Successful Diaspora Returnee Stories: Domagoj Šain, Data Domain, Korcula

Total Croatia News

domagoj-sain-korcula (3).jpg

The 2nd International Conference on Diaspora Tourism took place in Split on May 17, 2019. TCN meets some of the returning diaspora who have made a success of life in Croatia. Next up, Domagoj Šain, who swapped life in Toronto to start his own business on the island of Korcula.

1. You are from Canada, returned to Croatia, something that many diaspora dream of doing. Tell us briefly about your journey. 

I was born in Dubrovnik and when I was 10 years old living on the island of Korcula we left just before the war broke out, in 1989.  As my mother was born in Toronto, Canada and my grandparents were there so my parents decided to move to Toronto at the time.  In my stay in Toronto we moved all over but always were close to our Croatian community.  I played soccer with my younger brother Frano for many years for our Toronto Croatia soccer club and as we got older we played professionally for the club in the Canadian soccer league. 

domagoj-sain-korcula (3).jpg

During my time at Toronto Croatia soccer club, I was the Captain and we won a couple of Canadian soccer league championships and received some trophies along the way.  I completed my education at Seneca at York for Computer programming Database Specialist and began working in the field a couple of years after as I was unable to find the job in my field at the time.  The problem was that in our Croatian community most were in the construction industry and there is lonely me in the IT industry. 

This was until I met Mario Komparic a man that helped me get my first job as an Oracle DBA.  Mario told me that it was great that I completed my education but now I needed to get Oracle certifications to get hired so that is what I did.  I worked as an Oracle DBA for some of the best companies in Canada at the time like Research in Motion ( Blackberry ) in Waterloo.  I enjoyed my time in Toronto very much but there was always something missing and that was Croatian and my Korcula.  My dream and plan was always to come back to Korcula so I started working on that plan.  I did not want to be on the road 4 hr a day Monday to Friday any longer as it was draining me out.  Did not want to be stuck in traffic and dealing with the cold winters and only 1-2 week vacations.  I began looking for work in Croatia in the IT filed but all the work was in Zagreb. 

Zagreb is a beautiful city but there was no point of me leaving Toronto and heading to Zagreb at the time as I wanted to be closer to the Adriatic sea and the islands.  I finally got a lucky break and got an interview at a telecom company in Split Croatia at H1 Telekom.  So during Christmas time I went to Croatia for a visit and went for the interview and got the job on the spot.  Came back to Toronto said goodbye to all my friends and family and left Toronto for good.  It was not that hard leaving Toronto as I met my beautiful future wife Ivana and I knew she was waiting for me in Croatia.  After working in Split for a couple of years my dreams came true and I opened up my own company Data Domain d.o.o where we provide remote Oracle Database service from our central office on the island of Korcula.    

domagoj-sain-korcula (2).jpg

2. Looking back, what were your hopes, expectations and fears about moving to Croatia?

My only hope in my decision to return was to go to the beautiful country I left as a child of 10 years, with numerous opportunities I saw every year when I was there.  I did not think about the possibility of corruption, about the dysfunctionality of state apparatus, I did not have fears of the health system, tax advantages or administrative illogicality. I did not have any fears, I did not want to have them because it might have affected my decision. If I went back 10 years ago I would have done the same thing right now as I just wanted to leave Canada and its hectic lifestyle. So leaving a city of  more than 2.5 million to a village of 5 hundred is a pretty crazy leap for a 30-year-old at the time. 

Looking back I was so excited that my extended family and Ivana was waiting for me. Also working for the one of the best IT companies at the time RIM with a great salary I took a job for a lot less in Split where I had to rent out place.   I was just focused and was working on my Croatian dream to come true to live on my island of Korčula, to do the job I’ve been doing and that I love. The most important thing for me is a peaceful family life where my kids can safely play in the local park and in the front of the house, which I have today.

3. How supportive was your Croatian community back home at the time?

Zavalatica is a small settlement on the island of Korcula, where everybody knows each other. Through constant summer holidays, I have established friendships with people living there and my childhood friends. I started playing soccer for the local team in Smokvica “NK Jadran” and made some great friends along the way.  Most importantly, on the island is my extended family and Ivana who could hardly wait to come back. Both of my grandparents were alive at the time and I was so happy that I spent the next couple of years around them.  I was very close with both of them and it meant so much to me.   One year after my return to Croatia, my parents and sister came along which made things much easier. 

domagoj-sain-korcula (5).jpg

4. Many diaspora think of returning but few do. In truth, there is little information out there about real-life stories and help/info about the process. What advice do you have for those who are thinking about making the move?

Every new beginning is difficult but also exciting. It takes months to get used to the functioning of state apparatus as we from diaspora are used to something else. It took a little longer to get all the required paperwork as Croatia is a lot more laid back and everything is done at a lot slower pace then Canada so you will have to be prepared for that.  My advice to those who want to succeed in Croatia is to work hard and take advantage of past experiences and work attitude you gained abroad.  Bring that different mindset and look towards business opportunities as there are plenty especially in the tourism industry.  Not to compare the state system with the state system you come from.

Follow your dreams, believe in what you’ve come to Croatia for. My dream was to come to the island of Korcula and open up my own IT company and provide remote Database services to clients all over the world.  My dream came true and it was a lot of work and commitment and what helped me the most is the professionalism that I learned while working in Toronto. Do not criticize the country like most do but work for the better in the community and in private life. The opportunities for those who want to come are great you just have to come with a different mindset and a different vision at looking at things here.

domagoj-sain-korcula (1).jpg

5. How were you perceived in Split as diaspora moving back – was the welcome warm?

There are still people that ask me why you came back, didn’t you have a better life in Canada. Why did you come when people from Croatia are leaving? I know that I made the right move for myself and my future family.  Life in Canada is neither better nor lighter. What the media is presenting today about ideal life and “overnight success” in diaspora is far from the truth.  I lived abroad for 20 years and I know how people live their life there and here.  Yet most people are delighted with my life story. By first coming to Split then Korčula, I knew there were people around me who I could count on and are very fortunate for that.


6. Through a lot of hard work, you have been very successful, while many foreigners have given up and left Croatia. What are the keys to success in doing business in Croatia in your opinion? 

My key to success in Croatia is the life experiences and professional work attitude that I have learned abroad and have incorporated it in my work here.  My clients know that I am always available especially when I work in an industry where we provide 24/7 services.  Data Domain d.o.o is one of the first companies in Croatia that provides such services and doing it from an island is truly amazing.  Many of the clients we have I have never met face to face as we mainly communicate from email or Skype. I could have opened my company anywhere in the world where there is internet but I decided that there is no better place for me or my family than here.  It is also very important to keep up with the latest certifications to be competitive and keep up with the high changing IT trends.  Also since Croatia is part of the EU we have started to take advantage of EU funds to grow and add different services into our portfolio.


7. What is the diaspora community like in Dalmatia and how integrated is it with locals? 

The diaspora returnees are were very well integrated with local people here on Korčula. Although there is no organized diaspora community on the island, but all somehow recognize each other, shared similar stories, socialize privately and want to achieve something positive for the community. I personally have many more diaspora friends living in Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb. And if you ask me what that diaspora community looks like, I will say a community of outstanding, business-minded people, that all love Croatia and its lifestyle, who are not burdened with the negative we often see in people who are there all their lives. 

8. And finally, a word on this conference. How was it for you, and what were the main take-home points?

I am very proud that I was invited and was on one of the panels on the Diaspora conference.   Mr. Dan Maček and the organizers did a great job and I can’t wait for the next one.  Hopefully next year the conference can during July/August so there will be more diaspora on hand for the conference. I hope we have helped some diaspora make the same move we all did and that our stories will make their move easier.  Our diaspora needs to understand that it is a lot easier now as there are lots of groups out there the can help in the transition.


At the conference I met lots of different and interesting people in different industries not just tourism which was nice for me as I am not also just focus on that industry.  But tourism is an industry that I will be focusing more on in the future as the potential is great especially on the island of Korčula as it is still very untouched.

You can learn more about Domagoj’s company, Data Domain on the official website, or connect with him on LinkedIN.

For more on the Croatian diaspora, check out the TCN dedicated section.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment