My grandmother made me do it
Giving up? It’s not in my blood
Andreea Teodorescu: Global Senior Commercial Marketing Manager at Premier Farnell (Farnell element14 / Newark element14 / element14)
The fourth year of my engineering degree was unthinkably tough.
To be fair, I probably knew before I started my course that it was going to be hard. My parents were engineers, and my grandparents too, so I had more insight than most. (Although it wasn’t exactly written in the stars that I’d be an engineer as well. I thought I wanted to be a doctor until I broke my leg and actually spent time in a hospital!)
And I did love university. We had all this choice when it came to modules – everything from civil engineering to physics to transportation. I tried biomedical engineering. I did a scholarship in Greece.
But everything seemed to come to a head in fourth year: the classes, the papers, the exams. It all got too much. I started to think: ‘right. What’s plan B? Because this industry is clearly too complicated for me.’
I wish I could tell you there was some dramatic moment when it all turned; that my passion for engineering pulled me through. But it didn’t happen like that.
Maybe it’ll explain things if I tell you about my grandmother. Like I said, she was an engineer too – in fact, she one of the first women to graduate in engineering from her university back in Romania. This was back in 1956; the industry was even more male-dominated back then.
My grandmother was from Galati, a port town. The biggest employer was the shipyard. Her family were poor, and she’d watch the ships passing by every day. It was like she saw her way out of the situation. So she studied naval engineering – and stayed in that field until she retired.
She had an amazing career. She started at Giurgiu Harbour near Bucharest, then went on to the Institute of Research and Naval Design, then to the Ministry of Transportation.
Back then, when travelling internationally wasn’t an option for most Romanians, she sailed to Finland, Nantes, Liberia. Her role was to increase productivity on cargo ships, and the only way to judge the technology was to see it in practice – to test these brand new improvements to transport and ship building in action.
Her strong-headedness must’ve helped her in her career. She wasn’t tough exactly, but focused: she was always saying “you might have talent, you might be smart, but you still have to work hard”.
Because that was the way she’d lifted herself from poverty back in Galati – with grit and determination.
Believe me, when my grandmother says something like that, you listen. She won’t put up with any nonsense. She can be fierce when she wants to, although always very ladylike. I think even my grandfather was scared of her.
And even though she made it clear that we needed to work hard, it wasn’t like she was lecturing us. I spent all my afternoons with my grandmother until I was fifteen. When you’re close to someone, their level of commitment rubs off on you. And we were definitely close; I actually called her ‘mum’ in Romanian. I had two: Mum Elena, my grandmother, and Mum Iulia, my mother.
So when I think back to myself in that last year of my degree, I probably have my grandmother to thank. I said to myself: ‘I’m not wasting four years of my life’, and eventually got through it by putting the hours in and working hard. Just like she’d shown me.
And I did it: I passed.
I moved to the UK, I took a job with Premier Farnell, and I’m still here 10 years later.
I love it. I get to meet people from all over the industry – like Tektronix, who I’ve been working with for many, many years. I meet people in semi-conductors, in passives, in measurement; every day it’s someone different, and I get to learn something new and stay ahead of trends. And my grandmother – Mum Elena – she’s still my biggest supporter.
It’s all because I kept going. Determination? Stubbornness?
Whatever you call it, I guess it runs in the family.