How dreams can change
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?
I had my first job at 21 years old as a Cashier for one of the Norkus Food stores in New Jersey, USA, back in 2006, as part of an International Exchange program for students. One year later in October 2007 I’ve joined Raiffeisen Bank Romania, as part of a Talent Program. It was the beginning of my career journey in a very dynamic and challenging industry: the financial services. During 14 years of experience, I was part of key business development projects or strategic transformation initiatives for some of the most important European Banks like Raiffeisen, BCR Erste or Societe Generale. Some of these projects were supported by major consulting companies like Mckinsey, BCG, EY or PwC. This gave me the opportunity to learn about market best practices from leading consulting companies and triggered my motivation to even join one of them beginning of 2015. Every single step of my career was an opportunity to learn and prepare for the next role. A professional life changing milestone was my time with Societe Generale. My growing was exponential because I was given the opportunity to lead and develop an amazing team of ~ 30 talented people, working directly with the CEO and COO in driving some of the key transformation initiatives of the bank. For me, SG was a dream employer, because they were there to support me in the most transformational learning experience – the Executive MBA Program at the WU Executive Academy, but also during difficult personal times, when I lost my husband to a chronical disease in August 2019. This was the career sequence that prepared me for the jump into an international Senior Manager role with the biggest wealth management bank in the world – UBS.
Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?
I never dreamed about becoming a banker. As a kid I was attracted to literature and artistic activities and was often reflecting about human nature, universe and mysterious topics that engage the mind and thinking into continuous research and questioning. My first projection about a potential career was at 14 years old when I attended a local contest between schools on giving first medical aid. That morning, when I was putting on my white robe to attend the competition, I felt that becoming a doctor would be a fulfilling career. I won the contest and later on in high school, I managed to obtain exceptional results in Chemistry, attending Olympiad without any private class and the teacher (without any knowledge of my dream) encouraged me to pursue a medical profession. The one changing and influencing my later decision was my mother, who as an economist wanted me to follow a more pragmatic profession that would secure a living.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
I look at success as a continuous learning process. Learning something new every day, overcoming challenges, helping others and growing with each new experience it is part of success. I enjoy both “smallies” and “biggies” with the same intensity and pleasure and I give 100% in everything I engage into.
I am especially happy about the impact I managed to create within Societe Générale in my role as Director Process Transformation and Consulting Division, the trust I was given for driving strategic topics while following in parallel the classes of the WU EMBA Program. All of these alongside genuine mentorships from a couple of exceptional leaders and humans prepared me for a dream job with UBS in Zurich.
We all do mistakes. They are also part of the success. People who fear failure don’t take risks and the opportunities are never in the comfort zone. A professional mistake I have made was to appoint one of the key technical experts in a leadership role without thoroughly assessing his readiness for such a leadership role. He was the one proposing an idea for creating a small tactical development solution team focusing on RPAs, Sharepoint and Python technologies and I wanted to give him the opportunity to also lead the small team we put together for this purpose. As squad lead, he never managed to get the buy-in and engage the other members and was very much struggling and loosing himself motivation for what he loved most: developing solutions for problems. He was a problem solver, and his greatest pleasure was in delivering solutions and not leading teams. We discussed together after 6 months of mentoring and putting the effort to make this happen and we agreed on a solution that brought significant improvements and satisfaction to him personally and to the other team members.
Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?
We are the sum of our life experience and each of them contribute to what we are at any given point in time. I will focus on 3 that I think contributed significantly to my professional development:
Going to the US as an early student and having a customer-facing job in a non-native language. This early experience gave me the chance to understand the importance of front-line roles. It also rewarded me with lifetime friends.
Joining PwC and Societe Generale. These 2 companies gave me the most significant professional experiences and learnings and are among the standout career milestones in my CV so far.
The decision to apply for the WU EMBA Program Scholarship while reading an article in ZF on a Friday morning subway trip to work. This decision has literally changed my life and I think the ROI goes beyond the pure financial numbers. It gave me the knowledge and inspiration to clarify my direction for the next career step: going for an international role in a highly competitive and most developed economies in the world.
When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him or her to live a successful and fulfilling life?
Dream big and make your dreams come true. Never fear failing and don’t settle with the job description requirements. Professional growth requires initiative and courage.
Promise a lot, deliver even more. Building trust requires delivering exceptional results and these are always the outcome of teamwork and aggregated talent brain power. Help others, genuinely, without projecting your own future benefit coming out of your help or support.
Do any sort of sport, daily. Having a daily exercise routine creates discipline. This will be translated in the way you follow on the important things in life. Don’t find excuses to not do it. It will also have huge benefits on your overall tonus and energy that are essential to run the projects and follow your dreams.
Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?
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 EMBA was a truly transformational experience for me. It enriched me in so many ways that I struggle to keep it short.
To start with, the Program was a vehicle of new ideas I could explore and bring into my company and an unbelievable source of inspiration and energy I was getting after each session in class with my colleagues. As a leader you have to create a vision for your team and you also need the energy to guide them towards the realization, and I was getting both.
Second, during the course of my EMBA Program, I expanded the scope of my work with additional new innovative activities through the creation of the Tactical Development Squad and soon after graduation, I was offered to join UBS Zurich in a Senior Manager role.
Thirdly, I expanded my network with peers across a diverse range of industries with whom I could share and exchange on different professional matters.
And finally, I have gained exceptional mentors that guided my journey and facilitated my decision process on major professional or life events.
As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?
It is definitely a challenging but not impossible mission. It requires good organization and discipline and if there is passion and motivation to getting the best out of it, it is a highly rewarding and enjoyable journey. What helps a lot is the way the whole program is structured and the excellent coordination from the Program Leadership. Each module has 3 phases: 1. pre module assignment – 2. Class - 3. post module project, and this framework, alongside with a clear timeline, enabled me to organize around the requirements and deliveries that were expected from us. I did not lose any of my friends because of not being able to get in touch. On the contrary, I won 27 new friends – my MBA colleagues. My family was fully supporting me and that helped a lot, even if during holiday times or on other important family events I had to open my laptop often and work or get in touch with my team to finalize a project. Every single second of the 18 months was well invested.
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
The Saturday night dinners and drinks with my EMBA class after each module. We had a blast every time, alongside our professors who were honoring the invitation to network over a glass of good wine and a fine dish. And for that “luxury” I have to thank Razvan, our Class President who was always taking care of keeping us together behind the scenes of hard work. And we were truly honoring the saying: Work hard, play hard!
What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
One of the recent books I enjoyed a lot is “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It was an extremely intellectual engaging reading of one of Talebs’ five series volumes. The book spent 36 weeks on New York best sellers list, and is considered one of the most influential books since World War II. It focuses on the extreme impact of rare and unpredictable outlier events and the human tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events, retrospectively. Taleb has referred to the book with one single idea: "our blindness with respect to randomness, particularly large deviations”. I like the book very much because the whole central idea is not about the attempt to predict Black Swan events, but to build robustness to negative events and an ability to exploit positive events. It definitely reinforced a key advice from one of the most inspirational professors of our MBA Program Miquel Llado: “Blinders off”!
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Given just one day, I would want to bring back from that day something that would actually be of lasting impact afterwards. I think I would choose to change places with my husband’s doctor. The 2 main reasons being the opportunity to experience a day in a doctor’s shoes and thus cross-check my teenager career projection, and the chance to rethink the decision and advice for a particular situation in the course of my husband’s disease.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.