SEARCH FOR OPPORTUNITIES AND LUCK COMES AS A SIDE EFFECT
Žan Tratar is an energetic and positive person who is finishing the IMB program at the School of Economics and Business Ljubljana University, but has already stepped into the world of Nike as an intern. Nevertheless, his dream doesn’t stop just here. Take a moment and read the interview with Žan – you will be inspired to follow your dreams and get some international experience.
Žan tell us, where does your story begin?
It is hard to say – I wasn’t sure what I would like to do after High School. First, I applied at the Faculty of Sports as well as the Faculty of Medicine to become a physiotherapist, but soon I have realized this is not for me. Nevertheless, I always knew sports is going to be a big part of my life. So I decided to study at the School of Economics and Business – never regretted this decision though.
So back to the question. I would say that my story began when I joined a student association Povezani EF. That is the time when I kind of found myself and started working on my professional as well as personal growth. By the way, I really recommend everyone to join a student association – you meet new people and start gaining some practical experience.
One important piece of the puzzle in my life is also the Erasmus exchange at the Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics. I went there with two of my friends and honestly, Darja (from the SEB LU International relations office) was a bit doubtful how we would manage since we were not the best students. But we did it!
Erasmus exchange is one of the best experiences you’ll have in life. Believe me, nobody will regret it. Just imagine – you get the money to go and live somewhere else. It’s unforgettable. You meet tons of new people, you get inspired, and most importantly you go out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons.
Seems like the Erasmus exchange was a big moment in your life. Did it inspire you in some other ways as well?
Yes, I met my girlfriend during the exchange. Super beautiful and also an excellent student. At that moment I said to myself: “Okay now I need to up my game. I can’t be just a student anymore, I need to start doing something else.” So, I gave my best.
I was working as a Sales and Marketing Associate in Postojna Cave and got super lucky that my first mentor was Marjan Batagelj – one person I admire the most in Slovenia. He taught me everything.
I was indeed a bit lucky, but I am always saying that you cannot get lucky if you are not searching for it. So my advice would be “Search for opportunities and luck comes as a side effect!”
With that mindset, I managed to get into the International Full Time Master Programme in Business and Organization (IMB) at SEB LU, and I loved it.
If you would have to describe the IMB program in one word, what would it be?
First of all, the professors were amazing. You get the opportunity to get closer to them because you study and work in a small group of around 30 – 40 students. We were like a family. I could start crying right now if I recall all the moments we spent together.
Especially big kudos to Polona Domadenik and all the other professors – they’re doing an amazing job. The IMB program even made it into the Financial Times Top 100.
We all can be so proud of ourselves. Slovenia as a country as well as the people are underestimating ourselves – but we are tough and hardworking. It just feels that sometimes we lack motivation because we are afraid.
It seems like the IMB program really encourages its students to step out of their comfort zones. So what was your next step? Where are you now?
My biggest passion in life is football. I was playing football for various clubs, but I knew I didn’t want to risk everything and become a full-time professional player. I knew I wasn’t the best on the team, but the love for football stayed in me and I always knew it’s gonna be a big part of my life.
One thing I will always remember from the IMB program is, how they encouraged us to do what we are passionate about. Everyone wanted to work in investment banking, consulting, pharmacy, finances, or whatever – but for me, it was always football. I wouldn’t say everyone was laughing at me, but it was clear Žan = football.
The first idea was to get into a football club Maribor or Olimpija – I thought “Okay that’s something I can achieve”. But then the horizon opened and my goal was to work for UEFA. I said to myself, “Maybe I can, maybe there is a path”. We had our final trip with IMB to Switzerland where we visited FIFA. That is the moment when I realized I don’t want to work for such an organization – I didn’t like the working environment. I wanted to work in a more creative environment. That realization led me to work for Nike, but we will come to that later.
So you had a great passion for football and a clearly defined goal with new motivation to achieve it. What helped you reach the next step?
At IMB we had this mentorship program where I got a wonderful mentor. She supported me on my way and connected me with a guy who is working at Nike. She gave me his number and told me to text him right away. I connected with him on Linkedin and asked him if we can talk – he took one whole hour for me. And honestly, afterward, I was sold.
He gave me an important piece of advice. He said, “Žan you have a really germanic style CV, it looks nice, everything cool, but come on be more creative and think out of the box.”
So my advice – be creative, do something different, and don’t close yourself in a box. Imagine, those companies receive thousands of CVs, so how will you stand out? How will you make an HR person look at your CV more carefully? Create a CV that will pop in their eyes – don’t be ordinary, stand out from the crowd.
I listened to his advice and I got the interview at Nike. This was yet another new beginning and another piece of the puzzle.
A good CV and motivation letter are the first two steps. Can you tell us more about the selection process?
The selection process at Nike consists of 3 levels. Firstly, you have a pre-recorded video interview, secondly, you have to present your skills in a business case and finally, you have a live video interview with company representatives.
After you submit your CV and a motivational letter, they send you a link to a pre-recorded video interview, where you do not speak to anyone but the computer. You need to log in to a system and there will be a series of pre-recorded questions you need to answer in 4 minutes.
After every level of the selection process, you receive a call from the Nike recruiter, informing you if you made it to the next round. Every time that happened my heart started pumping. But I made it and at the last interview, I even met my manager.
For every part of the selection process, I have really prepared myself and sought out help from my friends and professors, because I wanted to be perfect.
How did you feel when you find out you got the role as an EMEA Football Brand & Sales Intern at Nike European Headquarters and what are your responsibilities?
I could say it was the best Christmas gift ever. It was in December 2019 when Lena, the recruiter at Nike, called me and said “Žan you got the role”. I simply couldn’t believe it. Out of 7.400 applicants, they accepted only 80 and only 3 in the football field.
Don’t forget as a student you can also apply for an Erasmus+ scholarship which gives you financial support to live and work in a foreign country. After I had everything prepared I moved to the Netherlands and started my internship in February 2020.
Currently, I’m leading a project, with the help of 20 people, called Player Direct Offense. We are creating outfits for our most valuable players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and, Ada Hegerberg and also supporting the EMEA brand team on the operational stuff (seeding the players, clubs, supporting brand campaigns, photoshoots, etc.).
What was your first impression of stepping into the Nike world?
There are 3 things you need to know about Nike:
- Everybody is super friendly and they encourage you to present your ideas and grow professionally as well as personally.
- On special occasions, even famous football stars come to the campus and you have the opportunity to meet them.
- Dress code at Nike – just wear something comfortable. You can come to work in a Nike tracksuit or a jersey.
So it is like a casual Friday every day. Nice! In conclusion – what would be your advice for students who are just starting their careers?
“Just do it and dream big!”
Set big goals because only then you will have the courage to actually achieve them. Find opportunities that will enhance your CV. Even at our School, you can start acquiring the competencies you will need to enter the labor market. Join an association, start working beside your studies, and take every opportunity that comes your way.