09 December 2020 ... min. read Listen

Corina Cristescu

Walk us through your career path in ING 

It’s more like a short sprint then a walk, because so far, I’ve only amassed a little over 100 days in ING, as the IT Area Lead of the Digital Tribe, meaning I’m still at the debut of my path. It’s been however insightful enough to make me curious about the journey ahead.

How it’s Life @ ING? (especially from a learning experience point of view)

Every beginning prompts us to learn, and my first summer at ING was no different. An interesting thing that happens is that, as my career develops, I find myself having to first unlearn some concepts and paradigms that I was comfortable with, before relearning new ones. That nudges me to reflect on my own flexibility and to stubbornly remind myself to keep a student-like open mind and a welcoming demeanor.

I wish I could already have a collection of favorite projects from which to pick a deep learning, but the humble truth is that my own onboarding, with all its particularities stemming from a fully remote setup, is my richest experience so far.

And beyond the usual suspects that are ‘learnable’ during an onboarding (setup & organizational topology, technical flavor & business domains, hot & ongoing projects), I remarked that Life @ ING Bank Romania is also about working together with people that show up every day to give their best, with the inherent ebb & flows but with a solid commitment towards their peers, their product and their customers.

How does a day in the life of an IT Area Lead looks like?

Days are thankfully varied, but there’s always a bedrock of conversation, feedback and problem solving on which the daily narrative builds up. Which means that regardless of the day’s anatomy, I will write a lot (I find asynchronous communication very useful for prepping meetings and decisions as well as respectful of people’s time), I will be generous with my time in 1-to-1 conversations (in a live setting, as much as possible) and stingy with it in expensive meetings. Also, I will sketch and fill whiteboards (yes, even during WFH) with problems worth solving, pro/con analysis and enhancing the quality of decisions and I will study and learn about a new tech paradigm, an evolution on the market, an ongoing project or a leadership scenario.

I’m fairly structured, so I like to end each day by reflecting on the next. However, I don’t dwell too much on the situation if tomorrow looks nothing like I envisioned it today. No plan survives the war but don’t go to war without a plan.

I know work-life balance is a subject that we pay deliberate attention to. As with every dynamic equilibrium, its maintenance requires continuous investment. For me, frequent daily check-ins with myself, kind of like atomic commits, are key. Sorry if you were looking for a more magical answer, but there are no shortcuts 😊. However, I will admit that it does help tremendously that I can’t imagine myself doing something else other than IT and that I smile on the inside every day when I notice that software development is as much a social endeavor as it is a tech endeavor; so balance is woven into the fabric of successful IT leadership.

If you could describe your role using 3 technologies/platform what would you chose and why?

I’d rather go beyond technologies and into concepts, as I believe they’ll describe my role better.

The first concept would be that of ‘everything as a computer’. I think it captures very well the ‘Digital’ red-thread of the tribe, as well as orients our mindset towards a future where the channels through which we can offer our users a top-notch banking experience, will be evermore varied and connected.

The second concept would be that of distributed communication. Whether we refer to teams, product landscapes or technical ecosystems with distributed artifacts, I believe keeping this concept on the front stage will focus us towards approaches through which we can grow as a living organism, so that all components can always be viable with the flow of information buzzing through them.

And lastly, in sharp contrast with the ‘techiness’ of the prior concepts, I’d chose the battle-tested technology of pen & paper. I believe few things enable more clarity then actually writing stuff down and going through the necessary shuffle of putting your thoughts in ink.

How would you explain your role as an IT Area Lead to a 7-year-old?

It’s mostly akin to a good coach of your favorite sport’s team.

There’s a lot of effort going on everyday on the training field, in the locker room, trying out new ways to make training more interesting and players ever more capable. There’s the acknowledgement that it’s not you who’s on the playing field scoring points, no matter how much you’d feel like being there sometime. But it’s you who has to make sure that the team has ‘the best game’ each time. There’s a lot of patience that goes on in the mix, and sometimes, despite the effort, the team won’t have a good season, or win a championship.

But if you stick through it all, show up for practice, learn and adapt, you’ll get to experience that bliss of kinship that only true teams can witness. And that’s special 😊

If you were to recommend ING to a friend, what would you say about the organization?

That it offers an alluring perspective, prompting contributors to its projects to relentlessly balance on that tightrope between being bold while being prudent, between scaling up while sedimenting the foundation and continuously devising experiments that are runnable in a controlled manner.

It certainly does not feel like a place for somebody who likes ‘to settle’ and every so often, stretching on the tightrope comes with growth pains. But, like with every balancing act, the fortunate outcome of consistent discipline and brave steps is … a very solid core. And that is something worth pursuing.

If you were to save the world with an app…?

It would be very simple to create, as it would just pop-up a message (ok, ok… and maybe a short haptic interaction … and some cyberpunk flashy graphics 😊) nudging users to reach out to people, have real conversations, get involved in communities and doing hard work together. Happily, the world isn’t savable by apps, but by people with skin in the game.

What does it mean for you to do your thing?

It means that I pour my authentic self into my work and keep showing up, determined to find the convergence between contributing to ING’s value, supporting the evolution of the people in my charge, extending a helping hand wherever I can, and stretching out myself. All with quiet confidence and an open mind.

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