What I learned working away from home for over a year

What I learned working away from home for over a year

It has been a rollercoaster, and I love rollercoasters. When I moved to Spain in October, 2017, I had no idea I was going to stay for so long. But that’s the funny thing about life; it always gives you what you least expect and what you need the most.

Working abroad has been one of the most stimulating experiences I’ve ever had. Apart from the new city, new country, new home, new friends and new routines, the experience of working in a language that is not my mother tongue, navigating through a totally different industry, and having people from all over the world by my side, has been nothing short of amazing.

Most of the learnings I share are things everybody knows, but somehow, over time, we manage to forget or overlook them when we get caught up in our day-to-day lives. So, I think it’s important to remember and embrace every new opportunity, knowing there will be gratifying surprises along the way.

There’s so much to learn from people…

Office dynamics in different countries are expected to be, well, different; but there’s no knowing how much. And while there are some things that I miss about a Latin working environment, there are so many aspects to love when you are abroad! Learning from people is always fantastic, but having the chance to get valuable insights about diverse ways of living, working, career experiences, approaches to issues, creativity flows and even language peculiarities are great ways to grow as a professional and as a person.

And from new processes

Even in the same country there are contrasting ways of doing things between big companies and startups, for example, but in other cultures these differences can be even larger. The environment, the way to deal with providers, the legal regulations (hi there GDPR!) and even schedules and change of season are conditions that need to be accounted for. And for me it has been beyond valuable. Knowing how to do things when you have big agencies and other support companies executing things for you, and knowing how to do things when you have a team of three to do everything, has given me broad experience in tackling all kinds of challenges. 

There are different kinds of managers

I have almost seven years of working experience, but I have not had many managers. In some ways, when we have the same line manager for a long time, we tend to get comfortable with that person, aside from all the opportunities and challenges this brings. That’s why having a new manager has enabled me to understand that people can be as awesome as they need to be and can accomplish tasks in different ways. The level of support I’ve received from each one of them, although different, has allowed me to embrace what I think is the best of each one, to build my own leadership style.

And adjusting isn’t just about your job

I think I’ve always been flexible, but I didn’t know how much until I started working abroad. Although the Ecuadorian culture is very similar to the Spanish in some ways, making adjustments is essential in the way you communicate and express yourself, address people in emails and on the phone, respond to certain situations, and establish your workflow. It’s not hard if you keep an open mind and are willing to grasp your environment 120%.

But being yourself is the most important

All of this is not to say you should change. Blending in with the culture of your working environment is really crucial, yet it’s equally important to be yourself. Most of the opportunities I’ve encountered in the past year have been possible because of the qualities that make me who I am. So, I know, for example, that sometimes I can’t be as effusive as I would like, however, there’s value in that as well, especially when you are dealing with human beings.

I’m looking forward to my future adventures and, needless to say, loving every minute of it.

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