Career Story: Oana Vaideanu

October 03, 2016

Executive MBA Bucharest alumna

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

There have been 3 stages in my life that affected me the most. The first of them was starting to work at HRGroup, the company where I was managing director until June 2015. It opened a completely new range of possibilities in my life; a world I had not known before of traveling, getting intercultural work experience, meeting experienced people from large companies like Metro, Carrefour, etc.

They also supported me through the MBA, which was the second important stage in my life. During the MBA, I met interesting people as teachers and colleagues, I have deepened my understanding of management and built some wonderful relationships with colleagues who became friends and still inspire me. During the MBA, I met a trainer who recommended me a book that led to the last but not least important stage in my life—meeting my husband and getting a whole new understanding of how our experience as human beings is created. This understanding unleashed a wide range of possibilities in my life that I had not been able to see before. So I saw that I did not want to work in management but to interact with people, approach them, build relationships and tell stories.

That's why I ended up starting to build a business where my husband and I produce leather bags and accessories, called Smiles Bags. We built up a brand based on minimalism and simplicity and designed a successful  communication strategy. This would be an extension of my coaching and consulting business where I hope to inspire people as others have inspired me.

Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?

I actually never thought I would do something else, because it seemed I was very good at managing people. My husband still makes fun of me, saying I am managing everybody all the time—my son, him and our friends. The change came naturally after I succeeded to slow down a little bit, to have some quiet time and to look at what is important for me in life, what makes me happy and comes with ease.

How and why did you come to work for yourself?

In the beginning of 2015 I had to make a decision about how my professional life will continue to look like because of some reorganizing in the company I was working for. For some time I had wanted to try to work for myself and it seemed to be the right time to do that. I negotiated an exit and switched without much thought. Usually, if I have to think too much about a decision it is not the right moment to do it. I value the freedom to organize my own time and to develop a business how I choose to. For me the most important value of a company is to be authentic and to transmit its values to the customers. This is not really possible in a large company; a lot of this authenticity gets lost in procedures and processes.

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

Looking back at the beginnings, my biggest success is that, after I decided to leave, my team keeps going with the same rhythm, knowledge and energy as when I was there. I leave behind a strong and healthy company where I did everything I could to shape it in this way. This is my biggest achievement. Although I ended the collaboration one year ago I am still in close contact with my former colleagues and partners which would recommend me at any moment as a trustworthy, serious, focused person.

What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?

I have learned lately that having a clear goal may put a lot of pressure on you and hinder you in a way, limiting possibilities. I am just having a direction now. I am looking forward to the development of Smiles Bags b2b segment, the concept leather gifts and giveaways for companies. Moreover, we are also trying to enter the Chinese market through a partner, I am very curious how it will develop. .

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

I consider it a great luxury to understand that we can do anything in life, nothing limits us but our thinking!

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

The last movie I fully enjoyed was “You’ve got mail”. Yes… Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together are one of my guilty pleasures… and I love the dog in the movie, too!

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?

I liked a lot what we discussed during the MBA about leaders. I have been introduced to Maxine Clark, Herb Kelleher and others who cared about people (be it employees or customers). Similar to them, I tried to see everybody as human first, to care, trust them and hear them. I think this approach created a safe space where we could be creative and productive, without much pressure, which leads to an increased bottom line in the end.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?

I love to go to the mountains and to enjoy the quiet fresh air after long walking. I love to read and to have coffee in the park. I love to play with my son, I am having a lot of fun with him. And newly I enjoy my dog. And friends! I am social person, can’t spend much time without meeting my friends.

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

I would wish to change places with my husband. We are so different, I am very curious how it is to be in his shoes.

Why would you recommend the Executive MBA Bucharest of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

The WU EMBA was for me one of the best periods of my life. I enjoyed the courses, especially the negotiation course, financial course, marketing, which have had an impact in my managing style. I was lucky to have the opportunity to implement immediately what I studied, which lead to better relationships with colleagues and increased understanding and decision making in the named fields. I also improved my budgeting and forecasting skills a lot.

The most valuable thing is the friendships that I made with my colleagues. This network that I build is really fun at friendship level and it also helped me to grow my entrepreneurship business a lot. I am so grateful for having this chance.


My motto in life…

If you want to be fast, go slow! (Lao Tzu)

I can laugh about…

Everything! :-)

Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook…

What is “shortcomings”? When I am in a good mood, they don’t exist; when I am in a bad mood, everything looks like it!

I would spend my last money on…

Probably on a new blouse!

In 20 years I will…

Work just two days a week!

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