Maria Avram, CSAM/Delivery Manager – Microsoft Romania
My name is Maria Avram, and I am a CSAM/Delivery Manager within Microsoft, where I started 3 years ago. I lead a team of 12 people that provide different and diverse proactive services around cloud adoption, operations streamlining, and IT infrastructure optimization for the Swiss market.
I started my career in Oracle 17 years ago in IT sales, and I was promoted through a series of internal interviews to a manager position after 4 years. I had always been passionate about people and interested in social psychology. My team was working for the German market and was responsible for renewing the contract base of the Oracle customers. We started with 70 MIL USD and the number kept rising in the following years, up to 160 MIL USD. It was a team of 20 people, and the first conscious decision I made was to stay organised in order to be able to supervise the business and have time for the people. It sounded easier than it actually was and required a lot of discipline, failing, and learning.
I initially envisioned my career in HR, as I’ve always wanted to work with and for people, but once I became a manager, I realised how important my contribution was in working with people and the impact I could have in my role on their development, career, and personal growth. Therefore, I decided to grow as a manager, search for talents, develop and empower people, challenge myself with new situations, embrace change, and form high-performing teams.
My first key career moment was the experience as a coachee with an excellent coach, which was hugely important and eye-opening for me. I focused on emotional self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy, self-management (emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, initiative), relationship management (inspirational leadership, influence, developing others, change catalyst), and became more mature, aware of my abilities and natural talents, more confident, and ready to make decisions and challenge the status quo. I then certified myself as a coach, recognising its power in changing behaviours.
Growing later on into a senior manager role in the Renewals business and being responsible for more countries and people (BeNeLux) gave me exposure to a bigger picture in the company and a broader context, I had important decisions to make and actions to take that would influence many people and the business for the Northern region.
Moving to Microsoft was another defining career moment, as I changed my line of business and had to adapt to another organisation. The workplace culture is amazing. You have the opportunity to collaborate and connect with team members across the world, you are constantly learning, you are encouraged to take action and ownership without the fear of failure (growth mindset), people are full of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. I have learned tremendously in the last 3 years and haven’t stopped yet.
I have always chosen the Business Services Industry because I like to work with customers and because services can differentiate a company from the competition and also make the difference between success and failure.
I have learnt a few valuable career lessons along the way, which define me as a human being right now.
I’ve always loved Bill Nye’s quote “Everyone you will ever meet, knows something you don’t”, which tells you to pay attention to your environment and the people you interact with because you will learn a lot from others and you never know enough.
Change is fundamental in order to grow both as a person and as a corporation. Adaptability to change is key, so my mantra has been to never be afraid of changes and embrace them as they open new roads ahead.
People are the most important assets of an organisation; therefore, nurturing and creating an environment where people come first and can thrive is essential.
As I was preparing for my next career chapter, I was particularly interested in Microsoft, and when an opportunity appeared, I joined the interviews and got selected. It was the best professional decision I have made so far. A couple of reasons why I chose Microsoft:
- At its core, Microsoft’s strength lies in our talented people and a culture grounded in a growth mindset. This means anyone can change, learn, and grow. I wanted to be part of this culture.
- It’s the largest IT company in the world, with a market capitalization of 1,78 trillion dollars, helping hundreds of millions of customers grow their businesses and be competitive on the market. It has been the best employer in Romania for several years, has cutting-edge technologies, and has a high focus on people.
- Even as an established, successful company, Microsoft is still continuing to grow, creating lots of opportunities for both customers and employees, shaping the future of technology.
Working for Microsoft has been a huge personal and professional milestone for me, and I am still enjoying it. It came with many challenges and opportunities that taught me a lot, brought me joy and satisfaction, broadened my horizons, taught me more about technology, and allowed me to meet extraordinary people and accomplished professionals. The journey still continues.
In terms of my personal life, I like reading and biking, I travel as much as I can with my husband, and I am curious and read a lot about anthropology and social psychology. I read and watch movies to relax, take long walks, and listen to music and podcasts to clear my mind. I love dogs, and I plan on getting one, I support 2 charity organisations, and I intend to start a book club at work. My favourite trip so far was to Japan, where I intend to return someday.
Looking back at my experience accumulated in the past years, there are 3 skills that I would develop now with top priority: critical thinking, emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication skills.
I would like to finish this bio with a quote from Aristotle “ We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit”.
Cezar Ionescu, Support Engineering Manager – Microsoft Romania
“Your potential, our passion”
This was the message greeting Microsoft’s Customer Service and Support employees as they entered their Bucharest office building back in 2008.
The same message that convinced this 23-year-old college kid to apply for a Support Engineer position immediately after graduating from the Microsoft Internship Program.
Although my so-called work and college experience was pointing towards a different career path, having spent 3 months learning about SQL Server and shadowing some outstanding people helping Customers day-in and day-out, made me have a change of heart. I found myself wanting to be part of the company that ‘empowers every person and every organisation to achieve more.
15 years later, I am privileged to contribute to Microsoft’s mission from a different position, that of a manager of the Support Engineering team. But getting here was nothing short of amazing.
I started off as a Support Engineer for German customers who were looking for guidance on SharePoint-related matters – while that might sound pretty straightforward, believe me, it was not! SharePoint was completely new to me, and while I had a fairly good knowledge of the German language (or so I thought), for the first couple of months, both the product and the language kept me constantly on my toes.
Imagine sitting in on a customer meeting for a SharePoint issue and hearing the phrase ‘it’s time to take the cow off the ice’ (German: ‘die Kuh vom Eis holen’, meaning roughly ‘we need to save the day’). They don’t teach you that in German class! Luckily, I had my fellow German engineers to turn to for help…and a better translation.
Nine months into my role as a Support Engineer, I decided to join my mentors in the SQL Server team, where I started my Microsoft adventure as part of the internship program. The word adventure is deliberately chosen, as it very well describes the time I spent as part of that team between 2009 and 2018.
If you do the math, one might think I’m a pretty boring and complacent guy. Nothing could be further from the truth. During those 9 years, SQL Server grew and transformed into a product family, with siblings such as Azure SQL Database and Parallel Data Warehouse, and some distant cousins like the mighty Windows. Not only did the product keep me on my toes, but it also allowed me to enhance my knowledge and skillset by playing different roles. I went from a Support Escalation Engineer to a Technical Lead, and later on a Technical Advisor. During this time, I also had the opportunity to work as a Premier Field Engineer, working on-site with customers – one of the most challenging but also rewarding and game-changing experiences.
Was it hard? Yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Looking back now, the time spent on the SQL Server team came with great learnings and life-changing experiences that helped me grow as a professional and achieve my goal – a role as a facilitator, coach, and mentor who empowers and (hopefully) inspires others to exceed expectations and excel in their job every day – this is what I strive for as a manager of the Support Engineering group.
I’ve been in my current role for 5 years now, and the adventure continues: taking on new, greater challenges with a growth mindset and an unquenchable desire to become a better version of who I am today.
As the saying goes, “change is the only constant”. I strongly believe that Microsoft gives true meaning to that phrase every day. And while it may seem challenging at first, it is an essential element that promotes growth, not only for the company but also for its employees.
Having to adapt, innovate, and walk uncharted territories puts you in situations which cannot be taught in school. And these lessons can apply to your day-to-day work, but they can also serve as guiding principles for one’s career.
If I’d have to make a list, my top ones would be:
- Your personal brand precedes you, and your personal brand is 90% the outcome of your work at a specific moment in time – a good reputation can set the basis for your next role.
- Never back down from a challenge. You always have something to learn – every new challenge offers a learning opportunity, and you should always seize it.
- Build a strong network and find someone to look up to – having a support system is essential for reaching goals.
- “Who does What by When” – always leave the room with a clear action plan.
And the list can go on. But at the end of the day, it comes down to having the right environment where you can apply these principles and experiment. And this is where Microsoft shines once more: offering its employees the time and space to not only succeed but also fail fast and learn. Having this type of culture, promoting a high level of diversity and inclusion, with respect, integrity, and accountability, coupled with the relentless desire to innovate, Microsoft remains the right place to be. And its principles apply to me and many others who love to help and see purpose in our mission.
In a post-pandemic world, where everyone is looking to adapt to a new normal, Microsoft’s culture and values make it easier for its employees to integrate and balance work and personal life.
And the concept of innovation is not tied to an office anymore. Take me, for example – by combining my passion for painting and photography with the latest and greatest in AI, I’ve started using DALL-E at home to create various drawings. And while for me this cannot replace the feeling of holding a brush or a camera in my hand and finding that perfect shot, it definitely offers a good alternative to being creative in my free time as an amateur art creator.
If I had to start over again, Microsoft would still be my no. 1 choice. Working for a cutting-edge technology company offers countless career opportunities that you would otherwise probably not even know or dream of.
That being said, in today’s technology-infused world, investing in developing AI-related technical skills, learning foreign languages, and consciously training your creativity and communication skills are good starting points for anyone who is pursuing a career in a company such as Microsoft.
If I had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting their career, I would encourage them to experiment and not be afraid to fail. After all, that’s how it started for me: a company filled with people willing to support me in achieving my potential, and look where it got me…”
Dragos Catalin Nita, Support Engineering Manager – Microsoft Romania
My name is Dragos, and I’m one of the Support Engineering Managers in Microsoft Romania.
I’m leading a team of Support Escalation Engineers and Technical Advisors, part of Microsoft’s Customer Experience & Success line of business. My team’s main focus is on providing first-in-class support to Microsoft’s most strategic customers, with agility, care, and expertise.
I am also managing and driving several projects and initiatives, meant to create synergies between various teams and improve the way we show-up for our customers while having clear OKRs that act as enablers for achieving our vision.
I joined this great company almost 10 years ago, which went by in a blink of an eye, and I’ve been in my current role for the past 3 years, during which I continued to learn and stayed committed to growing my career.
How did you start your career? Which were your first steps? How did you envision your career?
Since I was a child, I have been curious and eager to learn as much as possible. As technology advanced, I was fortunate enough to have friends and family that had access to the latest tech.
As the years moved on, through the different projects and initiatives that I was leading during primary school and high school, I realised that I loved enabling people to achieve their goals, no matter if we were talking about personal ones or school-related ones.
Therefore, at that moment, I decided to continue staying in touch with two of the biggest passions that I have – technology, on the one hand, and managing people, situations and projects, on the other hand.
Keeping this self-commitment always in the back of my mind, while I was studying Management and Business Administration at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, I started looking for available working opportunities in the IT industry to understand the requirements for successful candidates. Following my bachelor’s degree, I was looking to specialise, even more, in Management and Business Administration, so I started my Master’s degree.
But, at the same time, I knew that I needed to start my professional journey as well. So, following several recruitment processes in which I was involved, I have accepted an IT Help Technician role, with French, at Stefanini (formerly known as TechTeam Global). I felt that this role would enable me to grow my technical skills and better understand the requirements of IT companies.
And, 3 years later, following different opportunities that I took at Stefanini, I’ve seen my professional dream coming true—being hired at Microsoft. At Microsoft, I started as a Support Engineer on Exchange Online, which is the cloud-based mail transport solution, part of the M365 package.
What were your key career moments?
To name a few:
- My first role in IT, as it helped me understand what the generic “IT” role means, from a Customer Support Perspective.
- The moment when I’ve seen my dream come true – being hired at Microsoft.
- All the managers that I worked with, as all of them supported my growth towards a Management and Leadership role.
- All the roles that I had, from a Support Engineer to the Technical Advisor one, helped me sharpen the skills that I needed to maximise my chances of becoming a Support Engineering Manager.
- Working with amazing career mentors.
- Having the opportunity to join the Azure IaaS Management team and working with amazing leaders, from which I learn, day-by-day.
- Taking all the opportunities that I identified, both to constantly grow and also to become a multiplier – from graduating different Career Development Programs towards creating one myself—which, today, is a program implemented at Microsoft’s Global level, within the Customer Experience & Success.
What are the three most valuable career lessons you have learnt?
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- We get to start new journeys not when we think we are prepared, but when we are truly prepared.
- Sky is the limit – as long as we are truly committed to growing our careers and don’t get disarmed by the setbacks that appear along the way, we will be able to see our careers blossoming as we envisioned them.
Why did you choose Business Services Industry? What were the top 3 reasons for choosing your company?
Remember the story from my childhood that, during primary school and high school, I managed to figure out for myself that, besides technology, I love enabling people? This is the exact same reason for which I chose the Business Services Industry – I have the opportunity to be part of a Greater Good, having a direct and real impact both on people’s lives and, through the team and different projects I lead, on the businesses of the biggest customers from all industries. And all these aspects give me a true sense of professional fulfilment.
And, looking at Microsoft, I still feel, even after 10 years, that I’m living what once was only a dream. The reasons I’m saying this are not a few – from the way each Microsoftee truly lives our company’s culture, how our products and services truly empower every person and every organisation out there to reach new heights and achieve more, the overall employee experience, the way we grow our talents and enable every employee to follow his/her professional dream by equipping them with the right tools to grow, to our continuous and relentless desire to innovate, these are the main reasons for which I truly plan to retire, in 40+ years, from Microsoft.
The above statements also received external recognition within the industry, as Microsoft Romania was awarded as:
- #1 Most Desired Employer for two consecutive years, 2021 and 2022, following the recurrent studies performed by Catalyst Solutions to determine the Top 100 Employers in Romania.
- Business Leader in Talent Development & Education, for the Innovation Labs programme, during the 2022 ABSL Awards Gala.
- Business Leaders in Business Excellence, during the 2022 ABSL Awards Gala.
Tell us a little bit about your private life: your passions, family. What do you do to relax?
From my 34 years of life, 14 of them I’ve shared with the one who is my wife for the past 7 years. Her name is Andreea, and she is the one who trusts me even when I don’t and who has always supported me in following my dreams. And I love to think that I manage to do the same for her. 😊
We are both travel addicts, we love getting to experiment different cultures and, especially, local foods from the countries we’re visiting. I also love skiing, watching movies (the Marvel series are my favourites, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean and Shawshank Redemption), going out with friends for dancing, and taking walks during late summer nights.
The activity that helps me relax the most, besides cuddling with Yoshi, our 5-year-old American Akita, is cooking stakes on the barbecue while enjoying some good music.
If now you were starting your career, knowing the present and near future opportunities, what would you do?
I firmly believe that who each of us is today, represents the sum of the experiences we have lived. Therefore, looking back, I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I was fortunate to have, both successful ones and least successful ones. Instead, I would apply the main learnings that I have gained so far – stay focused, and stay committed, failures are part of the learning process as well, so embrace them and make the best of them while not looking at problems as problems but only as opportunities to find new solutions.
What are the top 3 skills that you would develop?
We never stop growing nor learning; therefore, I’m constantly practising my strategic thinking and strategy development skills, my capacity to quickly adapt to changing and dynamic business environments, and, last but not least, my public speaking skills.
What would you do and what would you avoid doing?—practical advice to young professionals
To anyone that might be going through these lines and who’s a young professional, but only to them – keep your curiosity at the highest levels, learn from every single person and every single situation that you get in contact with, no matter if the learnings are around Do’s or Don’t’s, find your “Why?” and your “What?”, and the “How” will come naturally.
Try to avoid, instead, not having someone in your circle that inspires you. Because if you don’t have anyone to inspire you, you’re not in a circle, you’re in a cage. Moreover, remember that failures are the most valuable lessons that we can get, which should only motivate us to continue following our “Why” and “What”.
Tatiana Pascale, Senior Lead – Microsoft Romania
I am Tatiana Pascale, Senior Lead for the German Customer Support Account Managers team in Microsoft Romania. I have been working at Microsoft for the past 6 years in different roles, and currently, I lead a team of 20 people dedicated to German customers, who deliver the services included in their support contracts and secure renewals, as well as identify new opportunities for growing our business and cloud consumption.
My career journey started 18 years ago when I first joined Oracle as a Renewals Representative for German customers. I graduated from the German High School in Bucharest and have a university degree in Economic Studies and a master’s degree in Marketing and Public Relations. My passion is working with people, developing them, and supporting others’ growth. I pursued a management career and was promoted to manager of the German Renewals team in Oracle after 2 years in the role. This was the first turning point in my career, as I discovered that leadership was my calling and growing teams truly motivates me.
After 5 years in the Renewals business, I decided it was time to make a change and moved internally to develop a new hardware delivery team. This was a huge turning point in my career, as I took a team of 7 people located in Bucharest, Romania, and grew it to over 200 people globally in 4 different hubs – Bucharest, Costa Rica, China, and India, in under 5 years. I went through this journey step by step and grew with the team – first I consolidated the Romanian hub to 50 people and strong delivery, then I took over the Chinese team, and after 3 years, I became a Global Director and added the Costa Rican and Indian hubs to my portfolio.
The next step in my career was to join Microsoft after 12 years at Oracle and try something new. I chose to lead the EMEA Service Centre team and learn about managing vendors, outsourcing, and BPM leadership, meaning obtaining results through influencing a vendor delivery model. In Microsoft, the true turning point was deciding to take on an extra project while working as BPM Lead for EMEA Service Centre, the project was called Centre-Based CSAM. It was a project that I started from the initial planning phases, where I recruited an initial team of 13 people, meant to pilot remote Account Delivery for support contracts for customers across Europe. Throughout the first year, I worked both jobs in parallel, trying to gain the confidence of our internal stakeholders that we could manage customers remotely with high quality and grow the business, while also supporting the vendor delivery motions. The pilot was successful, and after the first year, the team grew to 50 people in EMEA and started a similar project in Asia-Pacific. Throughout the 3 years that followed, this project grew to become a global initiative called Global Account Management Delivery (GAMD) with over 1000 people working there. In 2022, our Centre-Based CSAM project won 1st place in the ABSL Awards Gala project in the Business Excellence category due to the amazing growth and sustained achievements over the past years.
Over the years, I’ve learned many important lessons, but the key ones are:
- People are our main assets, and we are all people! Growing strong relations and nurturing your people will help you achieve long-term success and personal satisfaction.
- Hard work and perseverance will get you there in the end – there will be ups and downs in everything that we do – all we can do is show up, give our best and not give up when it gets hard.
- We never stop learning – in the IT industry change is a part of life and having a growth mindset and being eager to learn and adapt is what keeps up in the game and helps us develop.
I truly enjoy working for Microsoft due to the culture nurtured within our company. I’ve met great people here, and I understood from the start that one of the big pluses this company has is the openness and willingness to help the people here. From the first months in my role, I discovered that asking for help is encouraged, and people respond quickly and step up to help you no matter what. We have a growth mindset here, which is vital because there’s always something new for us to learn, and we love being agile, trying out new things, and growing with new experiences. I appreciate the quick pace we have at Microsoft and the flexibility shown by the company. As a single mother, I have found amazing flexibility here to achieve a strong work-life balance.
On the personal side, I am a single mother raising an 11-year-old daughter and a small dog named Luna. 😊
They are my pride and joy and keep me busy most of the time. When I find some free time for me, I enjoy photography and going out into nature to take great pictures. I like travelling and getting to know new cultures. This year I travelled to Mexico for 2 weeks to be part of the Dia de Los Muertos festival, and this was a personal milestone for me.
Looking into the future, I am developing towards a higher leadership role within Microsoft and am working with my mentor to explore the more strategic side of the company, strengthen my technical skills, and prepare for the next opportunity. I love working in a dynamic environment, roles that challenge me and allow me to grow people and projects together.
Elena Rusu, Support Engineering Manager – Microsoft Romania
My name is Elena Rusu, and I have been working at Microsoft for the last 3,5 years as a Support Engineering Manager for Modern Workplace, Intune EMEA.
I started my early career as a financial assistant for a pharmaceutical company, where I worked part-time during my last years of university. There I had my first mentor, who helped me find my passion for services and identified my strongest skills: the attention to detail, the ability to solve complex issues, and the desire to help. With his help and support, soon after, I was one of the few students accepted as a Junior Support Engineer at Oracle, which was my first step into the Business Services Industry. Here I spent close to 15 years, first as a Support Engineer, pursuing my passion for helping customers, growing as a Technical Lead and soon after moving to a Support Manager role. An important career moment for me was the first time I was chosen to create and train a v-team of technical engineers- that was the time when I realised I truly enjoyed seeing my colleagues grow and develop into experienced professionals, globally recognised.
The key career moment for me was the decision to pursue my dream of working for Microsoft—having the chance to be here, working with a great team, and embracing the growth mindset that is unique to this amazing company.
I was fortunate to have great mentors and colleagues throughout my career- I would not be here without their support.
Some of the most valuable career lessons I have learnt are:
- Never stop learning- try to read as much as you can and take classes that you like, this will expand your horizons and allow you to develop your unique set of skills. I have a passion for change management and I have always been interested in programmes and methodologies that can bring a different perspective.
- Don’t give up – don’t be afraid of failure, try again, find an alternative. Sometimes the first solution is not the best one, the key is to remain open to change, understand what went wrong, what can be improved and adjust fast. One of the biggest challenges I had was to support a complex implementation for one of our top customers in healthcare, where we needed to shorten the response times to the minimum possible- we had to adapt and change the processes multiple times to make sure we provided the best support experience.
- Teamwork is key – success is always based on the team you are working with – give your best to the team, support each other, and do not forget to have fun along the way! This is one of the most important things for me, having great team collaboration, and feeling supported and appreciated.
I have chosen the Business Services Industry based on my passion for technology and customers. I am a helper by nature, and I enjoy solving complex issues. Also, having an IT background, working for Microsoft was a dream come true. I’m super grateful to work in an environment that supports and encourages you to thrive, focusing on the essential pillars: community, flexibility, growth, and well-being. And what I value most is the mindset of being a Microsoftee—this is amazing and truly empowers you to achieve more.
On a personal level, I have an 11-year-old boy (of course, passionate about Minecraft). Our best relaxing moments are out in the countryside, visiting new places, and skiing (I’ve learnt to ski with my son, and now I cannot wait for another ski season).
What drives my career path is a focus on learning—investing in yourself and upskilling is the best mode of investment. This discipline of continuous learning will very soon become a habit for the rest of your life.
As a career start, my advice is to focus first on understanding the role, the job, and every aspect connected to it. This will help you to be versatile and will open many opportunities. If I were a fresh graduate, for sure I would take on the great opportunities we have now on the market, academic programmes ( Microsoft Aspire), internships, etc that can help you find your way and your passion.
The skills that I would like to develop further are my coaching skills, identifying my team’s strengths and pain points, and gaining a better perspective on their abilities and how to best use them. This will better equip my team, my peers, and myself for success.
I also want to understand better the business areas in and around my role. A holistic view helps create multiple perspectives and identify future opportunities.
Last but not least, the skill I would love to improve is patience: being less focused on what “isn’t happening” and more focused on being present with life as it is occurring and being grateful for the moment.
If I were a young professional, I would avoid “chasing the money”. Of course, you will need a basic level of income to live your life, but there are many other considerations you can apply to owning your career. For example, having a more engaging job or a job that helps you fulfil your passion.
Also, if I could go back in time, I would be more brave and take more risks in my early years. Henry Ford said that failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently…