Monika Mikac, 31
Chief operating officer, Rimac Automobili
Family:Life partner, Andrija
Born: Zagreb, Croatia
Languages: Croatian, English
Education: Master's degree in political science, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first automotive job was with Rimac Automobili. When I heard about the company starting up, I didn't think twice about joining the team. That startup spirit was contagious and allowed us to push the limits to get to where we are today as a Croatia-based developer and manufacturer of high-performance electric vehicles, including the Concept One supercar.
What was your big break?
Meeting company founder Mate Rimac and joining the team in 2011, two years after he started the business, gave me the opportunity to live up to my potential. If I had not joined the company at that time, I probably never would have worked in the automotive industry.
Your greatest achievement?
Professionally, it was contributing to bringing in 10 million euros during our first round of investments in 2014. Mate Rimac and I worked on this for two years. It was challenging because there are no venture capital funds in Croatia and the country's auto sector is in its infancy. Ours was the biggest investment of its kind in Croatia that year, bigger than all the others combined. Personally, my greatest achievement was changing myself. It's hard to admit that not everything you do is always the best and that you need to make a change for the better. We are all creatures of habit and it's not easy to make personal changes. However, I think that changing yourself is the only way to go forward and grow as a person.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Back in 2012, we discussed a project for a Russian supercar company. We were supposed to develop and produce an electric propulsion system for their vehicle. We did feasibility studies and it seemed that the deal was set. We were already discussing where the car was going to be assembled. When the time came to sign the contract, they requested one last thing from us: the Russian company's CEO wanted to see and test our car before giving his approval. We used all the money reserved for upcoming salaries - the last money we had - to transport the car to Moscow. When we arrived, they became very unfriendly. They kept questioning whether the technology we used was really ours. Additionally, they wanted to test our car on the track because they didn't believe our range claims. The car worked perfectly and we proved all our claims. Although they had nothing more to object to, their CEO told us he liked what we did but didn't want to build a supercar that didn't produce any sound. I always tried to keep a positive attitude and believed we were going to make it no matter what, however, I remember wondering how are we going to tell our guys back home that it's all over? I learned then that a deal isn't closed until the money is in the account. Sometimes even a signed contract isn't real proof that a deal is truly closed.
What is your current challenge at work?
Rimac Automobili is one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe. We went from having only 20 employees in 2014 to 250 people today. The biggest challenge is to keep the same company culture we had when we were a small team. That's important to us because it is the only way to go forward and keep the innovative approach.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have ever received was from former Formula One driver Adrian Campos. He once told me that he started having the best results in racing when he realized that his biggest enemy on the racetrack was himself. When I thought about it, I realized that it is very true for everyday life. We are often the ones who hold ourselves back.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Think outside the box. The automotive industry is very strict and full of rules. However, if you work only to check the boxes there will never be any innovation. Dare to do something different.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I actively work with our CEO so there is nothing I would change. When I have some new ideas, I always propose them directly to our CEO and we are pretty much aligned on how we see Rimac Automobili going forward.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
It is hard for me to predict what the future holds, however, I know that I want to help Rimac further develop as a leading maker of high-performance EVs and as a Tier 1 automotive supplier.
What do you do to relax?
I go boxing three times a week, which is a great stress release. Even when I'm very tired, I force myself to train and always feel much better afterwards. However, what I enjoy most is going for long walks with my boyfriend and my dog.
What is your pet peeve?
Dishonesty drives me nuts.
What was your first car?
A Renault Clio with a 1.6-liter engine. It seemed so fast to me when I was 18.
An old Mercedes 190 Avantgarde Rosso. I like the vintage look. It will soon be a classic.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
If not the Concept One, for obvious reasons, then I would like to be a Lamborghini Miura. The design is timeless and very elegant.
2014-present: Chief operating officer, Rimac Automobili, Sveta Nedelja, Croatia
2011-2014: Head of public relations and marketing, Rimac Automobili, Sveta Nedelja
2009-2011: Writer, reporter and producer, Nova TV and Freemantle Productions, Zagreb, Croatia