Welcome to the world of Nelnet’s digital marketing expert, Zeljka Hassler. Zeljka has spent three years at Nelnet, serving as lead UX designer. What is UX, you might ask? The acronym stands for user experience, but Zeljka has a better way to describe it.
“UX is a big field, but what I do specifically is make sure our target audiences have everything they need when they access our websites, emails, or campaign pages,” said Zeljka.
Zeljka has been a part of the interactive world for 20 years, and she was likely working in UX before she knew what it even was, since it’s a relatively new discipline in the software and product world.
A normal workday for Zeljka can entail almost anything, but it usually involves an early start, attending many meetings, and then prioritizing what tasks she can get done and how she can help others throughout the day. An adept multitasker, Zeljka loves the intense, dynamic work environment.
“I think about my workload as a bunch of swimming lanes; there are things moving in them at different speeds and they require different parameters,” Zeljka said. “I go back and forth like this all day.”
This amount of responsibility is nothing new to Zeljka, as she embraced independence from a young age.
Zeljka was born and raised in the second largest city in Bosnia, Banja Luka, which is located in the northwestern portion of the country. She had a wonderful childhood that included getting into trouble with her cousins at their grandpa’s orchard house and going on grocery runs for the whole neighborhood, sometimes carrying multiple wads of cash at once.
“What I loved about growing up there was that I had freedom,” Zeljka said. “Nobody worried; they’d just tell you to go outside and then come back at dinnertime.”
In the early ‘90s, a war broke out in Bosnia that caused many to flee the country, including Zeljka’s family. They left before things got bad, thinking they would return when the situation calmed down, but the war didn’t end for several years.
“I feel like a lot of us witnessed the closest thing you can to the end of the world, in a way,” Zeljka said. “Everything, all the systems that hold the place together, like law, and transportation, just tanked basically.”
After spending a few years in Slovenia as refugees, Zeljka’s family was approved to come to the U.S. when she was 17. Places like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago all had wait lists of people wanting to live there, but Lincoln, Nebraska had an opening for her whole family.
“So they told us [about Lincoln] and we were very confused because we had not heard of Nebraska. I was worried it was close to Alaska and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I like the cold that much,’” Zeljka said. “We had enough pop culture to have an idea of the United States but you still don’t really understand until you move here and live here. There was a lot of adjusting, but it all worked out.”
Once settled in her new home, Zeljka earned a degree in art, but soon realized that she may not be able to make a living as a painter. She then got a job for a university as a multimedia designer, helping professors make their classes more interactive. This sparked her love for development, and after working for two different advertising agencies in Lincoln, Zeljka happily landed at Nelnet.
There are many reasons why Zeljka loves working here, but her coworkers are the most important.
“I just love the characters, and if it wasn’t for the people, I could not do what I do. I love relying on other people for their talents,” Zeljka said. “I like how Nelnet is involved in the community and we’re sort of everywhere now, like all across the country with all the acquisitions. I feel like there’s a lot of exciting changes happening constantly that are very cool. In Lincoln’s market, doing what I do, I feel like Nelnet is the best place to do it.”