Certified Corporate Trainer, Business Consultant, Mentor
Branka van der Linden’s childhood was no fairytale. Her father passed away when she was six and her mother raised her single-handedly. She was top of her class in school, but her mother could not afford to send her to university. When Branka turned 18, she left her home country to try business opportunity in Cyprus.
Speaking about her challenging journey, Branka says, “I learned to forgive myself for every outcome that was not the way I expected it or how others expected it from me. It is a blessing to pull yourself back up after receiving bad news and remain optimistic. People say I am resilient, and you don’t develop resiliency by living with your head in the sand.”
Branka’s resilience paid off and she managed to finish her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree with honours and several professional certifications. A law student, in time she also obtained the AML Compliance Officer certificate. Her growing career entailed her being an active compliance and anti-fraud professional with over 15 years experience in anti-money laundering, corporate governance and risks.
However there was a time when being a woman, Branka had tough choices to make. She shares, “An internal struggle between being a full time mother or pursuing a business career has been a barrier to climb the corporate ladder faster. I have felt gender bias on my skin many times before I learned to look beyond it and accept that no matter where I work or how old I am, I can make a difference in everything I do.”
With grit as well as family support, Branka went on to become an educator, trainer, speaker, mentor and author. She also turned to entrepreneurship when she founded ‘Meaningful Synergies Ltd’ a high-impact organisation that supports entrepreneurship in all its forms. Meaningful Synergies is all about creating connections and promoting collaboration in the global marketplace.
Calling herself ‘ambitious and driven’, Branka says, “For the longest time, I used to say that work-life balance is a myth, while work-life conflict is very real. I can’t count on my fingers as many important dates as I have missed in my children’s lives while becoming an established businesswoman. However I now appreciate that life is what we make of it. My children see the woman who learns, struggles, yet doesn’t give up, and who loves them unconditionally. That is how I set my equilibrium.”
In addition to her family, Branka has been lucky to have great role models to chug her along her journey. “I have been influenced greatly by Richard Carlson, renowned author of ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ and lovely meaningful poetry of Desanka Maksimovic, who kept my soul gentle through the toughest times. I’m also very grateful to my mentor Elena Tanou, an inspirational leader and role model,” she says.
Among her greatest achievements, Branka counts being a Board Member of the Cyprus Integrity Forum and Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Cyprus Chapter a big honour. She has also recently been awarded ‘Exceptional Woman of Excellence’ from WICCI for a speech given at the Women Economic Forum.
Mention her accomplishments, and Branka is quick to stress that all ‘overnight successes’ take years of preparation and strategising. “We women are expected to play so many roles that sometimes we get lost in translation. Staying focused and bravely doing business in our feminine energy way is the way ahead,” she says.
A women’s leader in spirit as well as action, Branka says some things are learned only with experience. “At nearly 40, I realise ‘me time’ is so important. I had to learn to allow myself the time that fulfills me spiritually, mentally, or emotionally. I love to dance, so before Covid, every Tuesday night was dance school night.”
Probably the most important nugget Branka shares with us is regarding her strength. “When you are a perfectionist like I used to be, you tend to waste much time doing things over and over again until they are just as you imagined them in your head. That reduced my productivity at times and I had to take steps to be more accepting to the results of a ‘finished product’ just the way it was. Either it is perfect, or it is done, it can’t be both. What helped me a lot is my optimism and drive. Some people call it tenacity,” sums up Branka.