Ioana collaborates extensively with Citi’s cross-business innovation and investments teams in developing their blockchain and AI related projects. She is a Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Outreach Taskforce in the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (AmCham EU). Ioana joined Citi in 2017, from the European Parliament. Prior to joining Citi, she was Senior Political Adviser responsible for the Working Group on Budget and Structural Policies and Head of Cabinet for the Vice-Chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament. She was in charge of parliamentary work related to the EU budget, Digital Agenda and Research & Innovation.
She has been shortlisted for the 2020 Tech Star Award.
How does it feel to be on the shortlist for the WIBF Tech Star Award?
I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position to celebrate my professional achievements in the current circumstances that have seen many put their projects on hold. I equally feel a great sense of responsibility as I have been offered a platform, which I have to deploy flawlessly to influence the issues I feel strongly about: diversity, equal opportunities and promotion of female talent. I have always been fascinated by the inherent ability of humans to defy notions of what is or isn’t possible and to persistently break boundaries. For me, that formidable trait is most evident in scientific and technological advancements. This probably explains why my favourite professional endeavour centres on scouting the niche angles of technological innovation in an attempt to amalgamate them with corporate models. The WIBF Tech Star Award nomination represents a strong impetus to accelerate on that path.
Can you tell us about your job role?
I lead on innovation related strategy and advocacy in Citi’s EMEA government affairs team. I am constantly seeking to reinvent my role to be able to maintain a state of intellectual malaise that directs me towards a continuous learning trajectory. In concrete terms, I design the strategic parameters and content we deploy when we engage with policymakers on issues related to emerging technologies that are relevant for Citi. I operate in close contact with our innovation and investments teams to accurately grasp the trends we are pursuing and subsequently help create the appropriate environment for our innovation ambitions.
The emerging tech and institutional ecosystems fusion is not seamless. Even if the tech or process optimisation match is almost organic at concept level, additional complexity is generated by the actual deployment of next generation technologies within large-scale institutional formats. The issue becomes additionally nuanced when a potential symbiosis with crypto projects, decentralised finance models and decentralised web tools, is assessed. My ambition is to progressively eliminate that friction.
You are working on various projects to promote female leadership in the venture ecosystem, can you tell us more ?
I have allocated a significant amount of my extracurricular time, in both structured and unstructured configurations, to initiating and joining various start-up mentoring schemes, mostly tech centric in nature: digital assets and blockchain infrastructure, web 3.0, impact finance and fashion tech. It has proven to be one of the most gratifying personal experiences as I constantly find myself inspired by exceptionally talented people who are willing to embrace the convoluted nature of entrepreneurship to make sure their world-altering ideas materialise.
Mentoring and collaborating with venture accelerators and innovation labs remain high on my priority list. The focus going forward will be on establishing a platform for female talent promotion within the more sophisticated segments of finance and technology: decentralised finance, deep tech and web 3.0. The idea is to create an exclusive female entrepreneur angle within an accelerator programme and motivate women to double down on their projects and display their expertise. The prototype, powered by multiple brainstorming sessions and a crescendo in interest from various entities, is being developed in collaboration with pundits from the most prominent decentralised tech accelerator in the UK.
You are in the leadership of AmCham EU’s European Parliament Taskforce, what does that involve?
Amcham EU represents over 160 cross-sector companies operating in Europe. The trade association functions via an ensemble of expert committees designed to mirror the top priorities of member companies - digital, finance, trade and transatlantic relations. The European Parliament Outreach Taskforce is a strategic unit within the committee architecture, purposely designed to initiate and consolidate a collaboration network with the leaders of the main political groups in the European Parliament. The leadership of the Taskforce curates that high-level institutional relationship and explores additional set-ups for collaboration between industry players and policymakers. Within that construct, we have recently released a proposal to establish a mechanism for post-COVID 19 support directed at female entrepreneurs. We are partnering with high-profile politicians for a series of workshops and events with the aim of optimising access to a variety of financial recovery schemes for SMEs with female representation in their leadership structure. Ideally, following this incipient phase, the initiative will morph into a permanent entity and a model for other organisations.
What is the best piece of career advice you have been given?
It is difficult to identify one in particular. My career trajectory reflects a synthesis of lifestyles and professional paradigms I have been inspired by, throughout my life. The advice I would give myself today is probably best exemplified by a quote from a famous Cristopher Nolan trilogy – “You make your own luck”.
I grew up in an interesting family milieu – an eclectic mix of doctors, biologists, computer scientists and fashion designers so the bar was set very high from the onset. I have challenged myself to emulate the impact my family members have had in their respective communities. That original plan was amplified to include people I’ve encountered throughout my professional life, whose guidance and friendship has proven indispensable for my development. Many of them are current or former Citi colleagues. It is the reason why my favourite thing about working at Citi remains the impressive quality of people I get to interact with on a daily basis and I am genuinely grateful for that.
What do you do to unwind after a busy week?
In normal circumstances, my weekends revolve around two main activities: my daughter’s basketball games and the Formula 1 Grands Prix. Both sports are a family tradition. My mother is a former professional basketball player and my father has been fascinated by racing for as long as I can remember. He is still quasi-questioning his decision to become a maxillofacial surgeon instead of a race engineer. My passion for F1, aside from occasional kart races, has very much to do with the complexity involved in winning. To give an ultra-simplified example, winning a race requires a perfectly calibrated interdependence between car performance, astute team strategy and a driver’s ability to finesse his skill to perfection. Even in this theoretically perfect scenario, there is an element of unpredictability, which is equally, if not more, relevant and extremely difficult to plan for. The ability to juggle with so many components and variations is testament to the brilliance of those involved in this elite sport, which remains the pinnacle of technological innovation.