Periša Ražnatović, IBEI alumni 2011-12
1. Why did you choose IBEI Master's programmes?
It wasn’t really my choice! As part of the Mundus MAPP program, I selected the IBEI track because I wanted to put the knowledge I acquired about global development at ISS (the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague) into an international relations context. Politics and development turn out to be deeply interrelated, so IBEI was the perfect place to build up my knowledge about world affairs. But the main reason I selected it was proximity to the beach!
2. What was your experience at IBEI?
A sense of coziness. During my time there, IBEI was in a historical building in the centre of Barcelona. Narrow 16th century hallways and modern classrooms ensured a kind of intimacy among teachers and students that enabled an interactive exchange of ideas and opinions and sometimes even impassioned debates.
3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI
During the recess between the two semesters, totally by chance I found an internship at a small international NGO called Worldreader that had just moved into its first office around the corner from IBEI. Their main focus was providing educational tools for teachers and children in rural Ghana. The intersection between technology and education, as well as business and social work, attracted me to this bunch of geeks who were determined to change the world. My internship turned into a full-time research position and, as the organization grew, I began to manage my own programs. Steadily, I improved my knowledge and expanded my experience in the fast-paced world of education and technology.
4. What is your professional experience (your current position, your main functions)?
I was just recently promoted into the position of Director for Lifelong Learning with Worldreader. Over the past couple of years, I have been working with a group of super-talented individuals to develop mobile apps and services that enable people around the world to improve their literacy levels and reading habits. This work took me from the narrow streets of Stone Town in Zanzibar and the slums of New Delhi to the headquarters of Facebook in California and UNESCO in Paris and back to Barceloneta where I made my home.
5. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?
If I were asked this question four years ago after I finished the coursework, I’d say – it didn’t! It took me a couple of years before I flipped through my old IBEI notes just to find stuff that I needed for my work. Whether they were scribbles on logic frames or essays on new technologies in international development, my IBEI notebooks are still a good reference point for my work.
6. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?
To be honest, I couldn’t really imagine I would find work so close to what I wrote about in my thesis – the relationship between mobile phone usage and human development. I guess I was lucky that Worldreader co-founders met in a coffee shop in Barcelona a year earlier and decided to start an NGO that uses technology to support education in the poorest countries of the world. Ever since, I’ve been growing together with Worldreader, both professionally and emotionally.
7. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?
I’d suggest they start looking for professional internships the moment the school year starts. Internships help test one’s theoretical knowledge against the realities of the everyday world. The experience also enriches one’s studies because you know what is being talked about in class, and have something to contribute yourself.
8. What do you miss most about the IBEI?
The people. The relatively small size of the institute enabled me to develop close relationships with my peers. Although I’m happy to see many of them succeeding in their career choices, I miss the days when we were coming up with the best excuses for being late to class. Like I said, it’s all about the beach!