In the tech world, HR departments typically take on multiple functions. In addition to the usual stuff – staff recruitment and employee assistance – they often communicate with clients, learn various tech domains, and generally participate in business development. 

The Brightly HR Director Mirjana Parpura-Đorđević has done all the above in several industries, with several variations within the IT field. As we’re still in the Women’s History Month, we sat down with her for a wonderful interview about her career path in HR. 

Q: Bonjour, Mirjana, quoi de neuf? What’s up? 

Bonjour, Pavle. I’m in the middle of several HR and tech projects because Brightly is acquiring some new clients, so it’s time to get things going.  

Q: If you wonder why we’ve asked you the first question in French: you finished the French studies at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, right? Have you ever worked as a teacher? 

Yes, I worked as French teacher immediately after I finished my French studies. 
I also had some translation projects at that time; used to translate some short movies about culture.  

Q: Speaking of the French culture, do you have any specific works from their (pop) culture you’d like to recommend? 

My favorite French band was and still is Noir Désir, and I loved the works of Bunuel, especially the Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie.  

As for the newer titles, my favorite French movie is The Untouchables. 

Q: That one’s beautiful. Now, how did you decide to enter the world of business? 

I was lucky because Societe Générale had opened their offices in Serbia a few years before that. They had an interesting job ad, so I gave it a go and they didn’t give me a no – I started working at this bank as an HR Administration professional. 

Q: So, you didn’t join the softship troopers immediately after your teaching stint but had a pit stop in the banking sector. Was it compelling for you to acquire a corporate mindset?  

When I entered the HR area, I was a mediator between adults. And that was only one portion of my obligations back then.  

I started in the Administration department, but I was quickly given a fair share of HR work. And then, there were always some interpersonal things I had to handle.  

Q: When did you decide to leave finance and switch to IT? What were your drivers at that point?  

I felt it was time to move on. I gathered the necessary experience and wanted to try something different. In that period, my personal life was at an interesting point – I gave birth to my daughter – so, all the vectors worked for me to make another shift. 

Q: How was your beginning as the Head of HR and Administration department at youngculture (then and now Createq)?  

The sole HR operations were relatively similar, but the industries are different. I had to learn more about the relevant technical domains, technologies, programming languages, and software development lifecycle.  

Now I know what it means to hire a React developer or work with the DevOps department but back then it was all Greek to me.  

At first, the company director and I oversaw all operations, from recruitment and sales to closing deals and monitoring the projects in question.  

It was a steep learning curve, but I enjoyed it. 

Q: When you compare your tasks in the banking industry and the workload you encountered in the IT field, what’s similar, and what’s completely different? 

Banks are large systems. There are many procedures, many stakeholders, and decision-making takes time.  

When I was interviewed for the HR position at youngculture (then, later Createq), I got immediately hooked. Starting from the setting itself – a simpler office with barely 30 people hanging around, unlike the bank. You know what banks look like – those corporate business premises with glass fronts and marble floors.  

For me, starting a new career course in such a relaxed environment was invigorating.  

The great thing was that I was included in building a large IT system from a startup. I was the only HR specialist at that company when they hired me.  

So, I had a lot on my plate – apart from the meals, which were also great – interviewing new candidates, creating and implementing HR policies and procedures, communicating with clients, helping the directors in their work, sorting out issues between employees. 

It was a Swiss company, so my knowledge of French and English helped me a lot in fulfilling my tasks. 

Another fun fact: I came up with the name when the company management decided they needed a new name.  

Q: So far, we’ve seen your career path through pink glasses. Were there any stains on those glasses? What problems did you face at that time? 

Finding the right people for the right project was the most demanding part. Between 2007 and 2014, when the local IT scene was still being shaped, there were fewer software engineers on the market, but the competition was less fierce.  

But the 2014-2021 period was very intensive because many foreign companies opened their branches in Serbia, and we saw the rise of several impactful Serbian companies (BrightMarbles Group included).  

That interval was demanding because there were more openings than qualified developers, so we had to literally combat for every new engineer. 

Q: What about Brightly and BrightMarbles Group made you want to move here?  

At the beginning of 2022, I realized that I was up to something different. 

During my 14 years (and 4 months) at, the company rose from 30 to almost 300 people.

I spearheaded the establishment of the entire HR department, overseeing recruitment, people development, employer branding, internal communications, and HR administration and gave my 100% (as footballers would say) to that enterprise.  

We made tremendous progress, but the startup bug started to itch me, again, so it was time for change. 

Q: As the HR-Director at our Brightly, did you have to unlearn some things you used before and acquire new methodologies, or is it similar?  

Of course, whenever you change your surroundings, you have to adapt. The thing is that I like adaptations.  

Still, this shift was less demanding than when I switched from the banking sector to the IT field.  

The main difference was that it was another fresh start: lifting the company from the seed-stage to the mid-sized business in two years.  

The major challenge here was the crisis in the global IT industry that spilled to the Serbian market. Nenad, me, and the rest of the Brightly crew had to carefully plan every single step we’ve made since the outbreak of the crisis.  

Our key drive was and still is to stay competitive for our international clients and attractive to potential employees. We have reduced the hiring pace in the last year, as well, but the situation has changed in the last few months, and we’re back on the recruitment track. 

I need to highlight the support we’ve received from Boris Berat, the CEO of the entire BrightMarbles Group, to retain our business autonomy and keep operating within this system.  

Q: What does your typical workday (or work week) look like here in Brightly? Do you communicate more with our in-house employees, the C-level, or do you collaborate with clients? 

Everything! And I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Everything we do here at Brightly is innovative because all the stakeholders are keen on continuous improvement. And this isn’t just a saying, but we’re constantly seeking new projects that make a difference.  

To be more precise, we’re always in for softdev projects that can make people’s lives easier. This passion made me and my partners launch Brightly and join forces with BrightMarbles Group to build solutions for a better world.  

Q: It’s Women’s History Month. Given the wonderful career path you’ve had so far, what can you tell us about the position of women in the IT industry in Serbia, from your own experience? 

I’ve never felt any kind of discrimination throughout my entire career. But let’s be fair and say that the IT industry has always been one step ahead of most other fields: open-minded, tolerant, and inclusive, setting an example to other industries. Since I switched to tech, the number of women has been increasing. In the last few years, engineering and technical faculties have become more popular with girls.  

There is one problem, though; even though more girls and women have become interested in programming, we still have more women in the so-called support positions: HR, finance and legal, delivery…  

We must continue with our activities to encourage women of all ages to join the tech sector because they need this boost from industry insiders.  

Q: Last, but not least, what do you do when you’re not strategizing, contemplating, hiring, and counseling?  

Several years ago, we bought a patch of land an hour’s drive from my apartment. When the weather is good, I spend every weekend there, taking care of my trees, flowers, plants, and my garden. I’m not a master gardener but I enjoy my homegrown tomatoes every August.  

About Mirjana 

Mirjana Parpura Đorđević is a senior HR professional, with a rich portfolio of companies where she built HR departments from scratch. 

An all-round biztech HR, Mirjana has exceled in several fields. From banking and IT startup environments to large tech companies, her people skills, ability to learn, and the everlasting drive for progress have shaped a unique HR career.