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Career success story: Laura Donose

Proud of being Romanian, the very talented and ambitious Laura started her international experience at the age of 19. She has a specific spark in her eyes when she talks about her love for travelling and the joy she feels when combing reading with travelling. For the last five years, she has managed to accomplish so much both personally and professionally: from travelling to South Africa where she lived in a natural reserve and was surrounded by wild animals and to China for a study trip (Beijing, Shanghai, the Great Wall of China) until her entrepreneurial spirit and her own start-up company. She is definitely a source of inspiration!

The decision to come to Denmark

Laura’s story begins almost 5 years ago when she decided to come to Denmark right after high-school.

It all started from a non-governmental organization, Edmundo that went to her high school and presented the international opportunities like the Netherlands, UK and Denmark: I wasn’t thinking going abroad at the beginning, but then it sounded interesting. I had the chance to talk to another person that was already studying in Denmark, so I got his view about the study environment. He told her that everything is based on practice and that there is no right or wrong answer, as long as you can argue for it. She found out more about how every class has its own project, team work and that students are actually in connection with real companies: You are doing real projects. That’s the main part that attracted me to come to Denmark – the practice of it! Today, I am really glad I took the step. I applied only for Denmark, mainly because of the no fee for the education and I got in the programme that I wanted from the beginning.

Her educational journey started with an Academy Profession (AP) in Marketing Management and continued with a top up in Business Administration. At the moment, she is taking a master degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, at Aarhus University (second semester now). She has a strong plan and strategy about her current study line. She wants to extend the length of the master programme, so that she has more free time to develop her career and to take some other opportunities outside school, like jobs and projects. She defines her background as a broad view of the business world.

Becoming successful in her own way

The position is for a project that she is working with a Danish company, called Hefmas Group. As Laura describes, they already have subsidiaries in Spain and Latvia and they are into swine production. Now they want to expand and go to Moldova, the eastern neighbour of Romania. That is why they wanted a person with a Romanian background who knows the market and has the business knowledge to write a business plan.

How did they find the talented Laura? They contacted InterResource and because she had participated in so many events organized by InterResource, she got a call from Zheni (a former team member of InterResource), asking her if she is interested in the position. From this moment on, there were only a few steps until she actually got the job.

Getting this job was a combination of actions: it was both the networking part that got me the contact to the job, but also because I went to all possible InterResource events related to career, CV and networking. That’s how Zheni knew me. I definitely recommend everyone to join the events. I know it might be difficult in the beginning to actually network and talk to persons, but in the end, it does pay off. 

Getting hired

After I got the contacts, I wrote a couple of emails with one of the assistants. That was in December 2013. She didn’t know many details about the job, so she referred Laura to the boss. Then, she wrote an email to the boss, asking for more information about the job. Important note: she attached her CV and application in her communication.  

They didn’t really reply back, but 3 months later, in the beginning of March, I got a got a call from them inviting me for an interview and 2 days later we started the work on the project. She remembers how surprised she was about the call, because she had given up on getting any more information on the job: I actually thought the job was taken or not available anymore.

At the interview, her current boss had her CV and he said he was very impressed about it. They started to talk about the Moldavian market and the economic situation of it and what he plans to do there. At the end of the interview, we shook hands and the next day we started working together.

The interview was a very informal talk. He actually called her on a Sunday evening and on Tuesday they met for the interview, which was an hour talk: We talked about my background, about his plans and then, how we should set up the project plan. In the end, we talked about the benefits of the job and the payment – already like a plan of how the working process will be.

Life as a Business Consultant

The project is about setting up some swine farms in Moldova and it has 6 steps, meaning that the Hefmas wants to build a total of 6 farms. Recently, she handed in the business plan for the first part of the project. They were really satisfied with the results. Now, they want to create a website for the company and I need to find someone to create the website. Afterwards I will be in charge of their online communication and the content of the website. As soon as that one is finalized, we continue with step 2 of the project, making another business plan for the development of the second farm. They are going to use the first business plan to go to some investment meetings, mostly banks within Denmark and Moldova. So, it’s going to include some travelling to Moldova and Laura is really excited about that part.

Her job is project-based for the moment, but they were very happy with the deliverables of the first project and they said that because she knows so much about the company already, she would definitely be in charge of the next 5 steps of the project: So, depending on how those parts go, there is a lot of room for growth and advancement in the job. At the beginning we started the collaboration only for the first step of the project, but my current boss mentioned the opportunity for developing the next steps as well.

Other competencies & activities relevant for the current job

For getting this position, Laura believes there were different aspects of her experience that were relevant. Firstly, while studying at Business Academy Aarhus, she had a study trip to Amsterdam where together with other colleagues ran a business plan for a company; a business plan to expand. Further on, at Aarhus University, she had a class called Innovation & Entrepreneurship, where the exam project was a business plan and her team won the Best Business Plan of the classTherefore, even if I had no real life experience from a job, I had the experience of writing and constructing a business plan; I knew how to approach the situation.

Her other biggest qualification for this particular job was her background in Romania: knowing the market and having the theoretical knowledge from her studies in Denmark. We were able to have a professional discussion within the interview about how the project is going to be. They needed a connection person from Romania to talk to the persons who are going to be in charge of the farms and carry out the intercultural dialogue.

She also has another job in Denmark. It is study relevant in a way, but it’s not an intellectual job – it’s more of a practical job, describes Laura. I work in Dansk Supermarked as a Logistics operator, which helps me observe the practicalities of studying logistics, because I have the opportunity to work in a fully automated warehouse and to understand their entire supply chain which is a great deal for my education. She says she wasn’t exactly looking for another student job, but she kept her ears and eyes opened for any other opportunities that could have come up.

The Start-up Company: LDB Consulting

This project also motivated me to open my own start-up company, Laura Donose Business Consulting (LDB Consulting shortly; see Laura’s profile here).

Not only that she managed to get this job successfully, but the most exciting part of her story is the moment when actually opened her own company: After the interview, I’ve decided that I want to open this start-up, especially because the first part of the project wasn’t that long, it was just a month. Not knowing that I would have a job with them later, I decided to make it project-based.

This is the first project of her company and it’s more a collaboration between two companies than Laura being employed. Going to the second phase, it will represent more business for LDB Consulting. Already having an overview of where her destiny might lead her, she sees a huge potential in this opportunity: I am acting as a consultant for the company on the contract. Getting on board of this, I realized that companies might be interested in Romania because our economy is growing and we are still a low cost country. I am thinking that maybe some companies would like to either outsource or set up some kind of office in Romania.

The obstacles before setting up a Start-up

When asked how difficult it is to open a start-up in Denmark, she says: It wasn’t difficult to open the company it was difficult to find a bank that will take my money.

Embarking this adventure, she discovered a lot of details that no one tells you from the beginning: To open a business account with a bank means that you have to provide a liquidity budget, an operating budget, a business plan for the company, an expected profit. Since I was just starting, I didn’t really know what would happen in the following months. I wasn’t able to provide that information for banks; it was difficult to actually get an account.

Then, I talked with Skat and I found out that because I am a sole trader and I have the whole responsibility, I could just one of my personal accounts. It was a lot of hassle to find that out! Banks are charging around 5 000 kr to open a business account. Other than that, filling in the application form takes only couple of minutes and in 5 working days you received the CVR number.

The characteristics of the Danish workplace culture

The company she is working for right now is very small. In Arhus it is only her boss and her, while in Moldova there are going to be around 10 people.

Regarding her schedule, Laura and her boss have meetings at the office, weekly status meetings where they discuss what she did, the process and what to do next. Other than that, she works from home. The work that I do is whenever I have the time. That’s why I decided also to cut back on some of the classes in school, so I have more time to focus on this specific project and also keep my other job. I usually work 30-40 hours a week for both jobs. From her other job, she can say the working environment is very informal. It’s very open for the employees to speak their mind. They are asking us for suggestions for improvement all the time, to make the environment better and safer for the employees. You are always welcome to go talk to the supervisor or to the manager – something that I don’t think it would happen in Romania.

At Dansk Supermarked, she works in the evening shift, which means most of her colleagues are international students. In her company’s project, the business plan and the communications are also in English, because they have to apply for investments. Even tough both her jobs are in English, she speaks about the importance of learning Danish and the impact this can have when talking about relationships with Danes. I was very focused on my education and having a job to be able to support myself, that I didn’t really have the time to learn Danish fluently. But of course, after these years in Denmark, I do read and understand some Danish. I am able to have a small talk conversation with a person. I realized that even saying some small words like “tak” or “vi ses” opens up for Danish persons and you show them that you actually make an effort to speak their language.

For her, the most surprising aspect of the Danish culture is that even though the education is in English and the universities offer all kinds of education in English, it is very difficult to get a job without speaking Danish. She emphasizes it very clearly: Even though the corporate language is English, the office language will always be Danish. I also think that in order to get a job within a company, Danish is very important. In my case, I was lucky that I got both jobs without speaking the language, but I made it work for myself.

When it comes to the cultural differences between the working environment in Denmark and the one in Romania, Laura explains the concept of the power distance: My personal feeling is that the employees are afraid of the bosses in Romania, while here they are open and they can talk from the same level with the boss, which I think is very important for the development of the business and the work environment. 

Very Inspirational final words (or a good lesson to learn)

Laura finished her story with one of the most inspirational piece of advice that one can ‘adopt’ when job searching or considering a plan for future career: My recommendation for all the international students is to go to as many events as possible. Even tough you don’t think it’s relevant for you or you think you already know how to write a CV, how to write an application, just go! Opportunities might show up when you expect the least.

I’ve recently received a piece of advice that I consider very relevant from the Job Shadow project. The person that I followed for a day told me: tell everyone what you want and what you need, because somebody might say I have what you need or I could use your competencies or he might know someone else that could do it. Just being out there, talking about your dreams, your plans and objectives might open some doors. This was my case and it was successful!

Last, but not least I would like to thank Zheni for calling me about the job and for all what she did for us, the international students, and our careers.