Andreea RoșcaFrom: Bucharest Born on: 1 May 1971 Occupation: Autor, Journalist, Co-founder of "Romanian Business Leaders", Founder of “The Vast and The Curious”
We categorize people as well-read by the way they formulate their idea, by the clarity and cleverness of their arguments, by the number of references and quotes in their sentences or by the speed with which they answer questions. However, the speed of delivering an answer is not necessarily (as we often are tempted to say) directly proportional to the level of knowledge. Sometimes, just because you are wise and you see the diversity of meanings and directions imposed by a question mark, you need a second, two, in addition, before opening your mouth and have opinions.
Andreea Roșca took this extra time whenever she felt the need. I could only admire her. Both literally and figuratively.
Andreea is a well-read woman, and I don’t say this because she has over 20 years experience as a journalist or because she is one of the exceptions to the above “rule”, but because you can see the knowledge on her face features.
Throughout our conversation I also saw in her way of being something … French. I couldn’t tell whether the pearls around her neck, the black blouse, the red lipstick or the accentuated “r” letter of her words weigh more than the grace of her attitude. She has a special grace, not one that seems to break at any vibration, but a strong one supported by her arms propped up by the edge of the table.
Andreea Roşca was the chief editor of Capital magazine and the director of business publications of the Realitatea Cațavencu trust, she started on her own a communication consultancy path in 2010, she co-founded the Romanian Business Leaders Foundation in 2011, she published the book “Cei care schimbă jocul” (Those who change the game) together with Mona Dîrțu in 2014 and in 2017 she begun the project The Vast & The Curious, where she talks with entrepreneurs on the stage of the Apollo111 Theater in front of an audience. A project started from the desire to “open this world to people who looks even a little like me”.
MS: Your interviewees from The Vast & The Curious tell (because you ask them) about childhood moments later related to their adult lives. As far as you are concerned, did you latterly discovered childhood echoes?
I asked my mom, recently, if she remembers what I wanted to become as an grown-up when I was a kid. You know how children say: astronaut, painter, artist, doctor, etc. And she doesn’t remember. Neither she nor I remember expressing a particular passion.
I liked a lot of things and I think they are reflecting in what I’m doing now.
One of them is reading. I was reading a lot and I was fascinated by stories with people who transformed worlds, who saved things, because the idea of creating something in raw environments was a thing that I liked as a child.
I really discovered this connection two or three years ago in a discussion about entrepreneurship with Iulian Stanciu, the CEO of eMag. He told me: “What entrepreneurs do is so beautiful; it’s an act of creation.” And then I understood why I am so attracted to the field, why I find the entrepreneurship initiative world so interesting, why I admire so much the people who DO things. It connects with my childhood fascination. It’s an echo.
Andreea was born in Bucharest. She lived most of her childhood near Calea Griviței street with her grandmother, grandfather and aunt. In the adolescence she moved in Baneasa neighbourhood, after her parents have settled into the houses built by aviation industry for their employees. Her father was the technical director of the Aviation Research Institute and her mother worked with him in the same institute.
“Dad lived for his profession, so he was always working at home. You could find any time design objects in our living room or somewhere in the house. As a child the most beautiful thing in the world was for me to go through the tools he used; to look for colored cushions, gums of all sizes, tracing paper, rulers and patterns. And after my younger brother grew up and started working with my dad making airplane models, all the house became a laboratory paved with balsa wood, small engines, glue and bamboo paper.”, she remembers while her hand was following the circular shape of one of the three earrings on her left ear.
Photo: Andreea Roșca at the end of her first class in the primary school. She was (as always) a prize winning pupil.
MS: You said, at a certain point in time, that “I have the spirit of a fighter.“ What did you mean?
I think fighting (also related to the things we grow up with), is something I learned from my family.
My grandmother, my grandfather, my mum and my aunt, the people who raised me, went through very difficult times: the war time, the losses that followed it, the communism regime and my grandfather’s prison years. They never got something easy and all they had was achieved through work. They fought for everything. So, it’s an inherited character.
I cannot stand the things made just to be. I cannot stand to see sufficiency in something that could have been done (with a little effort) better. I also make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, but I don’t support “it goes like this.”
MS: You work a lot with your mind, you search, you ask others and you ask yourself, you build and you deconstruct. It seems that ideas and thoughts are your clay. It’s exhausting? Is this a tiring game?
Hmm (she thinks a few seconds for herself)… The brain is the biggest energy drainer in the body. Our ability to think and to make good decisions, in a clear way, is very limited. Really. We get tired and we start slipping, the simple things become complicated because we exhaust our mental capacity.
So, yes, I am someone who reads, thinks, tries to connect the dots, to extract the essentials from everything I meet with, but I cannot do this for too long. And it’s not good to do it for a long time because staying in your head for days is like walking in a circle – at one point nothing comes out. So, there’s a balance there.
But for me it’s not tiring, because I like it, it absorbs me. Finding commonalities, creating new things, thinking about different topics – I like it. And if I do what I like, it’s not tiring. Obviously, I don’t like all of them. It is needed a certain balance because it will always appear emergencies and the time for your lovely activities disappears.
My recent preoccupation is to defend a few hours per day in order to do the things I like. Like a “NO” period of time.
– Can you…?
– Do you want…?
MS: What are you doing during this protected time?
I read, but not literature, I read intentionally – with the pen in my hand. I have now rediscovered Peter Drucker after reading him in college and now I read his books underlining and making connections to other authors who relate to what Peter says, to other similar ideas.
I read to get a better understanding of the world and of myself – this is something I want to have time for.
I want to have time to talk to interesting people, to ask questions, to hear other perspectives, to change the lens through which I see things.
Or I just allow myself to sink in all kinds of rabbit holes.
MS: You confessed on the TV&TC scene that above your desk you keep your favorite quote: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Thoughts from Seneca. Is it still there?
I redecorated the place and it is gone, but it has remained an important one for me. Now there’s another: “Everything you can imagine is real.” Pablo Picasso said those words.
MS: Do you believe them?
Well, I’m reflecting on that, that’s why the quote is there. (she laughs)
For what Seneca says, let’s take an example: you decide to start a project.
And, as many of us do, at the beginning you ask people (each person with different p.o.v.), you do research (which confirms or denies your idea) and then you start agonizing in your head with all kind of thoughts. “If it will be a disaster? What could I lose? What will the people say? What if they will laugh of me? It is enough as it is now or should I wait?”.
You have an agonizing inner dialogue. And everything is in our imagination. If you allow it, it will take cosmic dimensions, when all you have to do is to start somewhere, to try to implement and to give up to the nightmare scenarios.
MS: Speaking of scenarios, I know you have a notebook in which you write down your ideas. Do you have habits?
I have too many notebooks. I have one for every silly thing.
Possible; I don’t know. I try to begin my morning with physical exercises, meditation, something to read and coffee. Only that for a good start of the day. And, maybe, I write down in my journal.
Andreea keeps a diary in which she writes down her dilemmas, the things that upsets her, what she didn’t understand or the unsolved things, which obviously come back again and again.
What I learned from professor Cal Newport’s books is that after I finish my work hours, I turn off the computer, I clean my office, I say “thank you” and ending the day. He does so. I liked his gesture so much that I wanted to adopt it. It was a success for a few times and I can say that the feeling is great.
It’s like I say to myself “now you have the freedom to take care of something else; do what you want”.
Photo: Andreea Roșca, personal archive.
MS: Andreea, somehow, from a certain age I think we all use a certain defining tool. Like the bistoury for the surgeon, calculations for a mathematician or materials for a fashion designer. What’s your everyday tool?
Hmm … I think this tool has to be one that you try to perfect, to make it better and better, so in my case I think it’s about questions.
Questions to myself, to the world, to the profession – to what I do. Yes, of course, the questions.
You know what it’s said: “there are no bad answers, only silly questions” and “the quality of our decisions depends on the quality of our questions”.
MS: You said in a live interview that you often hit a wall. “It doesn’t break, no matter how hard you hit it“, you concluded. What did you try to do and it didn’t come out?
Doors that close are just as much indications of the road as those that open, right?
I can think of two examples.
The first is when I left my position as a media employee. I powerfully believed that I want to do communication consultancy, I did it for a while, but I don’t think I was doing it very well … somehow all was a little bit unwieldy. I didn’t feel that I was home or that the work I was doing brought value. I didn’t get results. I wasn’t happy financially or professionally. It didn’t suit me.
And for a long time I didn’t realize it – that there is not my place, that this is not what I have to do.
I tried to force things, to convince my clients of something that didn’t interest them. I was convinced that my truth is true, that “this” should be done. It was a time when I kept doing the same and the same thing, thinking that the problem is with them and not with me. That they do not understand, that only if I found the right words or only if I had insisted a bit more, or if I would make a more beautiful presentation or if I would be more eloquent, or shorter, or longer in speech. I couldn’t see that the problem was in the approach itself.
And did the same thing for quite some time, until I ran out of resources. It consumed me so much that I run out of energy. I was exhausted.
And the other example is about people. I think we make the biggest mistakes in working with people, in relationships with people, and I think that there is also the biggest place of growth for us.
I expected people who work with me to understand and to solve problems without me saying much. I was so eager to get rid of something that I didn’t invest enough time to make things happen proper. Let’s align them in a way, explain why that thing is important, why this is more important than the other, how it relates to everything else, what a good result is for that work, and finally why we would do that thing and not another.
You have to have the patience and responsibility to create a framework in which both you and the person you work with can deliver the best.
This wall I hit many times.
Photo: One of the first TV&TC project plans
MS: In a TED Talk, you talked about certainties, roads, your own fears and how, thanks to them, you started to study the art of failure. What are your fears now?
I’m afraid that I won’t be able to use all this success and energy that has been created around The Vast & The Curious project, that I will not know how to channel it into a place that is good for the community, for the team and for me in the same time.
I’m very afraid of becoming someone who preaches to others what and how to do. I’m really scared of that. To become a boring teacher.
I’m afraid of arrogance. Not to forget to learn.
I’m afraid of many things.
MS: In the transition moments, was there anything that helped you? A thought, a ritual, a friend?
No. For many of us it’s the same. And you know why? Because you feel like something’s wrong with you.
It seems to you that you MUST be ABLE to SOLVE it, so you are ashamed to talk to anyone.
It’s like a topic you don’t dare to discuss because it’s supposed, damn it, to know it. Especially when you have a career like I had at that time (she refers to the freelancer start as a communication consultant) and a recognition that, strangely, made me believe that if I succeeded in media I will succeed everywhere. It’s a silly. When you are at the beginning, you need help. I didn’t know that.
It was hard, because I haven’t just the awareness that I’m not succeeding, the fear of “What am I doing?”, the feeling that I am very alone and that I cannot talk to anyone, but it was also shameful, to me, because of what I delivered professionally. Obviously it wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t what I knew I could deliver.
I am convinced that I am still judging myself quite harshly, but … No, I didn’t know that I can call people and say “I need you” or to ask the opinion of my team – now I would do it, because it’s unbelievable what comes out when you allow people to contribute.
Photo: Andreea Roșca, the TV&TC team beside their guest, Mihai Simiuc, the founder of FruFru company
MS: It seems you have a nice connection with the journalist Mona Dîrțu. You worked together on several projects over time. How did your friendship start and why is it good to have a friend like her?
I have known Mona for a long time. From the time I worked at Capital and she at Business Magazine as editor-in-chiefs. Then, we met again at Realitatea Caţavencu, where she was chief editor of Money Express and I was a publisher in the printing press division. We made some beautiful projects there, including a book, “Lidero”, a first sign of the future materials. In its pages, Romanian businessmen revealed the secrets behind their turnover.
Later, after our roads had somehow separated, we met again. We went out for a coffee, then we drank another one, and so we created the idea of ”Those who change the game” book. The next 2 years of working together made also our friendship stronger, not only the business relationship.
But, as always things change and inevitably our paths too.
Mona has this amazing talent of seeing the most important part in everything. (Andreea widens her hands and outlines a sphere in space as if trying to indicate the body of the key elements Mona sees in every twisted situation.) She knows how to ask the right questions, how to see in-depth, and she can tell you: “Go there, that’s it.”
Mona is a very good editor. When we wrote “Those Who Change the Game” she edited the chapters I wrote. It was frustrating, but she had no problem in telling me: “That’s bullshit!”. From this kind of sincerity comes both the tension and the beauty of our relationship. That’s why I cherish her so much.
Photo: Andreea Roșca and her TV&TC guest, the football manager and former professional player, Gheorghe Hagi.
MS: The Effectuation workshop you support is one that teaches you how to think more like an entrepreneur. How does an entrepreneur think?
Entrepreneurial thinking cannot be reduced to a sentence.
The main difference between the way people who have experience in building companies think and the way we think is represented by how we relate to uncertainty. While we avoid uncertainty, the entrepreneur uses it. His work material is uncertainty, he feels good there – on insecure lands, because new things are born there. If I try to have a lot of certainty about what I’m building, I end up doing something already existing.
If, for example, you want to make a pastry, there is little uncertainty. If you want to know the nature of the expenses, the clients typology, how much money you will make, what’s the business model, then simply take a franchise. Otherwise, if you want something new, innovative, try to see an opportunity and use uncertainty in your favor.
The entrepreneur thrives on uncertainty. If you want to be rewarded for the effort, do something in uncertainty because the unique things, praises, money or magazine covers are born there.
In addition, there are several principles that separate the two worlds:
- Entrepreneurs do not start by saying: “if I had 2 million of euros or if I had the right people, etc.” No, they don’t start with “if”, but with the things they already have. They seek the sufficient conditions to do something, not the ideal ones. It’s like a road where one step builds the other.
- Then there are the risks. It is said that entrepreneurs are people who accept extreme risks, but it’s not true. In fact, they assume calculated risks, being sure that they will survive if they don’t succeed. To us, it looks like huge stakes, but they don’t jump from rooftops without a parachute. They are even conservative.
- After that, it follows the way you work with people – we are used with very transactional things, but when you are in the beginning and you don’t know so much, you don’t work in this way with your partners. Relationships are not transactional then, sometimes because you don’t have money to give, other times because you need people who wants to succeed at the same time with you.
- And failure. We are trying to eliminate the risks. Banks, which by definition have risk aversion, ask you for guarantees, insurance, they know how much money they will make with you in the end and then they try to minimize the risk. The entrepreneur tries to minimize the bad, not to maximize the good. If something unexpected happens, we try to avoid everything that is unexpected. However, sometimes, the bigger opportunity is born from surprise. If I will not succeed, it’s not the end of the world, because I learned something valuable.
I call them principles, but they are ways of looking at the world. Like now; you look there and see something, I look over there and see something else, and when we change places, the world changes.
When Andreea ordered a drink she also asked for still water. “A small one?”, the waitress asked.
“Yes, but I would like a Romanian one and, please, to be in a glass bottle.“, she replied.
I thought then, at the beginning of our meeting, that she is a supporter of the businesses in Romania; but now, at the end of our discussion, I realize that it is rather a form of respect towards those who build a business, towards the environment, towards the people she interact with, towards herself.
So are her ways of careful thinking before saying something, the openness of sharing her own experience, but also the time she tries to defend for herself in front of “IT MUST…”.