Vanja Kovačević – IP Specialist & Life Coach

22 min read

She’s an intellectual property lawyer, she managed and established IP law firms in Vietnam and Thailand, she’s a life coach and she travels the world. Vanja Kovačević (43) is passionate about people and life, which inevitably led her to a mission – to coach people who want to transcend their inner and outer boundaries eager to live and create life to the fullest. Her mission has become a calling when she met the world-renowned life coach Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott in Asia, where Vanja had moved to continue her career in the role of Southeast Asia Director in one of Asia’s leading IP firms. As a matter of fact, Vanja is most of the time en route, switching between countries and continents, professionally as well as privately. That Vanja is a people lover with a great deal of tactfulness and empathy was clear from the first moment we met. I remember that we had worked on a film project over a decade ago. At that time, Vanja was Head of the Intellectual Property Department in one of Croatia’s esteemed commercial law firms and I could have felt right away her wholehearted contribution towards people and their concerns while giving me legal advise for our project …

Vanja, what do you love most about your profession as IP specialist? What challenges you?

– Well, my work in Asia turned out to be substantially different than in Europe. Not only that the Asian market is different, notorious for counterfeits, which necessarily makes work more „hands-on”, but also my role changed completely. Practically overnight, I turned from an ordinary IP lawyer into a manager and founder, travelling through Southeast Asia, learning about markets, countries, people, cultures, establishing companies … I became an analyst, founder, human resources manager and a foreign lawyer consultant, all in one. On top, I needed to take care of my personal life while the company has sent me to different countries to establish IP branches and develop the market on my own. I needed to expand my social life as well and I realised that I had no clue how to do that in a foreign country where people are not overly open to make friends with foreigners.

I recall the beginning of 2015 when I was living in Ho Chi Minh City, where I moved after initial few months in Cambodia. I realised at some point that I had been so immersed in the work and excitement of establishing companies, hiring personell and learning about Vietnamese IP laws, that I „forgot” my social life and needs. I had to start anew, making friends and putting effort into social contacts.

When I moved to Bangkok later the same year, the whole story started all over again. However, my newly gained experience, has made it much easier, especially as in Bangkok I felt home, I had immediately a strong sense of belonging to the „City of Angels“ … You can say that by now I’m a veteran! (Smile) 

You changed your personal and professional habitus from European to Asian almost five years ago. It was a big decision to make … What made you move to another continent?

– In a way I was bored and I needed a new challenge. When I got the offer to help establishing and developing Southeast Asian offices of a Beijing based intellectual property law firm, I didn’t think twice and jumped at the opportunity. Many of my friends and family thought I lost my mind to leave a secure and established life in Europe and move to another continent, to Cambodia, and on top, not starting in an established company, but having to start one by myself … Now when I look back, I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into (smile). I simply followed my inner guidance and the call of this adventure, which I felt my life needed. Opportunities like these don’t come too often in life; and I’m talking about life in general. Sure, there was a lot of unknown ahead of me, but I didn’t think too much about what is next and I didn’t look back. It was like a fresh start. A lot of things happened since then. Living in Asia and immersing in new cultures changed me from the inside out. Luckily for me, it is hard to remain the same when you live in such an inspirational and different surrounding. Every day was a new challenge; from meeting Cambodian officials to going to the supermarket in Vietnam, where I literally had to learn about new vegetables and fruits, which I didn’t know before. Everything was new and exciting, every day filled with excitement – at work in understanding the ways of my colleagues (once I had some) in three culturally very different countries, at home with the question how to wash veggies in order not to get sick. After all, you leave lots of your old ways, modify big time and let new things settle in while exploring your new lifestyle. Asia makes you more flexible, more tolerant …

In 2016 you were listed as one of the leading IP practitioners in the world by the WIPR Leaders Directory (World IP Review). In the same year you also got recognition being one of the World’s Leading Trademark Professionals (WTR 1000). How do you feel about it?

– I’m feeling grateful that the IP community recognised my work in Asia. When I moved, I felt as if I’m starting completely anew. Work seemed quite different and challenging sometimes. However, being recognised for my professional work alongside with starting the business up and getting us, together with my wonderful team, to these IP rankings, is a big recognition for me.

In 15 years of experience working with different aspects of IP rights, the IT industry and related commercial and compliance issues on two continents, you travelled a lot. Is travelling your passion?

– Seems, it became a way of living …

While travelling, you are enthusiastic to learn about different countries, cultures and people. Have you developed some kind of approach to travelling?

– I like to explore the local ways of living – eating street food, talking to locals, going to markets and grocery shops to see local products and how local people live. Even though, for the most part I do travel by air, my newly discovered interest is travelling by land, to see as much as possible. It is tiring sometimes, when roads are not so great and traffic causes travelling at a snail’s pace, so I don’t get off the plane as much as I would like to. On the other hand, it is very rewarding as you can see places and meet people you otherwise wouldn’t.

If the opportunity arises, I would like to rent a car and do a longer road trip in Asia. I did several road trips in the US, and specifically remember a road trip I did several years back in the Southwest of the US – through Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Or the one last year from San Francisco through some Sonoma and Napa Valley wine tasting areas all the way to Reno and Black Rock City in Nevada for the event Burning Man.

In Bangkok you have met a woman who turned out to be a renowned life coach. What you did not know at that time is that this encounter will change your life and open a new path for you …

– Yes, it was one of those weird moments in life when you do something completely out of your regular ways and something different happens … After six months of living in my new flat in Bangkok and after having bought my new sneakers for some running activities, which I haven’t touched for five months, I was tired of working around lunch time and decided to go to the gym in my building on the 45th floor to do some exercise. There, I suddenly met the ICF Master Certified Coach Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott. It turned out that we are neighbours and over the course of time we became friends. She is one of the first coaches in the world who started life coaching in 1974 when this profession actually didn’t exist. She’s a great coach, truly focused on helping people achieving their highest potentials. She wrote a number of books, I believe the most known to the wider public is „Ten Rules for Being Human”, a New York Times bestseller. She also was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show. One of her numerous books called „Transformational Life Coaching” is considered to be one of the few coaching „bibles”. After I have started to spend more time with her, and as I was turning focus on my own life, I became interested in life coaching. I understood quickly, it is like helping a friend, without having any opinion or judgements – it is up to the coachee to steer the wheel of their life. Contrary to popular opinion, coaches are not there to tell you what to do or guide you in any way. It is the power of active listening and asking questions that go deep behind the surface of what is being said, that’s where coaching produces results and profound breakthroughs. We intuitively know what is best for us and where we want to be; there is no authority greater or bigger for us than ourselves.

How would you describe your life coaching programs and methods certified by the MMS Worldwide Institute?

– I would say it’s about partnering with clients to help them find their inner truth, goals and powers. I felt the power of MMS coaching in my life before I even thought of becoming a coach. It is a powerful tool for creating breakthroughs and following your vision in life. Coaching is not about looking back to the roots of issues; it is about focusing on what is ahead and empowering people to undertake actions, which will get them where they want to be.

Whom are these programs intended for?

– Everyone interested in getting their life on the track they desire, reaching a point of decision, sorting out thoughts, reaching clarity, people in transition, people who want to set goals and do action plans to reach those goals, everyone interested in focusing on what is now and ahead willing to take actions to get there. Willingness and actions are crucial.

How would you describe your mission? 

– In short, I would say that my mission is exactly that: partnering with people in order to help them focus on their goals, set action plans, achieve their visions. Be their mirror and help them grow. It’s a two-way process – by mirroring someone the coach gets a mirror, too (smile).

How do you implement your own experiences?

– I have been through lots of transitions in my life. Practically, I have built my life several times anew and I have a deep understanding what kind of challenge a transition in private and/or professional life can be. Many people resist change out of fear of the unknown. They are not used to observe life events as an adventure – a possibility to grow your potentials and have fun while doing it. And that’s what it is in the essence, called a happy life (smile).

What would you like to see blossoming in people? 

– Playfulness, kindness, tolerance and flexibility.

What is your next travel destination? 

– Well, as we speak now, I’m in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, travelling in a few days to the small Thai island of Koh Lipe for a short break before I get back to Bangkok. Next month I’m also travelling to Portugal. There is a new project in plan, from my self-development practice, which will keep me busy in the next period …

If you could pick only one word to describe our relation, which word would you choose?

 – Soul Sister. Even though these are two words. (Smile)

Cover Photo: Andrija Zelmanović


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