a city. My kids have a big backyard, go to a wonderful school, and are able to participate in sports, music, and the performing arts while not being too far from home. They couldn’t be as active if we lived in a bigger city and had to ﬁght traﬃc all of the time. I work downtown and it’s a huge relief knowing that I’m no more than 25 minutes away from my kids.
How many children do you have and how old are they?
I have six children.
Aleksandar – 15
Tatiana – 14
Anastasia – 13
Ksenija – 10
Simonida – 8
Jovan – 7
Juggling careers and raising kids is hard. Tell us about how you manage the work/life balance.
I don’t think I had much balance until relatively recently. I jokingly refer to my 30s as my “lost decade” because I was pregnant or nursing times six. It was important for me to have a big family so my kids could have one other and when my last child was born, I felt accomplished from a family point of view. When the fog lifted, I realized I wasn’t quite as accomplished from a career or personal point of view and I needed to make changes.
One morning, I had just ﬁnished dropping the kids oﬀ at school and daycare when my phone rang. I was always so exhausted that it was unusual I heard it and even more so that I answered. It was a call that paved the path to my current ﬁrm. I joined a supportive and happy workplace that promoted family life. I didn’t have to stay in the oﬃce just to be seen or tiptoe around egos, both of which are typical in the ﬁnancial services industry. I could ﬁnally focus on my clients and career without noise.
Once I felt good about my family and the direction of my career, I started to take care of myself. I reached out to fellow moms and went out to lunch for fun. I forced myself to go to mom dinners without making sure the kids were all fed and bathed and their homework was done and the dishwasher was on, etc. I scheduled regular dental, doctor, and hair appointments rather than once every 13 months and then 8 months, and then how long since my last appointment?
Balancing work and life has been an evolution for me. I take it day by day and some days I’m better at one or the other but that’s ok as long as I have both.
You seem to have chosen a career path that might be surprising to some based on your degrees in chemistry and political science. Tell us about your job and your journey to becoming a VP at one of the most recognized names in wealth management.
I’m also surprised by my career path. As an immigrant kid, the only “acceptable” ﬁeld of study was what is now referred to as STEM. Although I loved math and science, I also wanted to explore liberal arts so I earned a degree in political science as a compromise. My goal was to become a patent attorney but after working in a law ﬁrm, I realized I needed a more number-oriented career so I decided that an MBA was a much better ﬁt.
I had just gotten married, was working on a trading desk during the day, and going to school at night so I didn’t have much time to think about what I wanted to do long term. One day, I came across a job description for private wealth management and it resonated with me on all levels. Proper portfolio and wealth management are rooted in academics so I loved the science component. Working with diﬀerent types of people and circumstances, however, is more of an art. This art and science combination was incredible.
As fate would have it, my husband was transferred to Switzerland so my ﬁrst job in private wealth management was in the motherland of private banking. I was schooled in the importance of nurturing multi-generational relationships, trustworthiness, and long-term thinking. I served clients mostly in Asia before having my ﬁrst child and coming back to the US to eventually settle in Wisconsin. I now have the pleasure of serving high-net-worth families across the country.
What one piece of ﬁnancial advice would you give to young women just starting their careers?
This might not sound like ﬁnancial advice but I’d encourage women to network. Network within your company, network outside your company, network with other women, network with men, and network with almost everyone. You never know who you may be able to help or who may be able to help you someday.
That’s interesting advice. The way you described navigating diﬀerent people and circumstances as being an art is certainly tied to your one piece of advice for young women! STEM careers, whether in strict science ﬁelds or ﬁnancial ones, have long been dominated by men. As a woman, how do you successfully network in a male-dominated industry?
Sometimes success is not based on merits such as education and work ethic but on successful networking. I see talented, smart, and thoughtful young women in male-dominated industries and I wonder if their talent, intellect, and thoughtfulness will be enough? This makes me think about the future for my own daughters.
Studies have shown that it is harder for women to network in male-dominated industries. Men have more occasions to spend time together (private dinners, happy hours) and often bond over hobbies or interests that women do not share. Do I really want to go hunting so I can get to know my male colleagues? There are men who want to see women succeed and it’ll be clear. Don’t waste your time with those who don’t. I have been helped by a few men in particular who believed enough in me to not only hire me or work with me but also advise me on how to navigate this industry.
Studies are showing women have been disproportionately aﬀected by COVID-19 due to the virtual learning needs of their children and lack of available childcare. How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
I’d argue that women in the labor force are disproportionately aﬀected due to childcare constraints regardless of the circumstances but they just so happen to be disproportionately aﬀected this time due to Covid-19.
I am lucky that I can work from home if I need (or want). I hope the impact for professional women will be to allow for greater ﬂexibility. Many employers are realizing what I believe many women already knew – you don’t need to be in an oﬃce every day to do your job. I’ve never understood why motherhood is so punitive. We should focus on the beneﬁts of being a mom and consider it a competitive advantage. No one is better than a mom at multitasking and eﬃciency.
Best mom hack that makes life easier?
My youngest daughter spent too much time on YouTube learning about life hacks so I had to ban the word “hack” at home. Before the ban, however, she showed me how to put a cupcake liner through the bottom of a popsicle stick to catch drips. I thought that was a good one.
If you could take a vacation by yourself, where would you go and why?
I would take a staycation and have my family go away on vacation. It would be so nice to have the house to myself. I would clean and have it stay clean for longer than a nanosecond.
Ha! I bet there are a lot of moms out there who would love a solo staycation!
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I normally don’t like sports but I really love the Olympics and enthusiastically watch every sport. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, I was glued to the tv and let out a big gasp during one of the events. My husband was in the other room and ran over to see what I was watching. It was curling.
Who has most inﬂuenced you to be the mom you are today?
My kids inﬂuence me to be the mom that I am today. There were no female role models that I wanted to be like. There were many, however, that I didn’t want to be like. I didn’t understand the power of motherhood until my son was born. He changed my life, gave me purpose, and made me want to be the best version of myself. All of my kids play this role now. 🙂