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Meet The TomTom Exec Who Raised Money For Refugees On His MBA

Before working in business development at TomTom, Deni Galijaš was an MBA trying to spread awareness for orphans and refugees


Sun Sep 15 2019

Deni Galijaš knows what it’s like to be displaced.

Born in former Yugoslavia, he was forced to leave the country of his birth as a young child, saying goodbye to his home and huge parts of his family because of the Yugoslav Wars.

“It’s something which shapes a person’s life,” he reflects, looking back.

“It made me realize that there is something much bigger than our personal fears, resentments, or biases, and more important than the country we’re born in—it’s our actual human connection, that we all share on a deeper level.”

The lessons he learned from his childhood mean that Deni has never stopped trying to have a positive impact on other people.

When he enrolled on the MBA program at EU Business School in Barcelona, he saw it not only as an opportunity to expand his business acumen, but to learn how to bring humanity into his business practice—and thanks to his fundraising activity as a student, it’s had an impact far beyond his own career.

“I felt the need to challenge myself in a new environment”

Deni had decided to enroll on the MBA because he was looking to push himself out of his comfort zone.

“Back in Germany I was working full-time, mainly as a psychological coach,” Deni recalls. “I loved the job and the lifestyle, but I still felt the need to challenge myself personally in a new environment.”

The EU MBA was the perfect place to do this—EU Business School has campuses in Geneva, Munich, and Montreux as well as Barcelona, and the MBA plays host to students from all over the world.

Presented with such an international environment, Deni was inspired, and not just to change his career.

Alongside a fellow student named Jasmin Aebischer, he decided that business school was the perfect opportunity to bring his classmates together for a good cause. 

The challenge with such a diverse group was knowing how to do it.

Thinking outside of the box

With language and cultural barriers to overcome, finding common ground that was fertile for fundraising might seem next to impossible.

Luckily, MBAs are great places to learn about international management. The MBA at EU even has a module specifically dedicated to it. 

When they put their heads together, Deni and Jasmin realized there was one sure way to get everybody involved.

The result was ‘Students for Humans’, a soccer tournament that brought together players and spectators from across the EU Business School community, raising money for two causes: supporting orphans in Kenya, and the escalating crisis in Europe surrounding refugees from the civil war in Syria.

“Sports is a language we all speak—whether through watching or actually participating,” Deni reasons.

“Seeing people, independent of their country of origin, coming together for a good cause and expressing their common human connection was something beautiful.”

Especially with a cause so close to Deni’s own past, the fundraising event was a very fulfilling experience, and it taught him some valuable lessons about business, too.

Working out how to unite people from disparate backgrounds and experiences behind a common goal is not just an essential skill for activism, but also for management, and Deni says that his experiences on his MBA prepared him well for his corporate career post-graduation.

Now working at TomTom in Barcelona, he credits the MBA at EU with broadening his horizons.

“[An international MBA] can help to broaden one’s perspective crucially,” he counsels, “while it can give you the possibility to work at the same project simultaneously with people from around the world—for example India, Lebanon, Australia, Mexico, Sudan and Sweden.

He concludes that “Talking and, most importantly, listening to so many people’s perspectives on approaches to business and to life itself, with a common goal in mind, is challenging, beneficial, and beautiful.”