In week three of our series following a handful of MOL’s brilliant female alumni, Eddie Sheehy meets Julija Romancenko, a Research & Strategy Manager for LateRooms.com whose love of adventure took her out of her native Latvia and into the lofty heights of strategic business management, and asks: is the world really her oyster?
More drama within the Coalition government on Monday as Nick Clegg launched a vehement attack on the Home Secretary Theresa May, accusing her of making “illegal and undeliverable” plans to cap the number of European Union nationals coming to work in Britain at 75,000 per year. The Deputy Prime Minister said: “If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Dutch accountants they can’t come to work, it would be a disaster for our economy… The City of London would grind to a halt overnight.”
Wherever you stand on the future of the EU and Britain’s place within it, it would be impossible to deny that the UK has benefited from the welcoming of people like former MOL student, 27-year old Riga-born Julija Romancenko. As Research & Strategy Manager at the UK’s leading hotel booking specialist LateRooms.com, the young Latvian ex-pat has helped to shape the very direction of the organisation, enabling business planning that defines which markets to operate in, what acquisition targets are available and which product lines are the most profitable.
“I was only five years old when independence was restored to Latvia in 1991, so I don’t really remember much about the liberal revolution,” she says. “Apart from really cheap ice cream and the first availability of imported goods like chewing gum and fizzy soft drinks, that is. But I knew from an early age that I wanted to travel to other countries either to work or study. I had the benefit of three languages – Latvian, Russian and English – and the desire to take on new challenges and ever-greater opportunities.”
While enjoying student life in Latvia, undertaking a course in Business Management and Entrepreneurship, Julija worked for a number of organisations, developing skills in accountancy, customer support and business analysis. But, after four and a half years of university, and even with the security of a steady role as a Remuneration Analyst, she knew it was time to make the leap. Soon after, she packed her bags and moved, first to Wales and then to England.
“I love exploring other countries and cultures,” she says. “And, after I arrived in the UK, I was lucky enough to secure a role in a public health organisation as a Project & Research Administrator, soon progressing into the role of Performance Improvement Project Officer. I then went on to become Research & Data Officer for a digital business and began working on strategic research projects, analysing business and market performance data that supported strategic management decisions.”
Bolstered by her ability to have a real impact at the strategic level, Julija decided to capitalise on her burgeoning skill set and undertake a Level 5 Management & Leadership programme. She searched online for providers – “I was looking for something with a strong practical element rather than an academic programme that didn’t really acknowledge the day-to-day realities of the business world” – and, when she found MOL, she knew she’d found the right one.
“I was excited by the positive testimonials on the website,” she says. “Those, alone, made me realise the organisation would offer a positive learning experience. I think I finally made the decision to go for it, though, when I realised how affordable it was going to be and how I could spread the payments across a number of instalments. I guess the only niggling worry I carried through to registration with MOL was that English is my third language and that maybe that would hold me back.”
Fortunately, Julija found the programme materials “well written, easy to navigate and very understandable” and she was given great support from her tutor, who ensured she was always able to apply the theory she was learning to real life business scenarios. Through a series of discussions, and strategic games, not to mention great interaction with other learners and tutors, she was able to improve her confidence and to more clearly see a pathway for her professional development. It was testament to all her hard work on the course that she was promoted at work to Research & Strategy Manager before she had even completed it.
“My role now is so challenging and I love going into work every day, knowing I really have to prove myself. I have real involvement in the strategic planning process, supporting internal project groups across different departments and sharing research information to the business, which enables them to make informed decisions and calculate risks.” And as for her future plans? “Well, I don’t plan to return to Latvia any time soon – I have a great life here with my partner and our two toy poodles – but I would definitely consider living and working in other places at some point. Plus, for my final MOL project, I developed a business plan for an e-commerce service company that I’d love to implement in 2014, so that’s something to look forward to.”
Julija certainly sets an incredible example for EU migrants living and working in the UK. The kind of example that could well help to unfurrow the worried brow of our Deputy PM. And, while ever Britain does remain a fully active and cooperative EU member, it’s certain that MOL will be welcoming more brilliant future business superstars like her onto its programmes.
Find out more about Management & Leadership programmes.