The art of being professional in Chicago

Mid-way through the World Chicago fellowship

I am a Fellow. For those who do not know what that means, the professional fellows exchange program was made by the State Department, and my chosen one is headed by an organization called World Chicago. 15 professionals in the entrepreneurship and tech sectors are chosen to go from their home countries in the Balkans to Chicago for a 4-week fellowship, followed by a week in Washington to show off our experiences.

Bean there, done that — some of the brave fellows on the first freezing Friday (from left to right: Erduan, me, Anja, Primoz, Natasa, Simon, Milana and Ivana)

Today marks exactly 14 days of my life in Chicago. My fellow fellows and I arrived on Thursday evening, and had our first encounters with the city on Friday morning. I remember the rain and cold like it was yesterday — and I am very grateful to the city weather that decided to be kinder to us since.

I cannot speak for all of us, but I am incredibly happy here. The program keeps us just busy enough so we don’t have to worry about filling our social and professional obligations, but it also lets us enjoy the many wonders Chicago has to offer on a daily basis. I’ve written about certain aspects of the experience in my blogs, but I always tend to skip over the parts that I find most important: the work we are doing as a part of our fellowship.

Every fellow is assigned a professional host. Some of these hosts are long-standing institutions like Northwestern University, and some are startups on the rise, like my own Holistic Index. No matter where we were placed, our tasks were the same: learn, each, help and grow through this new and different opportunity.

I consider myself to have been blessed with my placement. I get to work with Tom Alexander, a man who is unafraid to open every and any door to a random Bosnian (me), and has so far taken me to so many meetings and luncheons I am having a hard time hanging on to my last few business cards. I got to rub shoulders with industry leaders, innovators, investors and unicorns (not the magic horses). Additionally, Holistic has provided me with a space to promote myself and the World Chicago program on their website — and has given me the opportunity to conduct interviews with inspiring leaders like Terra Winston and Erica Pearson.

Tom Alexander under siege by recording devices at Rivet Radio

But wait, there’s more!

I am a part of a team that is currently working on a brand new product to launch. It will be a part of the Holistic experience — a platform for employee engagement, tailored to fit the needs of every client company individually.

And that’s not all — Holistic Index is also launching a podcast entitled “Age of Inclusion”, with yours truly to host one episode in a couple of weeks.

So, you could say I’m kept busy.

Apart from the work done with our host companies, the fellows are also active when it comes to attending conferences, seminars, meetups, networking nights… In my case, I can also brag about my visit to Northern Illinois University, where I had the honor of being given the grand tour and a meal with the Business Dean(and World Chicago board member) Dr. Balaji Rajagopalan.

With the NIU Business Dean, Dr. Balaji Rajagopalan

This is 2 weeks in a nutshell. There are so many experiences and opportunities, I cannot even list them all in a single blog. I am grateful to World Chicago for bringing me here, to Tom and the Holistic Index team for being such amazing coworkers, to the new friends I’ve made since coming here and to the rest of my fellows for making this month so fun.