“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs
2007 Regus in Madrid and Prague
My first serious job (after working as an English tutor through high school and doing market studies during my only year of University) was as a receptionist at Regus, a global provider for office space and virtual office services. During the year I spent working in the reception desk I had the privilege of working for organisations like VMware, MySpace, the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain, Red Hat, Vitra, Banca Itaú…
I answered and transferred their phone calls, organised their meetings and distributed their letters, but also patched their connections in our comms room (because I have always been a secret nerd) and organised events for them. I was curious and good with spreadsheets so I got more and more involved in centre management as the months passed and was promoted just nine months after joining the team.
In Regus I had my first experiences with documentation and processes, documenting reception processes (how to use the call management software, what to do when certificate letters were received, how and when to refill the coffee machines or the fridge) and I worked on templates to calculate the orders of snacks, drinks and office supplies or to automate the calculations of the services we would then enter in the billing system Regus had just started developing: Titan.
In November 2008 I was offered to join the new service centre in Prague to manage the backoffice of our locations in central and eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa. With Titan had come the decision to move all centre management tasks to central offices in Prague, Dallas, Mexico DF, and the Philippines to reduce costs and streamline processes. 9 people from different offices, including myself, had the mission of starting this centralisation process with a couple of pilot countries.
I had awesome managers in the Prague office, who allowed me to develop in all the areas I showed any interest in. I worked with people all around the world. The pilot had developed into a plan for a full roll out and more processes were being centralised. I moved from the billing exceptions team into the billing team, collaborated with collections, worked on reports for finance… I continued cooperating in the creation of process documents and coached new members of the teams I worked on. After the first months I was offered to join the team managing change requests and rollout of changes in Titan as a project manager. These days I also had the chance to document, redesign and rollout my first cross-department process.
2012 Berlin: Cobot, coworking and technology
After a short stay back in Spain, I moved to Berlin and took a break from corporate life to become a freelance business developer – all because of a random encounter with Cobot, a software tool to manage coworking spaces. I did marketing, sales, though strategically and spent hours on the phone with clients. While I did work for other clients they were the only one that went for over two years. Cobot was also, without doubt, my most important customer – my team.
Cobot is also how I ended up involved in the coworking movement. I led the global coworking wiki project for a year. I spoke in conferences. I wrote manuals and translated blog posts at deskmag. I curated when you cowork. Once again I counted with the support of my managers, who not only allowed but encouraged me to experiment and learn. This freedom allowed me to learn some software development with Ruby on Rails or to do projects with other companies.
Being based in Berlin, where the tech community gathers, got me into a lot more than just cowoking. I started working with a software development agency I would later on join full time. I worked for a social advertisement company as their development project manager, I organised a fare share of rails girls events to get more women into tech, organised a monthly morning meetup called MRGN and organised the elasticsearch user group. I did public speaking around collaboration, coworking, women in tech, social media, networking… and wrote a lot in this blog. I even started a book (called pizza!) with basic tips on how to start a company with little money for business-owners-to-be.
In these years I met a lot of interesting people in Berlin and, thanks to many conferences and to facebook and specially twitter. Startup founders, coworking space owners, designers, makers, hustlers, ambassadors, investors, journalists… So much inspiration called for a change. I wanted to work on my own ideas. I started Openaire, a software as a service to manage and promote events, and Feelgut, a social media platform for chronic patients and researchers. None of these projects saw the light of the day, but both the business development (and the actual software development!) exercise was fun and helped me learn new things.
Asquera gave me the opportunity to join eHealth Africa as a consultant, doing software to fix african public health issues. After travelling to Liberia to join the Ebola response with our eHealth application Sense Followup and after working in a malnutrition application for use in Nigeria I travelled to Guinea to scope a new project and decided I wanted to have the african experience and do something big from beginning to end. I joined eHealth Africa full time and moved to Guinea shortly after.
Working at eHealth Africa gave me the chance to join, as it happened when I moved to the Regus shared services centre in Prague, a newly created team that worked in a larger distributed organisation. It gave me back the feeling of working directly with the people benefiting from my work and having a first row seat to see how what we offer is used and how we can make it even better. Working with people in remote areas of Guinea and the Democratic republic of Congo that see technology for the first time and seeing them use applications designed by my team, hearing them say ‘this will make my life easier’ and their smiles when they get the workflows right for the first time can only be defined as priceless.
At eHealth Africa I had the chance to design and rollout software and processes, which I love, but also to design and plan an educational program for developers in Africa: the eHealth Academy. The program was launched with 20 developers just as I left in July 2016.
Into the wild. What next? I am working on a personal project related to chatbots and health, the topic that always makes my heart beat. At the same time I am about to start mentoring startups in an incubation program, and about to start a software development agency with people I really enjoy working with. 2016 is about to end and what 2017 will bring seems very exciting!