Back to beautiful Prague, where an outstanding HR professional is changing the looks of a global organization! After 10 years as a HR Manager in MOL Romania, Carmen is currently expanding her already wide expertise in the Czech office of her employer. While building a sustainable corporate culture after the merger of four oil&gas companies, she takes the best out of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Carmen is the proper person to reveal the importance of the Romanian branch within a global group, as well as the undeniable qualities of the Romanian people.
Name: Carmen Becker
Abroad since: November 2015
Living in: Prague, Czech Republic
Current position & company: Corporate Center Manager, MOL Ceska Republika, s.r.o.
TGR: Carmen, your longevity with the MOL Group is impressive and rather unique these days, congratulations! Is there anyone from the first team in Romania still working for MOL?
CB: Yeah, it’s true, I joined MOL Romania in 2005… Now when I’m thinking back, it is almost half my life But the best half, I have to say! Yes, there are colleagues who are still in the company since its very beginning back in 1995, when the first MOL fuel station was opened, and I believe still happy to be there, to open new sites (above 200 now in Romania) and develop the company continuously.
They must have done something right for you to keep you on-board for such a long time! What made you stay all these years?
Actually, I am happy to say I could do anything I put my mind to do…. I was one of the lucky people who had an amazing opportunity to learn about the oil & gas business, while MOL was acquiring different local entities of giant international energy companies in Romania (Amoco, Shell, ENI), and later on in Czech Republic (Slovnaft, Lukoil, ENI).
My career has practically opened up when MOL has acquired Shell Romania in Bucharest back in 2005, and I instantly had to deal with people and business issues at the age of 25. Back in those days, I was just starting my career in HR, the best field to be in such huge organizational turmoil. There was no real time to stop and think, but rather do everything I set my mind and heart to do, to learn and make the most of the chances I was given in building HR function and culture in the organization, I have been fully addicted to all this time.
The journey never ends, as the company is growing bigger and bigger and you always have a chance to innovate, to be part of something big and create a long-lasting, solid legacy behind you. I am very happy to see what MOL Romania is today and to say I am so proud of having contributed to its past and current success.
How is MOL Romania viewed in the group in comparison with other branches?
I think there is no day passing by that I do not hear about how MOL Romania is raising the bar and setting standards for MOL Group companies in all fields of activity! So, I can say it is one of the most successful companies in the group. MOL Romania has become 3rd biggest player on the oil market in Romania. It has the fastest growth rate in number of retail outlets in the group, after Czech Republic and Slovakia, doubling in less than 6 years the Romanian market share. This really puts Romania in the spotlight, as having the most dynamic evolution in this sense amongst MOL group companies.
And you have also played a vital role during this development... Which is the career accomplishment you are mostly proud of?
I think I have accomplished a lot of things in my career, while successfully managing the human resources part of several mergers and integrations of companies, both in Romania and in Czech Republic, which I seem to be getting very good at However, I am very proud of the most recent developmental goal which I reached, and that is of being selected and having finalized the Growing Global Leaders Program, which is MOL Group’s leadership talent program, LEAD2016, delivered by the #1 ranked school of international business, Thunderbird School of Global Management, US Arizona.
What is it that you currently do in the Prague office?
My assignment to Czech Republic started in November 2015. I am dealing with the integration of 4 companies due to a quadruple-sized merger, following the massive expansion program in downstream business of MOL Group. MOL has acquired 3 O&G companies in Czech Republic, so I am supporting integration of former Slovnaft Ceska, s.r.o. with PAP Oil, s.r.o (a local Czech retail stations network), Lukoil and ENI Czech entities, and unifying the companies into one-single - MOL Ceska Republika, s.r.o. of today.
We are currently managing the re-branding of former retail networks to new MOL and PAP Oil (2 brands) and growing further the existing wholesale business in the country. I am here responsible for Corporate Governance, Human Resources and Office management, and my mission is to create a corporate structure and culture fit for running a successful business on the Czech market. It is again an opportunity for me to learn and develop, but also to bring my knowledge from the Romanian experience to Prague.
How is your previous experience in Romania actually helping you in building an appropriate local culture? Are Czech and Romanian professionals so similar?
I have to admit that I am still learning about the Czech culture; it is in essence a bit more “Germanic” if I compare to the “latin-balkan” like Romanians, though I appreciate the seriousness and responsibility of my Czech colleagues. I am absolutely thrilled to see when Czechs are doing things thoroughly and responsibly (focusing on quality rather than speed). Back in Romania the general approach was for things to be done “yesterday” and people rushed into last-minute mode of execution, which did not necessarily bring long-lasting results.
On the other hand, it takes great effort to convince Czech people to start working on new initiatives, they are rather conservative and change is not so easy to embrace. However, once they agree with the new direction, there is nothing that is stopping them on the way to get there. In Romania, we are great initiators, but sometimes it is difficult for us to finalize what we start, so we end up usually on finalizing on last minute, “cand suntem stransi cu usa”
How many direct reports do you have?
My team is formed of 8 directs, working in human resources, organizational design & corporate governance, office management and administration.
Carmen, how’s life in Prague? Is it so much different than Bucharest?
Prague is really a beautiful city. It is clean, well-organized and green metropole. What I appreciate the most is the public transportation, which I have to admit, if I compare to the Romanian one, it is top tier. It takes me max. 20 minutes to get to work by tram or metro and it is absolutely civilized. I remember in Bucharest it took me more than 1 hour, sometimes an hour and a half to get to work, regardless if I took car, bus or metro. This is a true blessing to live in Prague now; I am hoping that one day the infrastructure will be better also in Romania...
For a tourist, Prague is a very offering city. How do you spend your free time in the Czech Republic?
Together with my family, my daughter of 6, my husband and I are always visiting the outskirts of Prague. Our favourite hiking area is around Karlštein Hrad, a small castle-locality, which offers great views of the medieval castle, a nice river and hilly surroundings. Of course, Prague is absolutely magical; when it comes to visiting “stare město”, the beautiful castle, Karlův most over Vltava we seldom cross. We also never hesitate to go for watching “la ora fixa” the musical astronomical clock, joining the spectacular view of the crowd gathering there.
But I have to say that my favourite place in Czech Republic is Český Krumlov, an old castle city, a truly Czech jewel, as you travel south towards Austria from Prague, a city literally circled by a river, where you can feel the traditional Czech spirit. I am impressed by the natural beauty of this place, the historical heritage and the modern activities you can do, all in one place. In the summer you are welcome on the river for water-rafting exercises, which you can do right in the center of the city, while admiring the gorgeous views of the historical place.
We have rediscovered sports here in Czech Republic. I have to say that we were a bit sedentary in Bucharest, no excuses , but here there are so many opportunities to do this: we love biking, hiking, skating and so on, as everything is within walking distance, so we are enjoying this as much.
How often do you travel to Romania?
We are travelling usually around Easter and Christmas especially to visit our family, and summer time is when my daughter goes back to spend school break with her grandparents.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
I miss the warmth of our nation, the good food and wine (there is nothing like the Romanian home-made wine ). Also, I miss my family and close friends, which I have to say, as expat you do not get too much of, in a foreign country.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
I am always proud to say that Romanians have a mission and desire to do great things in their lives. I know we are still struggling to fix the basics, so we can also have a high standard of living as West-Europeans. However, as I see it, we do not take things for granted yet, as people in some western countries do now. And this is still positive. We are always on the look for doing things better each time and improving ourselves, which in essence brings realization and accomplishments in all that we do. We want to make a mark, to make something good in the world, and I do not consider this idealism, but rather vision and hope.
I also speak positively about our beautiful country, the Carpathians, the Danube Delta and the sea, which I miss while being over here. We are so lucky in this sense to have so many amazing places to go to and enjoy doing in Romania! The beautiful traditions which Czechs always wonder when I speak of, how we are gathering and preparing for the traditional celebrations in our families, ‘cozonacul si ouale rosii de Pasti’, going singing Christmas carols in winter to our neighbors... We have such great traditions, that I am glad to talk about.
How does your future look like? Do you plan on staying abroad, maybe further develop your career within the group?
For now I have fixed term contract, however I believe I may stay here for a while, as my mission is not yet complete. There are still a lot of things to be done for company integration, and I wish to make the most of it. I do foresee my career in MOL Group, as I want to be part of the great future of “mobile oil & gas business” in the upcoming years.
What is your biggest dream?
I wish to live a happy, healthy life and to see my daughter grow into a successful lady, making her mark in the world.
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
I am proud to be a Romanian who is showing the positive side of Romania in the world. I will always speak positively about our country and I believe we have a great future ahead of us, and will become one of the greatest countries in Europe and also in the world. Romania has the potential and our people deserve it too!
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