Croatia: RoomOrders, The Young And The Silver Lining In The Cloud

RoomOrders Economics student interns from University of Rijeka, Croatia

Every cloud has a silver lining, and one needs to wait to see it, work hard to see it or, perhaps, even put the silver lining into the cloud himself or herself. In other words, there is always potential for something positive or beneficial to result from a negative situation and the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic has indeed been a negative situation worldwide in many aspects of life but particularly the existential one – the economy and the ability to earn a living, or to secure internships in order to prepare for future work to earn a living. As to the latter, it’s not every day that a company welcomes over 30 interns – especially not in Croatia.

When I came across a Press Release late last month by hospitality start-up RoomOrders in which it stated it has just done that, opening its doors to over 33 ambitious students from Rijeka University, who want to experience the inner workings of a global organisation I was impressed.

“It is unconventional and perhaps audacious,” said CEO Eugene Brcic Jones about the decision to accept so many interns, particularly since RoomOrders only has a handful of developers and other staff in its office in Zagreb, and that, well, that the world is in the middle of a crippling pandemic.

“RoomOrders does not want to be an ordinary company and this move reflects our different way of doing things too,” said Jones.

“Boldness is not a natural reflex for most people, particularly young people starting their professional careers. We hope our confident attitude and readiness to take on risks will rub off on them as well,” said in the Press Release Eugene Brcic Jones, whom I have interviewed before and wrote about his moving from Australia to Croatia in 2017 on a quest to contribute to the development of Croatian economy and democracy with his Western knowhow and entrepreneurial zest.    

Left: Eugene Brcic Jones Photo: RoomOrders

RoomOrders is a mobile ordering platform that allows guests contactless self-service of food and beverages in hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes – whether they are in lobbies, poolside deckchairs or rooftops. They just scan or tap a QR code with their smart phones.

The company is a global leader in its niche and is used in leading chains like Hilton, Marriott and Accor, from as far as Brisbane to Boston and Belgrade to Barcelona.

Despite the coronavirus, RoomOrders continues to sign new hotels and resorts. It recently signed Swiss chain Hapimag AG, which operates more than 50 holiday properties all over Europe and the US. RoomOrders is currently being used in almost 100 hospitality venues around the world, on every continent except for South America.

I was interested to hear what this internship opportunity RoomOrders made available meant for the university students from Rijeka who joined the internship program and generally about their views on the profession they have chosen and their future and, so, I conducted an interview with six of them and here is what they had to say:

Studying economics in Rijeka, what do you think are the most important skills that a future economist must possess in order to succeed in the business world both in Croatia and internationally?

Lana Gunzi: “I am in my third year of undergraduate study of business economics, majoring in management at the Faculty of Economics in Rijeka. Among the most important abilities of economists, I would mention creativity, intellectual curiosity, precision, systematic, developed ability and adaptation to the team environment, and great responsibility for achieving success in the business world, i.e. for avoiding mistakes. I believe that these abilities of an economist are important for application in all markets, both domestic and international.

Magdalena Markus: “Just like for any profession, every economist should be passionate about their job, we have to understand the problems and needs of today’s world and economy, we have to be able to learn, grown and adapt because the world changes fast. Researching, reading and discovering should be a big part of being an economist. Also, I think it’s important to stick out in some kind of way, best trying really hard and doing the best job possible.”

Monika Branovic: “I believe that every successful economist is characterised by precision, systematicity, responsibility, and of course knowledge of mathematics and computer work, as well as a sense of communication, teamwork and a penchant for working with people.”

Barbara Sertic: “Personally, I believe that an economist must be able to perform the tasks and problems that lie ahead of him or her. I think that will and perseverance, meticulousness and organisation are important. Nowadays, it is harder to succeed and break into the market in any position, so I think that these features are of great importance.”

Tea Kranjec: “Nowadays, through various media, we can hear that there are too many economists in Croatia, from those with secondary education to those with Masters of Economics. Personally, I believe that economics encompasses a broad concept that appears in almost all industries, and every economist can find himself in a certain field and improve his knowledge and skills in it. The skills that I believe that a future economist must possess in order to successfully cope in the business world at the end of my studies are, first of all, the patience and perseverance that I learned while studying. Sometimes it happens that we all forget that successful results do not come by themselves but take time and hard work. Furthermore, it is desirable that every economist has developed good communication skills because they are necessary for the successful work of the team and for communicating with clients outside the company. Depending on the department in which the qualified economist works, the required skills will differ, for example an accountant who must be trained to work accurately with numbers, while the manager must lead and maintain good communication between all departments of the company, encourage cooperation among colleagues and lead business operations of the enterprise in accordance with the objectives of the enterprise. One of the most important skills that each of us should hone is the ability to manage stress that leads to more efficient work and prevention of more serious illnesses. I would like to add one saying that my parents repeated throughout my schooling, and that is: ‘How many languages ​​you know, that is how many people you are worth’; this is a very true saying that benefits every job candidate in Croatian and international companies.”

Nikolina Benko: “I think the most important thing for any economist is to always be ready to adapt to new market situations, we live in unpredictable times and only those who react quickly to change can ensure survival. Also, a good economist must be creative and think ‘out of the box’ when making decisions, sometimes it is necessary to look at the situation from several different angles to truly understand how best to act. The job of an economist mainly revolves around numbers, so it is expected to be accurate and ready for long-term analyses.”

What did the opportunity for internship with a company from Croatia, RoomOrders, doing business around the world mean to you?

Lana Gunzi: “By joining the internship with RoomOrders Inc., I was given a great opportunity to apply my previous knowledge into real practice. RoomOrders Inc., is not a common company, but offers the possibility of insight into the real, the market and the everyday situations. Trainees are divided into three branches Marketing, Sales and PR and COMMUNICATIONS, where we learn new skills, gain new knowledge and life experience.”

Magdalena Markus: “For me, this kind of internship means a look into the real business, and how it works. It’s a great experience that I can carry with me in my future employment wherever that will be. When you’re studying economics in Croatia, there’s not much contact with practice, just theory, so I’m glad to be getting this opportunity and doing more than just reading and studying.”

Monika Branovic: “Well, for me, this is a unique opportunity to find myself in a certain field of economics and thus continue my education at the graduate school in Rijeka. I also think it’s good to have some experience in the company so that I can more easily adapt to the business world after graduation.”

Barbara Sertic: “For me, internship at RoomOrders is very important. I know that it will bring me a lot of experience because through the tasks we perform every day we learn how a growing company operates. I am grateful for the practice we do, and I certainly admire our mentors Eugene Brčić Jones and Gerhard Šarić.”

Tea Kranjec: “I would like to thank our Herija Bezić and assistant Davorin Balaž of the International Economics course, who enabled me to get involved in the work of a young and innovative company such as the start-up company RoomOrders, Inc. For me, this is a new experience that moves away from the classic learning from manuscripts and books, but allows us to contact people from the business world who pass on their knowledge and experience to us. I believe that this seemingly short experience will contribute to my future employment, if not in RoomOrders, Inc. itself, then in other companies. Such collaborations should continue and actually increase so that it is not something new and revolutionary but that it becomes quite normal for students to have work experience before graduation like students around the world have.”

Nikolina Benko: “I see the collaboration with RoomOrders as an opportunity to take a peek at what business really looks like not only in Croatia but also globally. I believe that through theory we cannot understand enough how business actually works and that with this experience we will certainly know after college what awaits us and what is expected of us as employees.”

Is it difficult to secure internships for students in Croatia? Do you have any ideas how to improve the situation as far as this is concerned?

Lana Gunzi: “I think that the big problem of Croatia is precisely because it does not have an organised possibility of practice within its faculties, except in the field of medicine, teaching and educational fields. While economists get this opportunity only in the third year of undergraduate study, by choosing the elective course Practice. Therefore, this internship opportunity, organised by Teaching Assistant Davorin Blažin and Bezić as part of the International Business course, is an opportunity not to be missed.”

Magdalena Markus: “When you’re studying economics in Croatia, the practice is really down to its minimum, you get just two courses during five years of schooling that include practical work, and I don’t think that’s enough. I think that more company’s like RoomOrders should offer internships and educate young people. Also, I think that the country’s whole educational system should encourage less theory and studying for tests and more life and work experience incorporated in the studies.”

Monika Branovic: “I think that in Croatia it is harder to provide students with internships, especially for us economists. Well, I don’t have any ideas, in fact, I think that the faculty should provide that, just as our professor Heri Bezić and assistant Davorin Balaž provided something like this as part of the International Business course, for which I am very grateful. It is also an ideal way for students to gain some insight into the business world and develop, and it is interesting because it is not only a strict theory, but we perform tasks and solve problems that occur in the company.”

Barbara Sertic: “This is the first practice I am doing, in Rijeka, so I have no knowledge about how hard or difficult it is to secure it in Croatia. If the problem is to offer students an internship, it would be great if our example showed how important it is to offer students an internship. I think this experience is great for us, the students, but also for RoomOrders.”

Tea Kranjec: “Many students during their studies do various incidental / part-time jobs in order to earn a living, cover the costs of studying, etc. In Croatia, there are rare cases of internships, especially for students of Economics. I think that the practices were abolished because they were reduced only to making coffee, and not to doing realistic tasks in the company’s business. I think that providing internships by educational institutions is not difficult, which can be seen from the example of our internship organised by two people (professor and assistant of the course International Economics). I don’t think it’s that hard to secure internships by college but it’s the companies that mostly don’t like to take too many risks and introduce some extreme innovations like the 33 interns at RoomOrders Inc. Companies should set aside places for students because they are actually the ones who represent their future workforce that brings innovative entrepreneurial ideas. If companies are ready to accept trainees, they must also be ready to instruct them well in the company’s business and the tasks they will perform.”

Nikolina Benko: “Work practice in Croatia is performed mainly through elective courses in certain years of study, so in fact it is not even mandatory. I think working in practice is good for any young person before they are actually ‘thrown’ into real business. The opportunity we got is a very rare practice here, I have not heard before that someone gave young people without experience in Croatia so much responsibility and trust. I hope that the news of the collaboration between RoomOrders and the Faculty of Economics will encourage more faculties and companies to dare to give students the opportunity.”

You are the young generation that will one day shape the future of Croatia – if you were asked what you will do to make that future in the economy desirable, what would be the opportunities or possibilities in the business space that you would also like to be involved with.

Lana Gunzi: “When I think about the future and the job I would like to do it would definitely be project management because working on projects is what fulfils me. It offers so many opportunities for progress and I believe that with this choice of job I would be able to make big changes in Croatia, by introducing new innovations and using all the limited resources available. At the moment, a lot of ideas are spinning in my head, and I would like all this not only to remain on the ideas, but to succeed and put them into practice.”

Magdalena Markus: “I think that Croatia is a great country, with many possibilities, and with the right ideas it could become so much more than it is. I think that the most important thing is to turn to the people. Better educational system, better opportunities, encouraging them to stay in Croatia, opening businesses and working and making their money here. I hope to work here one day, because I love living here, and helping in the economic growth in my country, I’m not quite sure in what way, but I believe I will find a place for myself.”

Barbara Sertic: “I believe that every day is an opportunity, or an opportunity to do something of quality, be it in college, at work or in your own home. We create new opportunities every day, and in order to one day be able to improve Croatia, our society and / or our own business, we need and must use these opportunities.”

Tea Kranjec: “Since I am finishing my studies this year, I will do my best to look for a job in smaller private companies in order to gain knowledge in the field of economics that interests me, and that is specifically finance – accounting. My interruption of studies does not mean giving up economics, but it represents an investment in additional practices, study of professional literature and additional lifelong learning programs with which I upgrade the acquired knowledge. I was thinking of starting my own smaller business in the city where I live in the future because I have no plans to move outside of Our Beautiful One ‘Lijepa naša’. I believe that Croatia has a lot of potential and such beautiful examples as internships for young students contribute to improve the image of our country’s economy. As I have already stated, I believe that more companies in the Republic of Croatia should have courage to include students in professional internships so that we can boast of not only the beautiful Adriatic Sea but also of smart and hard-working students.”

What do you dream about when you dream about the future Croatia?

Lana Gunzi: “The dream of a future Croatia is not currently shown in the most colourful of pictures, but I think this is because of this epidemiological situation that has moved us all away from some set goal. However, Croatia is a country that has more than enough potential to break into various branches, starting with tourism and the entire economy. In the near future, I hope for greater changes and the creation of a stronger Croatian market so that we do not have to depend only on seasonal tourism.”

Magdalena Markus:I dream about happiness, prosperity, young people creating their lives here, full preschools and schools, my parents in a happy and safe retirement, lots of opportunities, new ideas, businesses and growth in every possible way.”

Monika Branovic:  “I would like us to be able to talk about a more developed Croatia in the future, where young people actually want to stay, because they are the future of this country. In addition, unemployment is still a big problem in Croatia, and lower yields than, say, in developed Germany disrupt the quality of life of Croatian citizens.”

Barbara Sertic: “I think about it often. One day I would like to see more job openings, growing companies, a better relationship between employers and workers. Today, young people are ambitious and hardworking, and I think that is exactly why all this will come true.”

Tea Kranjec: “When I imagine Croatia in the future, I see a lot of young educated people, even a lot of them who left their country in search of a better life, or those who returned to stimulate the Croatian economy for the better with their efforts and work. I see that Croatia does not rely only on tourism, but also invests in other beauties that are currently less prominent. In addition to natural beauties, the work of industries that are currently in the minority and investment in Croatian Railways, which could use their modernised trains to transport people eager for adventure and travel throughout Croatia and beyond, should also be highlighted. And of course, I hope that this whole pandemic will end as soon as possible and return our lives to normal.”

Nikolina Benko: “I would like Croatia to one day be a country where everyone has a chance, and more importantly where people believe that everyone has a chance. Of course, I also hope for a better economic situation because we are a country with really a lot of potential. I would like Croatia to be a country where young people are taken seriously, to be given an opportunity like this in which they can show that they can create new ideas even without experience. Also, a better education system with less theory and more practice because I believe this is still the best way to acquire knowledge.”

Ina Vukic

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