Meet the CxO – Elena Unciuleanu, CEO Reporting Center
When you think of our field of work, you rarely see women, especially women that are CEO’s. Elena Unciuleanu has over 10 years of working in programming. Having only 35 years old and with her company being born only 2 years ago, Elena is by far one of most promising young female entrepreneurs in Romania. After she built a team around her vision, she managed to create a product that was very quickly adopted by the Romanian banks. Despite the challenges a woman has to face in this business, Elena never gave up and she always kept her head held up high.
Tell us a few words about how your company started.
It all goes back to when I was an employee. I started as a database programmer, working for one of my university teachers. Then, one of my former university classmates insisted on introducing me to his manager, thus to a brand-new industry, banking solutions. I was mesmerized by this exquisite field on the spot! I got specialized on Banking Reporting and here I am, after 12 years, still loyal to this domain.
My company came to life 2 years ago, as a natural evolution of myself. After gaining relevant experience in this field, first as employee, then as team leader and freelancer, I felt it was the time to find a way to share the knowledge I’ve got. Especially since my customers gradually increased their expectations, I had to extend in an organized way. Thus, I founded this Business Intelligence Excellence Center in Bucharest, where we create reporting software solutions for the European banking market. I named it Reporting Center and here I build a team around my principles – hard working, prone to details, to be reliable and the most important thing – have common sense. When you have a small team, even the little discrepancies can disrupt the whole chemistry, so I tend to be very careful when I choose my colleagues.
What drives you each day?
I am a professional dreamer! I invest a lot of energy in designing for me and my colleagues a lifestyle that we love, so that the time we spend together working is, in fact, the exciting part of our life.
I deeply care about Reporting Center team, both professionally and personally. This year, my #elitesquad as a I call them, got me a present saying: Creating from the heart generates love, creating from the soul generates Joy. They managed to synthetize our mindset, our relationship and values and I believe this is the most important thing.
What I love most about my job is that I have plenty of interactions with many different people! In my projects, I work side by side with my clients, with their technicians, business people, consultants, auditors, you name it. I do not have only one team, but I am part of dozens of teams in the same time, each having its own dynamic. It’s refreshing and some may think it is exhausting. But it is fascinating. The multitude of experiences that I have each day is awe-inspiringly and makes me wonder what will happen tomorrow.
The best is that I do not have a routine – same desk, same faces. I have my own corner arranged at almost every client and that is why each morning when I’m heading to work my heart beats a little bit faster. The enthusiasm gets the best of me when I know this day will be uniquely different from yesterday and less amazing than tomorrow. Before I say anything else let me be clear on something – I do have my own office separate from any other entity, but when you work with important banks you are not allowed to bring your own laptop and connect it to their network. Their data do not and will not leave the premises of the bank. So, for that matter they give you a so-called “station” (high-end computers). For example, during our implementation projects we need around 4 fully equipped stations.
What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?
It’s the people that I’ve met. For instance, I did not have many employers… only 2, but they become over time my professional mentors, having a great impact when it comes to defining my values and my career.
It was at college where I found my first mentor – my database teacher, who later became my first employer, Associate Professor Dr. Christian Mancaş. Each year he recruited his best students to come and work at his software company he had in Bucharest. This is how I managed to work alongside the best young IT enthusiasts. From him I borrowed the way I create my team, as I chose my first employees at his recommendation. Considering where Reporting Center is today, I am so grateful for his precious advice.
Another key moment, was the shadowing period with the most talented entrepreneur I know – Olimpiu Bălaş (business angel, nowadays). He is the one that helped me find this passion for banking reporting being inspired by his own example, and he is the one that taught me this field and, afterwards, how to build and run a business. I was told the importance of acting now, not when you’re ready, as you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneous.
Of course, all of these are in addition to the coaching I received in high school – the seaside “Mircea cel Bătrân” National College, in Constanta. For instance, in the first day of school our head teacher said: “When you have high grades, no one will ever give you any problems for boys having long hair or for red painted nails at girls”. This followed me until today: I would rather work harder just to have this advantage.
What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?
When I think back it comes to me something that Michelangelo Buonarroti said: “The problem that people have is not that they aim too high and fail, but that they aim too low and succeed”. So, I don’t see a problem in failing short when you’re on the right path.
A turning point in my career, was the period between freelancing and entrepreneurship, to be more precise, when I accepted to run a huge department of Business Intelligence inside a corporation. I was 33 years old at that time. I saw it as a great opportunity, a chance to observe a corporation from the inside. I had to change perspective, from running a profit center, to running a cost center. But, my biggest struggle became the fact that I did not have any time to initiate or create something, just because my calendar was already booked by prescheduled recurrent meetings. Then and only then I understood my calling: that was the moment when I realized that I have to become an entrepreneur.
Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?
I go to the sea. I own a beach house: big windows and a magnificent view to the beach volleyball and soccer fields. I can sit there watching for hours. However, I don’t really believe in disconnecting, as I am never truly disconnected. Is still me, just that I am in a different environment, where I don’t feel like I am working. I am always available for my team and clients, we communicate even when I am on the beach. After years of working in this field, short interventions no matter the time, seem natural to me. For me, there is no line between the personal and the professional life, because when you put passion in what you do everything gets personal.
Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)
We develop Business Intelligence Solutions, with a focus on Regulatory Banking Reporting. Most of our clients are banks from Romania and Moldova, but we started to implement BI also in other industries. Our main advantage is that we manage to always meet our customers’ deadlines, no matter what! You cannot postpone a Regulatory decision, so acting on time it’s crucial for them. We perform well under pressure and our customers appreciate that we never let them down.
Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.
Due to the fact that we activate in this field for so long, we can offer our clients a complete portfolio: we develop the reporting required by the National Bank, both on individual and consolidated bases; we cover the consolidation in case of bank merger, prior or post-merger; we calculate the banking profitability for local banks and for international headquarters.
What is your most beloved project you worked on?
Our product – Elite Reporting Platform – the third generation of banking reporting, was made to be so intuitive so that you won’t need a training to use it. Until now we had to teach the users how to use our apps, now we want our app to know the user profile, to follow his natural workflow and to guide him in resolving his current tasks. Just like Facebook, you don’t need training for Facebook! Everybody, at any age, knows how to use it!
This application, Elite Reporting Platform, was a real success, as we managed to get it up and running in 5 different banks, 3 months after its launch.
What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)
A real challenge happened when we implemented the statutory reporting for a bank in Bulgaria.
We received from the client the Bulgarian legislation in its mother tongue and of course we sent it to translation to a Romanian translator. The legislation was vast, and the translator said that it will be done in approximately 2 months. Considering the fact that the project had to be Live in 3 months, we couldn’t wait for so long… so we improvised. Using Google Translate (applied on Cyrillic characters), and afterwards, exactly as the children from Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, we cumulated the translation with our experience in Romanian legislation, and we rebuilt the meaning of the articles that needed to be implemented.
What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise
We introduced in Romania the concept of Purple Expertise in Business Intelligence. Thus, we train in our BI Center of Excellence, 2in1 Purple experts: a person that can be both a business analyst and a developer in the same time. Purple combine 2 independent perspectives – business (blue) and IT&C (red). He takes the information that resides in business and it translates it in IT, unifying 2 sides that in general do not collaborate, as they are not compelled by the same factors.
A Purple owns a solid reputation in both departments and can easily swap sides. His versatility generates an immediate impact because he is used with parallel implementations, he embraces the changes in on-going projects and allows the beneficiaries to change their mind and rephrase their requests accordingly as the project advances.
How are your products innovative?
Our products are innovative through precision. When it comes to reporting to the National Bank you need extremely high accuracy, 100% to be exactly. Our advantage is that we don’t give up until we reach the required quality standards. In our field of work, being a hard worker is more important than talent, because the legislation keeps changing and you have to continually adapt.
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
Taking in consideration that the banking legislation was unified across the European Union according to the standards imposed by the European Banking Authority, and the reporting solutions developed in Elite Reporting Platform – FINREP, COREP, Basel III and IFRS – have the same format in all of these countries, we intend to implement our application in other countries from EU.
What were your struggles you faced as a woman in this industry, in Romania?
I have never taken something for granted. With every new customer, I have to prove I can handle that task from zero. Even if I’ve done that several times before with other customers. The customer does not care about your past experience, awards or diploma, but the value you can bring to him today.
Of course, I faced all the clichés: I am a woman, I am blonde, I am too young for my industry etc. But my vision is far too high from all these minor realities, so I just ignore them and move on.
Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?
We joined this cluster alongside other complementary firms with the sole purpose to support each other and to offer integrated services to our clients. Together we are stronger! In the same time, I used this opportunity to know other entrepreneurs, to talk about their experiences and about how they approach different markets.
How does it benefit you?
I collaborated with multiple companies inside Smart Alliance, on projects and with their employees that I only had to “borrow” for a few days. This is a great prospect, because when I need extra hands for my projects I can talk with different friends from the cluster and help the project go live, other than hiring a person. Obviously, the service is mutual.
How do you see the evolution of the cluster?
I truly wish that our cluster will be visible enough so that will become a strategic partner for Romania when it comes to implementing projects in IT. We all know the cases where the money was redirected to companies that did nothing. I believe we can accomplish so much more, if we had the right people handling their specific projects.