Bianca has been living in Switzerland for the last 10 years. Perfectly integrated in the society, she is now married to a Swiss and happy mother of a 10-month son. Her skills are highly appreciated in the energy sector, where she is responsible with a large portfolio, as one of the few women in a male-dominated environment. How she manages to cope with a busy work schedule and the most beautiful duties of a mother, what's her positioning in Switzerland and her relation with Romania, in this story.
Name: Bianca Sarbu
Abroad since: 2005
Living in: Fribourg, SUI
Current position & company: Energy Portfolio Manager, BKW AG
TGR: What is your main responsibility at the job?
BS: I manage the portfolio of green certificates of a large energy supplier. Also, I am working on the hedging strategy for the electricity portfolio, i.e. over 1 TWh electricity per delivery year (interface between the production unit and the origination unit).
Can you tell me something only you can do in your company?
As I started with this company just about six weeks ago, it's hard to tell. Yet, as the only employee in the team (apart from the unit manager) with a family at home, I may say that I am the only one joggling between a high-responsibility job and family life. Before taking on this position, I did more or less the same job in a different energy company - there I was the only team member doing number crunching and at the same time, managing client relations (i.e. consultancy on portfolio management in the electricity sector), both in German and French.
How many peers/direct reports do you have?
In the team, ten colleagues. In the trading department (imagine a huge open space trading floor), approx. 100.
Is your team mainly made of locals or expats?
My direct team is made of locals, i.e. Swiss. There is only one German and myself. This is normal - the electricity sector is more or less a national thing in any country. So I'm exotic - not just because of being Romanian but also because of being a woman (we are two women only). In my previous jobs, it used to be the same, i.e. male-dominated environments.
What about your free time - do you usually spend it with locals or other expats?
Given the fact that I have a baby of about ten months, currently my spare time is very limited. Yet the little time I have, I spend both with locals and expats. Having studied at ETH Zürich (both M.A. and Ph.D.), I had the opportunity of getting to know a lot of people and make friends both among the Swiss and the internationals.
Do you feel integrated in the Swiss society? Do you feel respected, appreciated?
I am married to a Swiss, we have a son together, so I'm integrated (kind of) by default. You get to know the Swiss family from the inside (with the inherent traditions), you get to know the friends of your husband (mostly Swiss). So the immersion is in time complete, I reckon. I am and feel respected - getting a Dr.sc. title from the top university in Switzerland and one of the best worlwide already makes you belong to a select group of hard-working people. It's been a lot of hard work but that has turned out worthwhile not just at a professional level but eventually also at a personal/ social level (for the personal growth I could cherish and the people I met and connected with).
Why is Switzerland attractive to you? What makes you stay?
We moved to Fribourg late June because of our jobs. Until then I lived for nine years in Zürich. Both my husband and I are currently working in Bern (the capital of Switzerland), 25 minutes away from Fribourg. Fribourg itself is bilingual (German-French), at the border between the German and the French-speaking part of Switzerland. There aren't that many bilingual towns here. Additionally, it's relatively petit, mais très coquette! Perfect to raise a child and indulge in bilingualism.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you've expected to be different?
After so many years of living in Switzerland, that's hard to tell. If you had asked me that question in my first years here, I would have said the people - they feel cold and distant. But it's a barrier you get to surpass in time. Otherwise, the Swiss have a lot of rules in the economic and social life - they may be good and useful, on the one hand but stifling, on the other.
How often do you travel to Romania?
At least three times a year, but generally more - even if it's just for a long week-end. This year was an exception because of the baby.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
The humour of the people, the story-telling, the laughter. Also, at times I miss the loose atmosphere where anything is possible given that anything is just a matter of negotiation.
Do you see yourself moving back? What could convince you?
I wish I could come at least for a couple of years. A good job both for my husband and myself to earn us a decent living with a child.
What changes do you see in the Romanian society?
I was very happy with the technocratic government as well as initially with the president-elect. The latter turned out to be a big disappointment for me. The coming elections are giving me shivers. God help us! / Inshallah!
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Come visit. It's eclectic, it's fresh, Transylvania is absolutely marvellous.
What is your biggest dream?
To get an external consultancy job with the World Bank in Romania and come with my family to Bucharest for at least two years. But before that, travel the world with my husband and my kid for a full year.
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
The feelings of pride and longing have stayed with me over all these years.
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