We continue the series of interview-type articles with one of the most charismatic figures in Roweb. From the military environment, directly among the programmers, from the rigors of the army to the flexibility and informality in the IT world – Florian Stanila, Roweb’s partner, told us briefly how he got into the company.
He also told us what it meant to adapt to a different new environment, how the company has evolved, and what has fundamentally changed (and what hasn’t) in Roweb’s DNA from the beginning until now.
You’ve been in Roweb since the beginning. What does the company look like… almost 20 years ago?
When I joined the company, there were only 6 people working on the ITTradeOnline project, a marketplace-type platform for second-hand computer technology – also an intermediation in the international area and BursaPC in Romania.
Thus, there were Viorel, Razvan, Gabi, Mirel, Cristian Chiru and Simina (who was taking care of the selling part at ITTradeOnline), and me. I joined the company after the boys – in 2001.
Roweb did not exist at that time – we were working in another structure. In 2004 I officially registered Roweb (at the Trade Register).
I was in the beginning and I didn’t know how things would evolve. At that time we did not even think that we would reach a team of 130 people.
Apart from management, things have changed a lot since then. We have grown, and now we plan to move Roweb Development from SRL to SA. (Such an organization will open up many opportunities for us).
If I had to mention, however, something that has remained exactly the same as in the beginning, in 2001, is the family atmosphere. Moreover, it has become part of the company’s culture. That is perhaps the most important thing that keeps people in the company and something hard to compete with.
Did you know the other partners in the company? How did you come to work together?
In 2001 I had just moved to the reserve, and I was thinking of going on to other activities. So I had a period where I read a lot on the computer side, although I had never worked in the industry.
A neighbor, a math teacher (who also knew Viorel as a former classmate at the high school where he taught) with whom I was on friendly terms (and whom I also helped with computer settings), asked me to come with him and help him buy equipment from a company. (The boys, whom I did not know at the time, had already started working together and were based somewhere in Trivale.)
That was the moment I met Viorel. So it was chemistry from the beginning, and we decided to collaborate.
(At the time, I was involved in another business with an acquaintance. But I decided to give up the partnership there and set off with Viorel.)
Before Roweb, you worked in the army for many years…
Yes. I worked in the army for about 20- 25 years. With the accession to NATO, we had to choose: whether or not we go out in reserve. So I opted for the reserve, and I left the system.
(A process had already been announced to reduce the number of troops in the army, and the possibility of opting was like a welcome opportunity. It was practically a solution to somehow naturally reduce the number of soldiers.)
In the army, I left the platoon commander, being also part of the military school students. I was the head of promotion in my generation.
As a rule, the heads of promotion stopped at school, but it was different for me. It was, rather, an extra job because there are other rigors in the military school, and a different level of training was required.
So I had to be constantly on the lookout, keep up to date with everything that was going on, and you, in turn, train other officers.
I rose in the hierarchy both as a function and as a rank (I reached the rank of lieutenant colonel). I had different roles, and I taught elements of frontal training, shooting instruction, calculation, and construction of military vehicles.
Did you intersect with the IT field in any way in the military?
I am a military motorist, and the positions I went through had nothing to do with IT.
I worked in various positions in the army, such as platoon commander or company commander. First, I was responsible for military records and mobilization, then chief of staff.
After that, my title expanded: I became chief of staff, personnel records, and mobilization.
I came to know the IT field simply out of passion. When I went into reserve, I started reading a lot about this field and took a computer network administrator course. But I did these things without ever realizing that I would work in IT.
In Roweb, it’s not like in the army and vice versa. How was the transition from one environment to another?
In 2001, I came to Roweb, where I switched to a completely different environment. Another approach and a completely different field. Another world, I could say, because, in the army, we were stationed in a specific environment, much more rigid. So here, I adapted to a flexible program, much lighter than the one there.
For example, there is no 8-hour program in the military. When there is something to be done in the military, the notion of time disappears.
I had situations in which I left home in the morning ready for a typical working day (those 8 hours), and I only returned in two weeks because I found out that I had to leave in an application.
Do you have an episode in which you had to go to an application, which would upset other important plans?
I think the most illustrative episode is the one in which my first daughter was born. I went to an application and saw it only after a long time. I just managed to take the documents and recognize the child to be registered. Then I had to leave.
I only returned home after two weeks, during which time she had changed. I don’t know how she looked like a newborn, and things were all the more difficult as she was the first child. But, you know how it is, the difference between a newborn and a baby at two weeks is visible, and in the first year of life, the baby grows up rapidly from one day to the next.
It was hard then. Now I remember with amusement, together with my two girls, those moments. In addition, today, I am even richer because I have two nieces from one of the girls.
The first office, the first years in Roweb, the first responsibilities you took on in the company. What are the most vivid images of Roweb in its infancy?
As I told you earlier, we were only 6-7 people in the beginning. Our office was close to Trivale Park.
At one point, we began to consider the possibility of selling online computing technology, taking into account that our partners at that time were dealing with imports of such products.
Once the site was created, I practically took care of the online store management and the customers. We provide the entire process – from taking the order to the actual delivery to the customer. (One of our partners was involved in importing computers and components.)
Now online stores have teams with various specialists and various responsibilities. So then, I was covering several jobs at once for that online store (a relatively new type of business in the Romanian market).
I also deal with the approach of the potential customer, the relationship with the customer, and the stocks in the warehouses, including the marketing at that time (which consists of sending e-mails to a database or specific contacts), removal from warehouse, packaging, shipping, tracking of receipts. I was doing everything, as they say.
With the company, we “grew,” and we better understood how the market works, how we should approach customers, and where we have a place and where we don’t.
Until we got a place of our own, we changed several addresses. From Trivale, we moved to an apartment in Expo Parc, and from there, we arrived at a certain point on Depozitelor.
Then we went back to Trivale, where we settled for a long time. This is where I created the team. We expanded gradually but quite quickly, and over time we needed to consider finding additional office space.
That’s how we got to build the first European-funded office building – the small HQ building now – and get some offices for rent in Teilor.
Because we are still talking about the construction of buildings with European funds, I know that it is a subject you know very well. Perhaps you were directly involved…
That’s how it is. I was directly involved. Things were a bit more complicated for the construction of the small building. It was the first project I was doing in this system, and, as was expected, not having experience, I didn’t know how things were going. It was pretty hard. There was even more paperwork to do.
So, to give you a picturesque example: some reimbursement requests are made (after a stage with expenses, invoices are made, they are paid by us, and then we request reimbursement to the body that deals with European projects).
For the first refund request, I signed a lot of papers.
I said, “Come on, I can’t count them! There are too many.” So I weighed them.
No more, no less than 12.5 kg of paper I signed for reimbursement.
At the following requests, there were no such large quantities, but there were still many papers to sign.
In the second project, they changed the procedure a little and reduced the huge amount of paper. Even now, the files aren’t exactly thin, but it’s a little better.
What is the story behind the construction of the two office buildings, and what role did you play in it?
For both buildings, I was a project manager from the company while it was being built. Not as an official position but rather as a responsibility. For each building, the construction lasted about a year.
Every piece of paper went through my hand, from beginning to end. So I came to know every document that went through this building.
Because I already had experience with the first project, Viorel asked me to take over the whole process here as well in order to simplify things and make sure that everything would go well.
We built the original building on a piece of land that belonged to us. After we built this building, the owner of the neighboring land asked us if we were interested in buying it. At that time, we were not interested and had other priorities. We had not estimated such a rapid expansion of the company and a need for another office building.
A few years after the first project, we bought the property next to us with the idea of later expanding (with European funds or not) the first building.
The opportunity arose to apply for a new European project, and I took advantage of it.
I deposited the papers at the last minute. Just as we were about to give up the project, we received its approval. And then, I started again with the whole process I had gone through for the first building.
The pandemic came when we were preparing to build a second office building. Did it complicate things?
Yes, of course, most of the blockages and challenges came from the fact that we caught the whole process in a pandemic.
For each building, the construction lasted about a year. It is a timetable imposed by the EU to complete the project. Any delay from the deadline in the chart must be seriously justified with other papers and their approval requested.
So, when the pandemic came, we chose to meet the deadlines rather than try to justify the delays with a mountain of papers.
We had an initial delay in the project of about six months, but we managed to recover and bring the project to completion on time.
I can say that Roweb was like an army to me then.
How did you see Roweb during the pandemic from your perspective?
The first few days in the empty building seemed gloomy to me, somehow deserted. Where did everybody go? No one was around in the middle of March. I was alone – just the construction team and me.
I often couldn’t even go to have the launch because I should always be in the area if something happened.
And to work from home – this miracle, in my case, lasted exactly half a day.
Otherwise, I was here. I was like a Japanese soldier – ready to take care of everything in the building. Couriers and builders were coming, and someone had to be in the building to talk to them and guide them.
I had even rung the doorbell at the front door to know who was coming in when I was going in – otherwise, I wouldn’t hear because I was upstairs.
They began to return to the office only after the second building was ready, and thus things returned to normal.
We have the two buildings completed. Do we still expect news in this regard?
Yes. There is something new. Although both buildings were erected, their story does not end here.
We will add two more floors to the original building. However, this is because we want to create an overall unified image, monobloc type, and room for all the teams in Pitesti plus the people from the other offices in the country or who work remotely and reach the headquarters in Pitesti.
Regarding their arrangement and purpose, here are some things that I would like to highlight:
- The first level will be an open space, a work area for a larger team of programmers.
- The second level will have a half-terrace with a barbecue, and half of the surface will be closed and will include a meeting room, a kitchen, and a social area that can be used even when the weather outside is more unfriendly.
The project has a high priority because our construction permit expires this year. So, the bottom line is that we’re looking forward to it.
I hope that these changes will further encourage the people of Roweb to return to their offices and restore the pre-pandemic atmosphere.
How different is today’s Roweb from 20 years ago? There were seven people then. Today there are about 130. But beyond that?
First of all, the aging landscape is much more varied. We have fresh graduates of 20 years up to “soft” – 64 years. I’m ruining their average age.
But you still manage to stay close to each other…
I perceive you all as my children. That brings me closer to you.
The fact that you are all young fills me with energy. It makes me more dynamic or, rather, to stay energetic because energy has been something that has always defined me. I propose to keep the same young spirit for some time. I know that I’ll also have time to sit still. But not now, not yet.
Where do you get all these jokes? You always seem to have a good joke prepared.
I don’t know… I just carry them with me. They come to me from nowhere. I like to spice up my days with a joke or two because I see people around me smiling. And that makes me happy.
I just make the connection – from a situation, a word – and I reach a joke. They are stored somewhere, there, and activated in the proper context.
The atmosphere and the people I interact with help me bring this fun resource to the surface. If you tell me now to say five jokes on automatic fire, I can’t think of it.
However, if a situation arises that is somehow related to my stock of jokes, it activates spontaneously.