The Scholarships Series – #1 Gabriela Ciolacu on her experience as an Aspire X generation scholar

Are you curious how the scholarships work at Aspire? As we’re constantly looking for amazing individuals that could benefit from our programs, we wanted to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make our events available for as many people as possible. We’re working on improving our programs and bringing inspiring teachers every year, and we are also working on expanding the scholarships opportunities we offer.

The technical details about scholarships and the steps you have to take to apply for one are already available on our website, but we thought it would be more beneficial to also give you more insights on this directly from our scholars. So, if you’ve ever wished to hear more from our participants, buckle up, because you’re in for a treat! During the following weeks, we’ll post articles where participants from the 2021 summer programs will share their experience and give you a few insights in regards to how they benefited from the scholarships. 

For the past 7 years, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation has been our partner, providing scholarships to several participants every year. We are immensely grateful to them for the constant support and vote of confidence. With their help, we were able to reach incredible people such as Gabriela Ciolacu, participant in Aspire Academy 2021.

Could you tell us more about your background and current activities you have been involved in?

As a graduate at Budapest Business School, majoring in International Business Economics, I was unsure about the path I wanted to take. I have been continuously switching on and off in between economics, financial services, equity research and supply chain roles. However, due to my thesis study, I radically changed gears and switched 180 degrees to Information System Management and IT Consulting. Consequently, after several intense discussions with industry experts, I decided to reorient my efforts towards a career in one of the most challenging spheres of the 21st century: Business Analytics and Data Science from an economic and financial perspective.  

This motivated me to apply for a graduate program in Digital Economy at WU Vienna, because of the drive and thrill I experienced during my spring consultancy project concerning an AI-based advisory board. Despite working in the Real Estate Credit Risk sector within the banking industry and conducting multiple Equity research dashboards on the industrial portfolio within my student organization, I consider that my studies in the digitalization sector might help me contribute to the PSD2 and DeFi sector. My aim is to enlarge “the pie” through offering affordable capital to SMEs and democratization of the banking sphere. 

What did you enjoy most at Aspire Academy?

Aspire felt like a paradox. It educates you to want to change the world drastically NOW, but it also gives you time to rethink yourself. It is a two-path journey where you explore who you are and why you want to do what you do. “How” is left for individual interpretation and is supplied through networking connections and future projects. The personalization aspect of the program makes it more appealing and it already creates an aura of intimacy and familiarity, as the professors have done their research before. They guide you through a one-week transition through yourself by emphasizing the urgency of it. 

What are your top 3 key learnings that you want to keep? 

1. Impossible takes a little longer. It genuinely implies that those unbelievable concepts of dreams and aspirations are possible, but it takes more time and effort than an ordinary goal. The professors help us design and rethink those unattainable goals and make them achievable. 

2. Emotional intelligence is the new asset. Coming from a family of mathematics professors, I always questioned the power of emotional intelligence, as I have never considered it as an asset. I have seen it as a back-up player in your professional life – something you cannot teach or learn. Now, I consider adding it on my “Balance sheet” as an asset and nourishing it through education. 

3. Building wealth from choosing a mentor is probably the hardest lesson to implement, as finding a mentor is an art and requires a bit of luck. I have always considered the power of it, but I never experienced its impact. After a week of guidance, I observed that networking and mentoring build more wealth than sometimes standard education programs provide. 

How is Aspire beneficial to future leaders? 

Aspire reshapes the way you look at the concept of leadership and gives it a bit of “spice”. We are used to seeing the concept of leadership as a finite set of actions that concern a situation, for example situation A. However, we continuously disregard the fact that leadership extends beyond the borders or the horizons of the situation A, as the event frequency becomes unmeasurable in real terms.

It is a complex compound of your personality that encompasses more than your ability to manage. It touches on the nuances of your authenticity, honesty, intellectual acumen, empathy and compassion. Those things cannot always be taught, but they can be awakened or nurtured inside us. This is the main contribution of Aspire.  

What was the impact the Aspire summer experience had on you? 

I came to Aspire searching for an answer to several questions about my future and I finished the program with more questions about my personality in contrast with the tapestry of the world. However, I came at peace with the process of seeking the meaning (the meaning of life, of actions or reactions of the people around me).

I have fallen in love with the process of searching and the boredom and disappointment of it. I have fallen in love with exploring myself, building myself as the brutally honest, compassionate, yet strict leader I want to become. 

Are there any final thoughts you would like to share with us about the importance of this scholarship?

I would like to extend my gratitude towards the sponsors for ensuring equity between participants through scholarships. As an economist, I do understand the role of the civil society and private sector in enlarging the “pie”, ensuring a “doughnut” economy and maximizing internal and external stakeholders’ profit. By contributing to this, we show that standard measures of progress like GDP are not as representative as investing in the younger generation and that the opportunity cost of non-formal education supersedes the normative teaching.

Thank you for contributing to my journey and saving me time. Aspire provides numerous nourishing and knowledgeable sources that otherwise I would have needed decades to discover on my own. Thank you for helping me run ahead. 

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