Interviewed by Abigail Ghercea
Meet our WTP8 Talent, Irina Verioti, Talent Acquisition Manager at Orange Romania. In this interview, Irina discusses remaining authentically true to herself, why we don’t have to make sacrifices to succeed professionally, and what we can all learn from children.
You have now been at Orange Romania for over fifteen years. Throughout your career, you have had many different roles, all within the HR field, and you are now Talent Acquisition Manager. Could you explain the evolution of your career and the path you took that led you to where you are now?
I applied to Orange Romania fora regional sales training role when I was still in university. For the first two years, I spent 90-95% of my time in training rooms, meeting our salespeople and discussing with them aspects related to sales interactions. These early years were tough, because I had to harmonise a full-time job, involving lots of business trips, with the last two years of university. But I survived and I fell in love with HR and with the telecommunications industry!
After a few years, I decided to apply internally for an HR business partner role. It wasn't a success on the first try. This negative answer was the first negative response that I had received and it was an important moment in my career. As you can imagine, as a trainer, you have to show that hold yourself in high esteem because there are always a lot of people looking at you and seeking to learn from you. You tend, at a certain point, especially when you're in your 20s, to lose contact with reality and with the things that you can do in other domains. Fortunately, one year later I got a business partner role, and, in fact, it was the most difficult career change I have ever experienced. Suddenly I was making unpopular decisions and even delivering bad news, when up until that point my only experience had been in the positive domain of learning and development. It also coincided with another important moment in my life – the moment when I learnt that I was going to become a mother. After three challenging months, I discovered that I could do the job and I even enjoyed being my authentic self and being transparent with colleagues around me.
After five years, I felt the need to explore the external market a little further, because as an HR VP, you are stuck a lot of time in internal procedures, and this can sometimes be a disadvantage. I knew that I could bring further value to my organisation if I could leverage the things that other companies on the market were doing. Overseeing recruitment and employer branding seemed like the logical next step for my career. Now, three years later, I can say that it was the best move that I could have made because it exposed me to the entire market. I am able to propose lots of ideas that we can implement ourselves or make even better because I have a lot of contact with the external market. Today I coordinate a team of 26 people, recruiters, employer branding specialists, and it's both exciting and challenging to do this every day.
Looking back on your career, is there anything that you wish you had known when you were just starting out?
When I was in my 20s, I used to think that having a successful career and being in senior management positions involved sacrificing other aspects of your life. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Most probably, Irina in her 20s would have said that having a career was the most important thing to strive for, above and beyond having a thriving personal life. But now, I know that you can have both.
Another important thing that I wish I had known back then is that being successful is not about status or job titles. For me now, being successful in your career is about having a role in an organisation where you see your values represented and where your skills are best used. If you bring added value, then the organisation you work for should not ask you to make sacrifices. If it does, then it is probably not the place for you. What is important is to find a place where you can be yourself, and where you can integrate and harmonise all the other roles that we as women have. It shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice.
Being successful in your career is having a role in an organisation where see your values represented and where your skills are best used.
Could you elaborate on the projects you are currently working on and what your daily work life looks like?
It depends on the day! Our organisation is currently undergoing a huge M&A process, integrating another company that Orange Romania has acquired, and I'm heavily involved in this process. There are a lot of cultural challenges to overcome, which is normal when you're trying to harmonise two huge companies and build a new culture around two different organisations. Aside from that, my day-to-day life and my main professional activity revolves around recruitment and employer branding. What I love the most about it is the fact that I often feel, during the same workday, that I work in three or four different domains. I get to find out many things about different industries, companies and organisations.
Of course, a lot of time in my daily work is dedicated to my team. I try to be there for them authentically, in any way that they need. They are all amazing, dedicated professionals and the time that we spend together is not only about KPIs, closed processes and things like that. We are trying to be there for each other as human beings and to be aware of the struggles that each of us is having. They do the same thing for me; I also need their support.
You have described training as your “first HR love.” What is it about training that you enjoy so much and why is it important for companies to provide quality training for their staff?
When I first delivered a training session, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. Talking to people made me extremely nervous and, despite having delivered hundreds of hours of training, I'm still nervous when talking to other people. But, for me, emotions and being nervous before important moments is positive because it signals that what I am doing is important.
With training, what I love so much is the fact that it is a continuous learning process, even for the trainer. This learning process creates such a strong bond that, once the learning process is stirred, it is impossible for the trainer or educator not to want to learn. The interaction between learner and trainer is a powerful one that is difficult to replicate in any other context. Every day that I spent as a trainer brought new insights and learning experiences for me, because I would meet many different people and have lots of deep and authentic exchanges with them.
For me emotions and being nervous before important moments is positive because it signals that what I am doing is important.
Your career trajectory has been about discovering people. What kind of people are you looking to discover?
When you love people as much as I do, there are simply no boundaries. The more different a person is from me, the more relevant and insightful it is to learn from them. I just love to discover people as they are without ever judging. I'm extremely sociable, and I like to discover stories of all the people around me. There is something to be learned from anyone who you meet, in any context.
In the last years, I must admit that I have become particularly keen on discovering children. They are innocent, pure and intrinsically intelligent. They don't have any stereotypes, any preconceptions, any ideas that we, as adults, tend to impose with our rational side. We could learn a lot from children about connecting to each other, emotionally from human to human, from heart to heart, without any social barriers.
The more different a person is from me, the more relevant and insightful it is to learn from them.
As a participant in the 8th cohort of the WTP Programme, have you gained any insights that you find to be particularly valuable?
I'm truly honoured to be part of this amazing group. One of the most important things that I've discovered so far is that I am not the only one dealing with the challenges that stem from the complexity and multiplicity of roles fulfilled by women, and this has been extremely comforting. We are also facing the same hurdles, the same difficulties, and whenever you are faced with a challenge you can gain a great deal by talking about it and leveraging the conclusions that you come to with others.
What I love about this programme is the fact that it combines theoretical knowledge through training sessions that you can use at your office and really apply, with more insightful interventions and exchanges that make you deep dive into your feelings, your behaviors, and the way you position yourself in different situations.
We are also facing the same hurdles, the same difficulties, and whenever you are faced with a challenge you can gain a great deal by talking about it and leveraging the conclusions that you come to with others.
Ending with a question from the Proust Questionnaire: what do you consider your greatest achievement? This achievement can be professional, personal, or both.
That's a tough one, because there are a lot of things that I'm particularly proud of from my career and my personal life. What I would underline is the fact that there is not one single thing that I'm proud of that was done 100% thanks to myself alone. It's always about being part of a great team and, fortunately, I'm part of multiple great teams, which include my manager, my peers, and my amazing talent acquisition team. In my personal life, too, I have the greatest teammate that any woman could wish for in my husband.
The thing that gives me the most comfort is the fact that I have managed to stay true to myself and to resist the temptation to put on masks, even though in some contexts it may seem like the easiest choice is to put on a mask and deliver to the audience the exact image they wish to see. In all the roles I have had I have been myself and stuck to my values. I couldn't even imagine how much energy I would have wasted by putting on a different mask every time and trying to think, “Okay, who am I interacting with now? What should I say, what should I do?” I would have wasted probably 90% of my energy and nothing else would have been left!
I have managed to stay true to myself and to resist the temptation to put on masks, even though in some contexts it may seem like the easiest choice is to put on a mask and deliver to the audience the exact image they wish to see.
Video edited by Juliette Travaillé