Each day spent in Singapore, Alina makes the world understand how valuable Romanians can be. Her work is acknowledged throughout the entire Asia as she plays an essential role in one of the most famous organizations worldwide. Our dialogue revolved around the Asian culture, the perception upon Romania as well as what needs to happen for our country to earn her back.
Name: Alina Elena Iosub
Age:35 going on 36
Hometown: Pascani, Iasi
Living in: Sigapore
Current position & company:Project Manager, HP Inc
TGR: Alina, you are so far away from home, but I guess living in such an exotic financial centre really pays off! How does Singapore look like from the inside?
AI: Singapore is an amazing city where you get to learn about Asian culture without missing out on anything the western civilization has to offer. It is the safest place on Earth and the best place to start exploring other Asian countries. You will find in Singapore people from all around Asia - from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, China, Japan, you name it. Even if you do not take a single step outside the country, you still get to learn about the surrounding cultures just by making new friends.
Is there by any chance something disappointing?
I have the habit of imagining things in a certain way, and expecting the reality to comply. Turns out it doesn't work with the elements...
When I arrived here I was shocked to see how short days are - the sun rises at about 6:30 and it sets at about 7 PM, all year long- somehow I expected longer, sunny days like we have in Romania during summer, when the sun sets at half past nine in the evening. And when I get out of the house, I do not immediately land on the beach. Also, the Singapore main island beaches are not those "palm trees, blue water, white sand" beaches that I was picturing - you need to go island hunting among the 60 islands of Singapore in order to find that perfect spot.
You have had a long career in HP Romania, and I suppose you have moved to the next level in Singapore. What is your current main responsibility?
It is a mix of project and process management - I have coordinated the implementation of a new software in the APJ region and now I am supervising the tool performance, after go live. At the same time, I am monitoring the back office processes to make sure they are following the worldwide guidelines, and I design new processes whenever the need arises. Not rocket science and nothing glamorous, but I am expected to be the decision maker in many aspects and local management does turn to me for consultancy.
It seems that HP wouldn't have done a better job with someone else
Well, after all, I am the one knowing how to “push the buttons” of the software that I have implemented.
How many peers/direct reports do you have?
My local team is quite small (6 people including myself) and I don't have direct reports. However I am managing the operational performance of a small team of three - my colleagues from China.
Is your team mainly made of locals or expats?
I should start by defining my team: I am part of a WW organization, so I have peers in North America, South America and Europe and together we form the SMEs team. Secondly, my regional team is spread on three countries: Singapore –Japan- China. Third, more than half of my local team (the Singapore based one) is made of Singaporeans (the government is actually looking closely at the ratio of expats vs locals).
What about your free time - do you usually spend it with locals or mainly other expats?
Hmmm...I would say that it is with other expats - my best friends are from Romania, Taiwan and China. I am getting along with my manager and colleagues from Singapore just fine (I even invited them over for a Romanian dinner a couple of times but my cooking was so bad, the second time they came prepared with some pre-cooked dishes...) Usually locals have their own families and old friends that they need to spend time with, so expats are more open to making new friends.
Do you feel integrated in the local society? Do you feel respected, appreciated?
No, I don't feel integrated in the society but I don't think I will ever be. When I am on the bus, people will still prefer to sit elsewhere if there is any other seat available; sometimes people will still stare at me, even if Caucasians are not rare in Singapore.
I am respected and appreciated though, more than I have ever been in my country… not only in the workplace, but most importantly, outside the office. I remember two years ago, I was volunteering at a kitchen soup; I took a cab as it was in a remote location and I had to be there before 6:30 AM; when the cab driver learned why I was going there for, he did not want to take my money. Another time, the cab`s POS did not work and I did not have any money on - the driver told me that he understands that I am busy and he respects my time and he gave me his bank account to transfer the ride fare later on. These are examples of how the society works here – I cannot say it happens to everybody all the time, but it happened to me.
How often do you travel to Romania?
I can only afford to go back once per year to see my relatives; whenever I have the chance to travel to Europe for business, I make it a point to have long weekends with my parents.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
My relatives. I only miss my relatives. And the cheese…
Do you see yourself moving back? What could convince you?
No, I don't see myself moving back, at least not yet. There is nothing for me in Romania, except for my parents. And for them I might have to go back. But I did not give up on the idea of reuniting our family somewhere else just yet…one can dream, right? If I have no other choice, I will buy a very tiny house in Viseul de Sus and live there happily ever after.
You seem a little disappointed with your previous life. Or maybe you are just in a much better place. Do you, however, see any positive changes in the Romanian society?
I don't really keep up with what is happening back home. When Iohannis was elected I was hopeful – I thought he will turn things around. Maybe we don't really want to change – look at the results of the elections on this December. I was always more of a dreamer, like my dad, living in my own world so I am really ignorant in political matters. But even I can see that our leaders are lacking vision and our political structures are too accustomed to the status quo to do anything radical. Last year Singapore celebrated 50 years since the separation from Malaysia – Lee Quan Yew built this small country as it is today out of nothing, in only 50 years. Everything is possible, provided we have strong leaders that can see beyond their own wellbeing.
On the other hand, we do have a beautiful country, don't you think? What do you usually say to a foreign friend when asked about Romania?
Whenever I am making a new acquaintance, I usually start by telling them about the breath-taking places to visit – the Danube Delta, the sea side, Maramures, but I also warn them about the infrastructure and advise them that it's always better to have a local show them around; then, of course, I am bragging about our amazing food – mici and tochitura and MBS; also, tzuica is now famous on all continents, including Japan.
I do not talk too much about the taxi drivers trying to rip off foreigners (it happens in the poor Asian countries as well) nor about how they should not expect a “customer centric culture” as most Asian countries have.
And I also need to explain that there is no real “Dracula”, why we didn't produce yet another Nadia and another Gica and that we were actually never part of Russia.
Last but not least, I repeatedly let people down when I was not able to predict their future (I don't always carry my gypsy fortune-telling cristal globe around).
My feeling is you are totally right to point out both the good and bad parts. You are doing a better job than many promoting Romania, so let's finish off in a positive manner! Can you foresee a better future for us?
I have faith that things will change for the better; they have to. But the change needs to start with the regular people - we need to change our mentality. I believe that only the moment when each and every last Romanian will understand to what extent we are lowering our expectations, change will really happen.
Fortunately, we have a good generation of millennials slowly replacing those people who kept us down all these years. My final question - what is your biggest dream?
Travel the world and to the Moon and write a book about it.
That is awesome, thanks Alina! I hope your dreams come true and you will write your book on the porch of that beautiful house in Viseul de Sus! Which you will have eagerly wanted to acquire! Until then, keep up the good work and make Asia understand why Romania is golden!
The Golden Romania
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