If it’s hard for you to find time to go on adventures, today’s “Meet the team” interview will take you for a walk across Europe. Hovanes Diulgerian – Business Development Manager for the Italian Market at iCard, takes a trip down memory lane when he was a student in Venice and Paris. His stories will bring you closer to art, architecture, and electronic music. Don’t miss out on exploring one of his most important projects – a podcast telling the story of the Armenian people.
Enjoy Hovanes’ stories and dive into his world!
How was your love for Italy born?
When I was 13, my parents took me to Venice to study at an Armenian lyceum. The school was built in 1851 to offer modern European education to Armenian boys from all over the world. Foreign languages were the main focus, and some subjects were taught in French, English, Italian, and Armenian. After graduating high school, I continued my education at the university of Venice, where I studied Economics. At first, I wanted to study Law, but my older friends advised me to take a different path – Italy already had local lawyers, so becoming one as a foreigner would have been extremely difficult. I don’t regret my choice, though, as my professional career proves me that I made the right decision.
Venice is magical, and I still miss its colours, especially in May, when they’re truly incredible. The city’s unique Baroque architecture makes you feel like there’s no such beauty elsewhere. Its beautiful cathedrals preserve some precious art and historical heritage that attract people from all over the world. When you live in Venice, you don’t need to leave the island because it has everything you need. It’s the perfect place for parties, for different artistic and crazy people, and even for alcoholics. It’s very peaceful – there are no cars and no crimes. The city has a single entrance and exit, which is across the bridge, and no one bothers anyone. I was extremely pleased living in Venice, and I enjoyed it to its fullest for all the 13 years I’ve spent there. I love going back to Italy again and again, especially now that I have a family so that we can go there together. We usually meet some of my friends from school, and we talk about the unforgettable memories we shared back then.
Although I returned to Bulgaria many years ago, I still compare everything here with my life in Italy. I don’t regret returning to Bulgaria, though, because it’s the small and mid-sized family businesses that drive the Italian economy. You have little to no opportunity for professional career development even if you have more skills and knowledge than the majority of people. It’s also one of the reasons Italy can’t develop to its fullest. My family and social environment also influenced my decision to come back to Bulgaria.
What did you learn from living abroad?
Ever since I was a child, I learned how to be self-disciplined and self-controlled. I had to learn how to manage my finances so I could have everything I needed. My time at the lyceum also taught me to consider and respect others and their privacy. Later, at university, I ended up at a student house with a similar social environment. Thanks to living together with other people, I learned how to adapt to various situations and communicate with people from different cultures with different mindsets and goals.
As a student, I had an epic train trip that changed my perception of the world. I hadn’t travelled much until then, simply because I believed Venice to be the top of the world and didn’t really need and want to leave the city. Three Italians and I travelled around France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg on a train. The four of us started our 3-week journey from Italy, and we saw a lot of places – we would stop at the most attractive cities for 2 to 3 days, walk around, and then continue to the next destination. We had many unforgettable moments. Our first stop was in Marseille, exactly on the 14th of July – the national holiday of the Republic of France. There were multiple parades all over the city, and as we were walking, a firecracker accidentally fell on the hand of one of the boys. It was vivid! We went for a swim in the ocean in Bordeaux, and on my 20th birthday, we were in Paris and went up the Eiffel Tower, which was tremendous. I did dreadlocks on my hair in Amsterdam as it was pretty long, and I got my ear pierced before our trip had started.
Have you lived elsewhere besides in Italy?
Yes, I lived in Paris for a year when I went on an Erasmus exchange program. One day, I was at the library in Venice and decided to research my exchange opportunities, although the due date for applying had already passed. I found out by surprise that there’s a free spot in Paris – it’s the place where only the elite students (those with the highest grades) go. I managed to arrange all my documents and pack my bags for three days and left for France. At first, I thought I could handle everything on my own, but I quickly had to seek help. Luckily, I have relatives who live in Paris, and one of them offered me to stay at his apartment until I find something better. Eventually, I spent the whole year there. In the beginning of the year, I thought I’d pass all my exams effortlessly. When the classes started, this thought evaporated pretty quickly. Most of the students were also foreigners, and I wasn’t privileged to take the shortened Erasmus program. I had to quickly learn French, too – something that I strongly neglected at the lyceum.
What’s your hobby?
Travelling by train across Europe completely shifted my music preferences. At first, I mainly listened to rap music, but the “Surrender” album by The Chemical Brothers totally blasted me. Now, some of my favourite artists are The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Chris Liebing, and Carl Cox. I really love listening to techno music and composing it. I was the DJ at the parties we made at our student house, and most of them were awesome, but one of the most memorable was my farewell party in Paris. Apparently, I really impressed everyone, and a year later, I got offered to become a DJ at a club in Venice. It was incredible. I’m passionate about electronic music to this day, and now I’m a so-called “bedroom producer”. I have a small studio with a MIDI controller, speakers, and I use the Ableton software. Whenever I have time, I compose techno music, and I’m glad I always learn something new. Composing is my hobby, but I also do it for my children – I’ll be happy if one day they want to dub the games they program on their own or even compose their own beat.
This year, I was privileged to go to the EXIT festival in Serbia, where I had the chance to see and listen to some of my favourite artists.
What does sport mean to you?
It’s a great challenge. As I already mentioned, I’ve been doing almost everything for my children over the past years. I frequently do sports mainly for them and to a lesser extent for myself. I have been running regularly for two years now, but I have to admit it’s not my favourite activity., I run in the Sea Garden in Varna on the weekends, I am at the gym every day during my lunch break, and sometimes I do my workout on a punching bag at home in the morning before I go to work. I exercise regularly and try really hard, but I am satisfied at the end of my workout the most. Over the time, I realised that running is the easiest. I used to go out and exercise at a relaxed pace, but recently, I started using a virtual “coach” who sets me a pace and specific goals. I have to admit I hate him a lot, but I take his advice. I like it when my colleagues and I run together in the summer morning workouts and participate in the Varna Marathon or the corporate marathons.
When it comes to sport, football is the one I do with pleasure. I like it because it’s a team sport – the individuality is important, but the overall play should be like an ideally greased mechanism for all players. I play with friends, and recently, my colleague Petar Velikov invited me to join his team, which takes part in the Amateur Mini Football League (AMFL). Years ago, I played in another team – “Ararat”, where the players were primarily Armenians. In 2013, we attended the international games in Armenia and enrolled for one of the first AMFL editions, and in 2018, we became the 3rd League champions. I get so excited before every game, and I usually can’t sleep well the night before because I can’t wait to step on the field’s grass and play.
What inspires you?
I’m mostly inspired by the Renaissance artists and their ways of being unattainable in what their paintings depict. They’ve put a lot of hard work into achieving the result that we’re admiring to this day. They’ve lived in hardship and tried to pass on their ideology into their artwork. I got passionate about Renaissance art thanks to a friend from Georgia who was part of the Erasmus exchange program in Venice. We would go to cathedrals together, where he’d walk me through all their details. I started having a more critical view of the paintings ever since, and I’m genuinely fond of the artwork of Palma il Giovane, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Tintoretto. When I was in France, I had no doubt I’d be highly impressed by the Louvre in Paris. I went there for the first time during my train journey with my friends, and while living there, I visited it a couple more times. I felt so much joy being close to the world’s heritage and art. The painting by Eugène Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People”, which can be found in the Louvre, highly impresses me to this day (although it’s not Renaissance😊). I like Renaissance paintings in general, as they show the personas’ faces in detail, and you can feel the dynamics. Each one has probably been an actual figure in the past, which carries a certain message.
Wedding at Cana (1561), “Santa Maria della Salute” basilica (Venice)
Which personal project are you proud of the most?
In addition to my motivation to run regularly, I’m very proud of another achievement of mine – a podcast of 40 episodes that I started during the pandemic. It took me 18 months to translate the journalist James Robins’ podcast from English to Bulgarian, write the script, edit the audio, and publish it on the web. It’s called “The Great Crime-History of the Armenian Genocide” and covers many aspects of the history. Working on the podcast was a huge challenge for me – I had some discouraging moments where I couldn’t translate some names of people and battles, so I had to read additional materials on the topics. There were also moments where I found it extremely hard to continue my work – I had to retape the exact text multiple times due to the historical tragedies described there, because it felt like I was experiencing them personally. Still, I’m glad I gained many new insights.
I thought I had the duty to popularise the history of the Armenian people, which is basically the history of every Armenian. I taped the podcast in Bulgarian so more people could access it, and I’m so happy that my friends and acquaintances shared a positive opinion of my work and congratulated me about it.
What are your responsibilities and your position at iCard?
I started working at iCard on the 7th of January 2015 in the BackOffice department because they were looking for a candidate who speaks Italian. I remember the first thing my colleagues showed me when I started working – the coffee machine, and I thought to myself: “That’s it! Since they admire coffee as much as I do, this is my happy place”. Less than a year later, I was offered the HelpDesk management position, where I spent about a year and a half. Then, I took the lead in the “Verifications” department and the “Individual clients” section, and I’ve been doing this for almost five years. Since last year, I started working on something completely different – now I’m responsible for the development of the Italian market I try to find new business opportunities for all the company’s products, and I help my colleagues who take care of all communication materials for the Italian market so they can transmit the messages in the most impressive and accurate way. I also make sure that our Italian customer service stays on top.
iCard’s products and services have great potential in Italy, and the market is not one of the best performing for the company by chance. Italians love experiments, and often, when a certain company launches a new product or service, it chooses Italy. An additional benefit is that the country’s population is almost 60 million people. Their technical literacy and Internet coverage are average for Europe, and there are still various niche markets. Even if the digitalisation development takes time due to the enormous administration that Italy is famous for, such factors give a good opportunity for fintech companies to unlock their own potential and ease their clients’ daily lives.
What’s your favourite iCard service?
I use iCard Digital Wallet all the time, and sending money to card is my favourite functionality. It’s a quite new service – we launched it at the end of last year. I’ve found it convenient ever since because the recipient gets the amount you’re sending almost immediately, and at the same time, it’s easy to do it because you don’t need to take many steps to perform the operation. I’ll take an example of a recent personal experience – it was on a Saturday when, all of a sudden, my credit card was blocked due to an exceeded limit. I immediately had to do something, and thanks to iCard’s functionality, I could use my money again. Everything happened quickly and hassle-free, without having to experience the traditional fuss and waiting in lines at the bank office.
What motivates you in your career?
The thing that pleases me the most is the positive feedback from clients, colleagues, and managers of course. I also really love teamwork. There are many interesting personalities at iCard, and each one of us works in our own way and has our own strengths, but in the end, it’s the mutual final result that’s important and that we acknowledge altogether. It’s very motivating that the company gives us a chance to share our ideas and that it implements the proper solutions to improve the overall working process.
When it comes to competitive advantage, speed is one of our strengths – fintech innovations presume rapid development and we constantly need to meet our clients’ expectations. Another great advantage is that almost all technologies, products, and services are developed and maintained right here, at our company building at Business Park Varna. I believe all colleagues realise what the company’s essence is, and they should be proud of their contribution to its success. iCard is a brand that offers its products all across Europe, and we’re all responsible for this incredible achievement.
Download iCard – your companion while travelling, having fun, and doing sports:1