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Interview with Laura Manescu, Modex’s Technical Project Manager

Laura Manescu started her career as a programmer, and now runs a team of developers as Modex’s Technical Project Manager. We talked to her about her journey and her plans for the future.

What were you doing before you joined Modex?

I worked for the same company for 10 years. I started as a programmer, and after a year and a half I was appointed the project manager, because I was the most senior one there. It was a booster for me to get the opportunity to work as a project manager in this area.

After that I did software development in the banking industry, where anything to do with payments was my responsibility. So I was doing kind of the same thing I’m doing now, supervising and making sure that everything from idea to delivery is done properly, with teams of people varying from four to 25.

How did you meet Modex and Moneymailme?

I was working with Alin, who’s the CTO of the company. I guess he was impressed by my management skills and when the time was right he proposed that I should come to Modex and Moneymailme. I met Mihai, the CEO, and he embraced the idea and believed that I was capable of doing the job. Two years later, I’m still here and he still has that same confidence in me.

What is your role with Modex?

Officially, my role is Technical Executive, but I’m actually a programmer in my origin. So my background is technical and I make sure that everything is done accurately and delivered without bugs, because that is the main purpose of any software development team – to deliver quality.

So I take an idea and I transform it to business flows – I make sure that it’s translated correctly in a technical approach, that the programmers write code according to our internal procedures and that it’s tested and delivered properly. I take the product through all of these stages to make sure it is delivered to a high standard.

So you manage a team?

Yes, I manage a software development team, which takes care of writing code for Modex and Moneymailme.

How many women do you have on that team?

One, besides me.

There are 7 programmers on the team and the CTO, who is my boss. Whatever the CTO says, I have to make sure it’s put into practice. The CTO is responsible for innovation and technical research, and establishing the direction of the company. My role is called technical executive because I make sure it’s all executed and put into practice.

Do you find it hard to manage a male dominated team?

I don’t want to brag, but I think you are born a leader. There are some qualities to a manager which are there without you even knowing. To become a good manager, you first have to have experience in the area, but you also have to have skills. People appoint you to do stuff, they trust you, you like to stay organised and you find yourself taking the lead when things need to get done. This is how I realised I can be management.

I was appointed a team manager after only a year and a half, so of course I was not good at it at first, because we all learn from our mistakes – that is how I gradually become better and better. But becoming a leader is something that you are born with, it cannot be cultivated. That is my personal opinion, I’m not sure it’s like that for other people. I don’t know why, but people listen to me. It’s probably also because I’m experienced and knowledgeable in what I do, but it’s also in part the attitude that you are bringing.

In terms of relationships, do you find it easier to be a strong, hard leader or a softer, understanding one?

You have to be both. Empathising with people is a quality that you must have, because you can be harsh, but if you are harsh all the time, you’re not going to get results. You have to understand people and try to find a way for each and every one to find their motivation in the work that they do.

Why do you think there are not many women in tech? Do you think they are not encouraged?

I’m not really sure it’s down to discrimination. I don’t think I ever met in my 12 year career someone who was against women being in tech. I was always encouraged, and I always worked in an environment where women were encouraged. Why aren’t there more women? Maybe it’s not a field of interest for women. You have to really like this field to work in it. It’s not something that’s cultivated at home, it’s something that you find you like, during school probably. So I would say that it’s not because women are not encouraged, or it’s a discriminatory thing, but maybe because the interest is not there.

So, for yourself, you just felt the interest straight away?

Yes. One indicator would be that you like mathematics. If you then also like programming, then it’s a clear indicator that you should choose that field. We live in a world where software development is all over the place, we cannot live without all these applications doing stuff for us. Across all departments, not just software development, there are plenty of opportunities in this field.

You were born and raised in the Romania and you’ve never left. Would you ever move to London for a job?

I don’t know. I would choose to go abroad if staying in Romania didn’t work for me, financially speaking. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want – to earn a living, to have the life that we want for ourselves. I have thought about it, but it’s hard to leave a country – family and friends, to start from scratch. I’m not saying I will definitely stay in Romania for the rest of my life, but I’m not ready to leave right now.

If you were ever to start your own company, what would it be?

Software development, for sure. I really like my job, I really like what I’m doing. I started as a programmer and then I gradually grew, and now I’m at a company where I have free movement to do and implement the things I believe in. The next step for me would probably be to have my own company.  It’s not in the near future for me, but it would definitely be in software development. I’m not really sure what that would be exactly, but I would stay in the financial area. Moneymailme is a financial app, more or less. Modex is not so much, but it is still there for businesses that are interested in money. Previously I worked in the payments industry. So I would combine financial aspects with software development – that would be the area I would approach.

But I’m still happy in my company, so I don’t know if I would take that step. It’s not boring – it becomes more and more interesting every day. When I joined there was a team of four developers, and now, as I said, we are a team of eight, including the CTO, and we have more people coming on. We are a big organisation now. We started with some people in a room and now we’ve moved into a two floor office. So I can see how much we can grow in two years – why should I stop?

Finally, what advice would you give young girls who are starting to study informatics and computer science?

Becoming a good software developer is a combination of a good school education with self-learning. You have to be self-taught. Knowledge is growing exponentially, when we compare what was happening 20 years ago and what is happening now.

Another thing would be, there are a lot of parts to software development. You can become a backend developer, you can become a front-end developer, you can be tester, you can be a systems architect – just choose an area and focus on that. Doing everything all over the place is not going to be a good approach. When you find something that you really like, just cultivate that area and do some self-learning, because you’re not going to learn everything just in school. This is what I learned from my experience. You don’t want to lose touch with the exponential development of the technology which is happening today, so study.

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