Women in Technology: Inovatec Systems’ Danijela Kovacevic
Updated: Jan 12
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with Inovatec Systems Corp.’s Co-Founder and COO Danijela Kovacevic. The Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based company, which has 10 credit union clients in the United States and Canada, provides innovative software solutions that helps clients establish scalable, data-driven business models.
By W.B. King
In the same manner American students looking to attend college must apply, schoolchildren in Serbia wishing to study in high school are required to submit an application — successfully completing the equivalent of eighth grade isn’t a qualifier.
“The school system there required me to take aptitude and personality tests. I always scored pretty high in my age group and on the national level,” Inovatec Systems’ Danijela Kovacevic recalled of her upbringing.
“Our high schools were a bit more specialized than here in North America. I actually wanted to go into the medical field and become a doctor,” she told Finopotamus. “But when I took those entrance exams, I ended up being invited to join a newly formed, highly specialized class at the School of Science that only accepted 15 students.”
Noting that the invitation was “a huge privilege,” Kovacevic capitalized on the opportunity by attaining stellar grades and joining clubs focusing on technology.
“I went on to earn an academic scholarship in the United States to study engineering,” she said, adding that both of her parents are engineers and were supportive of her aspirations.
In Serbia, this type of parental support isn’t always common practice due to a societal view on what “traditional job roles” mean for men and women, she noted. “I’ve always had a propensity for technology, and was given an opportunity to nurture it. I was very fortunate."
Kovacevic would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from McNeese State University in Louisiana, and later received a master’s in business administration from the University of British Columbia.
Along with her role at Inovatec Systems, she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in finance at the International Management School in Paris. Research for her doctorate focuses on studying the "practicality and effectiveness of new accounting regulations" that went into effect prior to COVID-19. She explained this work includes the “impact these changes had on availability of capital, the cost of credit, and evaluating if there are any consequences to the lending industry and the performance of the financial intuitions post-pandemic.”
Opportunity to Pursue Tech Careers
Prior to co-founding Inovatec Systems with her husband, Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Kovacevic, in 2006, Kovacevic spent roughly five years working as a process engineer at Eastman Kodak. Over the last 20-plus years, she has noticed women assuming more prominent roles in technology.
“There are certainly more women in the tech field today than 2006, and I’m happy to report that the numbers continue to climb. We see this in North America, but we also see this trend in Europe, and particularly Serbia, where we have sizable development and QA (quality assurance) teams,” she offered.
“When I first entered the field, women held marketing and sales positions occasionally, but really didn’t have representation in the technology-oriented jobs. That’s all changed. When I was in school, women represented maybe 10% of an engineering class,” she continued. “Today, it is sometimes half. It is gratifying to see that women now have an opportunity to pursue these careers and earn the respect they deserve.”
With 175 employees, 140 of which are tech-facing, Kovacevic said approximately 30% of Inovatec Systems' staff are women.
“In terms of age demographics, the majority of our development and tech workers are millennials, with a strong representation from both Gen X and Gen Z categories,” she said. “The number of women within these groups is also strong, which is indicative of the growing representation of women in the tech sector as a whole.”
Another technology measuring stick she uses for describing how the industry has changed is COVID-19.
“If the pandemic occurred in 2006, it would be a totally different story. So, there is a lot of focus these days on future-proofing and using the most modern technology to automate processes and improving operations,” she said. “Today’s engineers and developers are much more aware of the business benefits customers want. They know that creating exciting tech that does not deliver real world value is a waste of time and resources, and does not translate into long-term success.”
Surrender ‘Me’ to ‘We’
As a former NCAA basketball player for McNeese State University, Kovacevic knows the importance of teamwork. To this end, she offered a couple of inspirational quotes from two famed basketball coaches.
“Phil Jackson said that a good team becomes a great team only when the players trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ to ‘we’,” she recalled. “And John Wooden said that a player that makes a team great is more valuable than a great team player.”
Building on these motivational concepts, Kovacevic said her favorite basketball-related quote is from one of the greatest players who ever stepped on the court.
“Michael Jordan said that talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence are what wins championships. Every member in an organization is equally important for making that group a success,” she said, adding that Inovatec Systems embraces these philosophies.
“This has been a very important concept for me. Even though Inovatec is growing rapidly,” she said, “we have to make sure we operate as a team, and that we are on the same page, communicate efficiently and honestly, and recognize to succeed, it is always we before me.”
Consumer Direct Solutions
Recently, the Inovatec team has been diligently working with automated decisioning and enhancing workflow capabilities within its systems, she explained.
“In our loan management system, we automate a lot of actions that occur within a situation. For example, if a person misses a loan payment, there are multiple scenarios that come into play, with different outcomes and actions the financial institution may want to take,” she continued. “The lender can send the consumer a text, initiate a phone call, or request a payment. By automating these processes, we take the burden off the individual, who is then free to perform other tasks.”
While she noted that the aforementioned features “sound simple,” in order to be properly executed a “heavy dose of artificial intelligence and analytics is required" to ensure all outreach is accurate, appropriate and compliant.
“We have also made great progress in our consumer direct solution, which allows credit unions and other lenders to interact directly with members and end users through the system that they already have in place,” she said. “It creates a different journey for a consumer who can first sort out their financing, go to their credit union or financial institutions that they already have a relationship with, figure out all the financing detail and then go—without any pressure—to the dealership to purchase a car.”
Among tech trends Kovacevic is watching is the evolution of 5G mobile networks. Noting the “obvious” ability for greater connectivity, she is curious to see how more “complex problems” will be solved through mobile devices.
“Also, the whole development of natural language processing has been remarkable. It’s exciting to see the improvements that have occurred over the last couple of years,” she said.
“Another innovation that I find exciting are text generators and speech analytics. It’s cool seeing these engines that can be used for something as simple sorting documents based on like keywords or key phrases,” she continued. “We use these tools often in customer service settings to not only produce transcripts, but also look for a certain structures to detect the sentiment behind those words.”
The CU Tech Advantage: Being Nimble and Focusing on the Member Experience
When Finopotamus asked what differentiates credit unions from other financial institutions, Kovacevic said that tech stacks are generally less complex.
“This really puts them in a perfect spot to modernize their capabilities. Credit unions are typically smaller than banks, and can move quicker. They are more nimble, and have less stakeholders in the organization, so approvals are faster and getting alignment within the organization is easier when new solutions are implemented,” she noted.
“They are more centered around customer service and the whole experience they deliver, and not as much on profit, like other financial institutions,” she continued. “We have had nothing but positive experiences working with credit unions.”
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