Thank you for taking a moment to read this section of my blog called the Real+Like.
More than likely you have come here as a first time visitor or someone that is looking to gain more perspective on who I am. I’ll break up my life into the following categories:
I am a first generation Romanian immigrant. My father defected from communist Romania in 1979 in order to provide for his family a future and ability to have religious freedoms that were unavailable in a communist country. My mother, baby brother and I immigrated to Detroit, MI when I was 5 years old. My world was shaped by the cultural trends of the ’80’s and 90’s and the religious persecution stories of those that were in Romania. I grew up in a dual world where I was mostly American but on evenings and weekends I was a Romanian within the vibrant ethnic Romanian community in the metro-Detroit area.
I was the first in my family to pursue a degree and attend college. Like most immigrant families that flee a country, they hope for their children to pursue ‘successful’ careers such as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. Through faith and a passion to create, I took the step to pursue art school and attend College For Creative Studies and become an Industrial Designer.
After graduating college, I took my first trip to the west coast and met a beautiful girl that within a few months we were married in 1999 and after a brief first job stint in Elkhart, IN, we settled back in the metro-Detroit area where our daughter was born in 2001 and the 2000’s brought many life lessons. In 2001 I was diagnosed with Diabetes. At first I was informed it was Type 2 and it was treatable with medication but after numerous complications and surgeries, the final diagnosis was Type 1 Diabetes. This meant altering my lifestyle, diet and a focused determination to control this disease now to avoid complications in the future.
In early 2010, we made the decision to move to Dallas, TX area where we had no family or social circle. We took the step of faith once again to open up a new season of learning and building relationships. Those relationships provided a final opportunity to resettle in the San Antonio, TX area turn another page in my personal journey.
I always loved to create.
As a child of an immigrant family, we had enough but rarely the latest. I would draw out my favorite cartoon characters, cut them out and use them as toys. My friends would have fancy tree houses, I would pull together planks and build my own shack. This ability to adapt and create was fundamental to my professional career.
My last year of college, I was awed by this new ability to create something and have it be seen by the world in a click. The web page was a 2D canvas to create and have others engage. It was revolutionary to me just as I was finishing my schooling to become an Industrial Designer. This foundation of design helped shaped how I created not only actual products but also this new canvas called the internet.
The Early Years
After a brief first job in Elkhart, IN as a junior industrial designer, I was able to begin my career at General Motors Technical Center in Warren, MI while self-educating myself in the world of web design, development and marketing.
I began to build websites for friends and small businesses. This led to beginning a company called Jumpeye Creative Media that specialized in small-medium sized website and Flash development. In 2005, I took the plunge and made it a full time career and resigned from GM to pursue my dream. A dream that led to partnering with a friend from Romania where we built a ‘near-shore’ company that provided low cost web design/development services with a staff of over 35 designers, developers and support.
In parallel to my company, I had also founded an online forum community for ethnic Romanian youth called “royouth.com“. It was a community that grew from myself to 30,000+ members and recognized as the largest Romanian diaspora community and a main source to connect, share and engage with other Romanians. Some even called it ‘social online’.
The Agency Years
After a few years of growing my company, I decided to apply that experience to a growing trend within traditional agencies. Interactive design and development. I joined a start-up company in the metro-Detroit that I shared a similar vision to build experiences that were immersive and innovative.
While at this start-up, I leveraged my experience with online communities and emerging social platforms with a lens of understanding how social media can impact business results.
The Brand Years
By the late 2000’s, brands were beginning to understand the critical role that social media will have to shape consumer awareness, consideration and sales. I accepted a role with Samsung Mobile in early 2010 to be their first employee dedicated to Social Media and how it can impact their business. I began to help support the overall Samsung marketing team to position Samsung as the leading smart phone brand with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy phones.
In 2012, an opportunity opened to help turn around a long standing American brand, RadioShack. Recognizing an opportunity to tie social media directly to sales and with a follower base of long standing advocates of the brand, I decided to help join this company and continue it’s impact with Social Media. During my time there, I was fortunate to help lead a team of talented folks and agencies to activate the digital social experience of RadioShack’s first modern Super Bowl Ad. The launch of this ad was so successful AdAge claimed that we won the Super Bowl ads and the business impact during this time was substantial.
All of these experiences led up to a discussion one day with a friend from a company that I was following for some time as a leader in the social media space for service. USAA was in need of someone to help lead a new function called Social Marketing. This is where I currently have the privilege to work for a company that aligns closely to my core values and also serves the military, spouses and families.