She is helping drive innovation for a positive impact in digital health as a Senior Product Manager, with passion and by putting users first. Viorica Gheorghita, currently senior product manager at Synaptik Digital in London UK, has more than 12 years of experience in building global digital products, teams and partnerships and a strong background and continuous, passionate interest in Digital Marketing, Advertising & UX. BR talked with Gheorghita about her professional life in the UK, the path that got her here and her mission to build digital products that could make our lives better and happier.
By Romanita Oprea
This interview continues the series called “Romanian creatives in the UK” started with Maria Nazdravan and followed by Bogdana Butnar, Stefan Liute, Andreea Nastase, Alina Pirvu, Teodor Cucu, Mihnea Miculescu, Raluca Voinea, Anda si Dragos Teglas, Diana Vasilescu, Mihai Coliban.
What was the deciding factor for you moving to the UK, professionally speaking?
Curiosity. Curiosity has always been an important driver in my professional life and my decision to relocate was no different. Bigger markets, multi-cultural and distributed teams, new technologies, global industries – all of these are reasons for my being here now. London is such a wonderful platform for these reasons, and it’s bursting with opportunity. But back in 2015, my decision to move to the UK was driven by both professional and personal reasons. I have recently married the “personal reasons”.
How long did it take from the moment you made the decision to the time the move actually happened, and what were the steps you took?
Call it the law of attraction or whatever works best for each individual, but two months after expressing my intent to leave Romania, I vacated the apartment, said my goodbyes, grabbed my dog and off we went. I also received a lot of support from my family, friends, clients and my manager then, Mona Opran.
Before I left, I was extremely lucky to have two of my private clients offer me the opportunity to product manage the relaunch of two large e-commerce platforms remotely from London. This allowed me to be more flexible in searching for a permanent role here. Six months later I started working as a consultant for the LEGO Group and HCL Technologies, delivering digital campaigns for LEGO.com across 6 European markets. It is now more than a year and a half since I have joined Synaptik Digital (part of Nucleus Global, the largest specialist medical communication network in the world) as a Senior Digital Product Manager and shifted towards an entirely new industry for me – medical communications.
What were the main challenges and why? How did you tackle them?
One challenge was to tackle the cultural difference when it comes to feedback. Enthusiasm and appreciation come in different forms here – “that’s not too bad”, “it’s pretty decent” = “mamă, ce mișto e!” in our own terms. One also has to read between the lines and comprehend when Brits are frustrated, as they would rarely be very direct. At the same time, as the true gălățeancă that I am, one had to learn not to overreact.
Speaking of my heritage, my name is not a walk in the park, but even back home I was often referred to as “Veronica” or “Violeta”. I remember going to a store here when I first moved to the UK, where they were writing your name on the changing room’s door. I said “Vio”. Coming out of the changing room I saw it there, written in very large characters – “Veal”.
How are Romanian people perceived in the UK marcomm industry?
As per my very limited knowledge, we are perceived as hard working and very driven.
What would you say are Romanians’ advantages on the London marcomm scene?
I would say that determination, great work ethics, passion and creativity are amongst the biggest assets we bring to the table. One of my Greek friends says that all the Romanians he met in the industry so far seem to be driven by the same type of ambition.
One other advantage is our hunger to learn more about the cultures surrounding us. As we have been quite isolated by the communism, we are now eager to learn more and more about the world out there. As I see it, this interest comes as an advantage in better understanding the audiences we address, but there can also be a challenge at first in finding that common denominator in culture.
What do you consider to be the most fulfilling moments of your career so far and why?
My first successful mobile application, the first change in methodology I implemented company-wide, the first project delivered in an Agile distributed team across multiple countries, these have all been fulfilling moments. But in the past few years I have learned that the most fulfilling moments for me are in fact the small wins – daily or weekly tiny breakthroughs make me the happiest.
I believe in celebrating each and one of them.
On your LinkedIn profile you say that you believe in building digital products that could make life better and happier. Can you give us some examples?
After a few years of delivering products for different clients in different industries (with different purposes), I took the time to reflect on my work and what would be meaningful to me. I then knew that my future contribution should focus on transcending the transactional between consumer and companies. I knew I wanted to solve problems and/or bring joy for and to the user.
I am now part of a digital team where together with scientists, researchers, patients and caregivers we work to drive innovation for a positive impact in the digital healthcare sector. We are about to release a global multi-language mobile app for continuous medical education in diabetes management. The app follows a successful on-going CME accredited programme and web platform, designed to improve the care of people with diabetes worldwide.
What is it that you love the most about your job?
What I love most about my job, which I have been doing for almost 13 years, is the fact that I can continuously learn, which for me is crucial. I don’t believe there is any domain that does not require constant evolvement – either of the process, of the tools, of the methodology, there has to always be improvements.
What would you say that are your main traits that brought your professional success so far?
Curiosity – to better understand the audience and their problems; passion – to walk the extra mile; empathy – to put the user at the centre of everything I do; creativity – to find better solutions to problems; respect – to treat my colleagues as I would like to be treated.
What are the main trends in digital marketing and UK at this time, from your point of view?
We are living in very exciting times, due to the rapid advance of technology and at the same time the slowness of big companies in managing to keep up with those. But, ideally – automation to predict intent, personalisation based on insights coming from big data, artificial intelligence, voice activated interfaces, IoT are the trends we all aspire to contribute to.
What surprised you the most about the UK marcomm industry?
The huge budgets.
What made you turn to advertising in the first place? Have you ever regretted that decision?
I was already 7 years into product management and 5 years into managing Clopotel.ro (which at that time had 1.5 million users per month) when the advertising world started mesmerising me. We’ve started implementing more and more special projects on Clopotel.ro – mainly for Disney and Cartoon Network, and all of these projects were coming from a place of high creativity, diverse opportunities and very fast pace. Naturally I then wanted to focus on this newly discovered world, so I joined Mullen Lowe as a Senior Product Manager and 3 years later Centrade-Cheil as a Digital Product Director. When accepting the role with Nucleus Global I have deliberately chosen to leave the world of advertising for now, in order to focus again on long-life products.
You worked as a freelancer for almost three years. How hard was that to do that and how challenging (most people are afraid to do it in Romania, let along in the steep London competition)?
In my opinion, London facilitates the freelance work through its less bureaucratic system and large pool of work opportunities. There is a good culture promoting freelancing and many people choose the freedom and diversity freelancing comes with, as opposed to a more restrictive environment in a permanent role.