Dear members of MUNPlanet,
In the next period, I will be publishing a series of interviews with young entrepreneurs and successful people from Balkan countries who managed to build successful careers in their own countries. I hope you will enjoy reading these interviews as much as I enjoyed talking to all of these people. Also, I hope that these interviews will have an impact on the young people from the Balkans and give them hope that it is actually possible to have a successful career in this region, too. Today, we are talking with Armin Konjalic, a guy born in Travnik. Below, read more about Armin, his accomplishments thus far, what the job of a digital nomad is, as well as the projects he is currently working on.
Emilija: Hi Armin! Would you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Armin: I am Armin Konjalic from Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was involved in many different jobs and activities related to technology and the Internet. I am just coming home from a Paris conference hosted by industry leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Eric Schmidt (Google), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Ginni Rometty (IBM).
In Paris I was presenting Humaniq, popular blockchain/crypto project designed to work on the development of Africa. The trip to Paris was very successful, since I used the opportunity to connect with African organizations and companies.
Emiija: I’ve read that you call yourself a digital nomad. What do you mean by that? Describe a day in the life of a digital nomad.
Armin: A digital nomad is a person who works online and they are not tied to any specific location. Instead of exposing themselves to stress caused by morning traffic jams, they work from wherever they want and whenever they want. A popular trend today is to create places where digital nomads can come to when they wish to escape the city hustle and bustle, withdrawing into calmer and more productive places with better standard of living. These places can mostly be found in South America, Southeast Asia but also in the Balkans. Digital nomads from all over the world come to these parts to enjoy the beauty of the Balkans and work in Mokrin House in Banat or Coworking Bansko in the Pirin mountains, Bulgaria. Working on a beach in Thailand costs about 10$, while renting an office in a metropolis goes up to tens of thousands of dollars.
For everyone who would like to experience the life of a digital nomad, we are organizing “Limitless Nomads”, a 21-day long trip during which we will visit the key places for digital nomads in Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Emilija: How did people around you react to your job? Have you encountered judgments and critiques considering that this type of business has not been developed yet and people in these areas are not familiar with it?
Armin: To this day, people from Travnik have remained the same as Ivo Andric described them in his books. Fraught with conceitedness, narcissism, and without taking too much interest in what is happening outside the pace city life.
My stories about travel and international business do not fall within the scope of conversation topics in Travnik, at all. Rarely do I talk about my adventures and accomplishments because I felt a dose of self-pity with people imprisoned in the agony of idleness as well as the lack of financial resources and opportunities. Travnik is a place where I can disconnect from the world and a fast pace of life and act as if I have never went anywhere.
If there were any negative comments and labels, it was due to ignorance, speculations or it was the characteristic Bosnian humor.
Emiija: In the Internet and technological revolution era, it is necessary to adapt to the changes such times bring. Have you noticed the change in the approach the people around you have towards your job?
Armin: Yes, the environment is finally moving from “I envy you” to “How can I achieve…”. The fact that many young people are finally looking for opportunities and do not pity themselves makes me very happy. No longer do they want to profit from social aid and and lay blame on others, which were the traits of previous generations.
I enjoy working as a mentor to the young talents and teams. I wish to share experiences and talk about what I learned from acquaintances, to make their road to success easier and open the window of opportunities. Mentor work is free because I wouldn’t be where I am now without my mentors and their unreserved support.
Emilija: Digital world has set foot in every aspect of our life, hence it became a necessity for every profession to become familiar with at least the basics from the tech world. Therefore, do you believe that your job is the job of the future?
Armin: Politicians from Bosnia and Herzegovina promise thousands of new job positions. They don’t take into consideration the factors that are completely changing the job market. A lot of jobs people are doing today won’t exist in the next 10 years, and positions that will be on a high demand in ten-year time do not exist now.
Automatization and artificial intelligence are completely transforming all industries and areas of our life. For future jobs, knowing hot to use technology as well as distinctive human traits which robots could never develop, such as emotional intelligence, creativity, critical thinking, negotiation skills etc, will be required.
Only those who intend to use technology as a tool to achieve their goals will have a chance in the future job market. The people who are currently performing the tasks that can be performed by machines, which would do a better and more efficient job, will face difficult times.
The educational system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not adjusted to the fourth industrial revolution. I am afraid that unemployment rate will increase and that the people will have a hard time adapting to the upcoming changes.
Emilija: Working in any industry brings a certain dose of stress and sometimes there are moments when everything seems too hard and impossible. Have you ever encountered such difficulties and obstacles in your career so far, and maybe even wished to find another job? How did you overcome those situations?
Armin: The startup life is full of extreme ups and downs. On numerous occasions I was emotionally and professionally drained, burned out. In the end, you realize that the biggest problems and failures are just a part of the learning process. All these problems seem irrelevant once you look back on them, so it’s not worth ruining your health because of them.
Besides doing various activities related to technology and startup community, I experimented with a wide range of other activities, such as ecological and humanitarian work, art projects, fun, tourism and hospitality.
A man becomes limited if he blindly sticks to the groups of people who have only one standpoint.
Emilija: What are the possibilities and benefits this job gives you? Do you think you wouldn’t be able to achieve some of the things you achieved if you had chosen a more conventional job?
Armin: If a more conventional job means constantly doing the repetitive tasks in the same surrounding, then I would be very unhappy. I love learning from people with different cultural backgrounds and views, through diverse challenges I am faced with.
Emilija: We know that attracting foreign investments is the key for the development of former Yugoslavian countries. One of the main reason why investors often give up or don’t even consider investing in these countries is the complicated bureaucracy. What would be your advice to country leaders in the region on how to attract foreign investors?
Armin: Investors mostly appreciate their time and do not want to work with people who waste it. Balkan peninsula is not the place for investors due to multiple connecting flights at the airports, hours of waiting on the borders and behind the counter window.
To all the leaders in the region, I would recommend they deal with the fact that their time has passed and that they are the ghosts from the past. I would also like to point out that a person born in 2000, is not a minor anymore and that new generations deserve leaders who understand the 21st century.
Emilija: Could you please tell us something more about the East-West Digital News project? Did it have an impact on the development of countries in the region?
Armin: East-West Digital News is a media-research company which works with technology and innovations in developing markets.The goal is to simplify business operations and information access about the technology market in Central-East Europe. I was working on it with leading world companies and investors.
Emilija: The project you are currently working on, Humaniq, focuses on developing markets for individuals who don’t have access to traditional banking services. Where did the idea for this project come from and what are the main goals you would like to achieve?
Armin: Humaniq is a company that uses blockchain technology to resolve problems for people who do not have access to banks and financial services. There is more than 2 billion people in the world who don’t have a bank account and money is reaching them very slowly through middlemen that take huge commission fees. Financial inclusion is one of the key elements for reaching UN’s SDG goals. Humaniq is currently working in 10 African countries, and it has more than 200 thousand users and it is growing on a daily basis.
A couple of years ago, I talked to the founder of Humaniq, Alex Fork, about what could happen if blockchain were to be integrated in Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That was the moment when I realized the strength bitcoin and blockchain technology have. Ever since then, I have been following and supporting his ideas, and as of recently, I am an active team member.
Emilija: How would you motivate other young people who would like to follow in your footsteps? Many of them might be afraid of the risks that come with this job and venturing into the unknown. What is your advice for them?
Armin: My advice is that young people should freely create their own path and move towards achieving the goals in their lives they care about.
Young people shouldn’t give up on their goals in order to realize ambitions imposed on them by their parents and neighbours.