“I like my work,” says Biliana Filipova, from Dupnitsa in Bulgaria. “I’m constantly on the move and every day is different.”
As a regional manager for a large chain of filling stations, the 33-year-old spends much of her time on the road, travelling between 19 filling stations. She has overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the stations, with her duties ranging from managing personnel, to ensuring equipment is maintained and stock is ordered, to dealing with legal issues, and responding to emergencies such as floods.
Promoted to her current position in March 2008, she was previously managing a single station. “There’s a lot more responsibility,” she says. “But I knew what the job involved as I used to cover for the regional manger before.”
She outlines the qualities that she needs in her role: “I’m able to stay calm and react quickly – that’s important. And I often have to deal with lots of things at the same time. I have to prioritise and be well-organised.
“It’s a responsible job. I have to make decisions alone. It can cost a lot of money.” There are also crucial safety considerations, she adds: “For example with the fuel delivery trucks, it is very important to follow the correct procedures. There are big potential dangers.”
Change of direction
Biliana originally studied industrial engineering, specialising in technologies for clothes production. After finishing her five-year Masters’ course, she had her daughter, Joanna. “I didn’t work for three years after that,” she says. “But I began to get sick of spending all my time at home. I’m a dynamic person who likes to be doing things. I get restless easily.”
She began to work in the textile sector, in a role related to her studies. “I worked as a technologist in factories.” However, after a year and a half working for two different companies, she realised she wanted to do something different. “Sometimes you need to change completely to find satisfaction. I needed a new challenge to get energised.”
She heard that there were opportunities working for Petrol, formerly a state-run network and still one of the largest chains of fuel stations in Bulgaria. She was offered an interview for a position in management, but instead she chose to go for a job as a cashier.
“I didn’t want to go for a management position straight away. I wanted to start at a lower level as I didn’t know anything about this business.”
The move paid off. Starting to work for the company in 2002, she applied herself to the job and quickly worked her way up through the ranks. “Starting as a cashier helped me a lot. Now I know the job from the inside. I know where managers can miss things.”
She took part in a series of intensive training sessions co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund. The courses involved team-building, role playing, discussions and problem solving exercises. It helped her develop the skills that she needs in her new role – whether dealing with people, making decisions, prioritising and coping with difficult situations.
“It helped me a lot with the job, and also skills for life in general. It really made me think about how you go about finding solutions to a given problem,” she says.
“I’m satisfied with what I have achieved here at the company. I have worked my way up. A lot of people have recognised my work and I appreciate that.”
Thinking of the future, Biliana says: “I’m not sure what I want exactly, but I know that I want to continue to improve and develop myself. First I need to prove myself in this role.”
Back home, her life is just as busy. Renovating the family home with her husband is an on-going – and long-term – project. “We started the renovations five years ago,” she says. Starting on land next to her parents-in-law’s house, the couple have built their own home from scratch – though there’s still lots of work to do. “We’ve built the second floor but we still have to do more work before we can live in it,” she says, adding that a few years ago all three of them were living in one room while work was being done.
The rest of her time is spent looking after Joanna, who is now 10, and seeing her extended family. “I have two younger sisters and my husband has a brother. We all live around here and we’re very close. All the families get together with our parents at weekends.
“My priorities are my family and my job. I work hard to ensure our security,” she concludes.