Q: Can you give us more details about your previous professional experience?
N.I: I have been active in the field of national security and defense for over 25 years. During my career I worked in military technical-engineering research, in the field of national security and defense policy and planning and in military higher education, as rector of the National Intelligence Academy.
Q: How did you make the transition to education?
N.I: It was a natural end of a career in which I was involved in scientific research, technological development and strategic planning, all these stages contributing to the acquisition and consolidation of organizational and functional skills and knowledge that I had the opportunity to share with the younger generations, with people interested in the field of national security.
Q: How did you become a mentor?
N.I: I was pleasantly surprised to be co-opted by a team of enthusiasts in the stage of shaping the InnovX BCR concept, people interested in bringing security issues in an organized framework of debating specific issues for the business environment, open to young entrepreneurs. It seemed like a welcome idea, especially since security is not a traditional topic of attention for those interested in opening or running a business. I believe that we live in a world full of dangers and we have an obligation to be aware and anticipate their presence, to understand their causes and nature and, perhaps most importantly, to find solutions to successfully overcome the obstacles that will appear at every step, at any time of our existence.
In Romania, we are dependent on a reduced security culture. This is a factor with negative potential in the business world as well. In general, Romanian businesses do not perceive at the real level the dangers within the environments in which they develop and, at the same time, they have a low appetite to invest in their security. Indeed, security costs money. However, the earlier the security investments are made, the greater the medium and long-term benefits. It should be understood that the security of a business does not only refer to the realization and protection of profit, but also to a whole series of security, such as the security of people within the organization, security of assets, image protection, information security, etc. At the same time, the security and solidity of a Romanian business is an important part of the complex architecture of national security.
Q: Have you changed in any way the topics you approach during the mentoring sessions?
N.I: With each new series of our program I adjust the content, because the interaction with the participants represents a real challenge for me, and the security contexts are constantly changing. It's an issue that fascinates me. Practically, each cohort of participants in the InnovX BCR accelerator develops its own personality. It creates a kind of micro-culture of the group, which influences us as mentors, and forces us to adjust our messages to respond as concretely as possible to the particular expectations of these small communities. At the same time, there is a natural difference in content determined by the level at which these businesses are. The mentoring activity is organized for the three categories of participants (Grinders, Startups, Scaleups) and, obviously, the footprint of the turnover on the economic behavior of each category is observed, which is reflected in the needs, resources and even emotion.
Q: Do you feel receptive differences depending on the group category in the program?
N.I: Yes. The differences are very large, not only in terms of turnover, but I even notice differences in interest and involvement between successive series at the same level of participants. For me, this is the consequence of an insufficient business culture at the level of young Romanian entrepreneurs. I notice a tendency, sometimes exacerbated, of some participants to place too much value on intuition and speculative thinking, which although important in life in general and in business in particular, I consider that they are not enough in obtaining and ensuring recurrence of success. It requires thorough training, critical thinking and conscious creativity and the pursuit of theoretical models in the systematic and sustainable generation of innovation and profit.
Q: What would you change?
N.I: There is a lot to change, and hence an additional pressure on education systems. There is a lot of talk about the need to introduce some entrepreneurial notions in school curricula. This is already happening at the high school level, but the effort must be continued to develop a much-needed model of economic thinking and entrepreneurial responsibility throughout the working lives of future graduates. Of course, I would add here the harmonious combination of them with the elements of security culture necessary for a competitive society.
Q: How have you managed to help the participants so far?
N.I: I think I managed to bring my contribution on several levels. The first level is the organization of an information content that we consider useful for the formation of an active and conscious business behavior. This is an important condition for the success of a business accelerator. By focusing on content, you can also create a structured dialogue for communicating ideas to a non-specialized audience. The second level is that of challenges. We ask, "What if?" What if things happened outside the comfort zone or outside the certainties built on perceptions and intuition? Critical thinking is important here, and debate is possible due to the knowledge gained on the first level. The third level is the emphasis we put on teamwork! Understanding the importance of the team is critical to the success of a business. Building a competitive team is essential.
Q: Is there another level?
N.I: It would be worth mentioning the importance of national and international communities for business stability and development. It is the level that supports the internationalization component of the business and its dimension of social responsibility. Systematic review of these levels is important. It is not good to "burn" stages, even if your intuition dictates this or the supposed opportunities would create the mirage of easy success.
Q: What change do you hope to bring to participants both as entrepreneurs and personally?
N.I: I would essentialize by stating the vision of this program: the creation or impregnation at the level of Romanian entrepreneurs as early as possible - the sooner the better - of a solid business culture. At the same time, we want to offer a structure for the materialization of business ideas and the outlining of healthy development directions for the economic enterprises that each participant imagines before entering the program. On a personal level, I am happy to discover young people with initiative, who have the will to bring change to the society in which they live.
Q: What do you like most about what you do?
N.I: Feedback - to notice that there is also a gain from the effort made. In the end, our participation in this community is freely agreed, and the extent of our contribution to the program is set by our participants.
Q: A closing note?
N.I: The InnovX BCR team is a special team, because people from various fields of activity, with totally different experiences, gathered around this idea. As mentors, we form a coalition of will - to use a military term - by sharing common values and interests and being motivated by our country's desire for economic growth. For me, this is also a measure of national security.