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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

Why This Belgrade Tech Leader Is Passionate About Financial Education

Nenad Prodanovic, a delivery manager at BlackRock
Nenad Prodanovic, a delivery manager at BlackRock.
| Courtesy of BlackRock

You could say Nenad Prodanovic was destined to work in tech—even though it took him some time to realize that for himself. “My father was a pioneer of IT in Yugoslavia,” he says. “He fell in love with computers and became one of a few people at the time working on UNIVAC 9000 computers.”

Despite Prodanovic’s exposure to computers, he didn’t pursue a career in the industry right away. “To be honest, I didn’t have any plans once I finished high school,” he says. “I wandered for a few years: I studied sociology, served in the army, worked at a news agency, and was generally very unhappy with my career.”

Everything changed when Prodanovic enrolled in a new college in Belgrade that specialized in computer science. As he puts it, “Studying computer science, I felt like a fish finally being returned to water.” Today Prodanovic is a software engineer and delivery manager at BlackRock, based in the finance firm’s Belgrade office.

Here, he shares how BlackRock has enabled him to try different roles, why he is so passionate about financial literacy, and a few of his favorite sights in Belgrade.

What led to your job at BlackRock? How did you know the company would be a good fit?

At the time, BlackRock did not exist in Serbia. I’d joined eFront as a software developer, working on world-leading software products for alternative investments. In 2019, eFront was acquired, so we all became a part of BlackRock. I was already interested in working at a bigger company to build my career and make more of an impact, so that transition worked out well.

Throughout my tenure at BlackRock, I’ve had the opportunity to experience different roles including engineering lead and scrum master. I’m currently a delivery manager, which is a role I’m very excited about. I feel grateful that I’ve been supported in following my passions and exploring a variety of roles. Each of them has awarded me unique experiences and helped me gain a broader, deeper understanding of the craft of developing software.

What are you responsible for in your current role?

I ensure coordinated delivery of a group of our alternative products and a smooth software release. This includes overseeing cross-product versions, compatibility, testing practices, environments, and release planning and execution. I’m also responsible for release-related stakeholder communication, including setting clients’ expectations. Since we have many people focused on creating value for our clients, it’s important to track the big picture and synchronize all moving parts and constraints. This can be a challenging task, but that’s what makes it fun for me.

You founded the Belgrade chapter of the Financial Inclusion Team (FIT) in 2021. Tell us about FIT and its mission.

FIT is one of BlackRock’s employee-led Impact Networks. It brings together colleagues who are committed to helping more and more people experience financial well-being outside of their everyday roles, with a focus on issues like economic mobility and financial literacy and inclusion.

When eFront was acquired by BlackRock, I had the opportunity to learn more about public markets, asset management, and how people in countries with developed financial markets think about personal finance. One day I reached out to the head of the Belgrade office and suggested that local leadership share this kind of knowledge across our office, and he said, “Sounds good, do it!”

While I may have volunteered myself unintentionally, I enjoyed connecting with like-minded colleagues and we put together some well-attended panel sessions about financial literacy. I only found out later that FIT existed! It then made sense to officially form the Belgrade chapter of FIT.

As someone who is passionate about financial education and literacy, why is FIT important, and what does your work with FIT mean to you?

Eastern Europe has a heritage of communism and socialism. During the socialist era, no significant investment options existed. More importantly, people didn’t think about things like pensions or investments since the government represented the one and only economic decision center. Our parents never thought about investments, so we aren’t used to that.

The primary goal of FIT is to learn and then spread the knowledge, both inside and outside of our office. It’s important to adjust that old mindset and help people to at least to be aware of the financial context surrounding them.

What are a few must-visit sights for someone visiting Belgrade for the first time?

Belgrade is a town with a very rich history; Vinča culture started around 6,000 BC. It was an important city in the Roman, Byzantian, Serbian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires. My favorite historical place in Belgrade is a no-brainer: Kalemegdan, a fortress that has been adapted into a park, ideal for walks and watching sunsets over the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Another great place for outdoor activities is Ada Lake. Not many cities have a lake so close to the center of the city, with training grounds for basketball, tennis, golf, football, and a host of other sports.

What are a few hobbies you like to do in your free time?

For most of my life I’ve been interested in completely different types of activities, from computers and how things work to the arts, especially music. I’ve played guitar in a few rock and metal bands, and I’ve been training in the martial art Ninjutsu for almost a decade.

Recently, my wife and I bought a house just outside Belgrade. Since we moved there, I’ve started many new hobbies around the house, like renovating windows, designing and building custom furniture, and even garden maintenance. I’ve spent a lot of my life creating virtual and temporary things, so it seems like I’ve found balance in creating real-life physical objects and working with them.