Aurel is one of the many Romanians lucky enough to live and work in the Silicon Valley. What stands him apart? I would say his wide knowledge in managing IT projects, having his beautiful family with him and making sure he sees every project he closes as an opportunity for him and his team to grow. More about life in the States, the accomplishments, lessons learned and passions of an ambitious Romanian, in today's interview.
Name: Aurel Caraghiorghiopol
Abroad since: 2012
Living in: San Jose, California, USA
Current position & company: Project Manager at CISCO, CH Reynolds
TGR: Aurel, what a nice opportunity should be, to live in such a desired place like the Silicon Valley! What did you have to prove to earn this challenge?
AC: Indeed it is a wonderful opportunity. While I was thinking about moving here for a while, it came as a mix between chance and repeated tries. The chance was getting the visa, while the effort was finding the right opportunity in a moment when the demand on the job market was very low. Having not a professional network here in the Valley reduced even more the area of opportunities. So, I had to compensate, learning a lot about hiring process in the area. Studies are showing for example that resumes are geeting attention for 6 seconds in average in the first filtering process. Also, algorithms are used to narrow down resumes from few thousands to few tens. I could say, I learned SEO the hard way
How did you find life in the States?
I would say, life is good. I work what I like and I learn new things. I spend most of my free time with my family, also running and climbing.
Could you share a unique experience you've had so far in the US?
The most intense experience I had so far is when police was arresting two persons for theft, while they were by their car and I was by mine but parked right next to theirs. Police jumped out from nowhere, with the guns in their hands shouting "freeze", "hands in the air", "get on the ground". Initially, I was somehow in the line of fire so I ducked behind my car, but then while they were flanking the targets, I stood up, hands in the air and I moved out, slowly, away from the scene. It was like in the movies.
Wow, that's crazy, I just wish you don't live so many similar movies every day...
Here's the proof: my car is the silver one with its door open, and the Lexus next to it was ready to fly on the highway with electronic devices of almost 2000 USD... Fortunately police was hidden expecting them, and at the end apologized for making us wait and gave us a bumper sticker in the form of a police star... Here, police is very friendly when you interact with them, but if you are a suspect they won't hesitate to shoot if they believe you pose any danger.
There should be something else attractive about San Jose, isn't it?
It is the heart of the Silicon Valley, where every big technology company that you might think of has at least one office. It is a place full of opportunities for professionals with technical background. Most of the new things are brought to life here, a place full of startups and full of venture capitalists, angel investors, a place that attracts a lot of capital and brains. Stanford University is also here in the Valley, and Berkeley is not very far. And there is one more advantage - I can ride my motorcycle the whole year round
Fun fact, San Jose is jokingly called "Men" Jose because there are 134 men to 100 women
I guess you feel at home after 5 years in California...
Home is where my family is. And they are here. Of course, it takes some time to get used with the local culture, environment, geography, and that it is normal. Time to feel accommodated depends though on each person. Personally, I like being in new places, exploring, taking the social pulse, so I get to know fast if I like a place or not. And I like it here. I just wished the mountains were closer, so I can do this more often...
You seem like an outdoor guy...
I prefer mountain related sports. Mostly rock climbing and mountaineering but for these you need a partner and it is more difficult to have a match in free time. And here, mountains are 4-5 hours away. But on more regular basis I’m running, and rock climbing at the gym, it takes far less time. Running needs zero commute time, starts and ends in front of the house, and gym is fairly close.
I started running few years ago. It took me some will to break out of my comfort zone and see some progress. But I got used doing it and started running longer distances and getting faster and faster. Now I go out every few days and it is awesome! It clears my mind and boosts my energy levels. Last year I ran two half marathons and a total of 1016 km. This year I have same running goal but I will add more biking.
This really shows ambition and motivation to work harder every day! Is it just you or do you think these qualities make us Romanians stand apart from other nations in the Valley?
There is a large community of Romanians here in the Bay area, but I never got the sensation that anyone is perceiving us as a different or special niche of professionals. Here the mix is so diverse, you can find people from all over the world. Literally. A large percentage of the people here are expats, so we've met people from all continents and we always enjoy a good company.
What is your main responsibility at the job?
Managing IT infrastructure projects for internal clients. There are few thousands applications and databases that are used by employees or customers as part of normal operation. For example, financial applications, HR, logistics, Webex, cisco.com, and many, many others. These are constantly developed, new features are added, bugs corrected, and so on. They are consuming IT infrastructure resources mostly as IasS (Infrastructure as a Service) or PaaS (Platform as a Service). There are many cases when the requirements are complex. It can be a platform with special requirements in terms of networking, performance or other custom requirements. Also, the data centers are always under upgrades and modernizations. That's when I come into picture and manage the project from team forming to the last step, go live.
Can you tell me something only you can do in the company?
I am always looking to be creative and find better and more efficient ways to work, to solve issues, communicate with peers, with stakeholders. I am always looking to improve how I work, how my team works. I am challenging how we do things. And when we progress as a team, that's a multiplied value. And that makes a difference. For the company, for the team and for myself.
Could you name your greatest achievement so far?
Few months ago we've delivered a large platform with many technological "firsts". That is used by a sum of Cisco applications that are generating two figures billions revenue, two figure percentage of the total. I managed the project but the credits are going to the entire team, hence the “we”.
Well, a project of such magnitude needs an excellent project manager and an amazing team behind. Who is this “we” you are relying on?
For each project, depending on the requirements a team is formed from SME’s from every field. Just to name few, System Administrators, Storage engineers, DBA’s, performance testing engineers, network design and implementation, data center engineers, designers, architects, vendors from third party and list can continue. And usually the team is spread around the world.
It is very interesting to observe and to influence the project team dynamics in such environments where different stream teams are going different pace and have different culture in terms of communication and interfacing.
Now let's talk a little bit about our country. How often do you travel to Romania?
Usually, once a year. California and Romania are almost on the other side of the planet. The trip door to door is around 20 hours in absolute time, but going east takes two days in relative time. So, in total, the trip both ways consumes 3 days.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
Old friends. But we keep in touch over Whatsapp, calls and so on.
Do you see some positive changes in our society?
If I look 20 years back I definitely see a positive change. Right now probably there is a regress, but that's how systems work. Development, change, feedback and back to development.
What could convince you to move back?
Moving here was a calculated choice. It was an investment in the future for all of us. It is hard to believe that back in Romania will happen in short term a dramatic change that will make the future to look better.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Transylvania and Dracula! Yes! Everybody heard about it. And after I get their attention, I'm telling stories about how it looks like either on countryside, either on Bucharest, depending on the interlocutor.
What is your biggest dream?
Studies are showing that keeping goals, dreams to yourself give you 50% more chances to achieve them. There is also a TED talk about it. So, please accept my apologies, I do not want to lie to you, therefore I’ll keep that to myself
I understand, I just hope they come true sooner than ever and let me know about it! Thanks, Aurel, for your time!
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