20 August 2018, author: Vanessa Alvarez Carratero, photo: Vanessa Alvarez Carretero
"I am Vanessa Alvarez Carretero, a thirty-year-old graduate in Business Administration, Management and Law from Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, Spain. I have been passionate about travelling abroad and learning languages since I was studying for my degree. That is why I did one year of my degree in France. It was a great experience and, from that moment on, I decided to do my best to make my dream come true: to work abroad at an international company.
Straight after finishing my degree in 2012, I started looking for a job. That was how I came across Helvetia. They published a job advert on the internet, for an Insurance Trainee Program that provided the opportunity to rotate through different areas of the organization, including spending some time at headquarters in Switzerland. I skimmed through the advert and when I read Switzerland, there was no doubt in my mind. I would go for it!
I joined Helvetia Spain in January 2013, at the head office in Seville. First, I worked for Customer Service & Organization for six months. Then, I moved to Sales, where I stayed for a little over a year. Finally, I worked for the Reinsurance department for another two years. This period of almost four years was somehow short but intense. I had to deliver my best in terms of adaptability and quick learning, but I also recognize the kind support provided by my colleagues on each of the teams and the confidence instilled by my superiors.
Every step I took within Helvetia Spain and every topic I worked on helped me to get to where I am now. A trainee programme is a unique experience for a recent graduate, enabling you to try out different fields, to get to know what you like and what you do not like, and to gain a consistent overview of the organization as a whole.
In 2016, they suggested that I move to Switzerland for a six-month stay. I could not have been happier and needed no time to think about it; my answer was a definite yes. So I moved to St Gallen in September 2016. I joined the Business Development Europe team and supported what at that time was called Business Transformation, mainly concerning telematics. Within the European market area, I have been in charge of the Spanish market and the business unit in Spain.
After six months, I had the opportunity to extend my stay in Switzerland by another three months. I could already foresee the end of my experience abroad, but I felt that I wanted to work and live abroad for longer. My current boss proposed that I take up the position I had been occupying, but on an indefinite basis. I still remember my colleagues asking me before I signed my contract, 'Are you sure you want to move from Spain to Switzerland? Look out the window, it’s snowing a lot!' And my answer was and still is yes! Moreover, I love the international nature of my department in St Gallen and I feel lucky with my team, where cooperation and opportunities to learn always come first.
However, there is also the not so 'beautiful' part of the story, and at this point I should mention the biggest challenge since moving to Switzerland: the language. When I moved here, I had no idea of German, let alone Swiss German. I am studying German at present, but it takes time. I consider it is important to know the language in order to feel part of the country and the culture, and that requires effort on a daily basis.
Apart from that, I love the Spanish culture and I am lucky that I can come back to Spain regularly. Nevertheless, I do not think that I have had so many problems adapting to Swiss culture. Nowadays, I could have lunch at any time and I benefit from the long and hard winter by improving my skiing skills, so as the song says: always look on the bright side of life!"