Tale of Oracle exec rivals Dracula

An Oracle Corp. director has ventured into theatre with a one-man show about growing up in Transylvania.

Silvian Centiu was a key contributor to the Oracle 8 database and now manages Oracle Applications staff in more than 10 countries as one of the firm’s five Global Applications Flow Owners. In his black comedy, A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley, he recounts how he became successful only after pursuing an extremely circuitous and often humbling path.

Throughout the monologue, which he wrote and produced himself, Centiu, a native of Transylvania (a region in Romania), recalls some of the tougher experiences in his life. Growing up under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, he and his friends, while never part of any organization, always dreamed of assassinating the leader and ending the terrors perpetrated by the government.

But when one of his friends disappeared, Centiu knew he had to leave the country; he and his band fled to the mountains. He was shot at while trying to escape across the Romanian border, and traveled through Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia with chocolate as his only food. At one point he was living under a bridge in Vienna, surviving on 30 cents a day.

After Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989, Centiu quit his job to concentrate on helping his homeland recover. On one occasion, while directing a convoy of trucks toward his hometown, Brasov, he told the driver to only travel at night because of potential fighting in the countryside. The driver asked what was in the truck and Centiu told him it was carrying blood for transfusions. Although he was well educated, Centiu had no clue the driver objected to the instructions so much because of the tight link between Transylvania and the story of Dracula.

He says he arrived in the U.S. with many marketable computer skills. However, because he had such a tenuous grasp of the English language, he applied for work as a pizza deliveryman and got turned down, a disappointment he says still hasn’t gotten over.

Perhaps it was for the best, because Centiu committed himself to learning English by speaking it for five hours a day, everyday, to anyone who would listen — mostly defendants in San Francisco Bay Area court houses. That was when he also discovered that some common words in his native tongue sound like obscenities in English.

He soon landed computer programmer jobs with benefits provider Aetna Inc., electronics maker Sony Corp. and clothing retailer Ross (“Dress for Less”) Stores Inc. Although Centiu says his parents never fully grasped what a programmer did, they became very proud of their son when they found out that his software created the price tags at Ross.

A few years later, Centiu had the choice of either enrolling in Stanford’s MBA program or managing a soccer club. He says it was obviously an easy choice — in fact, he attributes his management skills at Oracle to his experience with the soccer club.

Following May and June performances at the Actors Theatre in San Francisco, the act will move on to the New York International Fringe Festival 2004 in August.

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