36 years of work! This is what Simona Manolache celebrated this year and anyone who knows her will tell you that her enthusiasm hasn’t faded one bit, on the contrary. Out of these 36 years, she spent 10 in Denmark, where she returned from with experience, a relaxed attitude and plenty of new ideas which she now uses at Systematic, the company she currently works for.
She graduated from Vianu, which was back then one of the few computer science high schools, and found a job soon after, based on her diploma. Meanwhile, she was also following a degree in Computer Science while working in the public sector, since she was 18, for the Informatics Centre of CFR. This was happening in 1985.
In 1998, she made the first change and found a job at a company based in Romania, in a software development department established in Denmark. Her husband was working there as well. This is how her story with Denmark began. “I used to travel often for projects. After 2 years, they offered us to relocate, not as expats, but on a local contract.”
It was the year 2000. Simona was 33.
“We had practically the same job and we were lucky the change was easy to adapt to. Naturally, we had to look for an apartment and buy furniture but at least we didn’t need to get a job.”
She already knew the Danes. They had worked together and she knew well that “Although they seem cold, being Scandinavian, they are very open once you get to know them a bit.”
Why did you leave? “It came naturally. When you reminisce about the past, you question it with your present mind. You can’t convey feelings perfectly. I couldn’t tell you now exactly why I left.”
She never felt like leaving was permanent, like it was an emigration as it was then understood. She was always asked whether they planned to return, both by the Danes and by the family and friends in Romania. At that time, they had no reason to consider going back, but she had the feeling that they would at some point.
Leaving was motivated by the desire for a new challenge, for a different experience: “We were driven by the curiosity and freedom we had, we were free people, we weren’t feeling tied to anything in particular”, Simona tells us, “we didn’t say goodbye as if boarding a ship, waving a handkerchief, because we kept in touch, it wasn’t a final farewell.”
Their bond with their country stayed strong, as they had various Romanian co-workers at that company and visited the country twice a year, for 3-week holidays: “We were going to the seaside in summer and to the mountains for Christmas with the same friends from our country. We used to laugh that as soon as we got back to Denmark, we would start planning our next holiday already”.
In Denmark, it was in fact easy to adapt. They moved to a little town called Struer, a green, idyllic place. Simona describes it as a perpetual holiday spot, with plenty of nature, where life was simple and beautiful: “I could walk to work there, go out in the street and not see cars everywhere. Some people were saying they could not live in Struer because it was like a sanatorium, it was too quiet. Their lifestyle was fitting for us though.”
The 2 years of previous work experience with Danes helped with the transition period. She really enjoyed their collaborative work style more than the competitive and sometimes aggressive work environment she encountered in Romania.
What did she miss about Romania? Simona told us about her family, but also mentioned that they never really got to feel like they missed friends or places: “We felt at home in both countries, we used this word in both places.” However, sometimes she could also feel the difference, when less pleasant things were happening: “When there were positive things you would say ‘home’, when there were negative things you would say ‘where these guys live’”, she said laughing.
She feels though that the Danish “home” influenced her behavior a lot and that she started practicing what she had learned there in her daily life, both personal and professional, even after her return to Romania.
After 10 years in Denmark, working at the same employer, the time came to return to the first “home”. The project she had been working on had ended and she and her husband then had to think about what they would do next. Returning was one of the options, which they finally chose.
The return to the country was gradual, with the natural effort involved in relocating. She didn’t give herself a deadline for taking the next step professionally; she answered her friends’ questions about where she would like to work with “in Piața Victoriei (Victory Square)”.
Readapting to Romania was not always easy. Used to the relaxed life in Denmark, with walking and having nature all around, she needed time to get used to the commotion and, most importantly, the stress level typical of Romanian culture.
She took an auditor course and after 8 more years of experience in processes in the field of ISO standards, she found her dream job at Systematic. “It was exactly what I wanted”, she tells us, “and exactly what they wanted too”. She was happy to find a multinational company where she could use a lot of her previous experience, but also the behavior she learned living among Danes. A co-worker, having found out she worked in Denmark even told her: “oh, that’s why you are so zen!”.
She realized this stillness is very useful in defusing conflicts too, often doing as little as having a positive attitude and a comforting smile. She picked up the direct feedback style of the Danes and applied it by offering constructive support and helping people find answers themselves.
Simona believes the IT market in Romania is full of opportunities, mainly because it is so dynamic: “in Romania there are people joining the company who stay for 3-6-12 months then go somewhere else.”
She remembers she saw a lot of Romanian students in universities in Denmark and thinks they would benefit a lot from returning home, in companies such as Systematic which offer international experiences.
Yet, she is still thinking about Denmark but, as she mentions, she still can’t get to miss it: “It’s funny how, since working for Systematic, I’ve been visiting Denmark every 6 months, where I still feel at home. It’s really like a mirror, I go there and do “those things”, I go to all the places I know. Denmark attached itself to Romania in this idea of home”.
Simona is also a photography enthusiast and her photographs make up a true life journal. She took part in exhibitions with photography groups, such as Bucureștiul meu drag (My dear Bucharest) Association and in photography salons such as Salonul Fotografului Român (The Romanian Photographer’s Salon), while also publishing on the internal Systematic group, with a focus on Romania. She enjoyed taking photos of nature a lot and she found striking resemblances between the two places she called “home”: “At some point I had the tendency to juxtapose the photographs, Denmark/Romania, because there were places that looked alike. I wanted to make an exhibition, as there is a constant parallel in my head.”
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