Want to find out more about our Members? Then you’ll love this new Q&A series. First up is Oana Cipca, founder of the Women in Exhibitions Network and senior business development manager at MECC Maastricht.
What was your vision when founding Women in Exhibitions Network?
I wanted to be a helping hand for the next generation of women leaders, to make sure that we keep them in our industry. My vision was to create a platform, like the Women in Exhibitions Network, that could help increase the number of women in decision-making positions. To help empower women to make the steps we need to grow in our careers. Now, a few years later, we are here to stay and to serve the needs and challenges women have in the exhibition industry.
How can we best support and empower the next generation of women leaders?
Particularly the younger generation in our industry are very eager to learn, be advised and helped in the process of career development. Which is why Women in Exhibitions Network has introduced The Academy with our different leadership programs, there’s the Mentoring scheme where mentees can learn from the industry’s best, our regular webinars with Exhibition News, and our virtual and live events. Showing the role models is not always the solution, we also need to showcase new talents in the industry who may be unknown but can make such an impact in our industry.
Tell us a little about yourself, how did you get into exhibitions & events?
Coming from a Romanian family, I moved to the Netherlands at 18 years old and finished my International Business and Languages study in Maastricht. Before getting into exhibitions and events, I first worked in education then in the maritime sector. What most attracted me to the industry, in 2016, was the great diversity of shows as you become a little expert in so many fields.
What is unique about your business / job?
I was responsible for some great international accounts. I love the fact that you can jump from topics like stainless steel to polyurethanes to classic cars to real estate. So many industries all brought together was simply wonderful to experience. The exhibitions industry has it all and is at the front of all innovation.
What’s your biggest achievement so far? What are you most proud of?
In my personal life it is definitely my daughter, I am very proud of my daughter. In my work, I am proud of what we have created thus far with the Women in Exhibitions Network. This community is a great example of what bringing together the minds of some brilliant women can result in. The process of expanding the Women in Exhibitions Network to multiple countries has given me so much energy. I am so fortunate to work with such inspirational women leaders from across our industry.
Who or what inspires you to be even better?
I really admire Melinda Gates. Throughout her journey she often says in interviews that if we want to lift a society up, we need to stop keeping women down. She is one of the women of these times that I consider a role-model. When we lift others up, the consequence is that they lift us up, too. I admire the global impact she has by acting regionally within borders and with respect for cultures and habits. And it was her who inspired me to set up the Women in Exhibitions Chapters, so that we can answer the regional needs of women in our industry as well. We are so different in our habits but yet so similar.
If you could go back to earlier in your career, what (if anything) would you do differently?
I wish I felt more confident and not so scared of authority. I wish I was less critical to myself and understood that we grow as we go and nobody knows everything from the start. I wish I had not been hard on myself when not knowing certain things but rather happy with myself as I was learning so much!
Any advice you’d like to share?
Yes, what scares us the most is what makes us grow when we pass through it. Stay open to be mentored, seeing things from another perspective can be so revealing.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know:
I come from Romania, a beautiful country and as a token of appreciation for my country I set up a foundation called Wanna’ Help that invests in the talent development of orphans in Romania. Since 2014 we managed to reach 100 kids and I am very happy with this accomplishment.