Feature Stories

A Soccer Standout Cultivates a New Talent: International Business

Senior Marko Drljic tests his business skills in the international arena.

Marko Drljic '15, a business major from Koper, Slovenia, beat an unusual path to NJIT. A talented defender on his country’s national youth soccer teams from the age of 15 and later a club player in Germany, Drljic found himself rethinking life at 21 after a fractured ankle upended his professional sports career.

“It happens once and your ankle is never quite the same – you never know how it will hold up. What if your career ends at 27? It seemed like too big a risk to continue,” he recounts, “It’s really clear to me that you have to have a purpose in life, and for me, it was no longer soccer.”

During a year-long recovery back at home, Drljic began thinking about college in the U.S., intrigued when he learned that unlike in Europe, “you can study and play sports” at American universities. Ultimately, a generous scholarship and the prospect of playing for then-coach Cesar Markovic brought him to NJIT.

“My goal here was to study – to get a great education,” he recalls, adding that he chose the School of Management “because I love numbers and I love finance.”

His career plans began to take more concrete shape in William Farrell’s international finance class, following a talk by a veteran banker invited in to speak about some of the financial mechanisms underlying global commerce.

“I really wanted to know more and ended up speaking to him after class for a long time,” Drljic recalls, adding that the two exchanged e-mails and that he later received an introduction to a local businessman involved in a technology company that produces highly efficient LED lighting. Their ensuing discussion led to an interesting proposal, with Drljic heading back to Koper for the summer with plans to show the technology to firms and public agencies in Slovenia that supply lighting to municipalities, highways, tunnels, large companies and hotels.

“It seems like the whole of Slovenia knows I’m coming,” he laughs. “My goal is to win contracts in Slovenia. If I succeed, we would start a joint venture and build a manufacturing plant there to supply the Balkans region of Europe.”

Drljic said he sees himself as “a young entrepreneur taking technology back to Europe,” noting, “I look at it not just as lighting, but as technology I will be selling – green energy – with an energy savings of 60 to 70 percent.”

Marko DrljicThe opportunity appealed to him because he is keen to run his own business.

“I realized pretty quickly that I would have to start networking. You need to go out and start talking to people, to experience things. I really grew up,” he says, adding, “Everyone has been trying to help me – it’s been like a chain reaction. I feel like they are really giving me an opportunity.”

Farrell, an adjunct professor of finance, describes himself as a catalyst, adding, “I believe that business schools should bring people in from the real world because that’s what we’re training our students to do – to go out and succeed in the world.”

Drljic says he has also found mentors in Karen Schoenebeck, a senior university lecturer in the School of Management, and in Michael Ehrlich, an associate professor of finance, who were both willing to serve as sounding boards for his many questions about business – and life.

“Both have been there for me,” he says. “I just enjoy talking to them.”

Schoenebeck notes that Drljic, now a junior, increasingly plays that role for new international students.

“He’s very aware of the transition these students go through and he goes out of his way to help them when they arrive,” she says.

And while he no longer harbors plans to play professionally, he calls soccer an important element of his college life.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” says Drljic, who is captain of the Highlanders team. “The play is a little faster in Europe, but it’s nice to learn something new and fun to play with the younger players.”