Daniela Vallo, Developer, then Team Lead, Service Manager, and now CEO of Beenear: I am happy to receive this opportunity, I am sure it will be an immeasurable challenge that will bring great rewards
Daniela has always been goal oriented. She was born and raised in Bari, Italy, and ever since the beginning of her career, in 1998, she worked as a developer, and then worked hard to become a Mentor, Team Leader, Service Manager, Director, and now she accepted the most challenging and rewarding role of her career, as she currently fills the position of CEO in Beenear.
The story of Beenear started in 2004, and now encompasses two sites in Iasi, Romania, with a team of over 140 professionals, all successfully contributing to the delivery of software development projects within the retail, and logistics areas mostly, working alongside partners throughout Europe and US.
Beenear started under the guidance of DITECH, a company with over 30 years of experience in the development of software products dedicated to the retail and logistics business fields. Then, in 2020, entered SESA Group, by becoming part of VAR GROUP, one of the most renowned players in the software industry in Italy, with over 4200 employees (group level), listed at the Milan Stock Exchange.
This year Beenear marks its 18th anniversary, and with this occasion, we wanted to introduce Daniela and offer insights on how it is and what it means to embark on such an adventurous and gratifying journey as the one of becoming the new CEO.
Daniela, how does it feel to take on the role of Beenear’s CEO?
If I were to choose one word to describe the experience so far, a rollercoaster comes to my mind. It is an exciting experience, for which I am honored to have been chosen and I am sure it will be an immeasurable challenge with great rewards. I chose rollercoaster because this experience comes both with pleasant and difficult conversations, tough decisions, but also great results. It’s very similar to how life in general, works.
We know joining a new company is by itself a challenging experience. What are your first impressions of the company and what it means to you from the upper-management perspective?
I joined the company very recently and so far, I dedicated a lot of my time interacting with professionals from all levels, listening, and gaining a deeper knowledge of what Beenear means to them. I considered this to be a priority for me as I wanted to have a grasp on their individual perspectives, not only on what the company promotes.
I was glad to see how the company’s values translated into people’s day-by-day activities: how each individual is a priority, not only for the company but for its team as well, which allows for creating an environment in which we can all work serenely; the customer care to which expertise and support are offered; widespread leadership that allows everyone to achieve higher goals in their career path; and last, but not least, the innovation that allows us to keep up with technological advancements.
Winston Churchill said that change is the required element of perfection. How did this motivate you throughout your career?
I wouldn’t start using the term perfection, but we can agree on growth. This is what determined me to start working ever since I was merely a student, in 1998. Back then, my purpose was to gain independence as a youngster and further pursue my studies, but it taught me pretty early on that great results require hard work and passion.
Once I finished my studies, I started working in the IT industry, covering various roles, but most importantly, growing from developer to mentor, team lead, and service manager. Here is where I learned it is important to show empathy in your professional activity, as this is what helps you, especially if you are in a management position, to take better care of the people part of your team. This, together with my determination and strong sense of duty and teamwork allowed me to always focus on the goals set and to always reach them.
If I were to summarize my experience before assuming the role of CEO, I would say that once I made a commitment, in any area, I worked hard until the goal was reached, mainly out of fairness towards the people to whom I committed, but also for my own ethical standards and intellectual honesty.
I am grateful for all these experiences that I’ve had and that helped me grow, as all of them led me to where I am today – the CEO of a well-seasoned company with an outstanding experience in its field.
The pandemic had a big impact on the IT industry that was faced not only with changes in the way we work but also with different outlooks on the employee-employer relationship. How do you see the course of the company in such times?
Indeed, the pandemic was a game-changer, and the aftermath is what we see today, fluctuations in employees and salaries, but this will not stop our desire to reach higher goals. We are now entering a new era of what the workplace means to employees. Starting with my early days in the company we already announced our flexible smart working policy as the new company standard, focusing not on where we work from, but on how we work and on the results we deliver. This shift in perspective is what will guide our growth.
At the same time, within our smart work policy we officially opened our offices for the entire team starting March this year. This offers the possibility to our colleagues to re-connect with their teams, creating the ideal context for meetings in key moments for the project. Of course, it was up to us to recreate the conditions for these reunions, that is why we often organize small events at the office, for example recently we celebrated the end of summer with Beenear Ice cream day.
To celebrate the 256th day of the year, the international day dedicated to programmers we had a get-together at the office with pizza, which was a much-appreciated touch to our daily work schedule.
But surely, this is only the beginning. We will continue to focus on improving the connection between the company and our team, in sharing the values the company promotes, not only by saying, but specifically in our day-by-day activities.
This year we started focusing more on our retention policy, paying more attention to how we communicate with the team, adding a newsletter where we share all the company updates, and continuing an initiative that allowed us to implement so many positive changes, our Stay Interviews, which were implemented starting 2018.
Intensifying communication at all levels in the company is what allowed us to improve our activity and make changes that truly have a positive impact on the welfare of the team. I am referring here to the extra vacation days that were added at the beginning of this year, a benefit that considers not only the experience in the industry, but also the one gained in the company, benefiting all employees, and rewarding loyalty within the team.
Focusing on retention meant also to cover the improvement of the onboarding process, adding more occasions for the group to better know the new team members who joined, offering lunch for the team in the first week. This initiative complements the current social budget we offer to the team, benefit addressing the much-needed cohesion among the colleagues.
These are only some of the multiple examples I can offer and soon I am sure we will discuss more positive changes that we currently have in progress.
Considering this context and the dynamicity of the IT industry, what do you think are the key traits that a CEO should have?
It may be a cliché, but you know there are those standard answers one can give to such a question, and here I would like to refer to my flaw and quality at the same time, my being stubborn. I think this is a necessary trait for any leader out there but interpreted not in a naïve sense, but rather as determination. This is what can help you always reach the goals you’ve set, and I think this is very important nowadays, specifically in our field of business.
Empathy. As I shared in my previous answers, this is a trait I’ve gained working with people. It is important to understand where your team stands and to offer them as a group, and to each one of them individually, all the support they need to help you achieve the set goals. There is no I in team and there is no success without the support of the team, that is why putting yourself in their shoes allows you to be a better leader.
To limit the list to the top three, I will add solution-oriented to the must-have traits. Throughout my experience, even back then when I wasn’t responsible in a management position, I swiftly understood that one must focus on solving a problem, no matter how difficult the crisis is. I never backed down from a difficult situation, even when it implied carrying out difficult decisions, or having difficult conversations. It was always important to me to weigh in all the important factors, to consider the objectives, and the team, and this way to always focus on solving the problem at hand.
Even more so, it is rewarding to see ex-team members still come to me for advice. I believe this is what creates a strong connection with your team, showing all, you are one of them, working alongside them towards the set goals, listening to them and understanding when they need your support, and being able to focus on solving the problems, creating a culture that expresses these traits. In the end, it is not about being a manager, but all about being a leader.
We know that this position surely takes much of your time. What do you do when you’re not in meetings, solving problems, or facing new partners in business calls, in other words, what do you do in your spare time?
In my own way, I consider myself to be a creative: whether it is a software, a business plan, a cooking dish, or a crochet project, I always enjoy trying out new things, it is a rewarding experience, to create something from scratch. This is what keeps us going as humans, challenging our creativity, and facing new tasks. This is also related to the fact that I am an avid fan of art, in all its forms. I studied contemporary dance and improvisation, and the concepts I learned throughout those experiences helped me a lot, even in my professional journey. It is what allowed me to face unexpected events and moments of crisis with due resilience.
Whenever I am not dedicating my spare time to new projects, I like to help those in need. I volunteer for social canteens, and for an association that supports immigrants and manages their integration. For a person that has such a strong desire to support and assist people in need, it feels right to have become part of a company that places such a strong interest in CSR. Ever since I joined Beenear as CEO, I had the chance to see so many initiatives that had the scope of giving back to the community, not only in the company but also with support from the group we are part of (VAR GROUP).
Each year as the company’s idea of a mărțișor to be offered to the team members, the company plants a tree for each colleague, and this year we also considered the potential colleagues for the total number of trees planted in Romania. In December we received a Baobab as a Christmas gift, which was planted for each one of us in Africa, this way leaving our trace all over the globe.
In March we supported the local associations with donations giving our help to the Ukrainian refugees. In September we are organizing Beenear Book Drive for the children from local schools, and we are offering scholarships for children from the rural area who want to study in the bigger cities, under the initiatives organized by local non-profit associations. It is truly an honor to work alongside people who share this passion of mine of helping ones in need.
Nowadays gender equality is a very discussed topic. You are a woman in charge of an IT company, what is your advice for women in STEM?
Before addressing the women in the industry, I would like to encourage all the little girls out there that have an interest in STEM to pursue this path. We all can become whomever we want to, as long as we work hard to achieve our goals. As a little girl, I took part in various artistic performances. I never would have imagined then that I could be a CEO, but I gave my best in each new assignment I took on, planning more daring and ambitious goals as I grew, and that is how you can make your dreams come true.
I have been a single mother since 2002, but this didn’t stop me in pursuing my career. There are many examples out there, even in VAR GROUP, the CEO is a woman, but I don’t believe being a woman should make a difference, at the end of the day we are all the same in the workplace, professionals who want to make a difference, who want to grow.
Daniela, thank you for all the insights you offered us and for letting us get to know the person behind the professional. Is there anything else you would like to add?
As a conclusion, I would like to say that all my experience has led me to be a person sure that there is always a solution for everything, that the world offers an infinite set of possibilities and that grasping them is what is needed in order to let ourselves be amazed by the beauty of the world.
You can never fail unless you stop taking risks, and that is why I am here, to ensure you that I will take all the necessary risks to take this company to the next level, and I am confident that together we will tackle all the obstacles and turn them into opportunities.
If you enjoyed reading about Daniela, don’t hesitate to get to know her in person as well. Even though she lives in Bari, you can find her often at our office in Iași, Moara de Foc Street, 35th. We look forward to receiving your visit.
To find out more about the Beenear culture and the way we work, you can check out our career page to see how you can join our team.
You can also check out the discussion with Daniela on print, as you should know you can find it inside the pages of PIN Magazine, September Edition.