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Success | An Interview with Bojana Ćorilić

Success | An Interview with Bojana Ćorilić

We all face numerous obstacles and challenges on the road to success or achieving a goal. However, what we consider a "goal" can vary greatly depending on our current stage of life. While we often talk and read about business goals, accomplishments and challenging hurdles to overcome, sometimes we overlook the fact that for someone else, success might look a lot different.

As part of recognizing Women’s History Month in March and highlighting the achievements of women throughout the year, we wanted to share some of the “success stories” behind our technologists, creators and engineers at EPAM. We heard many inspiring stories, and this next one shares a tale of success, determination and immeasurable strength from a woman who faced challenges and obstacles far from what we're used to.

Software Engineer Bojana Ćorilić’s story is one of inspiration and provides a push forward and proof that no matter what we face, it always pays off to keep our chin up, stand up tall and say "I can do this." After a deep personal tradgey struck her, the concepts of "obstacle" and "success" took on a completely different meaning for her overnight. 
Here's how Bojana introduced us to her story: 
“I have always loved challenges, and since I have an older brother who works in software development, it seemed interesting as a career path, and I decided to try it. In 2014, I enrolled in the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad, majoring in software engineering and information technology. At the time, there weren’t many women on that course, and for the first time, I encountered some stereotypes associated with the term "women in programming." However, it never bothered me; it only motivated and encouraged me to learn even more and prove myself.

However, my journey was "interrupted" in the summer of 2016, when I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time and was severely injured in a public shooting. Even today, I do not know, and no one could officially tell me how many bullets passed through me that evening, but still, my time was not up. I felt that I wanted to live, even though the prognosis was not good. Doctors had to amputate my left leg to save my life, and my right arm was also injured.

Today, I say that July 2, the day of this event is my second birthday—the day I was born again. After a week in a coma, I had to start learning everything from scratch. After being taken off the machines, I had to learn how to breathe, sit and then walk. I had to start everything from the very beginning, and it was difficult. My recovery was long, both physically and mentally. I spent about a year in various hospitals, fighting to return to "normal" life. I worked on myself all the time. I went through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, depression, acceptance and happiness. These five stages are experienced by everyone who experiences tragedy in life. It is entirely normal and necessary to go through them to be able to move forward.

Throughout my journey, I received enormous support. My family and friends were with me, but even people I did not know sent me messages and videos of support every day, and it really meant a lot to me. Even if I wanted to give up, I could not because they kept pushing me. And when I could not do it alone, they gave me strength and I will forever be grateful to them.

In addition to their support, I also had the help of a psychologist. I am most grateful to my mom and my psychologist for convincing me in 2017 that I should return to college. That was the biggest turning point for me, and that is when my former self—a cheerful, and sociable Bojana—returned.” 

After taking the first (new) steps, you faced other challenges you had to overcome, and you wanted to encourage others as well. What happened during that time? 
After all that time in hospitals, I had to return to my life. Everything was different, but I believed there was a way to overcome everything, and I just had to find the right path. For example, architectural barriers are all around us. An abled person may not notice them, but they are everywhere. Today, they are not a big problem for me because I learned how to overcome them.

I graduated from the engineering and IT program and enrolled in a master's program. I started traveling again. I passed my driver's license test and became an active driver. I got a job and fell in love. I have made a lot of progress in these last few years, and I am very proud of myself.

While I was in the hospital, I started using Instagram. There, I communicated with other people having prostheses and found the help and support I needed. I decided to become a support for others, so after recovery, I opened a profile "strength girl," where I shared my experiences and achievements. I felt that I was helping others and it made me happy.

You’ve told us about how you got into the IT world, but could you tell us more about your professional development? 

I like solving logical problems and tasks, so programming was a natural fit for me. During my master's studies, one of the courses included an internship, and that is how I ended up at Vivify Ideas (later acquired by EPAM). I did well during my internship, so I was offered a job. I was hardworking and persistent, and as a result, I quickly progressed. I have great colleagues from whom I have learned a lot and continue to learn from to this day. I worked as a full-stack developer, working with various programming languages and frameworks.  

Tell us more about your current role at EPAM, how satisfied you are with the work environment, and your plans for further development. 

Currently, as a full-stack developer, I work on all parts of the project—both front-end and back-end. I write tests and participate in development. For technologies, I use Flask (Python), React, and AWS with various services like Lambdas, Sqs, Sns, Cognito, Sftp, S3, Rds, CloudWatch and more. 
I am delighted with the work environment and have great colleagues. I mostly work from home, and that option means a lot to me, but I also try to come to the office occasionally. I really like that the working hours are flexible. This is a huge benefit because it allows me to do other things in the morning and start work later or start earlier and leave time in the afternoon for other obligations.

Regarding my professional development, I take advantage of the opportunities available at EPAM, so I am currently improving my Python skills through the Python mentorship program and plan to advance to a senior position in that field. This program has been beneficial in filling the gaps in my knowledge.

Since we use AWS a lot on our current project, I have also completed a very useful AWS course. I plan to take more AWS courses and obtain an AWS certificate in the future. 

Is there anything you would like to share with other people who are facing similar challenges that you have gone through?

Never give up, and just keep pushing forward. Things are not always what they seem at first glance. Everything can be considered from multiple perspectives, and you need to find the right one. With time, everything will become easier, and everything will come when it is supposed to. Believe in yourself and believe that you can achieve anything you desire. It is essential to keep trying and to always get back up and continue forward whenever you fall. You can learn something from every failure, and hard work will always pay off.

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