Andreas Holler, Member of Executive Board of Adama Group, who comes from Vienna, Austria, and who has been working and living in Romania since 2011, talked to Romania-Insider.com about the path that led him here and about how he discovered a beautiful Romania.
How long have you been living/working in Romania? What brought you here in the first place?
My contact with Romania has various phases, so it’s a longer story. Connected to the activity I have in Romania at the moment, I came here and started a full-time activity in November 2011 when Adama Group was taken over by Immofinanz Group, the Austrian investment fund. Previously I had been working within the Immofinanz structure and for the last year and a half I have been managing the operations the group has on the Romanian residential market as a member of the Executive Board of Adama.
But, as I told you, Adama was not my first contact with Romania. The summer after I graduated college in the U.S., as I came back to Austria, I worked for several companies. At first, I became the CEO’s assistant and later on the Marketing Manager of a textile company, with factories in several countries, Romania included; in Timisoara to be more precise.
At that time, I met someone who was a buyer for Mobexpert. And so, the company I worked for and I, especially, became a provider of Mobexpert Romania.
What do you do here in Romania?
An overall view: since November 2011, I have been coordinating the operations Immofinanz Group undertakes in Romania concerning the residential field within Adama Group. At the moment, we have residential projects both in Bucharest (in Titan area – Evocasa Armonia, Optima and Edenia - and one premium project near Foisorul de Foc – Evocasa Selecta) and in secondary cities such as Brasov, Bacau, Iasi and Ploiesti.
Besides the projects Adama already completed, starting with October 2012, we resumed the development stages with new phases for Edenia Titan and Evocasa Optima, two of the projects we owe in Titan area. Plus, this year, we also plan to develop a new stage in Iasi, within our Copou Bellevue project, and we are really interested in starting a new project in the Berceni neighborhood, here, in Bucharest.
Where else in the world have you worked/lived or just traveled? For what projects?
Many places... It’s something I've wanted to do since I was a teenager, I could say: travel and get through a wide range of educational and working environments.
At that age, I was permanently looking to experience something more than what Austria could offer me as a challenge at the moment. I expected my country to be more internationally-oriented than it used to be; this is why I decided to attend a French school. Later on, I took a Degree from Boston University's School of Management in Business Administration and graduated from INSEAD's Young Manager‘s Program in Fontainebleau, France.
One other international experience I could mention is a job I had in Munich, for a start-up. I moved for two years to Germany and after this period I came back to Vienna.
What is your favorite place in Romania and why? When and how did you discover it?
To be honest, as a foreigner, when you first come to Romania, you get surprised by how many beautiful places this country has. As you probably know, before getting here, you are preoccupied and actually have no idea of what Romania can offer.
The same thing happened to me and I was really surprised by how beautiful this country is. I especially like Sinaia and the Brasov area for its great mixture of mountain landscape and urban facilities. I couldn’t forget mentioning the Danube Delta, a unique place I would say. In addition to this, Romania is one of the countries that benefits from a solid cultural and historical heritage so it’s always a source of new findings. As it’s not one of the newly established states, it’s really interesting to see the influence and the legacy left behind by the mixture between local people and big empires.
As much as my free time allows me to, I try to discover as many places as possible in Romania, as well as cultural habits, people and so on. It is both a pleasure and a useful thing – only by knowing the people, their customs and their needs, can we offer the market a suitable residential project.
What don’t you like in Romania? What would you change?
In Romania, things are not always the same or as you might expect. This can be a disadvantage and a challenge as well. The biggest challenge to us? Finding out what the local market actually wants and what it would become responsive to. So it is a matter of efficiency.
As we all know, there are still many things to be done in matters of infrastructure and technology to give Romania a flawless stream of activity.
And one more thing I could mention on this topic: as Romania is still going through a transition period, things are not completely settled down. This has major consequences for the young talent in Romania and the fact that their resources are not efficiently put into practice. There is a great pool of young talent, but managers in Romania haven’t proved the skills to guide these talents.
How do you spend your free time in Romania? What would you recommend to others?
Mostly, I try to do in Romania what I used to do back home, in Austria. I like playing tennis and, for a time now, I have started going to the gym again early in the morning. Also connected to my sports activity, if I can call it this way, a few months ago, I was part of Adama team within a corporate championship. I was the only foreigner on the team (but not the captain!)
Moreover, as I am very keen on skiing, this year I don’t want to miss the chance of trying the runs here in Romania. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it so far.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in life so far? Give us a few details please.
I like to think that every professional experience I have had so far is a milestone in the process of continuous learning and improvement. Spending an important part of my career away from Austria, I think the biggest accomplishment, as well as the biggest challenge, has been to adapt and to be able to understand the new markets and activity sectors I have entered. This happened when I first got in contact with Romania, within the textile company, it happened during the 2 years spent in Munich and it is happening again now, at Adama. But this continuous process of so-called acclimatization started back in the U.S. and France, during University and postgraduate studies.
Learning Romanian can also be included on my accomplishments’ list. I don’t pride myself on being a great speaker, but I have learned the basic vocabulary and the common idioms and phrases for a conversation.
Obviously, professionally speaking, in three-years’ time, let’s say, I would be really satisfied to say that my biggest accomplishment is that of establishing a new trend among the local real estate market and setting up new quality standards in the residential market due to our activity at Adama.
What are you passionate about? How often do you get to pursue your passion in Romania?
I am a “sports person” in my free time, so as much as possible I try to pursue this passion – from playing tennis, as I told you, to skiing in winter. In addition to this, as it is part of my day-to-day activity since I travel a lot, I am really fond of discovering new cultures and new lifestyles in the cities I visit.
What are the main pieces of advice you’d give foreigners who plan to come to Romania?
I frequently notice Austrians and Germans, who mainly come to Romania for business, getting pleasantly surprised by what this country has to offer. It is true, as I told you before - Romania is still in the process of change, but you have to learn to take the positive aspects of this country: the native talents Romania offers, the hospitality of the inhabitants, the development potential this region has. Let’s not forget Romania is placed at the border between Central and Eastern Europe and this turns this country into a great knot and boundary between these two regions.
I would also suggest that foreigners discover the spirit of the country and the Romanian way of being straight from the inhabitants by trying to mixing with the local people, interacting with them rather than spending all the time with other foreigners in their team.
Interview by Corina Chirileasa, [email protected]