Daniel Mereuta, Managing Director, Optima, since 2011, independent BPO with 400 employees.
How did you start your career? Which were your first steps? How did you envision your career?
I have started back in 2004 in the receivables management industry, at EOS KSI Romania, a large multinational player, as a call center consultant, so basically from at the very first entry level point. I’ve always considered that starting from scratch, at the operations core, was one key benefit for my future development. It is easier for me to understand, sometimes, not always, the challenges that the people on the front line are facing.
What were your key career moments (those that had an impact on your professional journey)?
They were many key moments, some of them maybe I did not even realize but I will share a particular one, which I really think it made a difference. After only 3 months in my first job, while we were only around 30-40 in the company, a management position was opened, a Team Leader role. The requirements were very clear, you should have at least 6 months within the company. So, because of this, many colleagues, with high potential, did not apply for that position. Well, despite this, I did apply, ended in the finalists (we were almost 10 at the beginning) and eventually I did not get the job. But right after this moment the management offered me a totally new role, much more challenging, and this was basically my “kick-off” start for the future progress. On a funny mode I wish I could still have the baldness that I had at 23 years old.
What is the best three most valuable career lessons you have learned?
To be honest, I am not able to list a top 3 and I don’t want to sound too “cheesy” but the most valuable lesson for me is that it is always about the people. Good moments, bad ones, failures or accomplishments were always people related. So maybe the most valuable lesson in the midst of the tech revolution is that the most untapped value is still within the people.
Why did you choose Business Service Industry? What were top 3 reasons for choosing Optima Solutions Services?
I think business services gives the complexity and the variety that I like. For example, if you are active in a certain industry, let’s say car industry, I am sure that you learn a lot about car manufacturing a.s.o., but it is still, one industry. While if you are active in business services you can understand all the elements of a business on multiple industries and activities, is like you are learning how to understand any language, not only one. Why, Optima? Well, of course ‘’our children are the nicest and smartest”, but I really believe that we have a bit of a different culture, intrapreneurial, dynamic, exciting and we are also having fun. I think we have learnt the good things from the ‘’corporations way’’ but we have also our way, which is more agile, a bit more humble, and we don’t take ourselves way too serious.
What are your/your company’s plans for 2020?
This year is a special year for us, since we will mark the first ten years in our history. So, maybe is time not to call ourselves a start-up anymore. Leaving the joke aside, the plan is quite simple: to continue to grow sustainable. While we are growing each year, for the past 9, that is not an easy game. As for us the sustainability is even more important than grow, now that is the real challenge. That will mean for us not only financial growth but also new services, coping with the new tech trends, innovation etc.
What do you think would be the keywords of the year for managers in the Business Services industry? Automation? Cutting costs?
I really hope that not cutting costs. That will be an easy way and it is not ours. So yes, automation is a keyword and we are building many things around it. Efficiency is another one, it is very important and our business model.
Tell us a little bit about your private life. Tell us about your passions, family. What do you do to relax?
I use to run and participate at various running events. I am not doing it now as much as I would love to, but I am still stubbornly, going to some races. I am trying to keep myself fit as I have two daughters so I guess I will need physical energy to chase them around the city when they will start dating. I like to read and I have recently starting again, formal education, as in university studies, but I won’t tell you in which field, is too obsolete for these days.
If you were starting now your career, knowing the present and near future opportunities, what would you do? What career would you pursue?
That’s an easy one, definitely and Instagram Influencer. I don’t know, is very difficult to say, we have the tendency to look at the current years but things are changing so fast. We need to think our lifetime not in the old, traditional 3 life stages (education, work and retirement) and more on multiple stages where various careers and opportunities should be followed. So you might work something now, accumulate knowledge and assets and then go back to education and restart in some other field and so on.
What are the top 3 skills that you would develop?
Critical thinking, creativity and something in the tech area, you need to keep yourself relevant, to understand what’s happening around you but I am not the one that puts technology first. First you need to learn how to think and then go deeper.
What would you do and what would you avoid doing? – practical advice to young professional
Giving advice to young professionals is most probable the craziest thing to do and it also makes me feel a bit old. But I will try to answer. On what to do, first thing will be to put more effort and weight on education and learning in general. Because it is not only about the learning itself but is more to incorporate learning in your life as probably the most important habit, really make it an addiction. So really, have always learning present in your life, really learning, not reading some articles on the internet. More like reading, taking classes, going to courses or schools etc. another advice will be to start investing, financially, as early as possible. Do not think only in a salary paradigm, no matter how large becomes overtime. Diversify and invest. I think here, in Romania, we are lacking this preoccupation. Avoid thinking in patterns. I need to do this, in that time, to reach that position etc. Life is changing, it will be longer and different, so don’t stick too much and put to much weight on old models. Train yourself how to think, how to learn and adapt, it will be an unpredictable and interesting journey that you can’t realize it now.