Interview Project: with the Founder Nejra Mujagić.

By Millena Kapamann

For the April edition of our monthly interview project, we meet Nejra Mujagić, a civil engineer student that finally has created her organization.

In this article, you will learn more about her experience and mindset as a young founder. We will also display what general advice she may have for those who would like to take the same direction.

1- Two of our former interns introduced us to you; may you please tell us more about your university background? Why did you choose these studies?

First of all, I would like to thank you for this interview project; I am very excited to talk about the past few months and the things young girls have done in the Balkans.

My name is Nejra Mujagić, and I am studying Civil Engineering at Istanbul University – Cerrahpasa, Turkey. I like to think that I was supposed to choose these studies. Moreover, I do not hold that any of us know the exact moment they fall in love with the field they are working in; it is a series of events that lead us to choose our studies and carrier. Mine was like that.

Since a child, I have always been too curious. I would even damage some things around the house to find out how they work. Through elementary and middle school: my favourite subjects were Math, Physics and Chemistry. Also, I liked technical drawing. During High School, I certainly knew that I wanted to have a carrier in Civil Engineering. The field is broad and open. Besides, office jobs are not my focus and Civil Engineering gives me the freedom to work with all the people involved in the process from the design to the final use.

2- We learned that you were at the head of an NGO named STEM TEAM. Have you always have been interested in creating a business? Why did not you chose to only focus on Civil Engineering?

Anyone may have thought at some point in their life about starting their own business. Unfortunately, not all of us pursue doing so. I am interested in creating a business, a story that will impact the community I am living and working in (either it is a professional or social community).

Background stories are so important because they shape us and lead us at some point. The main point is to have faith in everything you do. I have faith in my field of study; I find it exciting. There are so many loopholes to fill and opportunities to discover. The same thing went on with STEM TEAM: I felt uncomfortable with statistics on women in the STEM field and started thinking about what I can do to make them seem more optimistic for younger generations.

The idea of the platform was born during the first lockdown due to the pandemic in March 2020. I started crafting the platform, sectors and making plans for the organization for the next decade. I have present it to a group of students, and they saw the potential in the idea. Most importantly, they have found themselves in the story.

I would say I am not focused but dedicated to Civil Engineering and STEM. No matter which sector I am working in, I will always prioritize and highlight Civil Engineering.

3- I believe that you are very active since you have a significant role. As a founder, how did you manage to establish the foundation of the organization? What are the main aims?

As I mentioned before, the idea was born during the first lockdown. However, I haven’t started immediately asking people to join and help me develop it further. I presented the idea to a close friend of mine, Isidora, and she listened to me talking about statistics, the status of the women in science and, she just said:

“Well, Nejra, I think that we certainly do need a platform that will help the younger generation to overcome stereotypes regarding STEM.”

Isidora

This sentence was my push all along. I knew I had something engaging and creative enough to catch attention. But still, one part of me didn’t perceive how the larger group will react.

So, I reached the group of students at the University of Sarajevo. Three girls: Alma, Amina and Hana, decided to help me bring up STEM TEAM on another level. Our first post was on November 1 st 2020; now, we own a website and media for sharing information and stories.

The main aims are empowering, encouraging and engaging girls and women of all ages to know more about STEM and not think of it as something that all men can do. The English version of Our website will be available soon, and there we can read an interview about successful women of STEAM. They also mention the challenges they have overcome during their carrier. Furthermore, we want to give young girls carrier advice in this field and show them all the offer possibilities.

4- Regarding your current position, what are your main tasks? Are you facing any challenges related to that position? If so, how did you manage to overcome them?

As a Project Manager, my main task is to direct the team and minimize possible miss understatements. By the way, online space and remote working make that task hard: people are used to the traditional working where they could see their colleagues. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made us work from home, so we like to have many meetings as possible to be in touch with each other. Also, we chat privately in group chats, trying to recreate the office atmosphere as much as we can. So far, that was my biggest challenge: gather everyone and make them feel welcome even though I’m never seeing them face to face.

5- What kind of lessons did you learn since the creation of STEM TEAM? Did the pandemic impact your goals?

Pandemic and STEM TEAM somehow go together hand in hand. The
creation process truly helped me and the team to deal better with the pandemic and to be fearless. So, I would say that my first lesson was not to fear circumstances I can’t control. With the COVID outbreak, nothing was sure anymore, and everyone was terrified. I was not an exception. However, after the initial shock, fear was gone, and STEM TEAM helped me overcome it.

The second lesson was that team needs constant motivation, no
matter the initial desire to work. You need to constantly give small motivational signals to everyone to stay hype about the idea. As a head of Project Management, I like to find projects or start them on my own so that girls in the team can be mindful that something is happening and that they are a big part of it.

Thirdly, I learned to be more flexible and not to always stick with the plan. Planning is fine, and we always should approximate the future, but I also stopped overreacting if something doesn’t go along with the plan. If something goes off the planning, I try my best to make the most out of the situation. The world is still in a pandemic crisis, and most of our plans are stopped. For example, we have prepared many workshops and activities, but they are all on hold until a better situation. However, we are preparing now, one podcast season, so I can guess when life gives you a pandemic – make a cool podcast.

6- How do you imagine the future of your NGO?

I like this question. That is the first thing I asked myself at the beginning of the story. Further, we are working towards a regional connection – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Slovenia. The ultimate goal is to have offices in each of these countries and work with girls of all ages on STEM topics. Also, we would like to target parents and teachers to become more aware of gender balance issues in STEM. As a team, we think it is important to target them to achieve more sustainable and long-term goals.

7- What main qualities and skills an owner should have? Why those qualities matter, in your opinion?

Patience in whatever you do. Nothing comes overnight, but you need to work a lot to have visible results in something. Also, everyone starting something such as a business or an NGO should be able to communicate with people and understand them. In my opinion, most of the problems come when people don’t want to see things from other perspectives. And here also comes the quality of accepting constructive critics. To grow and evolve, you can’t let yourself think you are always right. The more, the merrier – more ideas, the better solution you can find.

Besides these, the most important thing is having a clear goal and vision of your NGO/business. As a founder, if you lack those, then you can not present the idea to others. Moreover, that idea will vanish soon, or it will get a whole new dimension different from what you initially have thought. Therefore, to conclude, patiently working every day on idea towards a clear goal while asking for advice from more successful ones will bring one towards his goal.

8- Are you in need of any interns for your company? Thus, we will redirect those who are looking for opportunities to your site.

Well, thank you for this question, it’s so kind of you. STEM TEAM is always welcoming new members, and we are happy when we see motivated young person willing to make changes in their community. Currently, we have four sectors: Editing Office, Social Media Management, IT and Project Management. Everyone interested in these, but many more that we cover, can contact us via email at iamstemteam@gmail.com.

We are more than happy to help anyone seeking a change for self-development. Thus, we encourage all the young people to contact us.