We are excited to share with you the story of Bianca Negrea, Aspire Academy 2015 alumna, a people-oriented person with a problem-solving attitude and a lively spirit. She is currently using technology to automate marketing processes as a Campaign Manager in the Digital Marketing Department at LeasePlan, a leader in the Car-as-a-Service industry.
Her great passion for volunteering led her to explore the possibilities of making a positive impact in a for-profit setup. Bianca is the Vice-Chair of a support structure within the business that aims to protect and promote employees rights as well as act as an advisory body for the executive team.
When she looks back, Bianca singles out non-profit organizations for having had a tremendous impact on her personal and professional development from university onwards. It was through volunteering and participating in life-changing programs such as Aspire that she discovered what motivates her and where her passions lie. Bianca learned how to cooperate in competition, how to develop strong business ethics and leadership skills, and saw the real power of a network of like-minded individuals. She encourages everyone to go out of their comfort zone and tap into the networks around them.
After graduating from Aspire Academy in 2015, Bianca was determined to contribute to Aspire’s growth after completing the program. She has been a member of Aspire’s organizing team in the Marketing Circle as Marketing and PR Manager and has contributed to the Aspire Hub in Amsterdam ever since. Bianca sees life as a learning journey that she aims to pack it with inspiring people, memorable experiences and positive impact. She enjoys taking a broader view to uncover gaps where her expertise can make a difference and her friends see her as a people connector.
Born in Brasov, Romania, Bianca was motivated by supportive parents to study and be a good person. She studied International Business and Economics at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, and obtained her Master of Science in Business Administration at the University of Amsterdam. She was involved in student councils since high-schools and was part of the management team of two student organization during her undergraduate studies – Volunteers for Ideas and Projects and Aspire. Going to the Netherlands during a bachelor’s Erasmus program, she really felt her horizons expand and discovered her passion for travel and learning about other cultures.
“It was during the MSc that I developed my critical thinking, I started to appreciate the value of being in a diverse, international environment and saw new opportunities around me.”
Bianca is passionate about the insights academic research brings to the business world and how automation can be used to increase business efficiency. She aims to use technology to personalize the customer experience. She enjoys approaching professional challenges with an intrapreneurial mindset and is determined to find creative new solutions.
As the Vice-Chair of the Works Council of LeasePlan Digital, Bianca is exposed to strategic organizational matters and advocates for employees’ interests. In the Netherlands, companies that employ over 50 employees are required by law to have a Works Council (ondernemingsraad in Dutch) that advises and gets involved with decisions about the running of the company as well as promotes and protects the interests of the employees. This position offers exposure to senior, experienced leaders and key decisions. It also comes with responsibility towards the employees, such as striving to foster an inclusive workplace. Bianca sees this as a fantastic learning opportunity and as a big responsibility to give employees a resonating voice.
- If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Be open and treat everything as a learning experience. There is no right way to do things in life, so I’ll share what helped me so far:
- just start
- be honest with yourself
- be willing to work hard and fail occasionally
- ask for feedback
- build a network of inspiring people
- find yourself a mentor
2. What are your non-negotiables?
Above all, I focus on developing strong relationships. I am also determined to learn something every day either through my work, reading, following a course, studying a new language (currently listening to podcasts in Dutch) or through sports.
3. What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to quit a rewarding job in Romania and move to the Netherlands to pursue a master’s program. At that point my career in Romania was ramping up, most of my friends were in Bucharest and starting a life in a Western country demanded financial resources that I didn’t have. Although I was saving up, I had to rely on my parent’s support, live on a tight budget and hope I’ll get a job immediately after graduation to be able to make ends meet abroad.
After my newly gained financial independence, going back to being a broke student felt like a step back in my adulthood journey. The possibility of failing at making a life abroad and disappointing myself weighed heavily on my mind. This may sound familiar to many of you, pursuing a better education comes with trade-offs. Needless to say I was lucky to meet great people, find an amazing internship with the Elsevier Foundation through the recommendation of a great friend that I met during the Aspire program – Georgiana Baciu, and landed a job where I thrive.
4. Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
The toughest moment when I almost gave up was while studying for the GMAT exam. The exam was introduced as a new requirement before the university application deadline. This meant I had roughly one month to practice and sit the exam to get the required score. I was working 9 hours a day, living in a dorm room with 3 other people.
Finding quiet time to study either very early or late at night, joggling new projects at work and hearing the clock ticking was incredibly stressful. I felt like I was not making progress, I was frustrated for having to isolate myself from social outings and events, and occasionally I felt like my brain refused to take in anything new. During my lowest moments I decided to simply let go. I disconnected and reflected on what failing this exam would mean: nothing permanent except for a hit to my ego.
After this, I took a mock exam. I was finally relaxed and I scored beyond what was required. This was a huge motivation boost. I found this to be a good strategy for whenever I feel I want to give up. Letting go for a few moments, trying to enjoy the journey and listening to the supportive people around me. Looking back, passing the GMAT was an accomplishment, but the journey was infinitely more valuable as it revealed so many things I did not know about myself.
5. What is that one book that has influenced you the most?
I truly believe the impact of a book is deeply correlated with the moment you read it. It was recently after graduating the Aspire program when I read Carol Dweck’s book – Mindset: The new psychology of success and it felt empowering to know that I can change the lens through which I look at the various aspects of my life and decide on a more constructive approach.
6. Why should people apply for an Aspire experience? What did you gain by being part of this community?
I have to admit, the first few days in the program felt surreal – I did not see so many smart, driven, talented and like-minded people in one place until then. I was inspired by the openness of the professors from top universities who shared their life-experience during informal discussions at lunch, the diversity of professional and cultural backgrounds crammed in the same room and the dedication of an organization of volunteers that made this experience so special – even when I look back six years later.
Aspire made me feel like I have a friend anywhere I go – when moving to the Netherlands I met alumni that made me feel like I belong. When traveling I can always grab a coffee with someone from Aspire living in the area. I built great friendships. I gained experience on various levels by being part of the organizing team of such a respectable program. It is amazing to see how the lives of a the new generation of Aspirers is transformed having known you dedicated time for a year to make the next edition happen.
When I feel demotivated I look back at the Aspire experience and remember all these amazing people doing their best to contribute to a better society. Aspire is about people that inspire.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery