Inspiring Women - Mihaela Breg has carved out her global career….
Mark.Freed / 23 Aug 2018
Romania, Brussels, New York, Bangkok, London – Mihaela Breg has carved out her global career with hard work, self-sufficiency and determination.
I have enjoyed a really diverse career, travelling the world with my roles and experiencing many different working environments. I’ve learnt that the journey is the reward for everything in life and that we’re all learning all the time. Education is not over after we finish high school, university or after studying for a higher degree; we are in control and have the power to decide whether or not there is something new to learn about or experience in life. Life will always bring new opportunities to those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and even feel uncomfortable at times.
I’ve worked hard to carve out my career and when I’ve encountered challenges, I’ve focussed on the fact that everything will be OK in the end! And if it’s not OK then it’s not the end!
I’ve seen the working environment for women change over time and sadly, there still remain gaps. We need to continue to work towards empowering women and creating autonomy-supportive working environments so everyone can achieve their full potential - we definitely haven’t reached the end of that journey.
There were about 5,000 students on my university course in Romania where I studied finance and banking. I wanted to stand out from the crowd when we all started job searching and knew that gaining relevant work experience would help me in the future, so I found myself a full-time job in the head office of a retail bank, applying my work experience to my course and vice versa. When I look back at that specific assignment in the online banking department I can’t stop thinking how far technology has come! By the time I graduated, I had just over two and half years of work experience under my belt and embarked upon the first chapter of my career, moving abroad and working in Newcastle as a financial analyst.
I’d planned that I’d only be away from Romania for a year
“I’ve learnt that the journey is the reward for everything in life and that we’re all learning all the time.”
At the outset, I’d planned that I’d only be away from Romania for a year or so but from Newcastle I embarked on another international assignment and moved to Brussels to work for the European Commission. I applied my experience and skill set to working for the director of Research and Innovation, specifically helping to audit beneficiaries of European Commission funds to ensure compliance with the programme.
I really enjoyed this role - I had access to a different point of view, culture and languages, both French and English were working languages of the organisation, but I found it to be very male dominated. I wanted to be an external auditor but felt ‘pigeon holed’ as an assistant; the men were auditors. I spoke to the head of my specific directorate and explained that the Commission should be helping more women achieve their career aspirations and potential. I was confident that I could fulfil the role successfully and eventually I was promoted. I travelled to U.K., Italy and Estonia performing audits and then felt I was really making a difference.
There was an increase in regulatory and control roles
The financial crisis of 2008 benefitted the likes of me as there was an increase in regulatory and control roles; roles that hadn’t existed before were being created. I decided that I wanted to return to financial services and achieve an MBA in International Business Practice. I moved to New York and had to secure a role with an MBA sponsor company which I achieved with JP Morgan.
This was a new working environment for me and sometimes overwhelming because of the company size but at the same time it really established the international factor I wanted in my career. The lessons I learned over the course of the year spent in New York were extremely valuable and helped me gain further confidence.
And then I was travelling again!
My research project for the MBA took me to Bangkok where I had the chance to connect (through the British and US Chambers of Commerce) with like-minded people who were working in the banking industry in the Asia-Pacific region. The project was fascinating and involved me examining how different banking institutions in Asia managed compliance and regulatory functions. After speaking to senior managers, gathering the relevant opinion of various consultants in the field, and taking into consideration the complex structure of global financial services’ rules and regulations, I discovered that banks in this part of the world were overwhelmed with excessive western designed regulation. The region felt the pressure to comply with ‘extra-jurisdictional rules’ but this ultimately restrained the region’s economic competitiveness.
After the MBA completion in Bangkok, I returned to Europe and moved to London where I had various roles in regulatory change and business control with JP Morgan Corporate & Investment Banks and State Street Global Services. All these opportunities made me clearly realise that having a positive impact on my working relationships will always represent the most valuable outcome in my career. I had the chance to provide training for younger colleagues in NY, helped and supported a new team in India through a formal onboarding process, worked closely with new team members in Singapore, Brazil and London to help them get up to speed and had the opportunity to directly manage a team based in Poland.
Great managers, mentors and, especially the colleagues
I feel very lucky and grateful for the international opportunities I’ve had in my career and for the great managers, mentors and, especially the colleagues, I’ve met. I’ve enjoyed my diverse career to date, it’s certainly kept me on my toes and made me appreciate every single experience. I know for sure I’ll continue to be curious, explore new opportunities and keep a look-out for emerging and innovative FinTechs, RegTechs, digital and challenger banks. I’m excited about the future and where my career will take me – another journey that certainly isn’t over.
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