Ioana Bratu, Executive MBA Bucharest alumna
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 started working since I was a student because I was eager to get acquainted with the working environments in international law firms. I could say that my first years of my career spent at a world-renowned law firm, Allen & Overy, had a significant impact on my development as a professional, laying the foundations for my future endeavors, such as opening my own law practice. This was a new and totally different journey for me, one of entrepreneurship and leadership. While navigating my new challenge, I decided to enroll in the Executive MBA Program offered by the WU Executive Academy of the WU Vienna. This was another important milestone in my career, which offered me the opportunity to benefit from valuable insights from my professors, all of them international recognized academics in their fields.
Further, after more than 10 years of actively practicing law, I decided it was time for a more active social engagement. Therefore, I decided to continue my work in an academic legal environment. I moved to the Netherlands, Amsterdam and here I teach law at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam while acting as a Board Member of Amsterdam Law & Technology Institute. I am also involved in coaching and mentoring students and young professionals, part of international organizations, such as the United Nations.
Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?
I have always pictured myself as building a career within the legal profession. As my story reveals, this offers multiple opportunities, and it is important to make right choices for yourself. Having a medium- and long-term plan also helps but given the dynamics of societies we live in, embracing change is an important part of success.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
My definition of success is about being able to grow, improve and develop to become a better version of myself every day, and by achieving this, being capable to have a positive impact on people’s life. My aim is to serve as an inspiration for the young generation, to teach them not to be afraid of leaving their comfort zone and to remain faithful to their ethical values. If I manage to do that, each day a bit, I can consider myself being successful.
What was your biggest challenge? What was your biggest professional mistake (from which you learned a lot)?
An interesting challenge, which helped me to develop a lot, was the moment when I was setting up my own law firm with important high-stake negotiations and at the same time learning and applying completely new domains in my Executive MBA studies. The diverse interests, necessities and requests across different time zones, domains, industries, and stakeholders contributed to an exciting and very enriching leadership experience.
In terms of mistakes, of course, there were many! However, over the years I learned to appreciate the value of failures because without them I would not be the person I am today. The most important lesson learned which I always share with my students is to follow your dream and if you fail, to embrace the failure as your own personal experience and to transform it into your future success.
Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?
All experiences, circumstances and choices led me to where I am now. But, most important my close circle of mentors in my life offered me the necessary advice, constructive criticism and support. There were many positive and negative experiences in my life, some have been challenging, others enriching. Surround yourself with good and competent people to develop your heart and brains, because in order to stay grounded, to evaluate well and to make the best decisions, you might need both.
When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him/her to live a successful and fulfilling life?
Instead of focusing on the one individual, the “superstar model” or “most talented high potential”, I prefer a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone’s talent, how different it may be, can be discovered, developed and integrated. The power of a consolidated team can be enormous and will lead to long-lasting success. The main three pieces of advice for each of them would be: listen, care and find your purpose.
Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?
Committed, Consistent, Dedicated, Heart & Brains
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 program was created with global dimensions, considering the in-class modules on campuses in Europe and the US, with well-known international staff as well as true state of the art knowledge. As an attorney-at-law and looking originally through the lenses of "law", being now able to understand and combine them with economic and business perspectives has broaden my horizons. It helps me to integrate easier multidisciplinary domains with a more holistic view but also with the possibility to deep dive into the related subjects.
As an example, in my field of research I need to integrate many different domains. At Amsterdam Law & Technology Institute, I set up the first Multidisciplinary Summer School approaching artificial intelligence from the perspectives of law, ethics, technology, business and social sciences, with participants from more than 20 countries and with diverse educational backgrounds. I have also created a new Law Master course offered in a unique setting. It connects artificial intelligence with the study of space law, a growing field of law focused on the laws applicable to space related activities, such as space exploration (finding new inhabitable Planets), space travelling, launching objects in outer space (for example, communication and navigation satellites), exploration of space resources (for example, rock samples from the Moon or Mars) and how they are interconnected with our activities on earth.
As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?
My family supported me with this decision and understood that I had to re-allocate my time. I had enough positive energy available and surely learned to delegate more. Concerning time-management issues: I understood the differences between urgency and importance very fast. I never felt as if this experience was time consuming. I saw it more as an investment in time and was passionate about this new challenge.
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
Great luxury for me is being able to live in a way where I can appreciate the present while looking forward to what the future might bring.
What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
I recently read “Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future” by Peter Senge et. al. I have enjoyed the pragmatic analysis of our present times in addition to the visionary focus on the future for humanity and our planet.
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I would not want to change it with someone else. Everyone has their own history and future, struggles and successes, and based on those, an individual specific path to choose.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.