Employee stories

What do those who live in its culture every day say about CETIN? Read their stories.

Being first gives a charge

Being first
gives a charge

Ioanna Ilchovska, Director of Legal Relations and Regulation at CETIN Bulgaria, on the path of professional development and lifelong learning

You graduated with honours in law from St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia, and are a graduate of Cambridge University, The University of Sheffield and King's College London. What is the most valuable knowledge you gained at these prestigious universities?

My choice of university was a consequence of a perceived need at a particular stage of my professional growth and the development of the company. This makes academic knowledge valuable. On the other hand, law is constantly evolving and you cannot stay at the level of your knowledge from university more than 15 years ago. It provides a good, solid foundation, but to be competitive you cannot stand still.

After I graduated from Sofia University, the most logical thing was to look for other people's experience and knowledge in the field and try to learn from the best. Cambridge University gave me a very different understanding of law and jurisprudence coming from the significant difference in our legal systems at that time. I did my MBA at the University of Sheffield at a time when I literally had to transform my strong legal mindset into a good understanding of business, the processes behind it, build a good financial culture and get a better understanding of the human psyche and true leadership.

Since CETIN's establishment in 2020, you have been responsible for overall legal regulatory services and relations with institutions, contracts, negotiations with suppliers and partners, protection of personal data, and compliance with rules and regulations. What drives your personal motivation?

We set up CETIN almost three years ago, with the separation of the entire infrastructure into a separate company to focus on the development of our most valuable asset - the network. These transformations and the evolution of telecommunications - new technologies, different ownership, different management structure, different teams, people from dozens of nationalities, even from other continents - have been the main driver of my personal motivation throughout this time. When I got into telecommunications, we were selling voice services.

Now we're delivering Yettel TV over 5G, we're planning to build infrastructure that will enable the mass use of autonomous cars, telemedicine, and advances that a decade ago seemed a fairly remote possibility and there were a number of question marks around their realization. Legal and regulatory services in the context of these dynamics is a serious challenge that requires excellent business knowledge and constant development of knowledge and skills. Over the years, I have grown with the development of the sector, and as the company has grown, I have been at every level of the corporate hierarchy.

What have been your strongest experiences growing up?

The list of achievements is long, and being the first in something, although accompanied by risks, allows you to gain a lot of experience in a short time. When I stand at the finish line of such a project, looking back, I usually see giant strides I've made in my professional and personal growth. Getting it to the final milestone on time, seeing the final judgment where we won a long and difficult case, building a team of great people and true professionals - that's where I see significant growth and real value.

What impact do market dynamics have on your work as a legal and regulatory affairs specialist?

Recent years have been years of transformation, both for law and regulation in Bulgaria and in Europe. A decade or so ago, there were no serious regulations in areas such as personal data protection, construction and deployment of electronic communications networks, cybersecurity rules and strategies. Mergers, acquisitions and other types of corporate reorganisations, from which I have learned a lot over the years and which are a professional passion of mine, have also undergone significant regulatory changes. Overall, competition law today has a very different legal landscape.

What are your secret negotiating techniques?

I don't think I have many secrets. The main thing is always to be well prepared. What makes me successful in them is that I am open and follow certain principles that are part of my DNA, as well as the DNA of CETIN. We look for long-term partnerships with reliable suppliers that we can rely on in an environment that is far from being called stable, especially in the last few years.

It is normal for everyone to make concessions in the search for consensus, and what allows me to achieve the best result for CETIN is probably due much more to a good knowledge of the direction of development, the company's strategy and the business as a whole than to the fact that I am handling techniques known only to me, which I guard jealously. I respect the other side and I know that the people who stand across the table from me are often no less familiar than I am with the various negotiating techniques, sometimes they have even been through the same training.

What are your favorite practices in managing teams? Leading by personal example?

I believe that personal example in attitude to work, in commitment, is an absolutely essential ingredient of people management. It's very similar to the upbringing that my parents gave me and what I want to give my two daughters - if you don't set a personal example that you want people to follow, I don't see how you can possibly demand that of them. I strongly support professional development and lifelong learning. While very often people see it as optional, if you are motivated to do it, it puts you on a very different level as a professional.

During my MBA, in my professor's leadership course, I first experienced many interesting practices in team management borrowed from neuroscience. The development of this knowledge still helps me today in understanding more deeply the way people act in teams and the way they think when making decisions. It even allows me to anticipate the moves of people I know, making me much better prepared in different situations. This knowledge has proven to be very groundbreaking for my awareness as a leader and has given me a serious dose of confidence in what I do.