For this week’s #WeAreModex discussion, our guest is Laura Manescu, Chief Development Officer and Co-founder Modex. Strongly involved in the tech world, Laura told us about her career, the values she believes in, and what it takes to succeed, as a woman, in what is widely seen as a male-dominated industry.
How it all started
Laura vividly remembers her first career day: 15th of February 2006. “I remember the day exactly. I don’t know why, but probably my brain marked it because it was my first coding job, and I really wanted to become a coder. After graduating, I never thought I had enough skills to become a programmer, it seemed such a hard job. But that is normal when you are at the beginning of your career – fear and excitement, at the same time, accompany you for the first few years. However, if you have the right ingredients with you, success is guaranteed,” affirms Laura.
From an “ancient” programming language…
Modex’s CDO started as a COBOL programmer – “an ancient programming language that maybe people the same age as my parents learned at the university,” says Laura with a smile. “Today you can find memes on the Internet on how only dinosaurs code in Cobol these days”. Soon after that, thanks to her management skills, she became a Team Lead. Since then, Laura has gradually moved up the professional ladder, managing bigger and bigger teams, evolving from a lead position to a C-level position within Modex.
… to shaping the future through innovation
Determination, a clear vision, and hard work to achieve her goals are the elements that define Laura’s tech career. If we were to take a guess, we’d say that Laura is doing today exactly what she enjoys the most. But what does she do, more precisely? “If I were to sum up what I know to do, it’s to make a software dream happen. Whatever the idea is, my team and I can conceptualize it, build it and deliver it – with the right amount of novelty and the right amount of quality, and without delays.”
Asked if she would take the same career path again, given the option to start over, Laura replies: “I would do the same thing: software. I loved math, and for me, the software industry was a real use case of applied logic and math and it allowed me to earn a living on an abstracting skill. Of course, that’s not the only skill you need in this industry, but this is a different topic.”
Challenges related to people, not software
Throughout her extensive career, Laura also faced some challenges she had to overcome in order to grow as a professional, but also on the personal level. “You face challenges every day in any job, no matter the industry or position. So, I was not the exception to the norm. The biggest challenges I had to face were not related to software but to people. All tasks are resolvable. However, when it comes to mentoring and leading people, you must be careful on how you deal with things or how you talk.”
Laura goes on by saying that this is the difference between a “Team Lead” position and a true “Senior Manager”. Over the years, her job became less related to actual programming and more related to people. “You are your team, and whatever happiness they have and however your team performs says everything about you as a manager,” believes Modex’s CDO. “That was my central mantra, so I concentrated my professional evolution a lot on understanding how different people react; what makes people tick and proud of the place they are working in and the products they are building. Basically, I focused on how to make people reach their best potential and overcome obstacles by themselves.”
Ten years later, a new chapter: Modex
After climbing the corporate ladder for 10 years, Laura started working at Modex in September 2016. Just like with her first career day, Laura remembers a lot about her beginnings at our company. “I came into a start-up environment as a Technical Project Manager for Moneymailme – which was actually the first product launched on the market, a money transfer and chat app available for iOS and Android. My job was to organize things and make sure we had processes deemed for creating and delivering software. Back then, our office was in a lovely villa with a yard and a big tree, providing shadow – a place I will forever cherish and remember as our start-up incubator.”
Supervising software development
With extensive tech experience and a few hundred ‘live’ deliveries under her belt, Laura currently supervises any software development within the company. Her job also includes developing software that integrates innovations like Modex Blockchain Database® (BCDB) to prove its potential in the software Modex builds for its clients.
“Modex gives me the liberty to have my own processes of creating and delivering software, and I make the most out of it. That’s what I enjoy the most – getting everyday confirmation that the way we do things is the right way and the shortest path to quality products!”
Laura adds: “I have always been a “desk rat” and I enjoy the mathematics and abstracting behind software a lot, so this is what I would like to do for a very long time: sit behind a desk and conceptualize. I believe that talking to customers should be left to my colleagues from Business Development.”
A dynamic workplace with cool views over the city
Describing the work environment at Modex, Laura outlines it as a dynamic one, in the sense of often approaching and researching new technologies. “We are encouraged to search for new ways of doing things, and you are rarely stopped from implementing a good idea. I love an environment where shifting is easily possible for the right purpose!”
Getting to the office is a 15-minute walk from her home, so Laura doesn’t have to remain stuck in Bucharest’s traffic for two hours daily. “I can go to work accompanied by the chirping of the birds, and my office has a view over the park, so sometimes I enjoy watching people, trees and birds on the lake.” Creative office environment, to say the least.
Girl power in a male-dominated industry
More and more women are making a name for themselves in a male-dominated tech industry, and Laura is one of them. What does it take to succeed? “Thank you for this remark! Many elements have prevented women from getting into the STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and I believe a combination of factors is what represented an impediment: education, the quality of the university you attend, the family that brought you up and instilled you with beliefs of what you can and can’t do, self-esteem, personal choice, labour market expectation, the stereotypes you currently have in your country, and even the history of the past hundred years, which favoured education for men and not for women. I don’t know the real reason for this, but it’s a fact that there are only a handful of women in the tech sector.”
Be the best at what you do!
Offering valuable advice to all those women who want to start a tech career, Modex’s CDO states: “For me, the answer to being successful as a woman in a men’s industry is: be the best at what you do! A job well done always pays off and removes any barriers, gender-based or others. I was promoted early on in my career because I proved I could, not because I proved I could be a man.”
We’ve also asked Laura to tell us what advice today’s Laura would give to the younger Laura, the girl with a lot of emotions before getting her first job. “If I were to speak to Laura, the student going to her first job interview, I would tell her this: Believe more in what you can do and stop concentrating on what you can’t do!”
Excellence, integrity, inner harmony, and loyalty
These are some of the values Laura strongly believes in. “I believe in achievement, excellence, democracy, integrity, inner harmony, loyalty, and confidence. A value is one’s judgment of what is important in life. It’s important for me to do things with confidence. It’s also important what do I mean when I say: I have finished my task (excellence). It also matters to be treated equally and to have equal access to opportunities (democracy). Last, but not least, I don’t like to be forced to break my values in order to reach a goal – someone else’s or mine (integrity).”
Laura also appreciates working in an environment that encourages and fosters accomplishments (achievement), which is an environment of acceptance (inner harmony). “Another thing that I value: showing faithfulness to commitments (loyalty).”
Supporting charitable initiatives
Whenever she can, Laura enjoys giving a hand to the less fortunate by supporting some local organizations. More than once, she organized internal Modex events where funds were raised, then donated to a certain cause. “This year, in March, we held an event to raise funds for a center that assists teenagers getting out of orphanages. When they turn 18, these young people really have low chances of starting a life or even meeting the basic needs: a roof over their head, eating three meals per day, access to complementary education. I think it’s important to get involved in local communities and do good. For some people, the littlest of help can mean the world.”
Sports, playing the piano, enjoying nature
As always, we end our discussion with hobbies. “I have a lot of hobbies, but not enough time to do them all. I enjoy music – I play the piano, and I also compose. I like sports – I enjoy working out even during my holidays, and I ski in the winter. I also like going out and spending time in the middle of nature – I love forests and rivers, as well as observing the surrounding environment.”