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“Always look on the bright side of life.”

Vanessa Alvarez Carretero completed Helvetia’s Insurance Trainee Program in Spain, a six-month stay in Switzerland included. After this short stay, Vanessa continued to work in St Gallen. She tells us more about her passion for travelling, her decision to stay in Switzerland and her biggest challenge.

20 August 2018, author: Vanessa Alvarez Carratero, photo: Vanessa Alvarez Carretero

Vanessa Alvarez Carretero stands before a Helvetia sign and smiles into the camera.
Every step Vanessa Alvarez Carretero took and every topic she worked on helped her to get to where she is now.

"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.

A unique experience

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.

Decision in a snow storm

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.

Language as a challenge

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!"


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