From 9 to 5, Mihaela is an accomplished architect. After work, she does everything she can to promote our country in general, and her beloved hometown Timisoara in particular. How does her life look like, how she finds energy and motivation, as well as some useful tips and her future plans - in today’s interview.
Name: Mihaela Codre
Abroad since: Feels like forever
Living in: London UK
Currently: Architectural Technologist at Westfield Europe
TGR: Mihaela, what does it take for a young architect to be successful in a city like London?
MC: That’s an interesting question. If you would’ve asked me the same thing last year, I wouldn’t have known what to say. I think other architects would give you a different answer but here is mine:
It takes a lot of hard work, a very good work ethic, the ability to see opportunities and even create your own. A very clear vision of where you want to be in the years to come, and to be very open to changes and challenges.
It looks like you need a lot of things, but it can actually be quite fun. If you’re very serious about your career, I think you can use these points anywhere.
Another thing, and maybe one of the most important: you always need to look after your behaviour, and how you manage the people around you. There aren’t a lot of people who work in this industry, and everyone seems to know everyone, either from events or from previous jobs. It’s a big city, but a ‘small village’ in terms of the people working in this industry, so it’s definitely good to keep up your reputation.
Now, in regards to London, I can say the following: there are a lot or architects in this city, but I think the ones who make a career at this level are those with the strongest attitude. At the beginning it can be quite hard. Been there, done that. You need to prove yourself, to make a name for yourself, but again, that is happening in any type of business. I’m at the point where I already passed these two big steps, where I was the one trying to ‘open the door into the business’ (if I can use that expression). Now I am able to say that others open the door for me. This is something that reflects on my CV. I think in a way, that’s a definition of success.
It is, and I’m glad you are in the position to say that! In what areas do you usually perform?
I’ve been part of teams that worked in residential projects, hospitals, cultural, touristic type of projects. Now I’m working on a retail project. I’m usually taking care of the technical details of the building, but any task that comes into my day schedule I take it in seriously, even though may be more design or more engendering related.
OK, and what about this particular retail project you are working on these days?
I’m fully involved (I say fully because I even work weekends...) in the second phase of Westfield London shopping centre, the one located in White City. They are currently adding (the big chain) John Lewis, restaurants, parking places, more shops, yoga studios, etc etc. A full scheme as we say. We are on a very tight deadline. We have to finish by November, so every team is under a lot of pressure at the moment.
With such a tight deadline and after hours, do you still have time for yourself? How do you spend it in a city like London?
I try to make time, even if I don’t have that much left. Some extra hours of sleep during the week won’t be bad but what can I say...
Usually after work you will find me having dinner with my friends, taking my boxing classes at the gym, or working on my own project, which actually takes up 60% of my free time. I also attend events for architects with colleagues, which are quite common.
You kind of enjoy life in UK, don’t you?
I love the people. It’s as simple as that. I made a group of friends which are like family to me at the moment. We are all working in the architectural field, and we share a lot in common from a cultural perspective.
I usually don’t like to tie myself to a place or city that much. You can find a lot of cities in the world or a lot of countries, but quality people are very rare. London gave me a group of people I was looking for a long time. They inspire and motivate me equally.
Anything you don't like about London?
Oh, I have my moments, but I can’t say for a fact that there is one thing in particular. It all depends on my mood. If you ask me on a Wednesday if I like the traffic in the city I might say no, by Friday I will say I don’t mind. I can change my mind very fast in that regards.
And what does your mind tell you about Romania today?
It’s my home country and the place where my family lives. It’s the country I grew up in as a child, so for all the life lessons that place gave me, I’m grateful. My ambition comes from there as well.
How often do you travel to Romania?
Every second month. Or at least I try.
What did you have back home and can’t find in UK?
Apart from my family? Sometimes the easy way how people in my hometown appear to live. That is something really fascinating to me. I think if the whole world will have the same relaxed attitude as the people in Timisoara, it would be a better world. Then again, that’s my impression as an outsider. Ask someone who actually lives there, they won’t know what you’re talking about, which is also pretty funny. I think as being from Bucharest, you can agree on that.
Well, I wish people stop rushing all the time... Do you see yourself living again in this environment?
I totally will at some point. I always make my own choices when it comes down to where I want to live, regardless of what others say. I want to get the full experience of my hometown being the Cultural Capital of Europe, and see how this will change the face of the city. Plus, I’m involved in a few projects back home, so it will happen.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
That would be totally to visit Romania. That you can’t know for a fact if vampires do exist until you get there. That if the Romanian girls are so pretty, it’s totally not our fault. Pretty much that’s what I say because that what they constantly tell me about Romania, or ask me about.
You actually tell them both off- and online. What's the story behind your personal website?
The story started one year into my career in London as an architect. The time between 9 am to 6 pm was going very well, but after work meaning from 7 to 11 o’clock, I was starting to feel bored.
Until then, there was always something to look forward to in my life. Either because I was a student, or because I was traveling, but at that point in my life, it was nothing really happening. So I decided to do something outside of work, without any connection with architecture whatsoever. I felt the need to do something different. Plus, most of my friends were already into something: gym, music, theatre, etc. I had nothing like that, and actually really wanted to have something that distresses me from my own routine. It took me a few months to think what I could actually do, that motivates me to keep doing it every day. This is how visitromaniaonline.com started. That was 2 years ago, how time flies...
Now it’s starting to be more like a business. Besides that, it gave me the opportunity to learn something new every day, to meet incredible people that I would’ve unlikely ever met if I didn’t try this, and to have quite a lot of fun along the way. I always wanted to do something extra, I found the moment in time to do it and it just happened.
And what can be more beautiful than promoting your country? What do you wish to achieve?
Hmmm, it is quite vague actually. In my architectural career, I have always been very controlling of my steps. I know exactly where I want to be in this amount of time, I knew where to find opportunities, how to create them if they weren’t showing up. With this project I want to go with the flow, and see where it takes me. It’s a different approach to my way of doing this. It’s quite an improvement, taking into consideration how controlling I can be with my time and career.
OK, but I’m pretty sure you have some ideas in this regard...
Yes, of course. I always have a plan. I might not say it yet, but I do.
Remember?! I’m a control freak. Even though in comparison to my normal job, it’s not precisely calculated for years to come. I always have a backup plan.
So, last summer I was focusing more on me writing stuff I felt that was needed to be read. Now, I will work with other people, in order for them to do it for me. It won’t be any sort of people though.
This year, I will bring some bloggers in Timisoara – Arianwen from Beyond Blightly, Monica Stott and Lauren Croft from The Travel Hack.
They are very known here in the UK.
All of them have years of experience in professional blogging, and were very interested in my invitation and offer. Others will follow in September, and they all come with the purpose of promoting Timisoara as a touristic destination for all budgets.
We will also have a press tour that I’m working on, and it will hopefully be quite successful.
If this will work out very well, I will continue doing it more often and try to use my creative side in these things. I want to promote my hometown, but I want to do it in a fun way. So it’s definitely just a start.
Well, I can only hope this turns out well for you – it’s in the benefit of us all! Now, for the ending, please tell me how do you foresee your future?
In terms of my architectural career, I can only say I want to get my retirement out of it. I know how sensitive the business can be, but I want to stay in it as long as possible. I will do my best because I don’t take things for granted, but I also hope that luck will be on my side.
In terms of my second project, I will decently make my presence known to the masses in media for years to come, not just for my own benefit, also for the sake of my city, Timisoara.
The Golden Romania
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