With a rich expertise in Continuous Improvement processes, Victoria is building her way up in the most important European company in the energy sector. After only 3 months in Germany, her qualities helped her grab one of the key roles of the concern, becoming the agent of change in terms of operational excellence! They needed her as much as she needed them, and rest assured - the results will soon be visible in any market where E.ON is present! Keep her name in mind and see her story below!
Name: Victoria Dima
Hometown: Medgidia, Constanta county, lived in Bucharest 15+ years
Abroad since: December 2016
Living in: Essen, near Düsseldorf, Germany
Current position & company: Operational Excellence Manager, E.ON, energy sector
TGR: Victoria, you are part of the newest wave of Romanian professionals who've decided to perform abroad. What convinced you to make this move?
VD: First of all, the opportunity came (I was found by an international head hunter), not really looking for a change. I was very happy with the job I had in Romania, coordinating Continuous improvement in CEE region (19 countries) for a leading Dutch company of Personal Care and Health system domain. The drive behind my decision is mainly for broadening the horizons and being able to offer other opportunities to my 7-year old daughter: from different school and health system to a lifestyle where, as a kid, experimenting is appreciated: you get encouraged to be creative and most important be yourself, discover what you would like to be in life, without stiff inheritances that you should be a doctor, a lawyer or so on.
I was raised in a family who taught me strong principles, but without limiting me; on the opposite, I received full confidence that I can and will succeed in life, and I think this positive mind-set contributed a lot to the decision. Although I realized is out of my comfort zone, I felt this is the next step for me and to be honest you don’t get so many chances like this in life, it’s worth to be valued when they occur. Otherwise, instead of living bold and bloom, you will be wondering in time: how could have been if…
Which qualities do you think helped you earn this opportunity?
When a recruiter finds you, it means your profile on paper is very good, which of course was , but not by random conditions. I worked hard more than 10 years in the banking industry and 1 year and a half in a healthcare company, taking step by step to develop myself and others. But I think the real match is coming after you meet that person, you put her in different situations to see how the experience from the paper translates into the real life. This is how the recruiting process was for me, with a lot of practical circumstances to deal with and at this point my way of being and thinking really helped me: always looking for the bright side, staying in the same time pragmatic and realistic, but solution oriented. It goes without saying you need to be people oriented, it’s actually a KO criteria.
A lot of people who know me and worked with me are telling me that I am very ambitious and passionate in everything I do professionally and personally. Indeed, passion makes the difference and the way a vibrant person does things can move the mountains; of course you can’t be every day energy beacon, there are days when you feel you need some rest, but in those days, somehow the mountains are coming to you, looking for your vibes….and then you get the high-energy back…at least this is happening to me…being not a ‘drama‘ person, staying positive no matter what.
So, in a few words, being open and authentic helped me to express my experience with the strong belief that I can contribute to bring out the magnificence in people, as this is what I like to think my job is about.
That is so nicely put - a job about the people...
For the last 6 years I am constantly involved in Continuous improving (CI), starting from not knowing anything (as I was a Corporate Relationship Manager) about the methodology (Lean/Six Sigma) and learning from top consultants in the bank, to gradually becoming an expert, manager, master-trainer for Lean Academy in Vienna, coordinator of those type of activities (named in different companies as Lean, CI/Business transformation or operational excellence) which all have the purpose to create value for the customer, organization and employees. And now I am doing pretty much the same thing, but at a global scale. Driving business transformation through operational excellence means actually to help the people improve their activity (processes, structures) and to enable right mind-sets and behaviours for co-creation, putting the customer at the heart of every action. Obviously, changing how people are thinking is not at ease or a straightforward process, it takes time. A 'one-size-fits-all' approach to managing change is ineffective. You need to be flexible and adjust a lot from situation to situation, from transformation to transformation depending on the country, culture, needs, teams, personalities etc.
How does your current team look like?
I am working in an international environment with many nationalities in my team (Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, Ukrainian, Russian, British, Swedish, American, Italian, French and of course German), so English is our common language. I enjoy payed German lessons and a lot of internal activities for making this fun also (e.g.: Monday Deutsche lunch, different KPI’s to track our progress, Duolingo team group, etc.). What I like most is that the team diversity is embedded in our culture to embrace, appreciate and use it in a constructive way (e.g.: when setting up the objectives for this year in an off-site meeting, we played a ‘Get to know you’ challenge where each of us wrote first concert he ever attend, a book that was red more than one time and a precious item which defines him/her; all of these were centralised by our SVP and then we had to pair-up each person with each of those 3 things; it was really fun and also helpful to know such things about the team members) .
After 3 months abroad, what can you tell me about the challenges of working with Romanian vs. German performers?
So, yes, I’ve just started the journey. I think once you get accommodated you become to see the specific German pragmatism and you get used to it. I’ve noticed it in more simple things, for example I am walking less than 5 min to the office, it’s an advantage that I easily got used to it…thinking that in Bucharest I was at least 2 hours in the car every day…
In terms of working I don’t see a lot of differences yet, as I was working in and with management teams before and the involvement was in Romania also very high. Maybe I need more time for this. One difference though, no overtime; here overtime means you have a problem and you need help, but I think more and more in Romania companies are strongly paying attention to this, at least the reputable ones.
Do you feel your recent arrival brings something fresh to the German office of E.ON?
Except from my coloured stilettos? Joke aside, every individual is unique and for the moment I am known in the team as being fresh mind. So I can give an opinion without being bias, most probably not knowing the history behind and I can challenge some things based on my past experience. The good thing is that there is openness, so I feel more and more integrated in the team.
To what extent did you adjust to the German lifestyle so far?
I am not yet integrated into the German lifestyle, main barrier being the language, but I’ve started to learn Deutsch. As habits I guess early lunch (11.40) fitted perfectly to avoid the usual queue from the canteen. The other thing is the attention they put of HSE - safety and being healthy have definitely a significance here and I think in Romania it is discussed, but not treated as one of the top priorities.
Is there an expat community you relate to or you'd rather spend your time with German people?
Yes, there is a Romanian community in the company and we have different activities such as lunch together, so I am mixing, sometimes I go with the Romanians, other times with my colleagues from the team (international nationalities), it depends on the schedule.
How are Romanians viewed in Germany?
Overall not very good and you can find difficulties for example in renting an apartment if you are from Eastern Europe, but when you say where you are working it’s a guaranty that overrules the nationality. In the company, they are perceived very good as hard-working and reliable, fun also, of course.
How's life in Essen? What do you enjoy and how do you spend your free time?
Life in Essen is different, although it has the same number of inhabitants as Düsseldorf, the town is much more quiet. It’s perfect place to raise a kid as you have everything rather close and if you want some noise you can easily commute to Düsseldorf (20-30 min). I like to stay in Essen during the week and in weekends to explore the surroundings. The advantage is you have a lot of cities at a driving distance: 1-2 hours until Amsterdam, Bruxelles, Brugges; or even Paris (my favorite city in the world) you can reach in approx. 5 hours.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you'd like to be different?
I wouldn’t say disappointing, but I’d like to be able to talk to people in German, it helps a lot for integration and self-confidence, but I’m positive that one day it will happen, who knows?
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
The friendliness of people (although I have my best friend who lives in Germany, so it’s a huge plus), the family, the food (not fun at all of sauces or sausages) and my former colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, the colleagues here are very nice, the atmosphere is vivant and I enjoy it, but the one’s from Romania are special and I know you can’t establish that kind of connections here, I’m not even trying.
It is probably a bit early, but I keep asking this everyone abroad: Do you see yourself moving back sometimes?
Life taught me to never say never, or expect the unexpected. So I’m not saying no and you are right, it’s too early to say yes. Time will tell. Sometimes no plan is a good plan.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Nicest & whole-hearted people, tasty food & wine, beautiful places to visit, sparkling atmosphere, best parties ever.
What is your biggest dream?
The purpose of our lives is to be happy, so living the dream is greater than just having a dream. When you are happy, you feel you have a meaning and it comes naturally to fulfill it no matter what this is: from seeing my daughter happy and accomplishing something professionally, to improving people’s lives. I believe in simple things that all together are making the big ones. Life is surprising and the time is passing incredibly fast, so I encourage everyone to live their dreams!
Any final thoughts on our home country?
Our home country will always stay close to my heart and I hope to contribute spreading the word about Romania, it is a lovely country!
Victoria, it is an absolute surprise to see such a remarkable, fun person integrate so quickly in a strict society like Germany. Keep spreading that word about Romania, you are doing a fantastic job!
The Golden Romania
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