Hi, I’m Monica, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. I’m a marketer by trade, aiming to bring the best out in friends and businesses. Mother of a super friendly toddler, I keep learning, forgetting, and relearning how to be in awe with life and, well, simply be.
I’m 36, and this would have been the seventh year of working in the pharma industry. When I did the math, I soon realized that I dedicated 20% of my life to this kind of job. I’ve worked six+ years at a dietary supplements company, then went to discover the B2B sector for some two+ years and came back to another pharmaceutical company.
At this second job in pharma, I was in charge of marketing and communication of several brands of over-the-counter drugs. The work meant getting to know the audience (calls to strangers, talks to acquaintances within target), understanding where the product is positioned among other brands, choosing several niches, drafting communication plans, and trying them out. It was like a mind puzzle.
No wonder I consider pharma being a demanding industry. Those who work in the field know that there are myriad activities, from strategy and marketing campaigns for a wide range of products, to long Excels with sales, targets, and turnovers. You must keep an eye on the competition, gather insights from customers, build relationships with partners. Therefore, long hours at work are kind of the norm, not the exception.
Buuuuut, while I enjoyed the intense work, I felt I wasn’t learning anything new. Everything was, in many ways, predictable. I knew what I had to do, which strategies to choose to obtain specific results. While it was okay in terms of efficiency, I was not evolving, which made me start questioning my impact.
Switching jobs or even industries may not seem a big deal, but at a personal level, it was a hassle.
Leaving a business I know thoroughly and jumping into the unknown NGO playground triggered anxiety. Questions like “Will my experience and knowledge be enough to make a difference? Will my businesslike approach be well received or not? Will I know what needs to be done?” started to crowd my thoughts, and God knows I thought a lot about each of them.
The family thought I was crazy for considering this move and did not shy away from expressing their concerns. From a financial and security perspective, it seemed indeed like madness. First of all, the switch meant a decrease of 30% in my revenue. Also, bye-bye pharma perks such as access to the medical community professionals and drugs, and no more challenges in handling big budgets, something I loved doing. On top of that, pharma is a stable business, unlike other sectors, so more uncertainty on my side.
I genuinely believe the pandemic acted as a trigger for me to dare to leap. These tough times made me feel irrelevant in a good sense. It made me more humble as I acknowledged I have so little control and that death itself is not such a far-fetched issue. It also showed me what mattered. Health before money, family before work, finding my path before choosing a career ladder. I always knew they were essential for me too, but somehow I lost sight along the way. Thankfully, the pandemic gave me the courage to stay true to myself.
Thinking about the switch brought me a lot of aha moments. An NGO is really about a “be for others” mindset, a generous and dedicated way of living. However, when I looked in the mirror, I used to see a selfish person, dedicated only to my family and myself. Our interests, values, holidays, house, and view of life that’s what moves me. World hunger? Not my problem. Migrants’ tragedies? Not my concern. Political issues? Apolitical is best. Increased pollution, too much plastic out there? Yeah, somebody should do something about it (not me).
While I was familiar with vulnerable children coming from all kinds of deprived places, it does not mean that I had a comprehensive understanding of their struggles. Some of them gave me heartaches, and some made me angry. But altogether, I started to experience a reality I used to choose to ignore because it was outside my bubble, and it made me feel powerless, even cynical, in the face of life’s inequities.
My decision to work for an NGO meant small isolated encounters scattered over a couple of years. In 2015, I was in charge of running a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign, so I got in touch with various NGOs where I learned about life-sustaining devices and machines for premature newborns. In 2016 I attended an event in which marketers helped NGOs forge a marketing and communication strategy for a whole night and loved to put my skills to use for a social impact.
Back then, my husband asked me what would be my ideal job, and at first, I was clueless, but then I told him that working for a good cause would bring me joy and meaning.
Fast forward to this year when I noticed an announcement for a marketer job within an NGO. I thought this was a good enough cause to embrace. I met those people and listened to what they had to say, and I loved what they were doing, how they looked at the world, and what keeps their wheels spinning. I took the job.
Becoming a mother made me more sensitive to the cause of vulnerable children. When I gave birth and held my baby for the first time in my arms, I knew he was so God-given pure and good. And I firmly believe all children are like this. Also, having a kid made me more aware of myself—what is the model I want to be for him, what do I want to teach him of this world? I soon understood that more than anything, I wanted him to be a good human being and perceive our world as one worth living in, responsible and caring.
I leaped, and now I’m writing this story from my office in an NGO, counting a few months since I embraced this journey. The air is filled with voices and laughter from the vulnerable kids doing after school in the next room. It stirs me with feelings of joy, wonder, and responsibility. Every day, I choose not to ignore but to see this reality of hardship and do something about it. And this, my dear reader, worths everything because it’s empowering.
I don’t know where this path will take me, but I’m glad I’ve allowed myself to have such an enriching experience. Changing jobs sometimes feels like changing lives, so I started with myself. I let go of money and status and dared to live authentically.
Stay true to yourself,
Contributors of this story: Monica Crețu wrote this gem, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge with the development.
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