The Big Picture: The Journey from RC
Leaving a safe career in corporate strategy – much to the dismay of her engineer parents – Ivana Strajin (BCom '13) launched her second career as a Serbian-Canadian filmmaker, an independent writer, and director. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Ivana focuses on writing dark comedy scripts about rebellious outcasts.
As a child, being an artist was always a part of Ivana’s identity. Despite this, an equal, if not an even more significant part of her sense of self growing up, was her identity as a child of immigrant parents who were engineers. An artistic career seemed unlikely. Her parents risked much to move to Canada – so it wasn’t surprising that they preferred financial stability for Ivana who wanted to go to film school for undergraduate studies. Unclear about possible career paths, Ivana forfeited the idea of film school altogether. Studying commerce seemed more secure and she knew that she would develop transferrable skills that could help her with future entrepreneurial pursuits.
Ivana launched her career in corporate strategy right after graduating from Rotman Commerce, working her way up to become an associate director of corporate strategy. Over seven years, she led strategic planning and corporate development initiatives.
The bigger picture
In what is the riskiest move of her entire professional life, Ivana made the decision to pursue to pursuit her passions as an artist. She quit her corporate job; she did not have anything lined up. It was literally building a new career from scratch.
“I knew it was going to be difficult, but as the saying goes, it’s better to try and fail than wonder ‘what-if’.”
A strong work ethic and time management skills came easily to her, honed from her experience in corporate strategy. 60–80-hour work weeks were the norm, and she brought that work ethic over to her film career. “I know how to create an ambitious, yet realistic schedule and to stick to it – for the most part. So far it seems to be paying off; my clients are happy and I’m able to keep on top of all of my personal projects!”
A significant part of Ivana’s career involves building meaningful and genuine professional relationships. These individuals have been instrumental in championing both Ivana and her projects; opportunities came that would not have otherwise been accessible. Knowing its importance, Ivana encourages Rotman Commerce students to make time to build relationships with their peers, professors, staff, alumni, and other professionals.
Ivana also recommends that students use their time at Rotman Commerce to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. Ivana was terrified of public speaking – she even had severe anxiety when it came to presentations. The Rotman Commerce Toastmasters group and its weekly meetings forced her to practice her presenting and communications skills regularly. In her fourth year, Ivana became the president of the group which prepared her for future leadership roles in her career.
“As a director, I’m constantly presenting – whether it’s to convince collaborators to work with me or to align everyone to a shared vision or to engage in an interview with the media. The communication skills I gained through RC Toastmasters was essential in setting me up for success!”
Ultimately, Ivana has no regrets about her life choices. She gained financial, analytical, marketing, and strategic skills through her undergraduate degree and work experience that are incredibly valuable in her current role, particularly when pitching projects and working towards securing funding. Ivana looks back on her time at Rotman Commerce fondly and believes that it set her up for success in both her corporate strategy and film careers.
January 24, 2022