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A Conversation With Dejana Marich on Leadership and Motivation As a Tool for Success

Dejana Marich was born in former Yugoslavia and moved to the U.S. in 1998. Dejana is a PMP-certified Senior Project Leader and Business/HR Process Improvements & Talent Acquisition Director. She recently completed her Professional Master of Business Administration at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. While pursuing her PMBA, she focused […]

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Dejana Marich
Dejana Marich

Dejana Marich was born in former Yugoslavia and moved to the U.S. in 1998. Dejana is a PMP-certified Senior Project Leader and Business/HR Process Improvements & Talent Acquisition Director. She recently completed her Professional Master of Business Administration at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. While pursuing her PMBA, she focused her studies on innovation, entrepreneurship and international business, and studied abroad in Denmark, Sweden and Russia. Dejana also holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Accounting and Diploma in Computerized Accounting.

Dejana has 20 years of cross-functional experience from leading global organizations.  She spent 12 years of her career working for Nestlé in Glendale, CA, where she held several positions in the Finance & Control and Supply Chain departments. As a Project Manager, Dejana managed a team responsible for third-party logistics (3PL) inventory reporting for all Nestlé divisions. She provided 3PL project management oversight for the conversion of existing 3PLs and setting up of new locations in response to new technology, business expansions, and M&A activities, such as the Gerber and Novartis Healthcare acquisitions and conversion of existing Nestlé 3PLs to GLOBE SAP. The latter 8 years of Dejana’s career were with Compass Group in Charlotte, NC, where she held several positions in the Strategic Projects and Human Resources departments. As a Director of HR Process Improvements and Compliance, Dejana launched the HR Process Improvements & Compliance department, which focused on enterprise-wide initiatives and projects in support of 180,000 associates. Dejana Marich was later promoted to set up and lead a first of its kind high-volume and high-tech recruitment center responsible for the hiring of more than 110,000 frontline associates annually. As a Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, she continued to evolve the center and lead various integrations and implementations, inclusive of new artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.

1. What’s next for you, why and what’s driving you?

I am currently exploring new opportunities, while also establishing a start-up consulting business which will leverage my 20 years of cross-functional experience in various leadership capacities. This will embrace my entrepreneurial spirit and passion for the intersection of people and technology towards the creation of novel models and game-changing products. I love helping businesses reimagine their models and work more efficiently while achieving significant savings. I am passionate about working with diverse teams and integrating unique perspectives, thinking styles, and skills in the delivery of an unparalleled experience and innovative products.

We are at the frontend of the fourth industrial revolution with tremendous opportunities to leap ahead on innovation and profitability. In parallel with this digital transformation, there is an increasing focus on people; specifically, within the realms of talent acquisition, hiring, and retention as unemployment rates are at historic lows.

Major business transformations await us, as companies will need to reconceptualize their existing processes and organize within the new digitalized, AI-driven framework. This will also pose a set of unique challenges and risks. I am enthused about helping businesses navigate through the opportunities and complexities this poses, from reimagining entire processes to fine tuning existing processes. My extensive expertise in project management, implementing new systems, improving existing processes, building highly-functioning teams, and designing AI-recruitment solutions have equipped me with a high degree of comfort with the unknown, affinity for innovation and experimentation, and capability to deliver world-class products

2. What do you love most about the industry you are in?

We are living in the age of digital Darwinism, in which whole industries are being disrupted by AI and new technologies are evolving faster than we can adapt to them. This will have a tremendous impact on our world, with many parallels to the advent of the internet and smartphones. I am incredibly excited about the opportunities for the reimagination of business processes and the substantial potential for value creation. HR is becoming a strong driver and will be instrumental in the redesign of new jobs and processes to support this new era of digitalization, specifically around Talent Acquisition.

3. What keeps you motivated?

My children are my primary sources of motivation. New challenges, technologies, and opportunities for reeducation fulfill me both personally and professionally and keep me reenergized and passionate about my work.

4. Who has been a role model to you and why?

My dad. Above all else, he has dedicated himself to being the most wonderful grandfather, father and husband. His unconditional love has always equipped me with a sense of comfort and security. My dad is also one of the happiest and most accomplished people that I know, but he always made a distinction between financial wealth or career accomplishments and one’s character and worth. He holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and was both a professor of physics and informatics and former executive. He is also a highly acclaimed poet, essayist, and novelist. At the age of 82, his interests are numbered and varied, and he fills every day with laughter, exercise, writing and, most recently, an affinity for sculpturing. He always leads with a smile and loves being active. He still wins every time we play tennis and is the first one to accompany me to late dinner parties.

5. What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

1. I possess a high degree of empathy and genuinely care about people as individuals, their well-being and happiness, and their professional development. I take pride in seeing my direct reports being developed and promoted.

2. I foster a culture of teamwork and build teams that operate as affable, highly-functioning family-units. This entails emphasizing care, trust, and shared goals, as well as accountability, with expectations for high performance and candid feedback.

3. I am passionate about new business models and new process/technology implementations that raise the bar for businesses, teams and customers.

4. I enjoy being exposed to new, complex, and challenging opportunities and projects in unchartered territories.

5. I set noble goals, provide tools and support to drive success, and have high expectations for delivering high-quality products and customer service.

6. I am a hard worker. My strong work ethic and ability to persevere through bumps in the road towards an overarching goal is a defining characteristic of my work style.

7. I am guided by integrity and powered by strong character needed to face and overcome difficult challenges with highest level of professional standards.

8. I have a positive outlook on the world, and foster a culture that necessitates an optimistic, can-do attitude.

6. What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

I became a single parent at the age of 23. I had just arrived in a new continent, and was learning how to drive, speak English, support my family, and continue my education, while raising two children under the age of five.

7. What is your biggest accomplishment?

My children. They are kind, hardworking, and intelligent human beings, and I am so deeply honored and humbled every day when I remind myself that I am their Mama.

 8. What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

When your heart is in the right place, nothing can deter you from the path to success. Setbacks are bound to happen, but our responses to them are what defines us. Always move forward with gratitude for the journey.

9. What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

After almost 40 years of well-established careers, my parents became war refugees. They taught me that the only thing that matters in life is life itself and the well-being of our family. Losing everything taught us that we are not defined by our tangible possessions, but by the values we depict in our everyday lives. Above all else, being alive and having each other is the only fuel needed to power us.

10. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

On the last day of our 2018 fiscal year, my team exceeded 100,000 annual hires. This major milestone coincided with my 43rd birthday, and I felt like the proud mother of a 5-year old child. For five years, my team built a new, high-tech and volume recruitment center for about 28 company brands with very difficult ramp up, ongoing system reiterations, integrations, AI-implementations, and great doubt over the potential for success. To see the team go from less than 1,000 hires to eventually exceeding 100,000, and a clunky system evolve into a state-of-the-art technology recruitment center, was an incredible and transformative experience.

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