The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is proud to announce the Final rollout of the 2016 Macedonian Diaspora’s 40 Under 40 List.
UMD is recognizing forty Macedonian role models to reinforce our community’s heritage and cultural values. Built through a process of nominations, the final honorees are selected by a selection committee.
The UMD Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 program was launched in 2014 and this year has a new structure. To improve engagement and provide a more intimate look at the people being recognized, UMD will be rolling out the honorees ten at a time. UMD hopes the list will recognize the winners for their accomplishments in their respective careers and encourage them to keep moving the community forward and making a positive impact on society-at-large.
The Final Ten of Forty Honorees
- Angela Arsova, roots from Veles, Macedonia
- Argie N. Bellio, roots from Skopska Crna Gora, Macedonia and Kostursko, Aegean Macedonia
- Blagica Bottigliero, roots from Glodgi and Vratnica, Macedonia
- Igor Danajlovski, roots from Tetovo, Macedonia
- Aleksandar Jason Kostadinoski, roots from Sirula and Vrbjani, Ohrid, Macedonia,
- Gorgi Kozeski, roots from Volino, Ohrid, Macedonia
- Anthony Laskovski, roots from Bitola, Macedonia
- Natalie Markoff, roots from Servichivo and Tserevo, Aegean Macedonia
- Jared S. Smith, roots from Gjavato, Macedonia
- Emilija Zlatkovska, roots from Tetovo, Macedonia
Learn more about this group of Honorees
Angela Arsova, 26
Angela is currently a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen and is researching in the field of pharmacology and drug design. Her project mainly focuses on discovering new medicines for the treatment of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and anxiety.
Angela has finished her undergraduate education in Amsterdam, where she obtained a BASc degree in biomedicine with Summa Cum Laude and a MASc degree in drug innovation with Cum Laude. During her career she has done internship within the pharmaceutical industry such as Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Berlin, Germany, and Jenssen Pharmaceuticals in Leiden, the Netherlands. She was raised and born in Veles, Macedonia, where she finished elementary school and gymnasium.
In the future Angela would like to focus on research within the pharmaceutical industry, either by being a researcher herself or a consultant on research projects.
I can say with certainty that my Macedonian heritage has made me the person that I am today. My career path has carried me around three different countries so far (The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark), where I had the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. One virtue that we, Macedonians, possess when compared to other nations, is the persistence and drive to succeed. This virtue stems from the fact that Macedonia has been through rough times throughout its existence, which shaped us to be more resilient and withstanding.
I am proud to be a Macedonian because the culture has shaped me to become an emotional and compassionate person that is able to build and maintain relationships with others. This has helped me throughout my career because good communication and leadership are the key to success. In addition, Macedonia is a country with great nature, numerous talents, and lots of opportunities. My advice for the next generation of young Macedonians is to grab the opportunity, use their creativity and persistence, and strive to excel in what they think they are doing the best.
Argie N. Bellio, 39
Skopska Crna Gora, Macedonia and Kostursko, Aegean Macedonia
Argie N. Bellio, is the President and CEO of 6 Logistics. He graduated with Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University, however during the height of the great recession, like many others was laid-off twice. Having a family to support and with bills piling up, no job would be beneath him, so he purchased a semi-truck and began his career in the trucking industry. Within a few short years, 6 Logistics has grown at 43% annually and has become a leading expert in flatbed transportation.
Argie is a graduate and member of Leadership Fort Wayne, has served on the boards of the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana and St Nicholas Orthodox Church, and chairman of the Macedonian Ball Committee. Since 2009, he has hosted two Macedonian Ambassadors and a number of Macedonian events, including A Name is A Name with Executive Producer Jason Miko. He has also authored and co-authored articles on U.S.-Macedonian relations under the Obama Administration. Argie has been involved with UMD for over a decade and serves as UMD’s Representative for Fort Wayne, Indiana – an historic stronghold of the Macedonian-American community.
He was married in Sv Panteljmon Monastery on Mt. Vodno in Skopje, Macedonia in 2006 to his wife Biljana. Together they have two children, Stefan (7) and Darko (4). His father originates from Aegean Macedonia (Kostursko), his mother from Skopska Crna Gora (Republic of Macedonia) and his wife from Skopje (Republic of Macedonia).
My core foundational values of hard work, determination, and sacrifice derive from my Macedonian upbringing via our culture, beliefs, customs, and values. My parents were the most pivotal in that structure, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include my extended family, and for that matter the Macedonian community that has served as a critical connector to my sphere of influence. When the Great Recession hit, I was laid off twice, I did the normal routine of polishing my resume ensuring everything looked perfect, but no one was hiring. I could have held out like Uncle Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for that upper management position I wanted and was qualified for, however those Macedonian characteristics drove me to put my pride to the side. I never thought I would drive a semi-truck, but that decision ensured my family kept their roof over their heads, and my wife and kids could continue to enjoy the life they had known. I did what I needed to do.
As with many of our family members that emigrated from Macedonia, my parents took on remedial back-breaking jobs that were often beneath them, worked countless hours of overtime, and missed soccer games to pick up an extra shift all so they could provide for us. Not only did they provide for us in a foreign land with strange customs and a new language, but they did those things without complaint. They sacrificed, so my sister and I didn’t need too, even managing to send us to college so that we would have opportunities beyond their imagination. These characteristics mixed with a strong work ethic are not unique to my parents or to my family, but they are what have driven me to be as successful as I possibly can regardless of any obstacle in my path.
I have attained a modest level of success, and those same core values are what I am also demanding be instilled in my children. They will have opportunities that I never had, and opportunities their Baba and Dedo could never dream of. While they are, an additional generation removed from Macedonia, there is no reason they shouldn’t be taught the principles of hard work, determination, and sacrifice that have made many of us successful.
At a recent UMD Generation M event, the Macedonian Ambassador to the U.S. suggested that we are all Ambassadors to Macedonia. Be proud of your Macedonian heritage. Understand the hardships your family experienced to give you better opportunities. Get involved in organizations like the UMD, folklore groups and learn how to make a Pita, because once you’ve lost that connection, it’s not easy to get it back. Lastly, learn about Macedonia and keep up with daily happenings, so that when someone asks you about your heritage you can be that “Ambassador”.
Blagica Bottigliero, 40
Glodgi and Vratnica, Macedonia
Zlato is led by a 20 year veteran of the digital space, Blagica Bottigliero. Blagica’s worked on the corporate side, agency side, ran a few of her own startups and has an Emmy for her New Media work. She’s also civically minded and uses her digital know-how to help local communities.
Blagica’s been part of Chicago’s digital thread since joining Leo Burnett’s web arm, Giant Step. From there, Blagica joined Orbitz’ first eMarketing team and helped build the digital practice from scratch. Post Orbitz, Blagica self-funded a few of her own startups while being a member of the NBC Chicago Street team.
Blagica’s led Edelman Digital’s strategy team, oversaw Motorola Mobility’s global social media practice and had a brief stint at Target. Most recently, Blagica was the Vice President of Digital Media for ModSquad, a global digital engagement company. At ModSquad, Blagica rebuilt the team’s digital capabilities. From assisting well established companies with their internal web needs and communications to mentoring up and coming startups, Blagica is comfortable in any setting.
Civically, Blagica was a Co-Chair on the Cook County New Media Council and is currently on the Oak Park Civic Informations Systems Commission.
My parents moved to the U.S. in the 60s. They made this move, alongside my grandparents, for a better way of life. I carry the stories of their journeys daily and make it a personal mission of mine to make my family and ancestors proud. I work in tech and one of the more emerging places as it relates to tech and tech jobs is Macedonia. I love being able to connect professionals in Macedonia with job opportunities and trends from the states.
I was a member of a dance group and spent most of my childhood weekends at some kind of family party. Music was always playing. I grew up listening to old songs of war, joy and fun. As the years went on, I noticed that specific sounds and hooks from Macedonian music were making their way into the mainstream. An example of this is Esma. I marvel at how a country so small continues to make an impact as it relates to food, culture and dance. Weekends with my kids are spent listening to these songs and teaching them dances the same way my parents taught me how to dance.
I feel incredibly lucky to know exactly where my roots come from – down to the villages. I take the challenging paths my parents and grandparents took and do what I can to make my own path for my family. I love knowing how deep the history of Macedonia goes, albeit complicated. I take as many opportunities as I can to share the stories of my family and people. Storytelling is one of the most powerful things we can give each other.
Embrace who you are and integrate that into the larger fabric of being a global citizen. To me, having Macedonian roots naturally programmed me to be an avid reader of ALL history and OTHER languages. This is why I spent time living in France and decided to take French in my 20s.
Igor Danajlovski, 29
Igor Danajlovski was born in Tetovo Macedonia. He currently resides in Düsseldorf, Germany and is a native speaker of both Macedonian and German. Mr. Danajlovski entertains a passion for sports, cooking, travelling, and photography. As the manager and photographer of Igor Danajlovski Photography, he is able to explore his interest in this medium. Additionally, since April of 2014, Mr. Danajlovski has held the title of Global Implementation Manager at HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt AG. He received his B.A. at FOM Duisburg in International Management and got his Masters of Business Administration and Economics at FernUniversitat Hagen.
My Macedonian heritage had an impact on my understanding of family and friendship. I learned that interpersonal relationships are the most important thing a young and prospering man has to take care of. I learned to hold the balance between self-fulfillment and supporting my parents and those who are important to my life.
I am most proud of the language (I also speak the Dialects from Tetovo in particular) and that I am one of only 3 mio Macedonians which do exist globally. We are rare – that just increases our worth! I am proud to be Macedonian because I love my country. I was close to acquiring a German citizenship, but the day before having the final appointment I cancelled. I was afraid of losing the country I would die for.
As for the next generations of Macedonians, don’t forget where you come from, don’t lose your language skills and don’t pretend to be someone else. Though the times are getting harder and acquiring other citizenships is comparably easy, please don’t ever forget that you are Macedonian.
Aleksandar Jason Kostadinoski, 25
Sirula and Vrbjani, Ohrid, Macedonia
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia – Aleksandar is a 25 year old photographer with a portfolio that features clients such as Nike, Oakley, Subaru, Melbourne City FC and many more. Both sides of the family ventured to Australia, before one chose to call Australia home. Grandfather Arso “Alex” Kostadinoski whom he shares his name with, arrived in Melbourne early 1967 before settling as an Australian Citizen alongside wife and son (Nada & Lupco). Grandfather (Nikola) traveled to Australia for work, decided to leave after falling ill – Mother (Lence) married Lipco in Macedonia, later moving and becoming an Australian citizen after the wedding. Both sides of the family resided within the Ohrid region of Macedonia.
Graduating from RMIT University in 2009, Aleksandar kicked off his career by starting up a small online lifestyle magazine which grew over time. The editorial magazine gave Aleksandar the experience of managing a large team which featured journalists, photographers and videographers. The project which was named “adamnoteve” was an idea for Aleksandar to give others in the industry seeking experience within the creative and media business. The magazine itself set up job opportunities such as official music festival photography positions, magazine editorials and more. As time went by, Aleksandar decided to leave the project behind and fully dedicate his time on photography.
By 2015 he had grown his portfolio of work thanks to the ever growing internet – current sharing his creativity on all social media platforms under the handle @aleksandarjason – which boasts a large following of 140,000 and growing. Traveling across Australia and the world, Photography has allowed Aleksandar to collaborate with agencies, brands and all genres of photography. Instagram itself has linked him with brands such as Topman, Vanguard, Canon, Lexus, Maui Motorhomes, Belstaff and many more. Largely focusing his work around travel, editorial, weddings, fashion and sports. Sharing his passion of photography with fiancée Chantelle, a children’s photographer – is something he highly holds dearly in life.
His work with the Department of Health “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON ICE?” won an APAC EFFIE AWARD, the campaign itself ran across Australia in many forms; billboard, prints, TVC and more. Commercial work with Oakley features both athletes Cricketer Virat Kohli and pro surfer Julian Wilson. Both campaigns ran globally within stores and online.
Largely proud of his latest journey, as the official photographer for Melbourne City FC, sister club of Premier League football club Manchester City. 2017 will be the second year that Aleksandar gets to live what he describes as “the best job in the world” – documenting game day imagery, to commercial and editorial work for the club. Alongside his sports work for Melbourne City, Aleksandar is also part of a startup football and lifestyle magazine/agency THETURF which looks to bring the best in the football world to Australia and world-wide. A strong relationship with brands such as NIKE, he hopes his distinct style will help cement his work as an Australian sports photographer. You will be able to find his football work under the alias name of “thatfootballphotog”
Aleksandar is excited for what the future holds – with goals to release a documentary as well as his second book alongside his debut #AMORMARIS. He is also looking forward to a large Macedonian wedding planned in September, with wife to be Chantelle.
The stories my grandfather shared with me, from historical figures and moments to his personal relocations as a shepherd in his village. I always felt a sense of belonging to my homeland. Migrating to another country, leaving family and memories behind – they chose to go through so much pain and hard work to allow their future family a head start. Family is a large part of life, being Macedonian you learn so much from your parents – language, history and culture.
Being able to trace our history and ancestors back to the early 1700s, has played a large part in my passionate connection with my blood line. Astalko, the first ancestor that my grandfather had sourced started a project that I wish to continue. This itself was a clear indication that documentation is an important part of not only being Macedonian, but human. My advice for future Macedonians is to take risks and live the life you want for yourself, never allow the common knowledge to hold you back – always seek to achieve and set goals ahead.
Dr. Gorgi Kozeski, 40
Volino, Ohrid, Macedonia
My name is Gorgi Kozeski, and I am originally from the Ohrid region of Macedonia. I am a cardiologist, sub-specializing in cardiac electrophysiology (cardiac EP). A cardiac electrophysiologist is a doctor who treats rhythm problems of the heart. Becoming an electrophysiologist requires at least 12 years of medical education and training, including 4 years of medical school, 3 years of training in internal medicine, 3 years specializing in cardiology, and two additional years sub-specializing in electrophysiology. These never-ending development of knowledge and extensive and comprehensive training have allowed me to be able to perform advanced cardiac procedures, such as arrhythmia surgeries and implanting cardiac devices, like pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators.
When I was 15, my family and I immigrated to the United States. I graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey earning my bachelor’s degree. In 2004, I earned my medical degree from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Subsequently, I completed internal medicine residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City; cardiology fellowship at New York Hospital of Queens; one year of EP fellowship at New York Methodist Hospital; and one year of advanced EP fellowship at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 2012. Presently, I live with my beautiful and loving wife and precious daughter in Hollidaysburg, located in central Pennsylvania, about 90 miles from Pittsburgh, where I work in private practice for almost five years.
My lifelong ambition has always been centered on becoming an excellent, empathetic, and well-rounded physician and on becoming very appreciative of each patient’s story, which enlightens my personal life, experiences, and career. My Macedonian heritage, culture, and background have allowed me to do that and have shaped me into the person I am today. Moreover, my Macedonian heritage, ancient culture, experiences, and hardworking ethics have molded me into a stronger person, one who is compassionate, ambitious, adaptive and appreciative in all aspects of life. My heritage additionally taught me values, such as open-mindedness, non-judgmental character; respect and acceptance of different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds; and taking proper responsibility whenever necessary.
I am very proud of my Macedonian heritage and ancient culture. At home, my wife and I constantly instill our aforementioned values, heritage and culture to our daughter by speaking Macedonian to her and teaching her how to speak correctly; celebrating traditional Orthodox holidays and unique traditions; cooking Macedonian traditional food; and visiting our beautiful homeland often for longer durations while making certain she travels, visits, and learns about our ancient Macedonian culture, history, traditions, and morals.
My advice for the next generation of you Macedonians is to never forget who they are and where they are coming from; often celebrate and instill our heritage, ancient culture and unique traditions in everyday life experiences; and to never undermine their own achievements through the lows and highs of life. With hard work, determination, and persistence, one can persevere and dreams can become a reality.
Anthony Laskovski, 33
Born in Newcastle, Australia, Anthony is a son of immigrant parents from the Bitola region in the Republic of Macedonia. Newcastle was the destination of many Macedonians that were attracted by the opportunities in industry after WWII, and it still has a strong Macedonian-Australian community.
He first became interested in science and electronics in year 7 (7th grade) when he took an electronics class. His family were very supportive of his interest in the area, and his interest snowballed in subsequent years driving him to study Electrical Engineering at the University of Newcastle while working with AusGrid, a large power distribution company in Sydney and Newcastle.
His interest in creating new devices and exploring new concepts then led him to enter a PhD program in 2007, where he developed new technologies for wireless electronics and wireless power transfer for implantable medical devices. He was awarded his PhD in 2011. He then continued his research career in the field of Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), a.k.a. “mechanical microchips”.
While his interest in research was strong, he discovered that the real spark that inspired him from the beginning, was the drive to create new technology and products. This led him to meet Tarik Hammadou, who became his business partner as they co-founded VIMOC Technologies in 2013. It is a tech start-up company headquartered in Mountain View, Silicon Valley that has created a platform that enables the Internet of Things to scale, with the ability to run artificial intelligence applications. This technology will enable a new era of internet usage, as well as changing the way we interact with the infrastructure around us.
As a first generation Australian of Macedonian descent, my Macedonian heritage has had a significant impact on my life and profession. The juxtaposition of such an old culture with modern Australian culture led me to view the world from many different perspectives. Sometimes they clashed, but most of the time they enriched my life.
The first-hand exposure I had to my family’s immigrant story inspired me to push the envelope in my own life, not be afraid to venture outside my comfort zone, and strive to make a difference on a global scale. I guess I am now an immigrant to Silicon Valley, but I still have a very strong connection to both Australia and Macedonia.
There are many aspects of our culture that make me proud to have Macedonian heritage. I associate the traits of friendliness, peacefulness and calm with Macedonians. I find the traits so important in tackling difficulties that exist in the real world. An important trait we all possess is resilience. Our people and culture withstood centuries of pressure from various geopolitical and religious powers, and we still managed to survive. This has been a huge source of strength and pride to me. I have drawn upon it to overcome many obstacles that I have been faced with.
My advice is simple. Whatever decision you’re making or whatever detail you’re focusing on in your personal life or career, zoom out every now and then. View the action from a big-picture perspective and make sure that your decision will drive you down a path that aligns with who you are, what you stand for and where you want to be. You’re lucky enough to have descended from a historic culture. Take the positives and carry them forward to the next generation. Have an open mind, an open heart and most importantly: don’t hold back!
Natalie Markoff, 40
Servichivo and Tserevo, Aegean Macedonia
Natalie Markoff is an entrepreneur, proven leader and industry innovator. She has had the opportunity to work closely with the most promising luxury retailers and brands, at the helm of the strategic marketing, social media and public relations firm, The Markoff Group. A career retailer and marketer, with a passion for brands that have both exceptional products and a philanthropic mission, Natalie has defined her reputation as a brand champion and strategic leader, with the ability to take the ideas and aspirations of both established and up and coming entrepreneurs, and secure their desired financial results. Natalie has helped many companies and clients sharpen their vision, focus their passion and drive their business to financial success. A skillful manager of both business and personnel, Natalie’s skill set has been to the benefit of many a founder trying to get back to the business of creating. Markoff is currently the CM and President of Direct to Consumer Sales for Vosges Haut-Chocolat and Wild Ophelia Chocolates.
Since I was a little girl my Macedonian heritage has impacted me in a multitude of ways, but most specifically it is the notion that everyone you meet is family and they should always be treated with the same love and respect you would a family member. I find this to be one of the most important values that guides me through life, family and my profession.
There is much to be proud of when it comes to Macedonian culture. A few that come to mind would be the work ethic, the love, the community, and the tenacity of its people. It has given me a sense of identity throughout my life. A connection to a smaller, yet robust community within this larger world. It has definitely instilled the deep passion I have for living life to its fullest through my work, family, travel and life. Stay in touch with your heritage, let it be a guiding force and a place to find your confidence. Use your heritage and culture as a way to connect with others as you grow and connect with others. Be proud. It is such an honor to me to have this community and family.
Jared S. Smith, 34
Jared is president and co-founder of Task Force BPO, LLC an international service organization that specializes in providing support services to the insurance and healthcare industries. Jared is a graduate of the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business and a US Army Veteran. After his service in the military, Jared joined TIS Insurance Services, Inc., a top 100 independent insurance agency, where he specialized in risk management for the social service, healthcare, and IT industries. In 2015, Jared co-founded Smith Brothers, a real estate development company focused on urban mixed-use developments. Jared currently serves on the board of directors for Autism Breakthrough Foundation, The Blount Mansion Association, and The Knoxville Center for the Deaf. Jared lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife Whitney Smith and two children Robert Kenan Smith (5 years) and Virginia Colyar Smith (6 months).
I am a second generation Macedonian on my mother’s side, born in the US. My Dedo grew up in the small village of Gjavato west of Bitola. Growing up in Knoxville, TN my friends thought my extreme pride in my Macedonian heritage was, to say the least, unusual. Most of them didn’t know where Macedonia was, and those that did had a hard time understanding why people from the southern part of a country, that back then was called Yugoslavia, passionately called themselves Macedonian. It’s hard to explain why a southern boy growing up in Tennessee with a Macedonian flag on the back of his truck would have so much pride in a place that his family left 70 years previously. I think this pride mostly comes from seeing my Dedo, Uncles, and Cousins in particular, but also countless other Macedonian’s that I have met, who have achieved high levels of success in countries like Australia, Canada, and the US. These men and women were able to create great value in diverse communities despite starting life in those countries with nothing except for their character and work ethic. It is this pride in knowing that Macedonians can achieve real success despite the odds being stacked against them, whether domestically or abroad, that will continue to produce future generations of successful Macedonian businessmen and businesswoman that will make their impact on the world.
Emilija Zlatkovska, 38
Originally from Tetovo Macedonia, Emilija Zlatkovska, holds a MSc. and Ph.D. in Language Education from Indiana University, Bloomington. She currently serves as the Director of the Intensive English Program at University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, IN. Her responsibilities include daily program administration, recruitment, teaching, advising and other student services, interdepartmental collaboration, and program accreditation coordinator. She loves teaching and working with students and colleagues from all over the world. She is interested in doing research with technology and learning and teacher training. She is forever indebted to her friends and family for everything she has achieved and continues to pursue. She enjoys reading, walking, and traveling with her husband Teddy and her two children Luka and Sofi.
The Macedonian values and tradition and just the overall way of life I had in Macedonia have impacted the development of my personality and who I am today as well as the daily decisions I am making in my personal and professional life. Being honest and hardworking has helped me stay focused on my task to complete my education and always strive to achieve the best results possible. My modesty and always living on a tight budget in Macedonia has helped me be very responsible in dealing with the budget in my current position. And finally, our social habits of valuing people, wanting to be around people, meeting new people and helping everyone as much as possible, has helped me be a good team player and not afraid to communicate and reach out to my colleagues, as well as to strive toward promotion above my current level.
Everything in the Macedonian culture makes me proud! It is hard to pick just one thing but if I am to choose I would choose three things: our cuisine, the beauty of our country, and our Orthodox religion which is so unique. These are the things that definitely remind me of home and who we are. I am proud to be Macedonian because of our heritage, hospitality, and hardworking mind set but above all I am proud of the natural beauty of our country. Once people detect an accent in my speaking I tell them where I am from, what language we speak and pull pictures of all our beautiful places and the food we have. It brings fuzzy feelings to my heart and a big smile to my face!
My advice for the future Macedonian generation is to seize any opportunity available but in the process remain courteous and kind to everyone. Don’t take anything for granted and keep trying to achieve what you want. Be proud of where you come from!