Viktor Ilijev ('11) on Having the Courage to Fail, Experiment and Walk Your Own Path
Viktor Ilijev is an alumnus from North Macedonia who graduated AUBG in 2011 with a major in Business Administration. Since then, he has gathered extensive marketing experience working for leading companies and launching his own projects. His startup bbdirector.com helps executives of small companies save time and close deals by developing client and brand strategy proposals.
What has your life and career looked like after graduating from AUBG? What is your current occupation?
I went from a landscaper during Work and Travel, to the agency owner that I am right now. In-between [I went through different companies and positions].
I was an advertising executive at the biggest and most awarded advertising agency in the Balkans - New Moment New Ideas. We ran campaigns for clients such as Porsche, Phillip Morris, Henkel. Then I became a failed startup owner since it stuck at the idea stage. After that I worked as a Deputy General Manager of a global video production company. After being left with no startup, I got an opportunity to become a sales agent at Valoso. I took it and worked my way up to be the Deputy GM. There, I ran several departments including the Sales team, where I was guiding the efforts of the team making sure we were on target with global sales, and the Developers’ team, where I acted as a scrum master to make sure our online platform met our customer’s demands.
At some point I decided that I couldn’t stand office work anymore and wanted to get into the front lines of cold emailing -- with a company that excelled on that front so that I could learn more. So I became a cold email assistant and sent more than 100 000 emails during this period. But because of the volatility of the cold email field, the company disbanded in a matter of days.
Fortunately, I did learn everything I could and got another remote job doing cold calls and LinkedIn outreach. This was an amazing experience that taught me how to do cold calls, win deals and also lose some. Since I worked for 8 hours with the cold calling agency, I took another job as a content marketing assistant. I learned everything there is to learn about SEO basics, article writing, running and managing link building campaigns, optimizing articles, on-site and off-site SEO, working with writers, and creating campaigns.
Everything I’ve learned ever since the advertising executive position I hold, I put into practice at my agency BB Director. There, we offer inbound marketing services through thought leadership and content curation.
As a side project, I started running a Balkan-based nomad site: direktorium.org that helps Balkan-based nomads grow, hike, eat good food and generally work less and earn more. Also, I have my personal authority site: viktori.co where I help advertising executives prepare and pitch client campaigns. And I just started my newsletter Perspektiva, where I share actionable perspectives on work and life.
I did some other things in between, like helping startups and companies create pitch decks and pitches - one of them won an investment of $250k.
When did you first feel interested in this sphere of work and how did you decide to pursue it?
Ever since I worked with mulch and pine trees [during the WaT program], I knew I wanted to build something that would be mine and I'd lead it. But the problem was I didn't have the right skills for it so I needed to learn. It had to be connected to writing, pitching and strategies, because that’s what I want to do most in life -- I’m a diehard fan of Rome Total War and SimCity. I did not want to pay academies to learn skills. I knew I could get paid to learn. So I sold myself cheap to companies that could use me but at the same time, I can use them to learn (I learned from the best in the business).
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
The freedom to experiment within different industries and the ability to constantly learn new approaches, new strategies, new tactics, and tricks to improve the current processes we and our clients have. Creating my own path, fully responsible, and fully invested in the growth of what I’m building.
Why did you decide to study at AUBG?
It was a no-brainer decision. The best educational institution in the region, close to home and situated in a place near ski slopes! Joking aside, getting access to global knowledge from people that have experienced it first hand, within the last few years, the curriculum, the books which contain case studies from companies achieving global success right now, rather than theories from the ’80s, and of course the multiethnic student body that gives you a glimpse into the life of people thousands of kilometers away from you.
It’s like the whole world situated in this place we call Blagoevgrad.
What did you do apart from the classes during your student years?
American football! One of the best activities that exist in this universe. Apart from the physical nature of the sport, the camaraderie that exists between teams on and off the field is nowhere to be found. Besides that, I was part of different NGOs and student organizations that were aimed at helping the student body and locals to instill better habits, and improve life in general. Also, a lot of traveling around Bulgaria, visiting local monuments, ski centers, natural wonders, and more.
What kind of impact has AUBG had on your professional growth?
To start with, living away from home builds your ability to take care of yourself in a way you can’t do at home. It makes you independent. Moreover, the interactive classes immerse you in the discussed topics and make you think critically without being judged. It’s an open space for mental growth. The up-to-date curriculum helps you understand firsthand how companies fail and succeed. The classes teach you how companies are built from scratch and [how to] analyze their infrastructure, as well as how each department in a single company works. AUBG sparks and grows the entrepreneurial spirit above all else by showing us, through the highest quality mentorship, how to succeed in life with the ideas we have.
Which are the essential skills you gained at AUBG that helped you succeed in your career field?
Independence. Knowledge of businesses and how to create them or to run them. Entrepreneurship. Search for knowledge. Lack of fear of failure.