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“Find time to relax.” With Penny Bauder & Maria Teofanidu

Find time to relax. Do sports. I get up before the kids so that I can have a brief 30-minute training session and then enjoy some coffee. Also, make changes to your home so it feels more comfortable and accommodates everyone’s needs as much as possible. I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Teofanidu. Maria […]

Find time to relax. Do sports. I get up before the kids so that I can have a brief 30-minute training session and then enjoy some coffee. Also, make changes to your home so it feels more comfortable and accommodates everyone’s needs as much as possible.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Teofanidu. Maria started her career in finance in 2008. Since 2011, she has been part of the Coca Cola Shared Services Center in Sofia, Bulgaria, working in various roles across RTR and Continuous Process Improvement. In December 2018, she took the reins as Head of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), leading RPA projects for efficiencies across the business.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Itwas fate. During my time at university, I didn’t find accounting very interesting. Then in 2008, I started working as an AP accountant for a small shared service and discovered I actually loved accounting and finance. Ten years later, I was offered the opportunity to take over RPA and I just jumped at the chance to learn something new.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

One experience that I will never forget was when I implemented travel and expense software across all 28 countries. We had planned the go-live date for the first batch of countries for a Friday in June when I was pregnant. On Wednesday evening, I got very ill and was admitted to the hospital. On Friday (the big day for the project), I was already feeling much better but they wouldn’t dismiss me. Of course, the system servers crashed and we couldn’t launch the system. I spent the entire day on conference calls from the hospital, walking around with my laptop and phone. The nurses thought I was crazy. At the end of the day, we got it all fixed and I was so happy and relieved.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

All of our RPA projects are about helping people by eliminating the repetitive, boring tasks and giving them more time to work on more rewarding and complicated projects that can’t be solved by bots (yet).

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person who has always been there to support me is my husband. Sometimes I have to work late, and I know I can always count on him to take care of everything else without even saying a word.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

In the beginning, when no one was used to it, working from home with two kids (ages two and five) was a challenge. There were times in the middle of an important presentation that my two-year-old son would start screaming that he needed a hug, or my daughter would want to cook during my team meeting.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

It just takes patience and some explanation — on both sides. I try to explain to my children that I need to work, but I will be available to them soon. But it also requires some understanding from my co-workers, which they readily give.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

The only challenge I see is that everyone is missing the live contact. Discussing a topic with my team while in the office is very different from conducting a virtual meeting. Apart from that, I would say that our systems and processes allow us to do our jobs 100% from home.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We have adopted our home a bit. We’ve made our balcony a place where the kids can play, and I can work. I’ve also adjusted my schedule, so I don’t have any meetings around lunchtime. I also catch up on work after the kids go to bed.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

You need to create a schedule that everyone follows, even the kids. Mine is set up so I have meetings from 9:30 am to noon; the kids can watch TV for an hour, and then we play on the balcony. When you follow the same routine every day, it makes life significantly easier.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?

Find time to relax. Do sports. I get up before the kids so that I can have a brief 30-minute training session and then enjoy some coffee. Also, make changes to your home so it feels more comfortable and accommodates everyone’s needs as much as possible.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

In our history, there have been times so much more difficult than what we’re enduring now, and people had to get through it. So I am optimistic that things will get better. Science and technology are so advanced today, there is no way we won’t get through this. We just need to be patient and follow the rules.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Play games and have video calls with friends are two that come to mind. I had an amazing three-hour call with two friends recently. It was so relaxing. I think it was possibly the best thing I could have done.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Failure is not an option! It’s so simple. If you want something, make a plan to get it and go for it. I follow this rule both in my personal life and at work.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way is through Linkedin at MariyaTeofanidu

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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