Brenda Tijanic, Managing Director of Inter Ikea Systems Services SpA for LATAM.

A career spanning 28 years and 6 countries

Born in Croatia and raised in Canada, Brenda Tijanic describes the IKEA business as ‘an everyday university in all dimensions’. From her first job in the IKEA store in Montreal to leading the team supporting the establishment in Latin America, she has proved that opportunities come to those who deliver, perform and are conscientious. Here, Brenda describes her own personal IKEA journey.

What’s your current job?

“I lead a small team in Santiago, Chile. We are working on three clear assignments: to support the successful launch of the IKEA brand with both physical and digital meeting points in Chile, Colombia and Peru; to transfer IKEA know-how, culture and values to our new franchisee, and to learn from the franchisee - both about operations and establishing IKEA in a new market.”

What other jobs have you had as an IKEA co-worker?

“I’ve spent more than half my life with the IKEA business, so my resumé is a long one. I’ve worked in six different countries over the past twenty-eight years; most of the time in retail. From my first job as Market Hall Manager in the Montreal store (Canada), my career has taken me to Germany, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands and most recently, Chile. I’ve stayed in each position for three to four years, which is how long I think it takes to deliver something useful to the business.  I’ve always tried to take on interesting assignments where I can contribute, make a difference and use my strengths and passion, as well as learn new things.”

How have you been supported in your personal and career development?

“We have a formal career process whereby your manager looks at how you’re doing and talks to you about potential next steps. If you’re mobile and you do a good job, there are lots of opportunities to move around and progress within the IKEA business. I’ve had key people who believed in me and encouraged me to take on more responsibilities.”

I haven’t thought about my career strategically. My approach has always been to do a good job, develop people, our business and myself. And to have an interesting time!

Brenda Tijanic, Managing Director of Inter Ikea Systems Services SpA for LATAM

What have you learnt along the way?

“As an IKEA co-worker I’ve a learnt to surround myself with people whose skills and experience complement my own. While recruiting for IKEA in Chile, I made a point of gathering a diverse group of people. In a team of eighteen people, we have fifteen nationalities, and each person brings a wealth of experience, competence and leadership to the table.

I’ve also learnt that active listening is a vital skill, since people have very different needs. What matters to a father of three, is not the same as what matters to a single, young person.

Then there is reflection time. When I take more time to reflect; to look back and share forward, I’ve noticed it makes a big difference for myself and my team. That’s why we always have a Friday wrap-up session, where we go around the table and discuss the week’s learnings & experiences.”

What role has the IKEA business played in your learning and development?

“It’s played a vital role, in both formal and informal ways.  I’ve participated in trainings in management, leadership and business, as well as personal development. I also learn from working in the business, every day. It’s an everyday university in all dimensions.”

Brenda Tijanic and her team of seventeen at IKEA in Santiago, Chile. She recruited each member herself!
Brenda Tijanic recruited every member of her current team.

How do you think about leadership?

“I always aim to lead by example, which is the core IKEA approach. And I adapt to the person I have in front of me. One size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes I coach, sometimes I support, sometimes I challenge, sometimes I delegate, sometimes I direct. I try to understand what each individual needs from me as a leader. I also think it’s very important to have fun and laugh.”

What would you say to someone thinking of applying for a job?

“IKEA is a special company with a strong culture and a unique set of
values. It is financially solid and gives opportunities to co-workers, suppliers
and customers to grow and develop together. I love the IKEA business but we’re not perfect. We’re growing at a speed that may risk the dilution of culture and values so all of us must work on this everyday. To quote our founder Ingvar, “Most things remain to be done, a glorious future”.”

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