Employee Spotlight! Meet Sonja, Our Payroll Specialist from Serbia
Meet Native Teams! In this month’s employee spotlight interview, we talked to our Sonja Petkovic – a dynamic, driven, and dedicated professional who plays a pivotal role as our Payroll Specialist. Sonja comes from Serbia and loves to blend her work with her profound passion for travelling the globe. Last winter, she embarked on a remarkable journey across South America, spanning six months, all while diligently fulfilling her daily job responsibilities.
Read on to discover Sonja’s story, tips on how to make the most out of working remotely and gain a deeper understanding of the dedication and passion that drive Native Teams forward.
Who is Sonja? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Sonja and I am currently based in Belgrade. I finished the University of Economy in Belgrade and became a Payroll Specialist 3 years ago. My passion is travelling around the world, riding a bicycle, and going on hikes and adventures.
How did you end up becoming a Payroll Specialist? Tell us about your exciting journey!
I finished Marketing at my university, and first, I tried internships in marketing. However, I did not like it, and I have tried another internship in payroll. At the very beginning, I realized that I liked everything about payroll and stayed in this field since back then in 2019.
What’s the coolest thing about being a payroll pro? We want to hear your top “payroll power” moment!
Numbers. I like making calculations, checking calculations and working in Excel. Also, exploring the issues when something is wrong is challenging. Search – compare to find a solution; in the end I feel like a king when I find the cause of the problem.
Keeping up with those ever-changing tax laws and payroll rules can be a rollercoaster. How do you stay updated and on top of your game?
Always in communication with our accountants from countries I am responsible for, finding sources by myself (exploring if any changes have happened). I am also subscribed to some legal sites, so I can receive newsletters when changes happen.
In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being a digital nomad?
From my personal experience, there are no disadvantages. Advantages are numerous: work-life balance, no micromanagement, feeling free, able to change the places you work. Finally, the job is not a routine anymore, I don’t have to change my life because of work (living near the office, commuting to the office, etc.)
Because you work remotely for Native Teams, you decided to spend 6 months travelling around South America. Can you tell us a bit more about your travels?
It was a life journey for me – something that changed my way of thinking, I have learned a lot about other cultures, ways of living, economy in particular countries. Of course, I have seen a lot of amazing nature (jungles, beaches, volcanos, mountains, rivers, lakes…). I think I became addicted to travelling now. I would like to explore the whole world.
What are some of the challenges remote workers face while travelling around South America?
In some countries – internet connection and speed of internet. When some places are remote, there is a chance that the internet could be a bit slow. Or in some countries, such as Cuba, there are restrictions from the government to open American apps and sites. VPN solves this problem.
What are some tools or software that make your work day easier?
VPN definitely. Love PDF (site for split, and merge pdf files), Unlock PDF site, sites for converting pdf to excel, etc.
Picture this: You’re in a reality TV show about your life. What would the show’s catchy title be, and what kind of wacky challenges would you face in each episode?
Backpacker life challenges: working during nights in hostels (sneaking out to not wake people), I was arguing one time and almost got kicked out of the hostel because of a meeting (that was silent, not my fault hahaha, I was with headphones)
Taking a bath without hot water, without pressure in the shower (you cannot imagine how difficult it is to rinse long hair without the water pressure).
Electric showers: with wires sticking out of the shower – risking electric shock. 🙂
Extreme humidity in some places (Iguazzu waterfalls Brazil, jungles in Colombia) – wet all the time no matter what you do, just sitting – still wet. Cannot dry clothes outside.
No possibility of cooking food (Cuba) – there are no supermarkets and enough food in the country, it is impossible to buy basic supplies such as oil, bread, milk, eggs, and meat. I was vegan for 2 weeks.
No heating in some places (Bogota, Colombia) – the temperature during the night can drop to 5 degrees.
Airports – in some countries, there is no strict control for carry-on luggage; you need to be the first in line at the gate to have space for the bag above the head. 🙂
Bugs – (Dominican Republic) I got ants inside my laptop (they entered in keyboard), I forgot candy in my handbag which was beside my head while I was sleeping, I woke up with hundreds of ants around my head going into my handbag.
(Colombia) – I got bed bugs in my bed after hiking in the jungle, (all room was sanitized along with me, they put me in quarantine alone in another room until get rid of the bugs)
How did you deal with the time difference while working remotely?
I have worked European hours since I could be free all day for exploring. I just went to bed earlier (around 8,9) and get up early, such as 3am, 4am. I had enough sleep, I just moved a couple of hours earlier.
Imagine you’re a payroll mentor for aspiring specialists. What’s the most fun and quirky advice you’d give them?
When you think you finished your checks and you think payroll is ready, IT’S NOT! There are always some late inputs and questions such as: could you please add this bonus, change this hours etc,. Be ready for the roller coaster! 🙂
Lastly, tell us about your hobbies and interests and if you could give some advice to aspiring digital nomads, what would you give them?
If you don’t like the same routine each day and like to change places of work, then travelling is the best hobby to have as a digital nomad. You can buy a new car, new clothes, but what stays in your mind is memory. Travelling gives you amazing experiences and memories and also changes you as a person; after learning about other cultures and people you will not be the same!
You’re amazing, Sonja! Thanks for sharing your payroll prowess with us in a super fun way!
Would you like to join Native Teams?
We are always on the lookout for fresh new talent, so make sure to check out our open positions here.