The Humans of smrtPhone

Our “smrtie of the Month” is a developer, a jiu jitsu champion, a world adventurer, and an open book — Cristi Marin!


Cristian Marin aka Cristi aka Ursoc (The Bear) 

Title / Role in the Company

I work as a front end developer, and now I’m being trained to do the back end as well. As a front end developer, I’m building the part of the product that clients see. I build new screens and things like buttons, menus, and pop ups. I work with Maria, our UX designer, and I take what she has designed and make them work. I bring them to life.  

How long have you worked for smrtPhone?

Just over a year. 

What’s your background? 

I finished high school as a mechatronics technician. Then, I traveled to London where I had multiple jobs, but the longest job was for the London Underground. I was a PWT-EH,Site Person In Charge and First Aider supervising a team of 13 people, working with the Track Access Controller to confirm where we were going to work, when the power was going to be off, witnessing the last train, testing the rails to make sure it was safe for all of us go safely on track. All of that. 

I grew up with my grandparents and they offered me as much as they could. But, when I was 18, I wanted to go make my own money. I already had some friends living in different parts of Europe, and they always came back with new cars, new clothes, and more money. I wanted the same. A friend called me saying there was a job that fit me in London and he offered to help guide me on the move, handling the paperwork and everything. So, I took the chance. But, when I arrived, he didn’t answer the phone. So I had to find my own way. 

Luckily, my grandma helped me with the deposit for an apartment. I had to scramble to find work. My first job was cleaning a backyard for a woman. I worked all day and made only 25 £.  I bought salami, bread and juice. But I kept going and searching… and I ended up staying for 15 years. 

We eventually moved back to Romania because my wife wanted to. She wanted a slower life, more connected to nature. And it’s a safer and better life for our daughter, who is 10 now. We’ve been back for three years. 

Before moving back, I completed a training program as front end developer with Nology UK, a well known tech training and talent provider. I knew I wanted to switch into software. 

Vlad [smrtPhone Co-Founder and CTO] and I met at jiu jitsu. He’s been my best friend since we met. He is like a mentor for me; we talk about all kinds of stuff and life. And now we talk about smrtPhone a lot! 

What was your first job? 

When I was young I was practicing karate – back then, there was no kick boxing or muay thai – and my trainer had a security company. I became a part time security officer in a small shopping center, checking the CCTV cameras. I was only 16 years old, but I was watching for stealing and shoplifting. I’d stop them and detain them while we waited for the police.

Christian Marin with smrtPhone colleagues

What do you like about working for smrtPhone? 

I like everything! I like the people. We are the same kind. We all like to help. Everyone is friendly. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and that keeps me going. It’s not an easy job, because I’m learning all of the back end stuff. Many people have gone to school for this for years, and I’m jumping in and trying to do four years of learning in six months.

Describe smrtPhone in 3 words: 

Big Family. We have people from everywhere. Everyone has the same energy, even though we are all different. It’s like my family. 

Trustworthy. smrtPhone is honest keeps its word to clients and to employees. 

Culture. There is a very strong company culture that you experience inside the company. And it reflects outwardly as well.  

Is there a particular moment/project at smrtPhone that stands out and makes you feel proud?  

The redesign of smrtDialer dialing screens. I worked on the front end of that and it took a long time. I had taken some extended time off of work before joining smrtPhone to reflect and refresh and decide what I wanted to do. And then I joined smrtPhone and started on this project and worked really hard. When it was done, and I could see the end product – but also my journey to this point of my life – it was the manifestation of all of my effort. 

Cristi Marin smrtPhone developer wins jiu jitsu championship

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I go to jiu jitsu almost every single day. I love it because it is a sport that I will be able to do even when I’m old. There are no punches. There is no hitting. It is only about immobilizing people. Maybe there is a parallel with being a software developer – as long as you can see and move your fingers, you can still work. 

Jiu jitsu requires a lot of discipline. There are grades/belts, focus, technique, learning. I’m a blue belt now, so I can coach people and give personal training. I could even coach someone into a championship. 

I also enter championships myself and fight other people. I’m very competitive and I like to win. I have 10 medals. 

Other than that, when I have free time I go to the gym.  I love cars, and I love driving. I like to spend time in nature, but not at a crazy level.

Name something that is on your “bucket list”

I don’t think there is something I would like to do that I haven’t done. If there is something I want to do, I just go do it. 

But, there are a few places I would like to travel: the United States and Thailand.  

smrtPhone developer Cristi Marin and Social Media Manager Mark Garel take a selfie

What is a fun fact people might not know about you? 

I’m the type of guy who talks about everything. Most people know most things about me. I don’t hold anything in the back or undercover. 

Maybe some people don’t know that I am a British citizen. There is a strong Romanian community there with restaurants, clubs, and churches. That’s where I met my wife. I worked hard to become a citizen. It was a lot of paperwork!