1 What is the smallest change you have made in your career that has had the biggest positive result?
I started my career as an academic, teaching economics and doing applied public policy research, but it soon become clear to me that I wanted to do something else.
In 2007, I leaned towards an entrepreneurial path, starting up a consultancy fi rm that I have managed to grow 42 employees. I later left to join a regional multinational consulting fi rm. It was an amazing ride in terms of projects completed and experience gained.
2 Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?
I love sailing. I have been practicing it since I was six years old. I actually won quite a few sailing competitions in my junior years.
I have been a national champion in dinghy sailing, went to Laser World Championship, two European FINN championships and several Balkan Games and Europa Cup competitions.
I still enjoy sailing and from time to time manage to get to the top in some regattas.
3 What is the most humbling thing you have experienced in your career?
As a Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in 2016, I chose to do a lot of field trips to get a better understanding of the real problems that confront vulnerable groups in their daily life.
One such visit was to Hetea, Covasna county, where around 80 families of the Roma minority are segregated, without proper access to health, education, decent housing and utilities.
It was during the summer, and I found several children happily playing in the mud, while the main concern of their mothers was how to feed them.
I realised the huge gap between what was expected to be delivered in policies at a ministerial level, and the everyday reality on the ground. A significant part of society was living in deprivation and poverty, and I was supposed to serve them.
I took it quite personally and this is also why I am now so adamant in promoting what I call a European Deal for Children, more often referred to as the Child Guarantee.
4 What do you do in your free time to relax and unwind?
I am so blessed to have an amazing family - a wonderful (and incredibly patient) wife and four boys, aged 4, 6, 12 and 15. Spending time with them is like escaping in a space-time vortex. Demanding in some ways, but so rewarding at a very deep level.
My family is my rock in hard times and the best way to escape after endless political discussions and 12-14 hours of work. At a lower level, but also helpful for unwinding is running, which I also enjoy a lot, it helps me focus.
5 What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read and why?
If it is about any book, I would say the Bible. I am not overly zealously religious, but I would say that as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, faith, love and hope are important ingredients of life.
If we’re talking fiction, probably Dostoievski’s Crime and Punishment, if we’re looking at fantasy, I am a big “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” fan, and If it is about bestsellers, probably Gladwell’s “Outliers”.
If it is about political philosophy, I was really influenced by Hayek’s “Road to serfdom”.