With more than 14 years spent in HR in different industries (telco, pharma, consulting), Mihaela sees her experience acknowledged by being relocated in one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. There is no wonder why she is such a successful HR manager - Mihaela is a fun, energetic person, passionate about interacting and working with other people and determined to achieve her professional goals. A Romanian constantly promoting, currently enjoying Prague and making sure the world hears about Romania!
Name: Mihaela Panait
Abroad since: July 2016
Living in: Prague, Czech Republic
Current position & company: HR Manager for the Advisory practice, Ernst & Young
TGR: Mihaela, you have built a solid career in HR, and your work has been acknowledged with this new project abroad. What did you have to prove to earn this opportunity?
MP: Past experience and performance, internal referrals, passing the internal interviews and having the desire for an international experience. It only depends on what you want to do in life. If you know this and have the proper determination, everything else becomes easier. You know the saying: “Ai grija ce iti doresti ca s-ar putea sa se implineasca” (Watch out what you wish for as it might become true).
What's your main responsibility in EY Prague?
First point of contact and managing the full portfolio of HR services for the Advisory practice, including mainly: people strategy and management, performance management, compensation & benefits, learning & development, international employee mobility. In addition I am responsible for co-leading and developing the local HR team and full implementation of any global HR initiative.
Can you tell me something you can do best in the company?
I am very critical with myself and a bit of a perfectionist, that’s why I wouldn’t say I am perfect or I can do things that nobody else can do. What I can share though is the general feedback I usually receive from my supervisors and peers – I am a down-to-earth and solid professional, very determined, easy to communicate and fun to work with as well.
What is the career accomplishment you are mostly proud of?
Every project I’ve made, every job I took, every people I’ve met helped me get where I am now. We need to take advantage of each opportunity life puts in front of us and to never give up. I can’t say that I have something special I am proud of. I still have some time ahead of me, so I am waiting to see what future reserves. Although I am an economist, I have chosen HR with my heart as I have seen how powerful it is and how even a recruiting process - choosing or not choosing a candidate for one position can influence his or her life. I only hope my decisions and interactions were able to influence other people’s careers in a positive way.
Tell me something about your team – who do you work with, how’s the atmosphere in the office etc.
Currently I am coordinating a team of 3 Czech people and the division I am working with has around 230 people (not all of them being locals). I’ve integrated very well and fast in the existent team, and we worked very well together from the very beginning. EY is an international environment and we have regular interactions also with colleagues from other offices so I do not feel as a stranger no matter the office I work or visit.
How do you usually spend your free time?
I was pleasantly surprised to find in Prague even some former Romanian colleagues so I am enjoying weekends with both Romanian, Czech, Slovak, Moldavian people and not only. Prague is quite an international city.
How would you characterize the Czech people?
Down to earth, enjoying and protecting their private time, passionate for sports and beer . Until they know you better, they can be a bit reserved, but after that you can easily bond.
How’s life in Prague? Is it so much different than Bucharest?
The public transportation is one of the best I’ve seen so far. During the first tram rides I saw lots of young people giving their seat to older people, women with children, children, etc. First I thought they were exceptions, in fact this is the rule. I remember we used to behave the same way in the past. I can only hope it will not be just reminiscence and that good old habits will come back to life again.
Prague is truly an amazing city, definitely among the most beautiful in Europe. Did you somehow find anything to disappoint you?
It’s an amazing city indeed and I am very impressed by the care they are taking for old buildings and green spaces. From the photos I’ve seen before coming to Prague I was expecting to see a city with old and beautiful buildings. For my surprise I’ve discovered a very green city. Lots of parks, people enjoying time out with their families, having brunches in orchards, eating fruits from the trees without damaging them, or more than 100 people watching sunsets from the Riegrovy Sady park sitting on the grass surrounded by family or friends with some pizza and something to drink. This was something I wasn’t expecting.
The only thing that might be a bit “annoying” is the fact that it can get very crowded, especially in the touristic areas (and very expensive as well if you don’t know where to go) no matter the season.
How often do you travel to Romania?
So far I haven’t been home. I plan to return in February for the first time in 8 months for a short vacation. Current technology really helps for not missing my family and friends, and my husband visits me once every two months.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
As I am always in contact with my family and friends, plus the fact that time spent here was not so long and it actually went very fast, I must say I am not home sick yet.
I am an outdoor person and for me summer time is mainly hiking and going to the mountains. As I left in July, I am missing our mountains a lot.
Another thing that I am missing is Romanian food and cuisine. Although I embraced very fast Czech cuisine I do miss our traditional dishes for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In Czech Republic traditional dish for Christmas is fish (carp). When I shared what and how our traditional meal looks like they were amazed by the amount of pork dishes we have, not to mention their face expression when I explained what it is and how our “sorici” is prepared. I think this was one of the discussions they will always remember
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Czech people practice a lot of sports during their free time. Knowing this I would recommend them a trip to Romania, for hiking in our mountains, bike rides in Transylvania where they can visit the fortified churches, the old towns (Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara), kayaking in the Danube Delta or Nera Gorge and after all that an evening of relaxation where they can enjoy our wonderful food and wines and why not maybe some “palinca”.
What is your biggest dream?
This is a sensitive subject for me. As I am seeing more and more young children (some even new born babies) having some incurable or deathly diseases I can only hope that modern medicine and even our way of living will turn out for the better soon.
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
I am very proud to be a Romanian and very happy that I am now having the chance to change the perception foreigners have about us.
I am glad you feel that way and we had the chance to talk! I think you are doing a fabulous job in making a name for yourself and Romania, so all I can say is - keep up the good work!
LE: Since the summer of 2017, Mihaela is back in Bucharest, still at Ernst & Young. They have tried to keep her in Prague, she was to good to loose her, but to no avail... She felt homesick, she wanted to be close to her loved ones, so she just made it happen!
I have recently met Mihaela at an event in Bucharest. I saw a positive, energetic person, very happy with her 1 year in Prague, but even happier to be back home.
For Mihaela, there will always be Prague. But there is no place like home... Welcome back!
The Golden Romania
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