Cristina-Nicoleta Apetrei, Chief of Staff of the CEO and Deputy CEO – Societe Generale Global Solution Centre (India, Romania and Morocco)
I’m Cristina-Nicoleta Apetrei and I am the Chief of Staff of the CEO and deputy CEO for the Global Solution Centre (India, Romania and Morocco) since 2021.
How did you start your career? Which were your first steps? How did you envision your career?
I started my career when I was a student, in the 1st year of university and my first role was in Finance, in the business services sector. At that moment, I was envisioning myself having a career in this area and becoming a financial expert. During the first 4 years, I have experienced different roles in the Financial Department, developing all the necessary skills to be able to reach the goals that I had at that time. Being part of a service centre business model gave me the opportunity and flexibility to be part of various activities and industries, gaining, therefore, a great and diverse experience in various fields (automotive, health, commerce, banking and financial services), having today more than 15 years in this sector.
What were your key career moments?
The key moment was when I realised that I needed to diversify my experience not only in terms of activities, but also in terms of market industries. As a result, over the years, I had the opportunity to have different roles in Finance, HR, IT, Business Transformation and Innovation, but also to be part of all business stages (upstream, leading the Business Development- Sales, middle stream – Transition of the activities from onshore to nearshore/offshore and downstream – Operations – leading large teams and Business Transformation and Innovation). Therefore, I can strongly say that my career journey is based on a solid experience across various domains, which is actually the foundation for my current role, working on the company’s vision and strategy, focusing on generating value for the business.
What are the three most valuable career lessons you have learnt?
Over the years, there have been multiple lessons that have helped me reach the point where I am today. Out of all of them, I would mention that consistency is key in everything that you are doing, even if one day you have slower progress, never stop. Another very important one that should be part of both your personal and professional life is that the only constant in Life is Change (being open to change is a key enabler for evolving as a human and as a professional), and even if it might be a debatable topic, during my career I have seen that the most successful leaders are the ones who understand that failure is absolutely necessary to evolve. Embrace failure to be able to go to the next level… and, of course, BE KIND and HUMAN-ORIENTED.
Why did you choose Business Services Industry? What were the top 3 reasons for choosing your company?
I have realised from the very beginning that my personality and competencies fit best with this industry, and all the roles I have had, regardless of the activities or market industries, have been within the Business Services Sector. Key enablers that motivated me during these years and are still major factors for which I continue to want to work within this domain, and particularly at Societe Generale Global Solution Centre are: continuous transformation and development, openness for change – this being very important for me as an individual – growth of the business models and most importantly the focus on employees and their value-added contribution to the organisation.
Tell us a little bit about your private life: your passions, family. What do you do to relax?
I am a promoter and encourage everyone regarding the importance of work-life balance. It is key both for professional development and personal life. Without it, it’s hard to manage and achieve any of your goals. I am an animal lover, and I currently have only 2 dogs, but I’m planning to have more in the future (at least a football team of dogs). I enjoy travelling and cycling.
If now you were starting your career, knowing the present and near future opportunities, what would you do?
I would travel all over the world and build a career around it.
What are the top 3 skills that you would develop?
Taking into account the new trends and the new era we are all currently experiencing, I am focused on developing more innovation skills and knowledge of new technologies.
What would you do and what would you avoid doing?—practical advice to young professionals
In accordance with the lessons learnt in my career, I believe that it is very important to be consistent in everything that you are doing. I think this is extremely important in order to be able to evolve, so take it as an advice.
Never stop learning and developing yourself, both personally and professionally. This is the only investment that never loses its value.
What I would avoid doing – at the beginning of your career, the tendency is to prioritise your work more and lose sight of your work-life balance. My advice would be to try to keep a balance between these two as much as each can.
Alexandru Grigoreanu, Head of Retail Banking & Financial Services – Societe Generale Global Solution Centre
Hello! My name is Alexandru Grigoreanu, I am the Head of Retail Banking & Financial Services within Societe Generale Global Solution Centre, since 2021. At the same time, I am leading the IT Filiere community of the centre in Romania.
I started my professional career as an entrepreneur, while I was a student. Back then, I wanted to focus on finishing my studies, so I decided to take a part-time job in the banking industry. I quickly became passionate about it, and that is how I developed my career in the financial industry during the last 18 years. At the very beginning, I didn’t know anything about banking, but working in a contact centre gave me the opportunity to interact with various departments of the bank. This helped me understand the business and also shaped my ideas about what to do next. Hence, I started to envisage my next career moves in the banking industry.
Looking back, I recall two key moments that had a strong impact on my career. The first one was when I started working on projects. I liked it so much that I got motivated to get a project manager role. When working on a project, you interact with various stakeholders in different departments and it enables you to acquire very good knowledge of an organisation and how the business functions overall. The second important moment was when I was given the chance to lead a new department with SG GSC with the objective of building new service offers for SG Group in a greenfield model. This role enabled me to develop my leadership and strategic thinking skills. Over time, with proven results, I managed to extend the area of responsibility and get the role I am playing today within the organization.
Throughout my professional journey, I had a lot of lessons to learn, but I would say that the most important ones were to listen to and work a lot with your team, be open-minded, and admit that one does not always have the right answer. Actually, we learn new things every day, and what matters is what we make of these learnings and how we use them to drive the most efficient decisions in a constantly changing environment.
For the last 10 years, I have been working within the Business Services Industry and I made this change because I saw an opportunity for development, as major companies all over the world were looking at working with service centres, captives, and commercial BPOs, in order to streamline their processes, make them more efficient, and get the best possible outcome. It is still the case nowadays. I chose Societe Generale Global Solution Centre because the service centre in Romania was at its beginning back then. SG GSC offered (and continues to offer) plenty of professional opportunities for growth and I enjoy the multicultural environment it fosters. I believe that it is very important to find a company that allows and encourages you to be yourself, to come up with ideas and that is focused on innovation. These are exactly the values and culture that SG GSC is constantly promoting.
I feel it is very important to have a proper work-life balance, in order to achieve strong results from a professional standpoint. I like to travel and discover new places, ride the mountain bike, and also relax in the good company of friends and family. During my free time, I avoid tackling professional topics as much as possible.
If I were to start my career now, in terms of industry domain, it is kind of difficult to picture myself doing something else. I guess the power of habit and past experience is pretty high. At the same time, I feel that the business services industry has a lot of potential for development in the future. However, I would focus a lot on technology, as it is embedded in all aspects of our lives, regardless of the domain you are working in. At the same time, I think it is very important to be on a constant lookout for emerging trends in the market and embrace the changes that we are experiencing, as evolution is inevitable.
As mentioned previously, technology is omnipresent, so developing digital skills is highly important. At the same time, we mostly work with people and not with machines. Being able to show empathy is very important in human interactions, and last, but not least, I would focus on further developing strategic thinking skills. In order to successfully move forward, you need to understand the global environment and trends and be able to translate them into a concrete strategy for your organisation.
As an advice for young professionals, starting their careers, I would recommend for them to be curious, willing to experiment as much as possible and learn from failures. While it is important to have a long-term goal, I would avoid setting very rigid career objectives on long timeframes, as the world around us is changing at a higher pace than ever.