Diana leads a team in our IT department in Zurich. Her career path – and her leadership – bring to life the Julius Baer spirit of being empowered and connected and creating value beyond wealth. And it all started with a passion for 1990s computer games in her birthplace of Romania.
Diana, you have a successful career in IT at Julius Baer. Is this surprising, given that we are a bank and not an IT company?
“The pace of IT development can be challenging for financial institutions to keep up with. This isn’t Julius Baer-specific. It’s related to financial market regulations, which mean banks can’t match the development- and technology-pace of FinTech startups, for example.
But I think Julius Baer offers IT professionals more possibilities and capabilities compared to other financial institutions on the Swiss market. Why? Because it’s a fairly transparent and much leaner organisation. It’s invested a lot in technology and employee upskilling, certification and new ways of working. Our IT strategy reflects this and it differentiates us from peers and competitors.”
What led you to a career in IT?
“It was really computer games. I’m not a gamer but in the 1990s video games such as Super Mario World were really popular and sparked my interest in computers. My parents bought me my first computer when I was about 12 and my fascination with the world of IT began.”
Connect the dots for us: how did you move from Super Mario World to the financial sector?
“It’s very much a story of one thing leading to another. I’m originally from Romania and there I completed my bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA. At the time I did not realise this mix would be a perfect match for a future career in the financial industry.
When I graduated it was the ‘outsourcing era’ and Eastern Europe was a very popular location for this. This provided an opportunity to build-up team- and project-leadership experience. In 2009, at the age of 24, I accepted an opportunity to move from Bucharest to Vienna, working as an IT project manager in the capital markets domain. Even though I didn’t have the specific banking experience needed for the role, they definitely recognised something in me. It must have been either my IT skills or my passion…or perhaps the mix of it. I love working with people and I think this shows.”
As a team leader in IT, give us the elevator pitch for your job and why you love it?
“I’m leading a team of software engineers and IT service owners in the Back Office Service Delivery unit. With my team, we create and deliver first-in-class IT products and services that our clients enjoy. My role is varied and, as I’m not a routine person, I love that my job caters to my multiple career interests. For example, in addition to the day-to-day line management role, I take on project leader roles for various projects of the Bank. It allows me to take care of all facets of my career, which I really love. This is what I’m most grateful for – that I have the opportunity, liberty and support to go beyond routine and beyond the activities defined by my job description.”
What motivates you every day?
“It’s the people. I work with a fantastic team of professionals that values trust, collaboration and ambition. We have fun in each other’s company, enjoy a healthy work-life balance and constantly foster each other’s development.”
And what are the biggest challenges?
“The restrictions imposed by working in a regulated environment. Data privacy and the cost of doing business are huge topics in the financial sector. Banks need to manage platform- and technology-constraints and ensure they meet compliance requirements. And, of course, we also need to provide reliable services and products for our clients, Balancing all these factors is the biggest challenge our IT teams face, as they influence our decisions, strategy and our prioritisation. We need to be very flexible.”
As an experienced line manager, who is your ideal employee?
“I don’t have an ideal profile. It’s about creating a balanced and effective team. I look for motivated team members who really go above and beyond, for creatives who will challenge me and the status quo, and also for early-career professionals who can perform the more routine, day-to-day activities but have a thirst to learn and advance. So, it’s in the mix – a good mix makes the perfect match. I’m also in complete favour of diversity and actively work to promote this. Diversity leads to success: to thrive, we need to challenge each other and be exposed to alternative views.”
Any tips for people considering a career (or job) change?
“Identify what’s important for you and research the environment you’d like to work in. Be genuinely curious about the position offered and the company itself. After all, company culture and its compatibility with your personal values, will directly impact your career development. Ask yourself ‘what do I want from a future job?’ and ‘How does the company fit to my current needs?’, knowing that this changes from one moment of life to another.”
Why are you proud to #BeBär?
“I don’t have one proudest moment, rather I really love that I am continually offered amazing opportunities. I was promoted and able to participate in leadership training at IMD in Lausanne. And being asked to share my story here – this shows me I am valued for who I am. Similarly, as well as being allowed to develop myself, I’m trusted to choose my own development path. This freedom and the opportunities on offer are really amazing. I’m supported by my leaders. I’m supported by my team. And all this is what makes me proud to #BeBär.”