This month the Aspirers in the Spotlight series features Mihai Cepoi, Aspire Professionals 2017 alumnus. Mihai has always been passionate about how things work from an algorithmic angle as he graduated in Computer Science. Four years ago he founded Jobful, a startup valued at €6M within 18 month and currently formed of a team of 15 professionals. Although he previously worked as IT Project Manager, Technology Solutions Professional at Microsoft and HR Sales at SAP, Mihai is now fully invested on his entrepreneurial path.
Besides being an entrepreneur, Mihai has been a teacher for first graders, project manager in university NGOs, private tutor, mentor and the list goes on. He kindly admits “I have to start by admitting that I’m a workaholic, not by the book definition more based on the daily time invested daily on professional activities since forever”.
At that time, I jumped at any personal and professional growth opportunity and the Aspire program changed parts of me. As an overachiever with high success rates, it’s easy to trick your mind into believing how special or unique you might be. Being in the same room with professionals from various fields and impressive resumes can challenge this reality and make you more humble, appreciative, and can drive you to challenge yourself even more. So I guess this is a thank you to Aspire for putting in motion changes that drove me here. (Mihai Cepoi)
1) If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
I don’t believe anyone is starting out. A first step into taking the next step is acknowledging and appreciating where you are. So my advice would be for those who want to upgrade or take it to their next level.
It feels like a cliché but my number one piece of advice at this time is staying true to yourself. In this fast-paced busy world, it’s easy to fool ourselves and don’t admit certain things. From personal experience these are blind spots. The second you told yourself a lie enough times to take it for granted, you just lost the only compass your world is mapped around. And most likely, sooner or later, you’ll end up on the road of that blind spot.
2) What are your non-negotiables?
The first answer that came to mind was “no such thing”, as I’m constantly surprised on how many things in life we actually negotiate. The actual answers, the things that aren’t negotiable for me are values, personal and professional if we can divide them. In this weird mix of personalities, interactions and projected realities, the world will dazzle you somewhere between who you think you are and who others think you are, between discovering and creating yourself. Without a strong values system, the world around you will shape you, instead of you shaping it.
3) What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
There have been plenty of these. At this time, probably the hardest one was half a year ago, when we fired someone for the first time. I didn’t know what a messy emotional dynamic this situation can create, and how careful this process has to be treated.
4) Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up?
There’s one saying I enjoy a lot: “if you can’t win, change the game”. The changes I’ve done were always based on “a better game”, or a new ecosystem to challenge me. I’ve loved and enjoyed every role or managed to rationalise failures as character building experiences. So giving up was never a real option, as any overachiever would only keep the list of completed tasks.
5) What is that one book that has influenced you the most?
One that I recommend to everyone is “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl. I would tease with a short perspective but it’s too good for teasers.
6) Why should people apply for an Aspire experience? What did you gain by being part of this community?
Well, for their own reasons. There’s plenty they can find and get, it’s still up to them to reach out, apply, get on the list and make the most out of it. For me it was about the entire growth-driven environment, about finding new stories and connecting with great professionals. For them it will be about the thing they want or maybe need.
Mother Teresa’s “Anyway Poem”