My experience at a young age inspired me to do the work that I do now - making a change in the world.

Meet Vedrana Pantic, our Project Manager as part of “Meet Our Mentors” Series hosted by Impact By Women. While she is not a mentor for our team she ensures the smooth running of our program.

I’m Mahtab Namakian, designer at Impact By Women. This role has given me the opportunity to work closely with women entrepreneurs. As an Iranian American woman, this means a lot to me because I have seen many inspiring and talented women in Iran wanting to follow their passion but lacking the courage and resources to achieve their goals. My desire to capture their stories inspired this series called “Meet Our Mentors”. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Vedrana holds an MA in International Relations and 6+ years of professional focus to develop, lead, and successfully execute projects, plans, partnerships, and strategies with mission-driven organizations. Living, working, and studying experience in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia have allowed Vedrana to work on a range of issues including gender equality. In addition to her international experience, her personal experience of being a female refugee in the U.S. at a young age has led her to focus her work on closing the gender gap starting at home (the U.S.), because the U.S. is a role model to the rest of the world. Vedrana uses her advanced skills in project management to help Impact by Women accomplish that goal one step at a time.

MN: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

VP: I am from Bosnia, a small country in southeast Europe. At the age of 11, my family and I sought refuge in the U.S. I was blessed to have had that opportunity. My experience at a young age inspired me to do the work that I do now, making a change in the world.

Experience in domestic and international companies and mission-driven organizations allowed me to possess the knowledge to transform ideas into practice. From project management to fundraising, event planning, analysis, research, and continuing my focus on gender inequality and economic development, has led me to what I’m doing at Impact by Women.

MN: What part of your work inspires you and why?

VP: After doing years of work abroad, I wanted to shift my focus to home, the U.S. I’ve come to realize that we need to start in our own backyard. In the U.S. we are also dealing with gender equity. By changing that here, as an example for the rest of the world, I believe it will have a greater global impact.

If we empower women and if women have a say when it comes to decision-making, whether it’s in business, politics, or at home, the world will become better and more prospering. Working for a company such as Impact by Women gives me that hope. Even though it will not be an overnight change, all great things take time. We are doing it, we’re making a difference.

My background, struggles, and experiences inspired me to do what I am doing now — give back by helping others overcome their challenges.

MN: Why do you want to work with women entrepreneurs?

VP: In the past, I’ve had experience helping women in developing countries start small businesses so they could become independent, help their families, or put their kids in school. I find women entrepreneurs to be very strong, bold, and inspiring. With gender inequality, it’s tough to be a woman in the workplace let alone a female business owner. We must change that.

MN: What are you looking forward to as Project Manager at Impact by Women?

VP: First, I am thrilled to be working with Shalini, an inspiring leader. Shalini has become an inspiration, someone I look up to. She’s strong, driven, and puts her ideas into action. She’s been a great mentor.

Second, being able to work with women entrepreneurs is very exciting to me. I’m inspired by how they’re able to push through and want to make that difference by being an example for the younger generation. Being able to help these women is rewarding but at the same time, I’m learning a lot from them as well. I look forward to continuing working with these women and learning to be as strong as they are.

MN: What are the challenges you’ve faced as an Immigrant?

VP: Becoming an adult at a really young age. When we moved to the U.S., no one in my family knew English. Since I started school right away, I was forced to learn fast. This meant that I took on certain responsibilities that my parents were limited to. Taking my parents to the doctors’ appointments, translating any bills or documents, taking phone calls, attending job interviews with them, completing job applications, applying for housing, contacting insurance, maintenance, phone companies, anything that needed to be done in the house. While it was a challenge at the time, it was also an advantage that helped me thrive and learn these things ahead of my peers.

MN: How has COVID impacted your life?

VP: Before the COVID year, I had dealt with a lot of personal challenges. As I was finally recovering, the pandemic hit, and I felt stuck. Just as I was coming out of a tough year in hope, new plans, and a positive mindset, the pandemic not only affected me but also everyone around me, and I began to lose hope. It was tough at first but I decided to accept another challenge and see how I can turn it into something positive.

Impact by Women started at the beginning of 2020 and as things were rolling out, we had to put everything on pause due to the pandemic. Not long after that, we realized that we did not need to stop, instead, we began working harder and faster because we knew if we were to give up, we’d fail those who need us. Therefore, things began to fall into place even faster than before.

Also, I took this opportunity to take online classes to advance my knowledge and career. With an opportunity to work and study remotely, I was able to visit my father abroad and spend several months with him during the tough times of the pandemic.

MN: What would you advise your younger self?

VP: Putting myself out there. After moving to the U.S. I kept myself back from things because of certain barriers; language barriers, cultural differences, fitting in, etc. Looking back, I missed out on a lot. For example, not trying out for sports while in high school and college, not applying to better colleges because I did not think I was smart enough, and such. Finding work after college was a challenge as well because I felt since English was not my first language and there were cultural differences, I was not competitive enough to land a role.

Putting yourself out there, trying new things, not saying no to challenges, not underestimating yourself is critical. If there’s a will, there’s a way, that’s what I’ve learned over the years. It is the best way that you will find who you are, what you love, and where you belong.

MN: What’s your hope for the future?

VP: My hope for the future is for a better and more equal world for all. I think that we all, as a person or an organization, have to do our part to make the world a better place. Sometimes we think what can we, as an individual, do? I think that’s where it starts. If everyone did a little bit on their own, together, we could make a greater impact.

Meet the Designer :

Mahtab is a UX and Product Designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, who recently graduated from California College of the Arts with a Master’s in Interaction Design. She is motivated and driven by identifying innovative approaches and improved solutions to connect and empower people. She is inspired by people’s stories and constantly tries to find opportunities to dive deep into understanding their motivations, intentions, attitudes, and needs. She believes in thinking empathetically, sharing humbly, and working collaboratively.

Product Designer and Storyteller based in the San Francisco Bay area. The following is the “Meet Our Mentor” Series for Impact by Women.