I know Doru from Baia Mare where we collaborated on maramureşenii.ro. After that we met in Cluj-Napoca on various occasions: whether it was a book launch, a marketing event, a business event, or just for a beer.
I could write a book about all the things and topics discussed with Doru over time or at least a collection of texts. Instead I tried to synthesize as much as possible the most interesting information in this article.
You are a quite well-known civic voice in Transylvania. Where did this come from?
It comes from my childhood. I was very free when I was a kid; this is how my parents raised me. Perhaps my civic voice was born from the desire for freedom combined with my passion for socially involved journalism. I’m from Braşov. I was born and I grew up in Brasov in Ceausescu’s years and started to read newspapers when I was in primary school. I used to read Scânteia Tineretului, Sport newspaper, even Flacăra.
“I WAS IN THE 10TH GRADE at THE REVOLUTION. THIS IS WHEN I DECIDED TO BECOME A JOURNALIST TO DISCOVER and INVESTIGATE THE VILLAINS AND SEND THEM TO JAIL”.
I was particularly fond of reportages and I wanted to become a sports reporter. I remember that in the 2nd grade I found a pile of interwar color magazines in the attic. Those magazines were a revelation to me. There was such a difference between them and the communist papers that were sold in the kiosks. Both the form and the content they had were like from another world. I think I had read them a dozen times.
I was in the 10th grade when the revolution begun, this is when I joined the Civic Alliance, and I decided to become a journalist to investigate and find the villains and send them to jail. I studied in a high school focused on computer sciences because it was the best high school in the city and because I was good at math.
At the end of the 4 years I was the only one to apply for the faculty of philology, a faculty that I finished 7 years later, in `99. These were long-term studies, as I like to call them, the reason for this very simple: after 2 months of starting the faculty I started working as a reporter at a local newspaper.
“At 19, I was already a news editor at a local television. We were 2 guys doing a half an hour news report from A to Z”.
You started working in the media at age of 19. How was it to do journalism in the early ’90s?
In the 1990s, the press was at the beginning, just like me. At 19, I was already a news editor at a local television. We were 2 guys doing a half an hour news report from A to Z: in the morning we went to the field, interviewed, recorded, and mounted the band (in analog, this is how things worked back then), then we wrote the script, and presented the news in the evening. We did that every day.
It was a period in which every member of the team grew intellectually and professionally at a phenomenal pace: we were about 30 people no more than 24 years old, with no experience, and together we managed to set up a very popular community television where we produced one of the first advertising spots in Romania. I remember it even now, it was an insurance advertisement with a mountaineer climbing a peak, he falls off at some point, but he survives because he has insurance.
That television was bought by a person who would later found ProTV, and because of this we were sent one by one at different trainings in the capital. This is when I was given the chance to work side by side with those who would later become today’s TV stars.
That’s when I realized I did not want to live in Bucharest. It was a short time later when I was the events director of Club A. I remember that the New Year’s Eve 2000 caught me selling tickets at the entrance of the club, because I did not have staff available that night.
“I stopped doing press in 2000 when I realized I no longer had the freedom to decide the content and to say things as they were”.
Back in Brasov, I started with some friends the newspaper “Drum Nou” (New Road) which was a kind of satire newspaper like Academia Cațavencu, but at a local level. Then I did radio for a few years and I managed to build a national radio network. I stopped doing press in 2000 when I realized that I could no longer do it properly, that is, to have the freedom to decide the content and to say things as they are.
The local press died about in that period, and the central one in the following years. Today we have some small-scale initiatives like PressOne, Recorder, Rise Project or a journalist here and there who somehow manage to make real journalism instead of being simple performers that dance on request.
How did you make the transition to a marketing and communication person?
The transition was rather smooth. When doing press and radio, I was put in a position to work directly with advertising customers who wanted fame and sales but did not know how to communicate to the public. So I started to learn how advertising is being done. By doing research and strategy for clients, I found out at one point that I was also marketing.
I think that over time I have written dozens of radio and TV ads, dozens of advertising interviews. In parallel with radio and television, I produced and coordinated events: concerts, cultural events in Brașov and Bucharest, sports events in Poiana Brașov and advertising campaigns on the seaside.
By 2010 I felt the need to systematize my knowledge. So I got my BA in Marketing and my Master in Business Administration at Babes-Bolyai in Cluj. I already knew how to do things out of instinct and experience, but I did not know how to think structurally. That’s exactly where my studies helped me.
In which areas did you use your business and marketing knowledge?
Until 2010 I worked for companies from various fields. I built logistics and residential spaces in Brașov, I was a project manager responsible for the construction of the Ramada hotel, after which I went to work for the Inserv Group construction trust in Baia Mare, where I managed the communication department.
“THE BEST AND MOST ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE OF MY CAREER WAS AT IKEA. I FOUND THERE AN EXCEPTIONAL SET OF VALUES AND A UNIQUE WAY OF THINKING”.
I worked for some time at Selgros, and then I managed purchases at Ikea, where I think I had the best and most enjoyable experience in my career. I do not know if there is a company more concerned with the quality of employees’ lives and with respect for principles, such as Ikea.
There is a set of values and an absolutely unique way of thinking in that company that is probably coming from the founder Ingvar Kamprad, but also from the Swedish people as a whole. I would agree to work at Ikea even as a security person just for the culture of this company – a company that is striving to offer a perfect consumer experience from one end to the other: starting with the packaging, continuing with the pieces, the way and the order in which they are arranged in the box, the way they are transported, the joints – everything.
All these details are intensively studied and optimized so that the buyer’s final experience is excellent. They practically draw a user experience and make their furniture a living part of your life. At our factory, the star product was an armchair recreated by the owner of Ikea based on the he inherited from his grandfather.
“I AM TALKING ABOUT THAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU FEEL VERY GOOD WITHOUT KNOWING NECESSARILY WHY, WHERE THINGS HAPPEN NATURALLY. THIS KIND OF APPROACH IS STILL CONSIDERED IN ROMANIA… A WHIM”.
I saw this type of approach at the Ramada Hotel, when we received the visit of a Dutch architect who came to check a standard room. She stood there for a few hours, during which she thoroughly checked each centimeter of the room: how comfortable the bed was, the way the light fell, how the drawers opened, whether the table was at the right height, and hundreds of details of that kind.
It was an example of how to think about the user experience and try to give him the most enjoyable one. It is the type of experience you feel very good about without realizing why, where nothing is tiresome, where all things happen naturally; this kind of approach is still considered in Romania … a whim.
How did you get to work in IT in a field pioneered by a company from Cluj?
This experience was for me a surprise from all points of view. That company I worked for is called Onyx Beacon and I found out about it by making a research on the internet about these new electronic devices called beacons.
I ended up on the website onyxbeacon.com, I found out that the company is located in Cluj-Napoca and I wrote a post about them on my blog, after which I sent them a message congratulating them for what they do and sent the link to my article.
Two months later, the CEO of the company contacted me and told me that he was looking for a specialist who could communicate internationally, promote a Romanian product and do everything: marketing, PR, relations with market analysts, partnerships and participation in events, etc.
“I believe in the vocation of the companies to tell stories and to integrate them genuinely and naturally into people’s lives”.
The goal I set together with the team was to get the international technology press to write about Onyx, to be mentioned in the reports made by the largest technology analysts, to establish as many partnerships as possible in different sectors and obviously to sell worldwide. I had a cultural shock, because I had never worked in the IT field before, and that made me ambitious.
I learned a lot of things, I was part of a fantastic team, and in half a year we managed to reach out objective. And this is largely due to the fact that we have not made just good products, but we also managed to integrate them into user-friendly functional solutions combined with impressive and easy-to-read stories. Here are 2 examples:
- World premiere: iBeacons made in Cluj hels the blind to travel by bus without a personal assistant
- How do you get rid of the crazy traffic from the big cities? Transform public transport into a mobile game
Due to these stories, people in different fields have seen the practical utility of this technology and were convinced that these devices actually work. I believe in the vocation of companies to tell stories and to integrate them genuinely and naturally into people’s lives.
I assume that the idea of the book you published this year came from your work
Yes, indeed. When it came to writing a dissertation, I wanted to write a work that meant something, to bring value for the others who are passionate about this job. I decided to choose the technology area and write about what I had done in the recent years in IT.
“MY BOOK CONTRIBUTES TO THE THEORETICAL FUNDAMENTALS OF A NEW FIELD – PROXIMITY MARKING”.
Based on my experience at Onyx, I have contributed to the theoretical foundations of a new field: proximity marketing – a topic about which there is very little information in the international literature. It’s a field that is beginning to take shape and has a very promising future, in my opinion.
So, at the suggestion of FSEGA Deputy, Ovidiu Moisescu, who is the best and most generous marketing professor I have met so far, I transformed my dissertation into a book that treats this subject with a solid theoretical part, offering at the same time some practical examples. The book is called “Experiența face diferența” (The Experience Makes the Difference) and it was published by Libris Publishing House.
The thesis of my book is simple: at the moment, the intelligent mobile devices are the most direct and personal way for brands to get in touch with their potential customers. Companies who will know how to communicate with them and give them personalized information based on context and location can differentiate themselves from competition and gain popularity.
I have read a lot of disappointment and revolt in your articles and posts on the internet. Is it true you want to leave Romania?
It’s true and I do not hide it. I’m thinking about moving to another country because I think things are going in the wrong direction here and I see my future put in jeopardy. I find it disturbing that the decisions that concern all of us are taken by incapable, bogus and irresponsible people. It is clear that all the wrong steps we are doing now will irreversibly affect our future.
And we are allowing this to happen because the majority of the population is uneducated and focused on apparent short-term gains. People are glad to receive an raise of 100 lei at the salary or pension and do not have the education, patience and confidence to understand that this extra money will cost them more on the long-term, them, their children and their grandchildren.
“In a time when some plan to colonize other planets, we are still in the middle ages trying to establish by law who has the right to marry who”.
By being in touch with the latest news and technology, I see clearly how far some people are dreaming, and I realize how far behind we are as a nation, this is really sad. While some people want to colonize other planets, ease people’s lives with the help of robots, we are still in the middle ages and we want to establish by law who is allowed to marry who.
It’s like trying to stay fortified in the past, to chase away the ones that are different, the creative ones because you are afraid they might be better than you. By letting thieves and incompetents decide for us, we are destroying all our chances at progress and any hope of changing things in the future. We see that more and more people are leaving the country, the intellectual elite, especially young people.
The graduates of the best high schools in Romania can apply very easily to the top universities in Europe. Once they get there, these children discover the normality, another type of education, another mentality, and another society. Even if many of them want to return and change Romania for the better, most of them realize that there is no place for them back here.
They are so different when it comes to their values and culture that they can no longer integrate. Moreover, our system rejects them. Young students educated abroad are coming back with so many plans and energy that would get us well. The problem is we just do not want to get well.
“Mischief, trickery, theft – these are the values based on which our society actually works nowadays”.
Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I have lost hope that the Romanian people will get well any time soon and that we will really become a modern European nation. To do this, we need to have a system of values respected by all our citizens. We do not have it, because we do not really have citizens in the true sense of the word.
In fact, we live in a form without substance. We have an official system of values, which is only official and we have an informal system, known by all, on the basis of which things actually work. Mischief, trickery, theft – these are the values based on which our society actually works nowadays.
The Romanian is well-versed in passing responsibilities and postponing decisions, but the system cannot function as a whole if there is no involvement at the individual level. This is a matter of culture, a problem we have yet to solve.
“We, as a people, feel good in our morass; we reject any initiative that could take us out of the swamp of the Balkan self-sufficiency we are splattering in. It stinks, but it’s our crap and we’re proud of it”.
Stealing our own hat is one of our favorite sports. We are great at tricking ourselves. You borrow a tie from your colleague, you get a pair of jeans from your brother and you go to the interview to show how cool you are, though you know you’ve got holes in your socks. This is our style of packing things up, we are superficial.
Those who leave Romania don’t have anything against our country geographically speaking. On the contrary, geographically Romania is a heavenly space. We have everything; our country is beautiful and rich in natural resources. Most of the people leave because they feel socially bad, because they can no longer live in harmony with most people here. This is a tough truth that most people cannot accept.
I’m a whistleblower. It’s difficult to make me shut up, because when I see a problem, I say it out loud and I ask for it to be solved. Unfortunately, in our society and in our companies, this habit tends to create only problems and enemies.
“I do not really want to leave the country; I just want to resign from the Romanian people”.
It seems that we, as a people, feel good in our morass, we reject any initiative that could take us out of the swamp of the Balkan self-sufficiency we are splattering in. It stinks, but it’s our crap and we’re proud of it. The elite moving out of the country leaves us poorer intellectually and with fewer chances for a better future. I do not really want to leave the country; I just want to resign from the Romanian people.
Still, if you were to stay, where would you see yourself?
The only space I see myself is in Transylvanian. The reason is simple: the quality of life and the people we interact with are increasingly important factors in the decisions we take. We still have here in Transylvania a moral vertical and a social system that preserves much of the respect, discipline and diligence of those who have civilized the area.
It matters a lot how free you feel in a city, how much trust you have in the people on the street, it is important for me have that feeling of safety and joy of belonging. I felt this kind of comfort in Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, a feeling I missed in other parts of the country.
To conclude on a more positive note, tell me a project that you are proud of.
It’s probably unwise to say this, but I think pride is a sin, because pride works with ego. I’m not trying to find things that make me proud, instead I’m looking for things that to bring me joy, contentment, and spiritual reconciliation.
“I’m not trying to find things that make me proud, instead i’m looking for things that bring me joy, contentment, and spiritual reconciliation”.
Let me rephrase then, tell me about a project that brought you great joy.
Ramada project in Brasov brought me a lot of joy, because I felt greatly enriched by this experience. I have learned many things about building, planning, architecture, commercial tourism, etc. And at the end of the project, I had the impression that we were able to do a great thing with the team there, much beyond what we all knew and could at the beginning of the project.
Another thing that brings me a lot of joy is the interaction with young people and the chance to help them grow, learn and discover new things. For two years now I have been invited by the student organization Volunteers for Ideas and Projects (VIP) and the FSEGA professors to talk to the students. I have seen in their eyes that they have felt enriched from our meeting, that I helped them gain more trust in themselves, that I have advised them to follow their vocation, and that has brought me great joy.
“Finding happiness in the eyes of those you help is more important than showing off or being proud about success”.
Last fall, I donated all my books and courses from the university years. I made a post on Facebook and I chose the most motivated and best-qualified student admitted to Marketing. She asked me for advice about the activities she could do outside the faculty. I recommended her to get involved in the VIP student organization.
This spring, when I went to meet the VIP, I found her there, active and happy about what she was doing. This was once again a joy for me. Finding happiness in the eyes of those you help is more important than showing off or being proud about success.