Today’s jobtalk is with Cristina Santamarina, a young woman who’s living in Berlin and is from Spain. Amazing how the Internet allows you to connect with people from so far away! Cristina is an example of a person who’s forging her career path without a college degree, though she did try college more than once.
Job: Employee at Cobot
I understand that you dropped out of college two times. What made you go back to college after you dropped out the first time?
My family was really unhappy when I dropped out. I finished high school, where I specialized in sciences, but did not know what I wanted to do. So I started studying political science. I always liked history and sociology so I thought it would be interesting to study it at college.
But I found a job at Regus, which I really liked, and decided I did not want to continue with college. It was a shock for my family. I always had good marks, and they wanted me to continue college. So I decided to go back to college and study business administration, which was related to the job I was doing at Regus.
Why didn’t you finish college the second time around?
As I just explained, studying business administration was not a choice I really wanted to make. I finished the first year and started the second. Then Regus offered me the possibility to move to the Czech Republic, where they were going to centralize the administration of all their business centers in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Asia). That would mean being there during the roll out and having a better position. So I did not think twice; I was convinced that I would learn much more by the experience of setting up a shared-services center rather than studying in college.
At this point in your life, do you think you will ever return to college for a degree?
There are a lot of things I want to learn, such as programming and languages, but I don’t think I need a college degree for that. I would like to take some specialized short courses and get a certificate, but I don’t see myself at college for longer than a year anymore.
Explain what you do for a living. How were you able to achieve success without college?
I recently joined Cobot, a software company developing a management tool for co-working spaces. I have joined the team to help the boost their sales, improve the product by collecting users-and-prospects feedback.
For the last five years, I did project administration, billing, and customer service for Regus, in the executive-offices industry.
I have sometimes found myself in situations when I regretted not having attended college for a longer time, like when I was presented with a complex matrices and when I had to test an application for the first time.
Because I am curious, I always try to find answers to my questions (either by reading technical data or asking experts); being a hard worker is also beneficial. So everything ends up working out.
What skills do you need to know to do your job?
You need to be organized, a good listener and be able to think out of the box. I also read about marketing, B2B (business to business) sales, and public relations to keep up with trends.
How did you learn the skills you need to do your job?
I use Google a lot. I read technical books and Wikipedia. I read tons of blogs and tweets and white papers. I discuss ideas and situations with a lot of my friends who do have a college education.
Does your career allow you to live the lifestyle that you enjoy? Can you save money and still go out with friends or take a vacation once a year?
The thing I value the most is flexibility. I can work wherever I want, and I don’t have a fixed 8 to 5 schedule. I learn a lot every day. With my salary, I can rent a modest, but nice place, go out any time I want to, travel, and still save some money every year. I must say I am really fortunate, considering that 46% of Spanish people my age can’t find a job.
What advice do you have for people who are debating whether or not to go to college?
I would advise them to give it a try. People will always try to tell you how wrong you are. If you’ve gone to college and it didn’t work out, you can always say you’ve tried, and tell people the reasons why you dropped out. Of course, you may like it. Maybe you will even graduate.
What is one of the biggest career-related mistakes that you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
About two years ago, I worked in the set-up of a new process for Regus. We had to update the process many times, as after the implementation we found out that we missed some country specifications, or did not have enough tools to control how the different teams were doing with it. I learned that planning is very important. A planning mistake can cause delay in the delivery and a lot of headaches. You always have to ask yourself the “what ifs?” Make sure you know all the information about the project and have all the tools you may need. No hurries while planning!
What is one of your favorite expressions in Spanish, and what does it mean?
“La ocasión la pintan calva.” I think the English equivalent is: “You have to strike while the iron is hot.”
Where’s one place that you’d like to visit that you haven’t already been to?
Latin America in general, but to keep it small I am going to say Mexico. I love Mexican food. The history of the country is very interesting, and ever since I read The Savage Detectives, a novel written by Roberto Bolaño, I have always wanted to go to the Sonoran Desert.