Social impact is a huge part of what we do at BlackRock, in our day-to-day professional roles as well as in our time outside of the office. We recently spoke with members of the Belgrade office’s Social Impact team – Mina Tmusic, Biljana Boskovic and Maja Jankes – to learn more about their mentoring partnership with a local organization called the SOS Children’s Villages.
From left to right: Biljana Boskovic, Mina Tmusic and Maja Jankes
Tell us about your partnership with the SOS Children’s Villages. What inspired you and your BlackRock colleagues to get involved with the organization?
Mina: After seeing the impact they’re making in Serbia, we knew we wanted to support them and be part of their amazing story. The SOS Children’s Villages in Belgrade has been helping Serbian children and families in need for over fifty years. There are more than 100,000 children living in poverty in Serbia. SOS parents play a critical role in our community, providing care and a loving home for children who cannot live with their families for a variety of reasons. SOS parents educate the children in their care and support them on their path to independence as they grow up.
Our partnership with SOS started in 2019, when a BlackRock colleague from our Social Impact team heard about the organization and invited them to share more about the important work they do.
In addition to impactful donations and involvement in events for the organization, you and several of your BlackRock teammates serve as mentors to SOS children. Can you tell us more about the mentorship program?
Mina: Through our partnership, we learned that SOS has a mentorship program called YouthCan! and we immediately wanted to be a part of it. Young people who are leaving alternative care are especially in need of help. They have fewer opportunities to get professional training; and they are required to be financially independent from an early age compared to their peers who grow up in more traditional family structures.
Maja: The purpose of YouthCan! is to increase the employability of young people without parental care, by including them in the “world of work” through cooperation with partner organizations and companies – like BlackRock – that are ready to offer young people mentoring support, training or professional practice.
Mina: YouthCan! gives young people a chance for a better future. As mentors, we share our knowledge and help support their personal and professional growth. We are currently focused on teaching our mentees English language skills as it’s required for most jobs today.
What kind of knowledge or advice do you strive to impart as a mentor?
Biljana: I try to listen and help my mentees realize how they can achieve their goals – there’s a wide range of possibilities and decisions people can make in their lives to become successful.
Maja and one of her mentees
Maja: I agree. After taking the time to get to know my mentees and their aspirations, I share some of my own struggles from childhood and early in my career that they might be able to relate to or learn from.
Mina: On top of that, the most important advice I give mentees is to put themselves first and take their mental health seriously.
Biljana: That external push and support from a mentor can truly help someone get to the next level – whether it’s personal or professional.
How has this partnership with SOS Children’s Villages impacted you?
Mina: It’s funny how quickly we forget what we were like at the beginning of our careers. I often see myself in my mentees – how quickly I wanted to accomplish a lot of things and how impatient I was. Sometimes over time, the day-to-day work makes you forget where you wanted to be and what you wanted to do. While I’m helping my mentees figure out their professional paths, they have helped remind me about my own career goals and aspirations.
Maja: One of my mentees is a young girl whose sister is living in South Africa, where English is the main spoken language. For the last four months, I have been working closely with her on improving her English skills to help her better communicate with her sister. This young girl is not only studying and working without family support, but also always smiling during our classes. We could all learn from her to appreciate the small or everyday things in our lives.
Biljana: I think that mentoring and supporting younger or less experienced people is our collective duty. Beyond that, supporting someone in their growth and seeing them progress is priceless.
What made you want to join the Belgrade office’s Social Impact team? What made you choose to take on a leadership role in co-chairing the team?
Mina: When I was in college, I was an activist for a nonprofit organization that helps kids with cancer and supports their parents. These parents were so grateful to have someone who cared about them and wanted to help them through those difficult times. It was not an easy job but at that moment I knew I would always be involved in the work of nonprofits. The Social Impact team in Belgrade has a long tradition, and it was an easy decision for me to join. Taking on my leadership role within the team happened somewhat spontaneously but it’s a pleasure and an honor for me to serve as Co-Chair.
Biljana: For me, I was unsatisfied in my previous job and asked myself why I was sitting at work for eight hours a day in a role where I couldn’t contribute to anyone. When I was interviewing at BlackRock, they told me about the Social Impact team and that fact helped influence my decision to accept the offer. I like teamwork and a positive environment where people focus on supporting each other to make a greater impact. That’s my Social Impact team. After our former lead left I was happy to take on the Co-Chair role with such an amazing team.
Why are you passionate about getting involved in the Belgrade community? Why is it a priority for you?
Biljana: Haven’t we all had support in some form or another throughout our lives and careers? Our community is far from perfect; there’s a lot of opportunity to help others and provide underprivileged individuals with a greater chance to succeed. BlackRock offers a lot of possibilities for getting involved and I know I’m making a significant impact with every initiative I’m a part of.
Mina: I will never regret the time I spend supporting causes I am passionate about! Being a part of the Social Impact team has enriched my life, helped me better understand my community, and most importantly, connected me with great teammates, organizations and mentees who positively impact me every day. I would encourage everyone to give a little back to the community and experience how much they gain from it.
BlackRock colleagues volunteering with the SOS Children’s Villages
Curious about other ways we’re involved in our local communities? From protecting our environment and the safety of our animals to advocating for the physical and mental health of the children in our communities, we’re involved in over a dozen philanthropic organizations in Serbia alone – and many more around the world. Click here to explore some of our employee-led initiatives and discover how BlackRock is working to make a personal impact on the lives of others.