3 Promotions Within 3 Years After the MBA - A Career in Project Management

October 28, 2022

Elena-Cristina Dobrita: from Sales Support to Project Management

Can you, please, share with us your career development until now? What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

Every job that I had helped me land where I am today.  If I had to select, I would say that working as a sales consultant for Austrian Airlines for the Benelux market made me come into contact with Dutch B2B customers, with their needs and requirements, as well as with the dynamics of a corporation. Later, at my first job at OMV, I was working as a Sales Support for the Dutch market.  Back then OMV was looking for a Dutch speaker with sales background to help with the implementation of a gas market entry project in the Netherlands and to get their business up and running together with the HQ and Dutch colleagues.  All IT systems and their interfaces relevant for operating the business had to be implemented. Afterwards, I got an official job as a Project Manager at OMV.

Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?

I did not know from the beginning that I will become a project manager. I am a Master of Arts graduate. I studied Foreign Languages at the University of Bucharest, Romania. I have a double specialization Dutch – English. After receiving a scholarship for studying in Vienna 6 months during my BA degree, I came back to Austria for my MA degree. While studying at the Vienna University I was given the opportunity to work for the Dutch department as a student assistant and then I taught a literature seminar. After graduating I received an offer to start a PhD and become an university teacher specialized in Dutch literature. It was at that time that I started craving for tangible and faster results, for reaching and accomplishing objectives. I realized that I would like to make a difference in the society on this level. This was the turning point in my career which made me change my plans.

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

I think my biggest professional success so far is that I managed a career change from sales to project management and I continuously developed myself and refined my style as a project manager since the moment I embarked on this journey. Just three years after my MBA graduation, I climbed three out of four levels of OMV’s project management career path.

What was your biggest challenge? What was your biggest professional mistake (from which you learned a lot)?

I have been honored with reliable project teams until now, so we didn’t let each other ‘’fall’’ or do mistakes during the implementation of our projects. Maybe my biggest challenge so far was the fact that I had to take over a complex IT project, with a high management attention, which already exchanged two project managers before I arrived and with an apparently demotivated team who didn’t believe in it anymore. Together with this same team we managed to revamp it and to turn it from a ‘’failure’’ to a success. Our Business colleagues are now actively using a newly implemented interface and we will be working together for the continuation of the same project which will add more functionalities to the already existing ones.

Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?

  1. The years spent at the Andrei Saguna high school in Brasov, Romania taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They also taught me already as a teenager about the value of effective time management: I was dividing my time between school and private classes, extracurricular activities and friends.

  2. My first job at OMV where I had to make use of project management skills next to sales skills. Being part of a market entry project, which was then turned into a subsidiary, as well as actively contributing to the growth of this subsidiary from scratch brought me in direct contact with the struggles, but also with the successes a team is capable of when everyone fights for the same results and looks into the same direction.

  3. My MBA in project management which led to my first official job in this field at OMV. Thanks to this study I learned project management techniques and methodologies which I would apply in my professional life. It was the very first decision I took which actually contributed to me becoming a project manager.

When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him to live a successful and fulfilling life?

  • Strive to be the best professional version of yourself, but not at the expense of your private life.

  • Do not give up on your dreams and ideas of where you want to be even though there are tough moments sometimes. There will always be a way, go and find it!

  • Listen to the people around you and do not be afraid to ask for help or advice. There is no sole success without the contribution of other people.

Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?

Reliable, honest, open, communicative and direct.

What has changed in your career because of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you?

The MBA had a tremendous effect on my career change. It was thanks to the MBA that I managed to navigate a career change from sales to project management and to land my first job in project management. Also, techniques I would learn during the study e.g. stakeholder analysis, risk assessment or methods of design thinking like the ‘’5 whys’’, helped me explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem at work and to come up with the relevant plan for solving it. Moreover, the MBA degree lies at the heart of my promotions in project management so far (3 over the course of 3 years).

As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?

The MBA does require a good portion of one’s private time and stretches one’s limits at work too. I had an employer who was flexible enough to accept that even if once a month I was going to classes, I still accomplished my work tasks outside of a specific time interval. Furthermore, I had an understanding partner who was willing to take up responsibilities and create space for themselves independent of my presence.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Not being bound or constrained by time.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

Movie: Dune. Currently reading ‘’The emotionally intelligent leader’’ by Daniel Goleman.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

An astronaut on the International Space Station.  


I can laugh about:
Past awkward moments of myself
Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook:
Lack of organizational skills if know-how is greater.
My funniest/most exciting travel experience was:
I went for an 8 hour hike in the High Tatras without enough supplies and without knowing it will take that long. Now it is funny, back then it was everything, but funny.
I could not live without this app on my cell phone:
Any app which has to do with communicating with family or friends.
You can always find this in my fridge:
I would spend my last money on:
Gifts for my family
Ten years ago, I thought:
I thought I would be going back to Romania after graduating from my first master.
Today, I know:
That no matter how much you plan, life can always surprise you!

Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.

Share this