Cristina Stan has just been named on the inaugural Clio Health Innovators list and it’s not surprising given her drive to see creative excellence achieved no matter where she is working. Cristina joined McCann Health London as a junior project manager three years ago and has quickly risen up the ranks. She hadn’t considered an agency career until she was approached for her unique and driven skillset. “This nomination is important for me as a woman in a creative industry and as someone who is happy to be working behind the scenes managing a project, supporting the creative process and getting things done. I want to thank McCann Health for the faith they put in me and for the nomination. This award is a celebration of everyone who works hard in the advertising industry, but maybe are not always on the stage at an awards ceremony collecting a prize. Behind every successful project there is a team of hard working and passionate individuals, and I am happy to receive this award and dedicate it to them.”
Cristina’s first job was a form of project management, but she didn’t see it that way. “In my first job, I fell into project management naturally,” she says. “I was working for a small charity called A.R.T Fusion
in Romania and I blended lots of things into one job. I used what I was studying at the time – a Master’s degree in gender and minority rights to effect change in the local community. I knew this is what I wanted to do – to coordinate and organise people.”
Staying in the arts sector, Cristina was working as a coordinator for assorted charities, including the British Arts Council, facilitating creative work and international teams. It was during this time that she achieved incredible results with her favourite work to date – the EXIT Festival in Romania which is a theatre event for prisoners.
Cristina ran the festival for two years in partnership with the Romanian National Administration of Penitentiaries with the support of the Nottara Theatre, the biggest and best known theatre venue in Bucharest. The work aims to improve social integration skills for young people in jail around Romania and increase acceptance in society when they are released. “There was a small budget and I managed everything where locations and people were all working pro-bono. I was working on something meaningful and I had to make sure that it happened.” It was this dedication to a cause and the work that comes with it that honed Cristina’s skills and helped make her the excellent senior project manager she is today.
Having covered many complex and interesting projects at an international level, Cristina says that she never really questioned whether or not to become a project manager. “It is the work I really enjoyed, it’s just what I wanted to do.”
Her calm and resilience under pressure is part of why she is so valued in her position and her reputation of being able to make the impossible happen. This was highlighted in recent work for Acid Survivors Trust International
(ASTI) where virtual reality, 2D and 3D live installations were realised and Cristina coordinated the sourcing of designers, technicians and production specialists. This would have been challenging enough but the work was elevated with the collection of tears from survivors of acid attacks sourced in the UK and internationally around the survivor’s schedules; and the final installation was produced under added security when it was attended by HRH Princess Anne at St James's Palace in London.
Cristina adds, “I had worked with most of the team members in the past and having those relationships and experience in place already resulted in a great dynamic which helped me tackle every situation calmly. I knew that if I panic, everyone will panic. We had an incredibly talented team working on this project, who gave 110% from the moment we received the brief until the launch day. Although this was a ‘fast and furious’ type of project and there was a lot of pressure to coordinate so many individuals and so many elements, what helped was to have a good process in place and a good communication system within the team. I was also working to a deadline where I knew that I was going on holiday afterwards so I knew I could relax after all that pressure.”
Project management might not be the first path that arts, creatives or even political science students might pursue but the range of events and work that needs a good manager is vast and Cristina believes there is a place for organised people. “This role is one for someone who is happy talking with people all day and for people like me who enjoy seeing creatives really fly. It’s like holding a chrysalis, making sure there are the resources and time for creatives to work, sometimes protecting them from extra meetings or other things as well as finding funding making sure they have everything they need to unfold into a beautiful butterfly.”
Cristina is proof that you might not have to be able to paint, draw, act or sing to be a vital part of a creative team. There’s no doubt that the outcomes of her work are memorable and outstanding creative works from theatre that can change lives to VR installations that break hearts. “Creatives push me, and I push them a little bit, but never pressuring their creative energy. Maybe all of my experience so far is just to protect an idea and that creative intent. I love my work at McCann Health and I know that my future lies in continuing to work in the creative space.”