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How Mara from Romania became a Full stack Java Developer in Belgium

Written by Astrid Roest on 17 September 2019 for Tech Professionals

In February of 2018, Mara Ianculescu moved from Romania to Belgium to start her Exellys adventure. Almost two years later she successfully graduated from our Start Smart program. Here’s how she experienced her first months in Belgium…

An international professional adventure

What if we were to offer you an international professional adventure? Would you hesitate? Or would you be on the next plane to good old exotic Belgium? True, the weather can be a bit capricious, but boy do we have an exciting working landscape for you to explore! Mara seized the opportunity and relocated all the way from Romania to end up as one of our Exellys Consultants. Today she is very happy to be here and proud to call herself an Exellyst working as a Full stack Java Developer at ING Belgium.

Mara’s specs

  • 23 and fabulous
  • Hails from Romania
  • Moved to Belgium on February 25th
  • Started working for ING on March 5th
  • Proud Full stack Java Developer
  • Loves riding her motorbike just as much as she loves painting
  • Only bails on her favorite TV shows to read a good book, or two

Mara Ianculescu

So, Mara, let’s start with the beginning: how did you get in touch with Exellys?

“Well, you guys reached out to me. (Smiles.) I received an email from Exellys a couple of months ago inquiring whether I would be interested in a job opportunity in Belgium. Seeing I always wanted to move abroad, I said to myself: ‘Why not?!’. After being in touch with Astrid, the Tech Talent Scout at Exellys, I learnt a great deal about the company and I didn’t need much convincing to participate in the selection procedure.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the selection procedure? What steps did you have to go through?

“First, I had an in-depth chat with Astrid about the different aspects of being a consultant at Exellys. The next step was performing a technical test as to verify my coding skills. I killed it of course, and I got to move on to the second round of interviews. After meeting Nadine over Skype, I learnt that she would be my Talent Development Manager. She would coach me during the Start Smart Program.I still had to convince the CCO, that I have what it takes to be an Exellys Consultant. Luckily for me, he saw my potential and welcomed me on board.”

Mara exellys

Did you have to move to Belgium straight away after the selection procedure?

“No, I would only have to move once Exellys found me a project. Soon enough, though, Nadine contacted me saying ING would be a good fit for me. First, I had to do some more tests for ING on GitHub. They asked me to solve 2 out of 4 issues, but since I am a perfectionist and an overachiever I solved all 4. (Winks.) Next, we talked over Skype about the solutions I proposed and got to know one another better on a personal level. I was very relieved when I found out my contact at ING confirmed they wanted to take me on!”

Did you find it difficult to perform all these tests and interviews over the internet? Would you have preferred to experience it in person?

“No, not at all. I actually felt very happy to be able to do all of it from the comfort of my home. I didn’t have to rush through traffic in a foreign country trying to make it on time for the interview. I could have worn my pyjama’s and no one would have noticed! (Laughs.) I felt very much at ease even though it was all very exciting. It was a great experience overall and I would highly recommend it.”

How did you deal with possible uncertainties when applying for a job abroad?

“I was aware it might not happen, but the uncertainties soon vanished when I realized how thorough the recruitment process was and how much effort Astrid and Nadine put into finding me the right match.”

Was it scary, moving abroad?

“At first I was nervous I would not fit in or that I would have a hard time adjusting to the way of living in Belgium. But then again, I also know myself and I am a very resilient individual. When I want to succeed at something, I will make it work. You also have to allow yourself the time to take in all these new surroundings. Also, I got a lot of help from Astrid concerning the paperwork, thank god. As you can imagine, if you don’t speak the language it can be quite tricky. Astrid even accompanied me to the City Hall to retrieve all the documents. I am forever grateful because without her I would have been completely lost.”

Did Exellys also help you find a place to stay?

“Yes, I am actually living in an Exellys apartment in Kontich at the moment. Exellys provides temporary housing for Consultants like me who are moving to Belgium. Once I settled in at my new job, I started looking for a permanent spot to live. I will be moving to Brussels soon as to reduce my commuting time from a 1h30 train ride to a 6-minute walk. Can’t wait!”

And what about working at ING? It is how you have imagined it?

“I vowed I would have no great expectations. (Winks.) But of course, I hoped I would fit in well and that I would have great colleagues to work with. And I do! There are over 20 Exellys Consultants working at ING so I don’t feel like the odd one out amongst the permanent employees. But then again, I’m still the new girl. It was quite overwhelming the first few days, however, everyone has been very helpful and welcoming. On Fridays we go for drinks after work so making new friends isn’t that hard.”

We have to ask: do you like living in Belgium? And what about us Belgians, are we likeable?

“You are definitely a reserved people when you first meet someone. It takes you some time to open up, but once you do you are very pleasant, open-minded and genuinely interested in other cultures.  When it comes to public transportation, though, I must admit I am not a fan. I expected some kind of German punctuality but boy was I wrong. To be honest, your public transport makes me feel like I am back in Romania. Not in a good way. (Laughs.) Your government manages to do an equally terrible job of making sure trains, busses and trams arrive on time and you have six of them! It’s not all bad, though, I found that complaining about public transport is the quickest way to win you guys over. Nothing says bonding more than shared annoyances!”

Are there other international consultants at Exellys?

“Yes. There are even two other consultants from Romania: Alexandru and Ioana. I actually know them from high school and Ioana immediately reached out to me when she heard I was considering joining Exellys. They have been very supportive ever since I got here.”

Mara Exellys

What would you say to your peers who are considering joining Exellys?

Just go for it! Yes, it’s a big, life-changing decision but it’s really worth it. You learn so much about yourself in such a short amount of time. You get to enhance your skills and you have a coach at your side to help you reach your full potential. You get to have this extraordinary growth experience. You know what, all these motivational quotes are actually right. Great things never came from comfort zones. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. And you either win some or you learn some. So, if you’re young and you don’t have anything tying you down at home? Go be an Exellyst!

Blog - Call to action (MARA)

Has Mara’s story sparked your enthusiasm? Did you recently graduate (or are you about to) or do you already have some work experience? Exellys is always on the lookout for young and ambitious Tech talent, both locally and internationally. Browse our website and let’s talk! Shoot our Tech Talent Scout Astrid an e-mail (or quick LinkedIn message) or check out our jobpage!