07.12.2021 | Two highly motivated female managers from Axpo Romania on their everyday working life
While the energy industry is still dominated by men, the situation at Axpo Energy Romania is quite different: six out of nine employees in Axpo’s team in Bucharest are women. We asked two of them, Stela Corpacian and Ramona Stoian, about their career path, why they like working with Axpo, how important innovation is in the energy industry and what Axpo can do to support Romania during the energy transition.
Stela, you are the Chief Financial Officer of Axpo Energy Romania. What was your professional goal when you were a young student?
Stela Corpacian: I’ve always been interested in mathematics – that’s why I chose to study finance. I actually didn’t have a concrete plan for my career at that time. I just wanted to become a good professional, learn continuously and make an impact with my daily work. That’s why I decided to apply for positions at innovative industry leaders. Now, having worked in different fascinating industries, I can say that my career has developed even better than I thought when I was young. I’ve had an enriching financial management experience, being involved in innovative projects, developing business strategies and leading investment proposals.
“We need to reinvent the whole system … it’s exciting to be part of that”
When you joined Axpo two years ago, this was your first position in the energy sector. What do you like about the industry?
Stela Corpacian: It’s a thrilling industry with a long history but also a very dynamic future, where constant innovation is key. In the context of the energy transition, we need to reinvent the whole system, expand renewable energies massively, using smart grids, blockchain and the like. On top of that, we have to deal with very important economic, social and political topics such as the reduction of global carbon emissions in our daily business – that’s what makes the job even more attractive and it’s exciting to be part of that.
Ramona, you jumped into the energy industry directly after your studies. Today you work as a Senior Originator – was that a childhood dream of yours?
Ramona Stoian (laughing): Not really, I kind of fell into the renewable energy sector in my second year of college, just before its first development boom in Romania, and was attracted by the fact that I could grow together with the industry. As a teenager, my dream was to run my own business. I am passionate about entrepreneurship and being responsible and accountable for what I do.
“The culture here is entrepreneurially driven”
Could one say that you are kind of your own boss in your current job at Axpo?
Ramona Stoian: Yes, absolutely. This is one of the reasons I joined Axpo. The culture here is entrepreneurially driven. As one of two Senior Originators in our team in Bucharest, I have a lot of flexibility and freedom in what I do. I have my own P&L responsibility, and there is a lot of place for innovation and new ideas that I can implement in my daily work with the support of the large Axpo infrastructure. The renewable energy sector in Romania is still growing, there is a lot of investment interest in the region and I love the fact that I can be at the heart of this development and help shape our business here.
“We have strong values: reliability, sustainability, and innovation”
Axpo is not only a frontrunner in the renewable energies area, but also known as a leader when it comes to risk management. Was that one of the reasons why you liked the idea of joining the company?
Stela Corpacian: Indeed – as a finance professional I know about the importance of risk management solutions. I had a very positive impression of Axpo right from the start of the interview process. Our risk management services are really outstanding. We have also introduced many new products in the Romanian market, thanks to our strong position as a leader in international energy trading. Furthermore, we have strong values: reliability, sustainability, and innovation. There’s much more to be developed in terms of complex financial instruments in Romania, and I can put my CFA knowledge into practice. Axpo is an exciting place for growth and that’s exactly what I was looking for.
Ramona, how did you get in touch with Axpo – did you know about the company before you joined?
Ramona Stoian: Yes, I knew Axpo very well because they were one of my clients in my previous job. Together with Axpo, we paved the way for negotiating pioneering agreements in the renewable energy sector in Romania. I always liked Axpo’s flexible approach, the company’s idea of having long-term partnerships and the way it grows the scope of its business relationships. Joining Axpo was the ideal next step in my career.
“The international set-up is a huge advantage … and diversity is a great asset”
Axpo is active in some 40 countries across Europe, the USA and Asia. What is interesting about working in such an international environment?
Stela Corpacian: The international set-up at Axpo is a huge advantage for all of us. In my CFO position, we share a lot of knowledge and best practice with finance colleagues in many other countries. It’s essential for our business success in Romania to get support from Axpo’s experts abroad because some markets are more advanced than ours. We have access to a large network and many state-of-the-art tools within the Axpo Group. I also like the fact that we have many different cultures and styles at Axpo. So having this diversity is definitely a great asset.
Ramona Stoian: I completely agree with Stela. In my role as a Senior Originator I also benefit from Axpo’s comprehensive know-how right across Europe. We are given the context and means to exchange ideas and information. It’s not important in which location you are based for this to happen. That’s one of the core values of Axpo.
“There’s a human being behind the position, with a family, a house, a dog”
Originators are said to travel a lot in order to be in close contact with their customers. Did that change during the pandemic?
Ramona Stoian: Until spring 2020, I used to travel all the time, both in Romania and abroad. Since then, we have seen that physical presence, although it does help, isn’t essential. People changed how they did business and found ways to trust each other without personal on-site meetings. I even got the impression that we added a new layer to the personal relationships with our customers, now that everyone has been working from home for almost one and a half years. They have seen that there’s a human being behind the position, with a family, a house, a dog and maybe noisy neighbours. We adapted very quickly to the new situation, have become familiar with innovative tools, and the resources to be successful are there. At the end of the day, it’s the final result that matters.
Stela, how would you describe your working and management style and what is your aim as a manager?
Stela Corpacian: I head a small team, and my main priorities are to foster dialogue with the team members, motivate them with enthusiasm, engage with positive energy and stimulate a can-do attitude. It’s about continuous learning, permanent improvement, and being responsible for themselves. I always tell them not to be afraid of mistakes. On top of that, I involve my team in the decision-making and problem-solving process. And we celebrate success together – that’s what motivates them a lot. Last but not least, it’s always good to know that we are not only part of Axpo Energy Romania, but also of Axpo International, so we have many additional team members across borders and geographies who are doing their very best to make Axpo even more successful in the future.
“The sector has many attractions for female specialists and managers”
The Axpo Romania team is quite diverse from a gender point of view. What needs to be done to attract even more women to the energy industry?
Ramona Stoian: I actually meet a lot of women in the Romanian energy industry because the sector has many attractions for female specialists and managers. Tactical awareness, attention to detail, and strategic modelling are just some of the typical skills that women can contribute to this business. It’s often much less about technical aspects than people might think at first sight. At Axpo Energy Romania, for instance, a commercial mindset is prevalent. In my job as a Senior Originator, I never miss not having a technical background – there’s no need to be able to handle the operational maintenance of a power plant, for example. We’re focused mainly on doing business from a commercial point of view.
Stela Corpacian: Romania is perhaps a bit different to other countries in this regard. Our country is one of the European leaders when it comes to having women in top management positions, especially in commercial and financial roles. There are many partnerships between universities and leading companies in our country to support this development. I believe it’s important to have an action plan to raise awareness of our industry among young people and especially of Axpo’s business in Romania.
“It’s a real performance culture. Risk taking is as important as generating ideas”
One of the main challenges these days is certainly innovation and digitalisation. What is key from your point of view in this context? Is the energy industry lagging behind other sectors?
Stela Corpacian: There might be people who think the energy industry is old-fashioned and boring, but this is not true at all. I have seen many different industries throughout my professional career and I can stress that Axpo in particular is a real leader in innovation in the energy trading context. We have an open environment. We use new tools. We empower our people to change their behaviour and foster a new culture where constantly innovating and working in new ways is absolutely key. It’s a real performance culture. Risk taking is as important as generating new ideas in building the capabilities necessary for the work of the future.
Ramona, as an Originator, developing tailor-made green energy solutions for your customers is one of your focus areas. Where does Romania stand when it comes to renewable energies?
Ramona Stoian: There have been lots of barriers on the regulatory side in Romania in recent years. For instance, PPAs and physical offtakes were banned. But now this is finally changing. As a result, we spend a lot of time talking with our customers, to understand their needs and how Axpo can support them. There’s a lot of progress underway and I am sure Romania will soon become a real frontrunner.
“A lot of effort is being focused on making us a leader in the region”
Interest in the renewable energy sector in Romania is picking up. Why is that?
Ramona Stoian: Infrastructure and power plants in our country are quite old, so we see many challenges for power production in the future. Renewable energies will, of course, play a key role in this context. Resources are there, price levels are backed by fundamentals, and many players show a lot of interest in investing in renewables in Romania. That’s why I’m confident that we will have plenty of business opportunities in future.
How can Axpo support the transition towards a greener future in Romania?
Ramona Stoian: We have a clear plan on how to tackle this challenge and are already paving the way towards long-term renewable offtake via PPAs in Romania. Thanks to our excellent credit rating, local presence and risk management know-how, we are able to add layers of flexibility and assume more risks. This will be a real advantage for Axpo, and a lot of effort is being focused on making us a leader in the region.
“It’s important to have a proper mindset, to focus on solutions not problems”
How do you cope with pressure? What does work-life balance mean to you?
Stela Corpacian: For me, personally, work is not synonymous with stress and pressure. It’s important to have a proper mindset, to focus on solutions not problems. We have to adapt quickly in our job at Axpo and as the CFO I quite often work late or during weekends. Planning carefully in advance makes it all easier. To recharge my batteries, I like reading, especially French and Russian literature, but also non-fiction books about business and psychology. On top of that, I am a sporty outdoors person and spend a lot of time with my two daughters and our dog in the forest. That’s the best way for me to relax.
Ramona, how do you relax from your challenging work days? What do you do in your spare time?
Ramona Stoian: I used to run a lot in the past which helped me relax. But the birth of my child changed my perspective quite a bit. Besides spending time with my family, I try to find new opportunities for business. I started to invest in real estate, as there are some promising areas for tourism projects in Romania. With my entrepreneurial nature, having additional business projects in my private life is just the right way for me to release pressure.
Stela, 41 years old, studied finance and insurance in Chișinău (Moldova), is FCCA qualified, passed all levels of the CFA program and holds an EMBA from the Vienna University of Economics and Finance. She has been the CFO of Axpo Energy Romania since 2019. Before joining the company, Stela worked in several senior financial positions with GoodMills Romania and the Trans-Oil Group of Companies, was the Head of Operations at telecommunications company Orange Moldova, and started her career as an auditor with KPMG. A mother of two daughters (4 and 14 years old) she is fascinated with the energy industry, which she finds an exciting, challenging and evolving one in which to work.
Ramona is 34 years old and has been working in the energy sector for 13 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Master’s in Financial Analysis and Valuation from the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies. Before joining Axpo as a Senior Originator in early 2019, Ramona was the Head of Trading at the Romanian utility Electrica Furnizare, Senior Energy Manager at EDP Renewables, and Financial Controller at Gamesa Energia Romania & Bulgaria. The mother of a two-year-old, Ramona is committed to bringing pioneering state-of-the-art risk management solutions to the Romanian power market.
Axpo Energy Romania S.A. is based in the heart of Bucharest. Since its foundation in 2003, Axpo’s Romanian subsidiary has been offering a wide range of expertise in power and gas full supply, energy trading and green certificates. Meanwhile, it has developed into one of the main players in the Romanian energy market. The Axpo Romania team of nine employees, led by Managing Director Radu Rat, will continue to expand its activities in the Romanian energy markets.