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Career Story: Alexandra Burchiu, UNIQA International AG

April 17, 2015

Professional MBA Marketing & Sales alumna

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
There are a few milestones in my life to which I look back with nostalgia and satisfaction: the moment I entered the fascinating world of advertising where I spent eight amazing years which honed my creative spirit and my appetite for innovative ideas, the short entrepreneurship stage which was definitely a learning experience and the decision to move from Bucharest to Vienna to pursue an MBA.

This was also the boldest decision so far as it meant reshuffling my life completely: living abroad for the first time, meeting new people, learning from scratch the German language, spending more time on planes to visit my family, pursuing an international career and the MBA at the same time…four great years and no regrets!

Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
Yes, just like anybody else, I had several ideas over time…I wanted to become an opera singer at some point, and I even took some professional singing lessons for that. All the other career ideas which sprang to my mind followed a similarly artistic path, and even if none of them became my real profession, they are my hobbies now.  

Moreover, I believe that my current career – as a Product Marketing Manager – is not too far away from the artistic field. I always say that marketing is a sensorial industry and experience as it touches on three essential customer components: the head, the hands and the heart…just like any form of art does…

How and why did you come to work for UNIQA International?
Regarding the ‘‘why’’ - because it was a perfect match with my previous career. In Romania, I managed the marketing communications activities of Raiffeisen Bank from the position of Account Director at Saatchi & Saatchi. At UNIQA International, I work again with Raiffeisen Bank - from a head office perspective in all 15 markets I am responsible of.

As for the ‘‘how’’, there is a funny story where the MBA played also a role. The job offer came during my MBA and after I had moved to Vienna. After the interview with the lady who was to become my boss and my mentor, Facebook notified me that I had a friend in common with her, and this was an MBA colleague – quite a fortunate coincidence taking into account that I was living in Vienna for 5 months at that time so I did not know too many people.

To keep a long story short, I knew I got the job before the HR person informed me officially, and this was due to the MBA connection. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Luis for his unconditional support.

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals?
The MBA was a rewarding experience as it gave me more self-confidence, great colleagues and friends, hard work and fun too. Moreover, it has honed my skills in those marketing and sales areas I had not encountered before, set higher standards and raised my expectations of other educational programs and of the people around me. It has become an asset in my CV and complements my previous education and work experience. Following the MBA, my job seniority and autonomy have increased, too. I now work in a higher position that involves more challenging tasks and responsibilities - with proven success.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?
My job was a newly created position at UNIQA International at the time I joined the company. This gave me the opportunity to shape it up completely and to build the product marketing area across all ‘‘my’’ countries. What I consider both a professional and personal success is the trust and the positive feedback I get from my team. It flatters me and motivates me to continue what I have started.

What are your goals for 2015?
I will soon start the roll-out of a big project I’m working on called ‘‘Product Intelligence’’ tools. The goal is to turn it into a success story in all ‘‘my’’ countries.

Apart from that, I plan to stay fit, to maintain the right balance between my private and professional lives, to learn new things and to keep my creativity sharp.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?
To be bold and true to yourself…and let nobody make you afraid…

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
Movies: “The Theory of Everything” (the life story of the very famous physicist Stephen Hawking) and “The Imitation Game” (the story of the mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma code during World War II).

Books: several at the same time but one is really worth mentioning: “Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want”.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
My philosophy of leadership encompasses the following abilities and skills: a safe pair of hands, emotional intelligence, authenticity, empowering others, spotting and fostering their strengths, providing constructive feedback, using more often ‘‘we’’ rather than ‘‘I’’. And I fully agree with something I once heard: ‘‘If you don’t like people, you will never be a good manager/leader’’.

Along the journey, I met several people who became my role models and mentors. Such people are rare, and what I owe them is that they shaped my life in a way I will never forget.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
By meeting witty people who inspire me and give me the motivation to become better, going regularly to the gym, enjoying any form of art, reading whatever I find interesting and singing with my acoustic rock band.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
A Bond girl...but with a happy ending...

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
I liked it because of its internationality and the very diverse team. I really learned a lot from my colleagues. We worked on some state-of-the-art case studies and had top professors. The MBA’s reputation, curriculum and structure – the combination of the business core and the specialization – were important selection criteria for me. Those interested in an MBA should bear in mind that it is not just a theoretical study program so you should gain some valuable work experience beforehand in order to benefit as much as possible from the class interactions and give something back to your MBA fellows.

Wordrap

My motto in life:
"For me, the only difference between possible and impossible is that it takes a little longer to accomplish the impossible".

I can laugh about:
Smart jokes…and about myself, too. I consider self-irony an important quality.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
Harmless human flaws…


I would spend my last money on:
A flight ticket to anywhere...
In 20 years I will be:
Hopefully still infect others with my enthusiasm, imbibe information and be keen to learn and definitely still listen to my favorite rock band: Whitesnake.

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