Mar 11, 2011

Connecting the dots (a.k.a. How started)

Every choice we make and everybody we meet makes us what we are today. But even if we plan something, we do not truly know where life is taking us...until we reach a milestone in our life and we look back at the things that brought us there...and we see how things connected.

At this moment I am launching my first real business! So I am proud to present you my startup, 18 days before its official launch: - an online platform that aims to build a community of top students that will benefit from the best internship opportunities in the most diverse range of companies.

But how and why did I do it? Here is the story (quite long article)- the dots that connected to lead me to this:


After one year of studying at the university (of Marketing), I got bored of so much theory (also not the most updated one) and I started to look for practical experience opportunities.

Not easy to start from zero though: everywhere I turned, all the companies were asking you to have previous experience in the field. So I was wondering, in this case, how can you break this ice? How can you ever start, if everyone is asking you to have some experience already?

There were actually some jobs for students in my situation, like Sales Representatives in shopping malls, Call Center operators etc. But all these were just bringing some money on the table, some professional experience indeed, but not professional experience in your field of studies, in the field you would like to build your career. I have to admit that I did try one of these for a few months.

It came to my mind then an advice from my cousin when I was applying for university: "No matter what, during your studies, do get involved into a students association." Alright I said, let's try! I picked one of them from my university, due to some random circumstances: Business Organisation for Students.


Still in my second year of studies (but towards the end).

Being involved in the students association still was not satisfying my professional needs and my goal to "grow" faster. Attending some conferences in my field of studies, I noticed some cool companies (well, deciding this by their representatives). I looked on the website of two of them and I applied for two jobs. One called me for an interview. Some weeks and some tests later, I was starting my first job in the field: Marketing Assistant at Daedalus Millward Brown (a top Marketing Research agency) - and I was actually one of the few lucky students to manage to get a job in the field of studies. And this is where I realized how much you can actually learn by doing, through real experience (and adding the workshops and trainings provided). Was a full time job, but I felt it is worth more the time spent there than the time spent at the university...I was learning more.

Some months after, I thought I can use my experience (not much at that moment, but still something compared to what other colleagues knew) to share it with other enthusiast students. Therefore, I have decided to build a new department in the students organisation: Marketing Strategy & Research. After some elections, I was the Manager of an 8 people department. Was a parallel experience with my job and it was complementary. I really liked the knowledge and experience exchange with my colleagues, but also the additional managing and leading part.


After graduating from my university (3 years of studies), after 1.5 years working in the company and after 2 years of being involved in the students organisation, I found and took a big opportunity: to move abroad and be in the Executive Board of JADE (European Confederation of Junior Enterprises) for one year (random circumstances and lots of courage brought me here). I left all my life in Romania and moved to Belgium (well, actually all over Europe :) Great learning by doing experience...and great life lesson! Also, this made me discover how things work in other countries. And this is how I also noticed all that internships system they have (and in Romania was missing...this was missing from being able to break the ice for starting a career).


My term in JADE was finishing in October, and I had to decide on and find something to do after. I wanted to get a cool job in Marketing in some other country and explore more the international life. But things did not work out as planned (various reasons).

In September I changed my mind and decided to start my own business. A big one actually that required good planning, lots of involvement, a big investment and going back to Romania. Spent on it 3 months of learning about entrepreneurship and planning it (one month in Belgium, one month in Germany and one month in Romania).

In November I realized that starting this business might take longer than I thought. And I could not stay on the edge meanwhile. So I was back home, not knowing how to start, but aiming high. I went back to the thought of looking for a job....of course, I said, just temporary until I am able to start my business. And I looked for jobs abroad and in my country. This whole "looking for a job" thing made me reflect more on how the hiring process is working...what are the good and bad aspects of it, in different countries.

In December I decided to start an online platform in the HR area, on a niche: internships for students. That was because I wanted to make it possible for future generations of students to have an easier career start, unlike my generation and previous generations had. And also to make the recruiting and hiring process more friendly for both students and companies. The internships are quite a new concept for Romania, although some players are already on the market. So I felt there is still need for more players to develop the market and also that I can do things differently than already existing (and future plans include more aims of expansion).

And I took the first steps: defining a basic concept and looking for the right team.


Things developed with the speed of light.

In January I already had a great team (and this felt like the biggest challenge...and then achievement), a web agency, a lawyer, a more developed concept, some first potential partnerships and sales leads. And it all started to be bigger than I thought it can be. Of course, this part of the story can expand into a long story itself (but this with another occasion).

And until today (middle of March) we worked a lot on it. And we still have a lot to work on it, to develop it. And me and my team colleagues are happy to announce that is already a real business project, waiting to be officially launched on 29th March.

Mar 6, 2011


I remember one of my first teachers in school was always saying: "You cannot evaluate something, unless you compare it with something else." And this is so true.

When we have several elements to evaluate, we are always more critique with the first (one or two) options. Then for the next ones, we start comparing with the previous options and most of times this also means that we become less critique.

This is also used in negotiation techniques: for example, you start from the highest possible price and then you present cheaper options.

It is the psychology of human beings, that they are more likely to accept something if they were exposed to worse conditions in advance, rather than accepting it if it was the first thing to hear about.

But what happens to the quality of some deliverables you ask from your colleagues or a service provider?

Going through lots of possibilities, seeing many tend to lower expectations. You can end up accepting something that was unacceptable in the first place, but later on you become open to it. Especially if there are also some time constrains. However, if you carry those results outside of the internal work (outside your team project, for example), the others do not have the same terms of comparison as you had. You might not even know with what they will compare it. And most probably they will have higher expectations than you at that point in time.

So what is there to do?
The best solution I can think of is to work on things on shorter terms and avoiding going through too many internal alternatives. If it isn't "love at first sight", then it shouldn't be - even in business.

Mar 2, 2011

Networking 20.11

I have attended (as participant and speaker) two conferences lately:

- Digital Marketing Forum in Bucharest (organized by Evensys)

- International Congress of Youth Entrepreneurship in Brussels (organized by JADE)

and I have noticed that there are some interesting ways in which networking has changed nowadays, as described below.

1. Speakers do not carry business cards with them anymore. You can remember their name or find it on the website of the event and then connect to them on LinkedIn (and from there on twitter, facebook etc.) However, LinkedIn is not that friendly if you want to connect with somebody you met during an event if you don't have his/her email address from the business card (and no other criteria apply, such as done business together or colleagues).

2. Most of the people do not have just one professional activity at a time, they usually run more projects/ companies/ jobs. Multitasking! So what happens then with the business cards? Some give you more business cards in the same time (one for each activity), some give you the relevant business card for the event you meet at, some give you a business card that sends you to their individual website where you can see all their ongoing activities. I also find myself in the same situation, I have 3 current positions at the moment and I am still thinking what to do about it regarding promotion (business card or something else). I have an idea so far and I will show you soon.

3. We do miss more tech tools. Like one that enables you to see who is in the room. Yes, we do have applications like Foursquare where you can check in and see who else is around, but there you cannot see professional profiles that are needed in these circumstances.

4. Twitter walls are so helpful. Is an easy way to connect with people in the room through twitter, share impressions and give feedback in real time. Every conference should have this.

5. There are some useful mobile apps that facilitate networking and managing contacts. I use and recommend CamCard for Android - an app that scans business cards with the phone's camera and then saves automatically all the info in your contact book, each at the appropriate place. If you know more useful tools like this, please share.

How do you connect?

* On the same topic: Business Insider article