A woman who is one of the leaders of the digital revolution in Montenegro, Natasa Djukanovic is an important figure in the global digital community. While being a mom of three, she is also a mentor and inspiration to her colleagues, as well as an active educator of young people and business professionals on startup strategies, digital business and technology.


Natasa Djukanovic is CMO at .ME Registry, co-founder of an educational web portal digitalizuj.me and Founder of Spark.me international conference, and below she shares with us key personal branding lessons for female entrepreneurs.

As a CMO you have helped catapult the .me domain among the world’s top 20 domains. What’s your superpower?

I’m Wonder Woman! Just kidding. When Montenegro got assigned the .me domain in 2006, the Government realized that we got lucky and that this is something that can be very successfully exploited. We, as Domain.me opened up as business in 2008, when we signed the agreement of managing the national domain name .ME with the Government of Montenegro.

That is how it all began, our small but dedicated team started to build a brand from scratch. This required extensive analysis of our target market, planning the effective strategies for reaching them and, finally, creating a meaning for our brand. And now 7 years later we are one of the leading domain name brands in the world, and a starting point for many great ideas and projects. So maybe my superpower is the ability to recognize the right product and the right people to help me build a successful brand.

Tell us about your other amazing endeavor, the Digitalizuj.me project, another successful brand that has become an entire movement?

When we started Domain.me we understood that we need to unite and grow an internet community, which could in return support and grow our brand. So we joined forces with other influential people from Montenegro and we created the Digitalizuj.me NGO, with the intention of growing and supporting the local tech ecosystem through series of lectures and workshops.

Our main idea was to educate young people about startups and management with the focus on the digital world. This later on translated into another great project developed by Domain.me, the Spark.me conference, which has become one of the biggest technology and business conferences in the Balkans.

Attracting the leading names in the industry, Spark.me has inspired sharing and exchange of ideas, as well as helping to build a stronger digital community in this part of Europe.

As someone who helped creating three major brands and became a brand name herself, what advice would you give to your colleagues who are just starting out?

Well, first of all get rid of the old obsolete rules about branding. Just because you have a unique product it does not mean that public will want it. Emotions are key.

As someone who works in marketing, you need to be able to untangle the intricate web of human emotions that guide the buyers and to create a product that they desire, even if they themselves don’t know it yet. The next step is building the brand. Naturally, most of us do not have the access to big corporate funds for brand development, so how can we do it on a budget. We tell a story. A well told, truthful personal story surrounding your brand can be your ultimate weapon. Finally, create your own community of people who will become your brand evangelists and who you can advise in return. Domain.ME has a whole network of bloggers who are acting as brand ambassadors and spreading our story. It’s more personal than any advertisement could ever be.

In one of your previous interviews you mentioned a conference where 80% of participants were men. As someone who comes from a traditional society, what challenges have you faced as a woman on your way to the top?

IT industry has been male dominated for years, but we live in a new world, where I can say things are changing. There is still room for more women in our industry, but I have to say that the obstacles I have faced during my career have not been different in any way just because I am a woman. Any expert in my position would face the same challenges, and the key to overcoming them is patience and persistence, as with everything else in life. This is something that I had to learn the hard way, being a very temperamental person and having trouble when it comes to timely reactions.

I’ve personally had more issues with my traditional upbringing, and the ability to overcome some uncomfortable business situations. For example discussing kiss.me domain with five serious, older, male executives without blushing. These days I am used to dealing with all situations and people, considering that I spend at least one third of my time organizing and attending conferences, networking and promoting my brands.

Being a successful woman on the go, what are some things that you just can’t leave the house without?

Oh actually there are only a few, so I can always carry a small bag. For starters I can’t live without my technology. My IPhone and IPad are a must. If you are wondering why Apple, it’s simple, speed. Most of the time I need to do several things at the same time, from having a web conferences while making lunch to talking to my kids on my way to the airport, and these devices enable me to complete these multiple tasks without having to take a break. And considering that I don’t stop, you will rarely see me without my phone. Another thing that never leaves my bag is a pack of band-aids, ever since my kids were little, I’ve always carried one, and I do still, believe it or not my colleagues are quite grateful for this little detail.

Finally, what keeps you motivated to explore new professional frontiers?

I must admit that I’m happy to be in the digital branding industry, because it’s so dynamic and so full of opportunities for creative individuals. Potential success in realizing a unique idea is definitely something that has kept me motivated throughout the years; achieving something grander such as inspiring or educating other people along the way is a bonus factor.

Thanks to Natasa Djukanovic for the interview!

Sarah Green is a tech journalist and blogger covering the latest trends in the world of technology and business. Interested in startups, business innovation and entrepreneurial ideas, Sarah looks for the writing inspiration in the great work of tech industry professionals.

I hate that ‘elevator in the morning’ feeling. That feeling you have when you get in that lift ride going to work thinking, ‘here we are’. I hated that feeling when I was in a normal working environment and I knew that’s the thing I wanted to break away from as a culture and a business. I never want myself or anyone working for me to get that sinking feeling when they’re coming to work and I don’t think it breeds innovative thinking.


A self-confessed ‘multipotentialite’, Petrina’s role in her businesses highlights her diverse career background and passion for empathetic creativity. From a background in business development and marketing, Petrina Buckley applies her multi-skilled background to designing training and development courses through Magneto Communications and Credosity. Magneto Communications is a live online and classroom based business-writing organisation taking copyrighting psychology and applying it to business writing training. Credosity meets busy professionals’ demand for just in time learning through real-time analysis of your writing and tailored tips on structure, logic, audience engagement and persuasiveness.

Petrina gives us an overview of how she has built her successful career and the challenges and rewards of having your own business.

Tell us the Petrina story. How did you get to where you are today?

I think about this all the time. There’s a whole language around being an artist versus being an entrepreneur. I think those two worlds are very close to each other and my mind was centred more on being an artist but I’ve always had a big passion for business. I was unfortunately born into a house that didn’t understand what business was and there was no role models but it was something that I clearly had an interest in.

I found my way via art because that was the world I hung out in throughout my 20s with artists, filmmakers and people doing the unconventional. What emerged for me was that I liked to be more in control of the outcome so artistry became entrepreneurialism. After being in the art world you realise how much easier it is to operate in the business world. In the art and entrepreneurial world ambiguity is everywhere. You have theories, passions, interests and intent but the outcome has more ambiguity than you could ever imagine.

I started out in events marketing for nightclubs and that sort of space, which is hilarious given I am the biggest health junkie on earth. I don’t know how I ended up there but quickly went ‘that’s not for me’. I did learn in that space there’s a lot of hustlers. If you want to hang out with a lot of hustlers, go and hang out in the nightclubs space. This was in my early, early 20s. Just hanging around them I learnt a lot about business because I would have to work with the founder, as they’d open up new nightclubs or new hotels that were pretty big scale projects. You saw first hand what it was taking [to build] from the ground up so it was a good learning curve and I think that’s why I hung around because it was so fast paced.

As soon as you’re in hospitality you learn a very fast cadence of delivery on everything. Every night that restaurant is open breakfast, lunch and dinner and there’s events on all the time – there’s no stopping, it’s 24/7 every day of the year, it just keeps rolling and you learn to keep rolling no matter what. As much as I look back at it and go ‘cringe’ at the same time I can get the lessons were around delivery. You had to consistently crank out something new and stepping it up to the next level. It always had to be layer upon layer.

How did you and Paul get the idea to start Magneto Communications?

Magneto started about ten years ago [in] 2005. Paul [Jones] and I had known each other for years but came together when he had a client who booked a training course in three weeks time and Paul hadn’t built the IP yet to deliver the training course but he’d already got the cheque. Paul said ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t put it together’ and I said ‘I can put it together, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing- I know I can do this. I’ll help you build that first program’. Paul been working for the Australian Institute of Management so it’s not like he hadn’t done it before, he just hadn’t done it for himself though so he hadn’t built his own version.

I remember just lots of pieces of paper out on the unit floor just frantic all night really running up against time and we put it together in the three weeks. The client had already paid, the feedback was fantastic and we went ‘maybe we’ve got a business here’ and really that was it. That’s the exact way you should build a services business – sell first, build the marketing… the one-pager ‘here’s what you’re going to get on the day’ and then build the business. Paul was doing copyrighting at the time and I was doing all sorts of projects – a lot of values exploration workshops for Diabetes Australia and corporate clients so we both kept the day jobs and kept [building] up the business.

Paul also had another business at the time called the Last Thursday Club, a networking group in Sydney and that was just starting to take off as well so I came in and started shaping that into a business. So that’s usually what I do is I come in and create the order and the systems and I’m a bit of an all rounder. We took [the Last Thursday Club] up to the next level over two years. Then we sold it because Magneto had built up. We’d got some great corporate clients, the promise was there and we needed to focus. We got out of the events game but took that learning into our corporate training business.

The 7-year itch…

Fast-forward to 2013/2014…the business had grown and we had a really strong corporate client base. It was a year where we had definitely got the 7-year itch with the business. I think it’s a real thing in relationships and business. It usually comes at 7 or 10 years they say and I think we got it at 7. We went look ‘it’s renovate or detonate’. We knew we wanted to step up to the next level.

We had dabbled in e-learning and online learning and all of it was great but it wasn’t sticking, not just because the business wasn’t sticking but I believed more in just-in-time learning where you work alongside the habit that people already have. That’s how we ended up building Credosity for Microsoft Word because our clients were clearly enterprise and government. That’s who had the pain – managers inside those businesses having to review other peoples’ work or having to just be embarrassed by what was going out on behalf of the business. That’s why they [corporate clients] would come to us to get the training. It was about rethinking learning, identifying existing habits and creating a better learning experience for those existing habits when clients were back at their desks.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Being a non-technical founder in a technology company, it’s been a disadvantage and an advantage. The disadvantage is you are reliant on getting incredible people around you that know the technology and you can trust to make incredibly built to last decisions.

Enterprise software is tough,anyone will say that. Getting that right and developing it in a way that is built to last that can keep up in very rapidly changing landscape [is challenging]. It’s never been a better time to be building on Microsoft.

Rewind two years ago and people would say ‘Microsoft? There’s so many other cool options out there’. Now I think those people have very rapidly been proven wrong because Microsoft has an incredible pace to it now that was never there two and a half to three years ago. The disadvantage is making sure you understand the technology and you’re focused in the right way. I now know more about enterprise deployment than I ever thought.

The upside is I’m more people focused than technology focused; it’s a huge advantage because smart human software cannot be developed without the empathy piece, without the people piece. That’s what we found, a lot of the solutions out there we would look at them and go ‘that’s just developed by developers for developers and no human could look at this and make sense of it’. It was either too much or too technical and it didn’t have the type of design thinking I can appreciate. I was just seeing something that your average user in a corporate, the type of person we’re trying to help, would open it and go ‘this is not for me’. It was overwhelming and confusing.

We wanted to use the people side as being the advantage of having no idea about the tech. I now know things I never thought I would know or needed to know but apparently I know way more than I thought I could ever imagine about enterprise deployment. You want people to be using it so you have to work through all the roadblocks and build your own knowledge until you understand it so it was a huge learning curve.

And the Rewards…

Many many many! Financial reward is the one that people think ‘that’s going to be the reward’ and it will fix nothing. I’ve had some extreme first hand experience of that not fixing a thing for a friend who has got plenty of it. I can think of two guys who I’ve been particularly close with, one was someone I worked with and the other a close friend. I just got some up close and personal experience with the hell they were in thinking that was going to be the important one. I had the benefit of learning from their mistakes and I know not to pursue that. I shift that [focus] in my head and we’re always making investments so I want a healthy profitable business and I never want that to change because I think that’s what’s sustainable.

Beyond that what I think you get as the biggest reward has been the personal learning and the opportunity and freedom when you get an idea and you can actually implement that idea. You go ‘I actually think we should go do this’ and you don’t have to check that off with anybody else or I don’t have to write a board paper. There’s no red tape, there’s just go, and I love that freedom. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge that as much as I should and go ‘that’s pretty cool’. There’s no handbrake I hate handbrakes and I hate people who are handbrakes too, unless it’s sensible. I don’t like the emotional handbrake or the real world handbrake and I think that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you too. I go ‘we’ve got to step on the gas over here and even if I slam into the wall that’s okay, I’ll own it.’

How do you stay focused?

The biggest thing I ever did and this was a long time ago, probably 12 years ago, I got really clear about my values and articulated those. They’ve changed a few times as I’ve understood myself better. Working that out and actually knowing for you ‘these are my unshakable, don’t mess with me, don’t cross the line parts of my life’ will help make and shape your decisions.

My three fundamental values that I keep coming back to are health, family and business in that order. If things are wobbly, you have to come back to the moment and assess where your core values are at seeing if you’ve let anything ago and being able to turn that into action the next day. I’ll ask myself have I exercised this week? Are we having enough family time? Where are we at? What do we need to do?

And being clear that business is number three and keeping that in perspective. I’m borderline workaholic and I love to work.

What is the future for Magneto and Credosity?

That Magneto becomes the enterprise communication standard and we are a model that is best practice. When someone sits down to write something important or wants to evolve their communication skills, they turn to Credosity as a source of learning and trusted advisor to help them.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

  1. Don’t wait for permission.
  2. Follow and trust your instinct.
  3. Don’t worry about what everyone else says.
  4. Worry about what’s right for you, not what is right for the rest of the world.
  5. Hurry up!
  6. Know yourself; know that you’re worth it.
  7. Get going and don’t look back.

Thanks to Petrina for sharing her insights with Leaders in Heels!

Images via Petrina Buckley.

Nicola Smith

Nicola Smith is a research and policy analyst with experience in the property and technology industries. Nicola is eager to learn and thrives on intellectual challenge ensuring this translates into informative content for Leaders in Heels’ readers. Her goal- to create the informative career content that you’re grateful to receive from a mentor, colleague or friend.

Perhaps you’ve seen a hashtag going around called #ILookLikeAnEngineer. Perhaps you know the story behind it. Isis Anchalee Wenger, a full-stack software engineer, was one of the employees featured in a recruitment ad for her company. What followed were many comments saying that the girl in the ad had to be a model, and she couldn’t possibly be an actual engineer in the company. Because as we all know, being pretty precludes females from that particular field of work.

But the brilliant part is what Isis did with the attention. She started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag, encouraging other engineers to take part and show the world their diversity. These days, most engineers in all fields don’t fall into the nerd-image stereotypes we’re so used to imagining, and a decent number definitely don’t fall under the category of male!

We talk a lot about getting more girls and women into STEM subjects, but it’s going to remain talk for as long as these stereotypes are perpetuated. There seems to be an impression that if you like fashion, or are artistically inclined, or are ‘cool’ in some way, then you’re not the type to do STEM subjects. We need to examine our unconscious biases, culturally conditioned thoughts such as:

  • How women working in tech-heavy roles are ‘rare’, or ‘incredible’, or considered unique above men in some way. Don’t get me wrong – yes, it’s wonderful having women in such roles. But how can we convince our daughters or granddaughters that they are as capable as men in those fields when it’s ‘special’ women who do those jobs?
  • How art and STEM are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and you can only be good at one or the other. This is one I hear commonly, and it’s completely untrue. Just because you may be artistically inclined doesn’t mean you can’t process the logic required for mathematical proof or a piece of code, or conduct scientific experiments around a central hypothesis. One of my civil engineer friends I know is currently working on her own fashion line!
  • How careers in STEM mean stepping into a ‘men’s world’. Yes, there are still a disproportionate amount of men in those fields compared to females, and there are many workplaces where being female is a disadvantage. The problem is, the term sets the expectation that as females, we need to accept certain behaviours or comments as ‘the cost of being in a men’s world’, and that is already starting on the wrong foot. STEM careers are usually harder for females, but the world is just as much theirs! I wonder how many young girls have been discouraged from STEM subjects for this reason?

Looking like an engineer doesn’t mean that you need to be a special kind of female, or a creature of logic, or ‘one of the boys’. It doesn’t mean that you should be geeky, or pretty, or cool, or any of those other labels we place on people.

Looking like an engineer simply means you have a curiosity about how things work, whether it be the chemistry behind a reaction, the 1’s and 0’s that make things appear on your screen, the structures that make buildings stay upright, or even the numbers that make the world move, among other things.

If we want to encourage more of our daughters and sisters and nieces and granddaughters and goddaughters to get interested STEM subjects, then we need to tell them in both the words we say and the words we don’t say that engineering, or STEM in general, is just like any other career they may pursue – and that it doesn’t matter what they look like. Being a Leader in Heels is just as possible in the lab or in the field as it is in an office!

To finish, let me give you some of my story. I graduated as a Mechatronic engineer – think robotics. I work with code in my day job, and have done so for a large chunk of my career. Oh, and I also write novels (one will be published next year!), and have a large wardrobe bursting at the seams with clothes. Yes, #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

Do you look like an engineer, or know someone who does? Tell us about them in the comments!

Here are some of the other people proudly declaring that they too look like engineers – beginning with Isis, who started it all!


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