Mihaela Jurje, COO at Allianz Partners, a leading provider of global assistance, automotive and travel insurance solutions, with more than 21,000 employees worldwide and commercial activities in 76 countries.
Since September 2017, I am managing at Allianz Partners Global Competency Center in Bucharest all administrative and operational activities, leading a team of 250 members, 22 managers out of which 9 direct reports. I am in charge of all operational front desk (call center) and back office services (claims, organizational management and business analytics) for B2B & B2B2C for Allianz Partners organization worldwide, insuring best in class results in both productivity & quality and surpassing customer expectations.
How did you start your career? Which were your first steps? How did you envision your career?
My career started back in 1997, when after graduating the Pedagogical Highschool I was appointed as primary school teacher at Saint Silvestru School in Bucharest. I already knew back then that, despite the fact that I loved the teaching experience, I wanted more for my professional career. My strategy was to study and learn a niche subject that would offer me specific opportunities. I decided to learn Polish and I got a scholarship of full studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland. 4 years later, returning home as a graduate of Warsaw University, I got a call from Oracle, as they were opening their operational site in Bucharest. They were looking for a Partner Development Executive with fluent Polish language. That was my start in a multinational. I remember that during my interview with the Oracle Partner Network Director, when asked the standard question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?” I responded, “I see myself in a position like yours”. I knew right away that multinational is my place and that was what I wanted to do in the future. I had a slow start, but I was determined to make it. I discovered the high value of mentorship and team support, as I was struggling to make it through the corporate way. There were people supporting me closely (my mentor and my trainer, my first manager and the site Director) and I did it. By the end of the first year I was awarded as Best Employee of the Year. During second year I was appointed as Programmatic Partner Enablement (PPE) Project Coordinator, being in charge to implement globally PPE – the virtual way of managing partners. Once tool and program in place, I was promoted to EMEA OPN Operations Manager and after another year I got the opportunity to lead a global operational team, post a re-organization of the company. One of the most valuable lessons learnt during my career is that CHANGE ALWAYS brings OPPORTUNITIES. While embracing change I was only gaining. I took the decision one day to try and check out life outside Oracle and I started my journey in HP. The start was hard again, I needed to take it from scratch, making myself visible, proving myself and learning to re-invent the business unit that I was leading, the way I managed people, the way I was behaving in the team.
Another valuable lesson learnt along the corporate years is BE ALWAYS AHEAD OF TIMES. Think ahead, envision, plan and make things happen. In a sector where operations are driven by cost efficiency, re-invention and innovation is the way forward. The HP experience was the one that actually prepared me for the COO role today. I had two Austrian people influencing my professional approach, my way of thinking and my business behaviour: my direct manager at that time and the present SVP & Global Head of Sales Operations at HP. After almost 6 years, another opportunity appeared. This time I was recommended for the role of Head of GCC Romania Operations at Allianz Partners by one of my former team leaders in HP that is today a Senior Manager in my staff. As a paradox, even if unlimited in opportunities, multinational corporations’ world is quite small. You can always bump into people you worked with, you know or you managed, you can easily report to a person that was in your team in the past or you could end up in managing your manager along the years. My third most valuable lesson learnt is so beautifully spoken by one of my role models, Rainer Rabenstein (SVP & Global Head of Sales Operations, HP Inc.): “A SUCCESFUL CAREER resides in MANAGING THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT WAY.”
What were your key career moments (those that had an impact on your professional journey)?
Allianz Partners was not on my career radar more than 2 years back. I was happy with my career in HP and didn’t feel the need for a change, however my former team leader had provoked me by quoting what I was always telling my team members: “Attend at least one interview per year, even if you are not interested in a change. Check-up how marketable you are, see what the new interview techniques are and analyse your behaviour during the interview”. When she asked me for how long I hadn’t been in an interview, I realized that it was for far too long. I started to work on my CV and check out on internet about Allianz Partners.
“DARE2CARE” motto on their first page made a huge impact on me. It actually put together the two behaviours that have always led both my professional and my personal life. It raised my interest and right after the first interview with local HR director I said to myself: “This job is mine!” After a serious of extremely assertive, professional interviews and assessment center testing, I got it.
Why did you choose Business Service Industry? What were top 3 reasons for choosing Allianz Partners?
Allianz Partners puts people in the center of its business. Within the Insurance industry, it has a bigger human component as the core of the business is offering assistance during all life aspects: travel, medical, roadside, home, health, automotive, mobile digital device risk, cyber risk, home appliance protection, legal protection etc. There are 3 Global Competency Centers worldwide in Allianz Partners located in Bucharest, Mexico and Bangkok. Our employees are the differentiator: young or middle aged, early career or experienced professionals whose job and purpose are to support our insured clients during hard times. People come to us only when in need (opening a claim) and keep a calm and professional attitude is key in finding solutions during life on edge situations. My everyday motivation: the people I have the honor to lead!
Start up on the Romanian market since 2014, Allianz Partners in Bucharest is a growing operational service center. Our biggest project in 2019 was the move of our site into a new location. Starting Feb 2020 our new home is in the heart of the Pipera Business area, right behind Pipera Metro station, in the new and modern Globalworth Campus. Further on during the year, our top priority is to exceed in all areas of services we provide and concentrate on extending our operational span by ensuring the design and implementation of local business development strategies. Our main target is to start to offer services to clients outside of the Allianz Group. Aligned with this new direction, we are concentrating also on growing our own visibility on the Romanian business market.
Allianz Partners unique position within Allianz Group (#1 Insurance brand globally), is given by redefining the insurance and customer journey through constant innovation and reinvention. We were ranked as #26 of Most Innovative Companies worldwide out of 1500 competitors. The 2020 keywords for Business Service Industry is INNOVATION and AUTOMATION. Especially within the insurance industry, where there is an urge to be near people in distress within seconds, automation and constantly upgrading existing assistance tools and people skills are decisive.
At Global Competency Center in Bucharest we strive in being close to our clients both via competitive tools and exquisite soft skills. We deal every day with people in unpleasant situations such as ski, nautical or car accidents, people losing their flights or having to cancel their already paid trips due to various reasons. We put ourselves in our clients’ place and we treat every single request as it would have been sent from one of our family members.
Tell us a little bit about your private life. Tell us about your passions, family. What do you do to relax?
We also value our private time and we try to create a balance between work and personal life. In my case, I am a mom of 3 small kids: 5-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and a 4-year-old boy. People ask how I can manage this. It is really easy when you do it with love and ownership. My kids are the joy of my life. While during working weekdays I get to be with them every morning, having our daily little routine in eating breakfast, brushing teeth, dressing up and driving to the kindergarten, I fully dedicate my weekends to them and their extracurricular activities. Since I have kids, I realized how very fast time passes by as I see them growing up. Happiest times are the ones when we do things together: ski, swim, hike. Life is amazingly rewarding when you greet every single moment with a smile on your face.
For me, family represents warmth, support, responsibility and dedication, while career is fulfilment of my desire to constantly learn, grow and evolve as a professional. If I would have starting now my career, knowing the present and future opportunities, I would still kick it off by studying a niche subject that would give me an advantage on other graduates and provide me with the opportunity of being courted by corporations. If I would have to choose, I would still choose operations field. For me, operations are like the heart of a business, pumping out goods and services in a quantity and of a quality that meets the needs of the customers. Operations maintains business alive.
What would you do and what would you avoid doing? – practical advice to young professionals.
If I were to give a practical advice to our young professionals, at the begging of their careers, I would encourage them to leave behind any barriers and constraints, leave aside any fear, strive to be the best by always keeping up with the processes and job related knowledge. Take up more than you think you can do so that you work towards permanent personal improvement and overachievement! Success comes only through hard work.