You can be whoever you want to be. This is what I tell my 3-year-old daughter when she changes her dream every day. Some say that it is better to focus on only one thing and be the best at it. For me, although having a clear objective is key to achieving what you want, I believe that curiosity and enthusiasm is the engine of change and resilience is what makes you stronger.
These are the values I hope to impart to my daughter and I believe is continually reflected in my life and how I ended up at FREE NOW. Read on as I share my story of how I got to where I am today and how this is reflected in what I choose to pass on to my child.
I grew up in a town in Valencia, Spain. My maternal grandmother was the one who, in 1963, and in times of a harsh dictatorship, had the courage, along with her husband and her only daughter, to carry her life in a suitcase, and cross borders into the unknown, in search of a better future. Thanks to this, my mother grew up surrounded by people of different colours, races and religions, people who spoke an unknown language that, after many years, she made her own. I grew up watching my parents launch a family business and making it big while waiting for what felt to me like long hours, at the school door for them to pick me up, because “the customer comes first”. Soon I was used to listening to French, German, English, Dutch, and as many languages as you could possibly hear as your two parents work endless hours to grow an international business, all full of energy and purpose. My parents were my role models and thanks to their courage, fighting spirit, enthusiasm, camaraderie and trust, I have become the person I am today and been able to define a path for myself.
A career path in motion
As a child, they used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I was very clear: “I want to be a pharmacist”. I imagined myself being the owner of a well-curated pharmacy in the city centre, helping people to feel better. Well, I believe that I have helped people all throughout my life, but it wasn’t by selling them medication. It was when I was 17 years old, that the answer really materialized, as I had to pick a thing and commit the next 6 years of my life to it. At high school, I quickly realized that literature was more appealing to me than math’s and this, linked to my heritage and powered by my interest in Civil Rights, made me choose to follow Law studies.
Over the course of the next decade, I studied law and learnt to advocate for my beliefs, and spent a year in Switzerland where I specialised in International commerce law. At this point, it wasn’t really clear to me what I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to. I guess, I still don’t know with certainty what I am going to do in the next 5 years, or so, and after trying the test of different optional subjects, from criminal law to tax law, I finally picked up International Relations. I guess I have carried my childhood patterns along my life, after all, don’t you think so? ;-)
Although it was my dream to study at Université Libre de Bruxelles, and later on become another usual suspect in the corridors of the European Union buildings, my dream ended up turning into a pathway rather than a destination. It wasn’t Brussels and it wasn’t European Law. It all ended up being International Relations and Lobbying, in Paris.
A personal encounter in Switzerland, made me spend the summer right before Brussels, working a summer job in Paris at a shoemaker shop in Avenue de l’Opera to polish my French. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had! September arrived and I had to move to Brussels, but a summer in Paris made me want to stay forever there. I was truly in love with the city, it really made me feel well. Then I thought, why can’t we have it all?
While looking for a plan B, I discovered and pursued an Executive Master in International Relations (IR) and European lobbying at the University of Strasbourg. Soon after I found several internships and finally my first lobbying job at eBay, in Paris, as a manager of Government Relations for Spain, Portugal and France. I learnt there what my passion was, and without really knowing anything about French politics, or US businesses, or company politics, I rapidly made a place in that big international corporate world. It was a dream to be surrounded by so many talented people and keep learning every single day. Being a 23 years old girl, from a village in Spain, in a city like Paris and in the middle of several middle-aged white French politician men was really challenging, but this challenge only empowered me further.
Technology is the constant
I was young and ambitious, and my “go get it” attitude helped me to experience a lot of different things in my professional life. ebay and Paris was only the beginning of an always in movement professional journey, but technology was the only constant. Technology is used to connect you to the future, and it goes so smart and quick, that it makes you feel that you can achieve the impossible, today. For policy professionals like me, technology is the most fascinating industry you can work in, where laws and politics need to follow the same speed because data is considered the oil of the XXI century.
Being a very active player in one of the most exciting topics of our history is what every lobbyist wishes for. In my profession, strategic thinking, connections, persuasion and rigour are key to be successful. When you mix this with the technology-related policies and discussions, the Governments and Parliaments corridors are not the only ones you need to walk through, you need to be up to date of all big ideas and business starting up in your industry and follow the same high speed, otherwise, you are far from track very quickly.
After 4 years of non-stop working in a number of fast-paced companies, I discovered what work-life balance was. I learnt how to enjoy little pleasures in life, such as a coffee with a good friend or a book unrelated to my profession. I also discovered that although my job was one of my passions, it certainly wasn’t my whole life. Soon after, I felt the call to start my motherhood adventure. And suddenly, it became the best decision I took in my entire life.
People are key to success
When my daughter was 7 months old, I got a dream job offer from what is today FREE NOW, and while I was being seriously hard on myself for leaving my baby at home and continuing to scale in my professional career, I started to remember what my mom taught me: you can have it all, it’s all a matter of attitude in life and towards people surrounding you, hard work, and prioritization. FREE NOW arrived at a perfect time in my life, and already after the first call with the recruiter the decision was taken: I wanted to be part of this incredible project and do my part on making mobility available to everyone.
There has not been a single day at FREE NOW that I have doubted the decision I took 3 years ago when I joined this team. I remember my interview in Hamburg HQ with Ecki (our Chief People and Communications Officer) and Andy (former COO of mytaxi). I was a bit nervous and extremely excited. However, I felt welcomed since minute one of our conversation, the humility, empathy, and closeness that these two leaders showed to me from the very beginning made it obvious to me that this company was the place to be if the people were what you considered to be the most important aspect. Seeing Ecki later on turn into Santa Claus at Christmas, crystallised this further.
I have also been very lucky throughout my entire life to have been surrounded by passionate and brilliant people, who became my mentors. They taught me that nothing was impossible, and that attitude and hard work was indispensable. It all comes down to the people you surround yourself with and what you do to turn a problem into an opportunity that matters.
And now, here I am, leading Public Affairs for several countries, for a first in class European ride-hailing company, working in a job that I am passionate about, amongst talented professionals and most importantly, people full of humanity. I am lucky enough to be able to experience this all while being a working mum of a wonderful 3 years old girl who seemingly changes her dream every single day. However, just as a reflection of my journey to get here and all the people who supported me along the way, I will always encourage her to chase after her dreams and be whatever she wants to be!