Olga Marcenac (’96): At AUBG You Actually Learn How to Work
Professional success for entrepreneur Olga Marcenac, who currently serves as the country manager for Bulgaria of CallPoint New Europe/Telus International, began while she was still a student at AUBG.
In the summer before her last year of study, Marcenac joined PricewaterhouseCoopers for a few months, only to land a fulltime job. This was the beginning of an exciting career journey that still continues. Marcenac was offered to join the famous company’s team in Bulgaria, starting in just a few months. This meant she did not have the luxury of an entire senior year but had to graduate earlier than her peers.
Marcenac succeeded to do that, taking a workload of eight academic courses in her last semester at AUBG. She worked in the field of audit and advisory services at the company for two and a half exciting years. “This was a great experience because the economy was growing at the time. A lot of the state companies were undergoing privatization, so we had a lot of interesting work,” Marcenac said.
Many of her coworkers at PwC were fellow AUBGers. “We completely dominated the company. And it was quite an enjoyable experience,” Marcenac pointed out.
Soon the AUBG graduate was offered another thrilling opportunity. She was asked to join the PwC London division. She gladly accepted the new position but, used to the dynamic nature of her job in Bulgaria, Marcenac soon began to feel “bored to death.”
“Very quickly I decided this was not my career; this is not where I want to see myself in 20 years,” Marcenac explained. She began eyeing the banking sector in London and soon was lucky to start a new journey at UBS Warburg – an investment bank – where she spent a year and a half doing a very intense, challenging and interesting job.
At the same time, both she and her husband started thinking about continuing their education. After looking at different options, they chose the INSEAD MBA and were both accepted into the program, which, Marcenac said, was a “very rewarding experience.”
Upon graduating, Marcenac joined the financial services part of General Electric, which was at the time called GE Capital and later became known as GE Money, where she worked for three years. “Basically, that was a very high-profile type of consultancy role with a lot of travel,” Marcenac said.
It was approximately at the same time that she and her husband began to ponder whether they should stay in the corporate world or plunge into the sea of entrepreneurship. “And we decided to give it a go, and we came back to Bulgaria,” Marcenac said. That was about 12 years ago.
“Basically we started a contact center operation – a call center – from scratch. And in the years we have grown quite considerably,” the AUBG alumna explained. The company they started, Call Point New Europe, now part of Telus International Europe, currently numbers more than 3,000 people and has European-based operations in Bulgaria and Romania.
In Marcenac’s words, the most rewarding experience on her path as an entrepreneur has been setting up the business, observing its growth and managing in difficult times. This is not an easy process, she said. “You take all the credit and you take all the rewards, but also you take all the risk,” Marcenac explained.
Launching a contact center operations business was a well-thought choice. A series of events led to Marcenac’s interest in the area. “I started getting interested in the model and why it was happening and how it did work,” she said. At the same time, she explained, the world started talking that the next destinations for call centers were going to be Eastern Europe and primarily Bulgaria and Ukraine. So it seemed the right time to go and do something in this marketplace, Marcenac thought. “And to be honest with you, when we started 12 years ago, this industry was non-existing in Bulgaria – at all. There were a couple of in-house call centers – the telecom, for example, but, you know – nothing fancy, nothing very, very high-level,” she explained.
The AUBG alumna finds working with her team as both the most challenging and most rewarding experience she has had as an entrepreneur. “We have managed to build a very, very strong team of people,” Marcenac said, adding that it comprises professionals who have been with the company for a long time. “So with all that time, we have become friends as well. It’s a very nice atmosphere, and it is very inspiring to work with people who trust each other and sometimes understand each other without speaking,” she said.
“I don’t at all regret getting out of the corporate world,” Marcenac recapped, adding that a corporate career start can bring lots of benefits for young professionals, but the structure and formalities it entails are not for everyone.
Speaking about professional development, Marcenac commented, “I think what the AUBG education did for me, and what it continues to do, is provide a very practical approach to learning [and] also to applying those learnings in practice.” In her words, this educational style is what sets AUBG apart from other programs that exist in Bulgaria. “I think this is the greatest difference, you know – actually learning how to work – how to work on a project, how to work with other people, how to work in a group, how to manage your time, how to manage your tasks – it gives you this practicality. And I think the big advantage of the liberal arts education is that it gives you a very detailed picture of everything that’s out there,” Marcenac elaborated.
“I think it is very good for young people because, truth is, when you’re 19 years old sometimes you’re not quite sure what you want to do. So if you stay in a very, very narrow field of study, you risk to, you know – not have guessed it correctly,” she added.
Marcenac also emphasized the wide range of study areas and courses the university offers, defining them as “very, very valuable.” She added she was very influenced by both fellow students, who were “very bright, ambitious, friendly people” and faculty, who were strict and demanding. She pointed out to her personal academic adviser and political science professor, who used to say, “We should try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.” “And I keep remembering this very often; and I keep reminding that to people that work for me today,” Macrenac commented.
She has remained close to her AUBG connections after graduation. “The majority of my best friends are from AUBG and we’ve kept very close tie,” Macenac said, adding that distance is not spoiling the connection between them. “Every time we get together we remember the good old times and it’s a lot of fun.”
Talking about fun, Marcenac mentioned the amusing story of how she and eight fellow AUBG students lived in the presidential flat of former Bulgarian totalitarian leader Todor Zhivkov at the AUBG Bistritza dormitory.
“Look actively to achieve broad professional experience [and] to learn a lot,” Marcenac said, addressing young graduates. In her words, there is a lot of impatience in young people, who want to speed up career progress. “But what really moves you forward is actual good experience,” she commented, explaining that there is knowledge that can only be learned by doing. “That especially is true in management and management of people. You cannot study management of people. Now, you can read all sorts of info, but you have to practice management of people. And to become a good manager, you just need to spend enough time doing this and take learnings on the way,” Marcenac explained.
Build as versatile a curriculum as possible, is Marcenac’s advice to prospective students. “Inevitably, people tend to take electives that they like. And I think – looking back –both in my AUBG education and during the MBA, the courses that have been the most valuable for me were those that were not necessarily of greatest interest to me at the time,” Marcenac referred to her educational experience.
Story by Despina Koleva-Hristova