Andreea Baloi: The biggest challenge faced by any professional is understanding how they can do what they love and love what they do
I am born in December, so for me this month isn’t just about the holiday spirit and the year end. It’s also a time when I stop and ask myself all the questions I want answered for next year, a time when I close the chapters I feel are no longer needed and I open new ones that I am excited about. I am very grateful for this opportunity that Outsourcing Advisors is giving to professionals around the country and for the opportunity the team has given me to think about aspects, which I also question myself about from time to time.
My career, although not in the Outsourcing industry, is pretty similar to that of many other professionals in this field. I’ve started in customer service and worked my way up towards currently being Operations Manager in BullGuard, a very customer centric security company, with a focus on safety and simplicity. In this role, I lead the teams that provide continuous assistance to our business functions while being an integrative part of the company’s development. It’s a very challenging and dynamic position, which I am enjoying very much and which has provided me with a lot of insight into how businesses – whatever their field might be – are built and managed.
OA: Please state the most important stops in your career so far.
AB: I think the first and most important one was deciding to change industries and move from media to IT, during a time when this field did not have the exposure it has today in Bucharest and perhaps all over the world. I was in my 3rd year of university and I think that it was a very fortunate moment when I started working for BullGuard, because they were a small start-up in the cybersecurity world, with a lot of potential. The dedication, openness, honesty, transparency and passion with which we all did our jobs had me hooked from day one.
The second turning moment that shaped my career was deciding to continue working for a small start-up, rather than go for one of big IT players. After receiving an offer from one of the big corporations that was attracting a lot of the young professionals in my field, my manager at that point told me he was leaving the country and asked me to take his role as the Head of the Customer Support. At that point, I was only 23 and I remember clearly that it was both amazing and also very terrifying, but possibly the defining moment when I realised this is what I wanted to do.
My third moment was deciding to continue my career in Romania. Around 2011, I was looking at options to emigrate, but the change of management, new working relationships and the exposure I started having in my role convinced me to stay. I discovered what it meant to have a mentor and how much that can influence your self-confidence, management style, and career path and I’ve discovered loyalty and the strong need to be there for your team both when times are good, but also when times are bad.
OA: What do you think it takes to succeed in Outsourcing?
AB: Personally, I think that what it takes to succeed in is the same as what it takes to succeed everywhere: the desire to ask questions, learn, study and work hard and the wish to be better today than you were yesterday. It’s important to find a role and a company that allow you to grow or simply to start creating a path for yourself. I think the biggest challenge faced by any professional is understanding how they can do what they love and love what they do, while also working on what will be their next step in the meantime. At BullGuard, we like to call it “build the plane while flying”; I find it to be very hard, yet extremely rewarding.
From a more general perspective, Outsourcing has and will continue to play a key role in Romania’s development, especially IT. To succeed in Outsourcing, it is crucial to be willing to connect to your organisation’s mission and goals and find the sweet spot between theirs and yours. In my experience, I deliver the best work when I understand what is the dream we’re chasing and what is my role in achieving it. Everything else just falls into place after getting that.
OA: Based on your experience of managing the recruitment & retention of talent, what are the biggest challenges that a SSC/ BPO are facing from a workforce perspective?
AB: To me, the biggest challenges anyone faces today are attracting the right people, creating a setup that helps them deliver their best work and keeping employees happy and satisfied.
In October 2015, I was invited to deliver a speech at a conference organized by SDI – a global network and community for service desk professionals and I specifically chose to speak about “How to Turn Your Service Desk into A Growth Engine”. I realised back then – which is true to this day – that the most important step that any company can make in setting itself up for success is hiring the right people in the right roles. Having the patience to look for them, not succumb to deadlines, to continue searching even when the context changes and to reboot the process as many times as it takes is a hard, complex and frustrating process at times, but very rewarding.
Most recently, I have been doing a lot of research about employee engagement and how we can improve work conditions and I’ve come across a concept which is very appealing, yet rather new: to let employees reshape their jobs rather than have the jobs define their responsibilities. I think that we are slowly entering an area where creativity and innovation, no matter how small, are the keys to taking a step further and creating an exciting work environment and I see a lot of pushback – which is natural – in accepting this shift in perspective. Finding the right time and right moment for an initiative like this in a company is pretty hard, but it is important that all the needs of the human spirit are encouraged and lifted.
Finally, I believe a lot in the diversity of our needs and feel that – while we all show some distinct character traits – we all like both security and change, we all love comfort but look for new challenges, we all want to feel safe, but don’t shy away from taking risks. So, it becomes rather hard for a company to provide the perfect setup for employees to feel happy and satisfied all the time. Especially in some of the dynamic markets today, it’s very easy to find the next best thing, the new perk, the innovative start-up and the attraction is high. I believe companies will continue to have challenges in finding the right balance between all these human needs and have to really pick and choose the battels they can win.
OA: Do you believe in a typical profile of an Outsourcing Professional in Romania?
AB: I would not use the word typical because, in my experience, I’ve had a lot of surprises from the people I’ve hired over the years. Having such a general view of what qualities are needed for these roles can stop you from looking forward, beyond these traits, into what makes that person a great team member, how they can shine and how you can help them achieve their best potential. I have made it a priority to hire people with different profiles who, as long as they’re respectful, smart, determined and team-players, can bring a new vibe into an already established team, which usually challenges its status quo.
OA: Based on the current state of the industry, where do you see Outsourcing going in the near future?
AB: Whereas before I dreaded this exercise, I love looking into the future now and imagining how the world will change. I feel that the industry is heading to an even bigger globalisation of products and services and soon we will be seeing huge centres that serve millions of customers from certain fields, not necessarily in the same place, but with a lot of remote work so that people can have the flexibility to mix their lifestyle with their job requirements and also change their career path when and if they feel like it. I also think the world is heading to a relaxation of typical working schedules and office policies and the understanding that today and tomorrow’s generation no longer want the same things and freedom of choice, of movement and of speech are a big thing for them.
OA: Finally, is career something that happens or something that you build?
AB: If I were to review everything I said, I would have to conclude that it is both. It so happened that BullGuard opened an office in Bucharest and my friend Cristina told me about this IT opportunity and my manager had to leave Romania, but attitude, work ethics, determination and passion for always doing the best I can do are what got me where I am today. Of course, I would not be here without all the people that helped me along the way and without the many mistakes made and lessons learnt. I was actually terrified of making errors and being wrong at the beginning of my career, but after the first 10 years it got easier and I got more relaxed and better at dealing with them.
I think career is a mix of everything: a little bit of luck, many opportunities, good timing, a lot of hard work and also – if you’re really lucky – maybe a vision. I am fortunate to have had most of these pieces filling the puzzle of my career so far and hoping to get really lucky and find the last big one: the vision. I feel I have a lot more time and patience now to get there and I am enjoying the ride and everything that comes with it.