With work experience in 3 countries and 5 different industries, I knew Alina Ștefan had a lot of interesting insight to share into the world of business. She started working in the US, came back to Romania, then worked in London and back to Romania. She was part of the RO4 MBA cohort and as soon as I heard that she’s taking over the management of Salarium Fintech start-up, I knew it was time for more of you to read her story. So I talked to her for this interview.
What resulted was a conversation about generating business ideas, the use of an MBA and what should people consider before going down an entrepreneurial path.
- Please tell us a bit about your professional journey.
My professional journey has been closely linked to my life journey, they have never been solitary, they have always been highly intertwined. My career started in the US, in my early years I studied and worked there and the West Coast culture and mindset influenced the journey that followed to a large extend.
The US culture is drenched in powerful values and aspirations, that is where qualities like freedom, intrinsic motivation, forward thinking, action drive, courage and resilience started became part of me.
Moreover affinities towards growth, human centricity, healthy lifestyles and wellness all captured my focus and became building pillars for the years that followed. I would say that now I strive to bring value to others and to the work in general. I think we all should aim to be the best versions of ourselves and enrich our lives and the lives of the ones around us.
- You are now the CEO of Salarium. What does it do and who does it address?
Salarium is the first salary on-demand app in Romania, our purpose is to allow employees to access their salaries anytime they want or need. The solution will be addressed to the management of the companies, who by introducing Salarium as a corporate benefit, would make a strong impact in the life of their employees, without any negative outcomes on the Cashflow of the company or investment of additional resources.
Yet the direct beneficiaries of Salarium will be the end-users, the employees of our client companies, who will be able to access their money before the pay day and avoid borrowing from friends, family or from expensive alternatives.
We know that companies are willing to part-take in the growth of their staff and we will provide relevant and useful financial content that, with time, would improve the financial well-being of Romanians.
- How did Salarium come to life?
We built it as a response to something we’ve seen in the market. It is very easy to overspend the salary received on a single day of the month which can lead to overspending in the upcoming couple of weeks. This leaves employees without money before the following pay check, which makes them susceptible to lend money.
Being able to retrieve money from you own salary, when needed, will influence the spending behaviour in a positive way, they can make payments with no overdrafts and spend less by having a steady income.
Moreover, they have a healthier alternative on hand, to borrow from their own money, instead of lending cash that comes with a high interest.
The business idea has become popular in the US and Western Europe, but the problem it addresses is cross-boarders and cross cultural and in the case of Romania the situation is even more intricate because 70% of Romanians are left with no money from pay check to pay check.
- Did you think this was helped in any way by you studying an MBA?
The MBA help me greatly. It is difficult to put my finger on each aspect that was impacted by it, but I know that my mindset, critical thinking, and knowledge where strongly impacted. The outcome was that I started to make better decision overall, it increased my levels of confidence, it taught me to stay forever curios, continue learning and exploring for deeper knowledge and solve real problems.
Yet the strongest and most important change was that it made me want to live a life of meaning and purpose, of gratitude and authenticity. Though a program like MSM you not only have access to courses, professors, know-how and business examples but you plug yourself into an ecosystem that nurtures your growth.
- You’ve finished the MBA 7 year ago. Are there any ideas that stuck with you and that you remember and enforce it even now?
Your question made me smile, mostly due to nostalgia and the memory of the many wonderful moments I lived throughout those two years. We had a great time together, my colleagues and I and although at times is was hard to handle all responsibilities, in my case: work, courses and having a then small baby at home, it was also one of the richest periods of my life, so far. For sure there were many things that stuck with me, some really got under my skin.
I would say that one important one is to be reliable and rely on people, the importance of teams and collaborative work, the true meaning of the creative act and power of US, versus I.
Another one would be that you don’t need to know everything, but you need to ask yourself the right question and then explore for answers. This should bring some ease to many perfectionists 😊.
- And finally, do you have any advice for people looking to become an entrepreneur?
Everyone has their own journey, their own story, but I had noticed that there are some unique qualities that entrepreneurs share; like courage, action, adaptiveness, joy, curiosity, comfort with and around error, high regard for other’s input and a certain spirit, a force that lives within. It is important to take them into consideration when embarking on an entrepreneurial quest.
For me, those qualities shine upon their path as a beacon of light and in many cases are the source of their future success.
If you liked reading this article, why not explore other alumni stories from our blog? And if you liked it a lot, know that you can also become an EMBA student in our future intake – find out more about our programs.