Rivy Obinomen: Why I chose a fin-tech Company in Barcelona to launch my career over Silicon Valley

by | May 14, 2018

If I were to ask you, where is the mecca of tech companies? Everyone without a doubt would say San Jose, California also known as Silicon Valley. Facebook, Google, Tesla, every major tech company in the world, is headquartered in this large city in Northern California, housing more than 3 million people. A city so diverse, you can find all walks of life in. The city where start – up companies are built in a garage and a few years later become multi-billion dollar companies. Well, this is where I chose to complete my Bachelor’s degree.

I am a proud graduate of San Jose State University. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a concentration in Management and Information Systems in December 2016. The funniest thing is I didn’t even attend my own graduation, I had already started working at Tesla as a Product Specialist, and I was having the time of my life working in my then dream company that I didn’t bother asking for the day off to attend my graduation. When I chose to attend San Jose State, I knew two things. One, it was in the heart of Silicon Valley and I would not have a hard time finding a job after I graduated. Two, I would be far away from my family so I would have the opportunity to grow, make mistakes, learn, love, make new friends and start a new life for myself as an adult.

In my second year of University, when I decided to pursue an MIS degree, I made new ambitious friends and created relationships with my professors. This was the time where everyone had internships lined up. In the summer of 2014, I interned at a Real Estate Agency as an IT Desktop Support Intern. It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had as a young adult, I started making more than I ever had at that time, I was part of a company and I was providing real value. I worked with every single person in the company from the maintenance crew to the Executive Managers of the company. The most memorable experience I remember from this was every time I provided a solution for someone, they would show so much gratitude and happiness. I thrived on this feeling, I wanted to experience providing this feeling to everyone I came across. After this internship, I had more clarity on what career path I wanted to take after I graduated. Fast forward to December 2015, after months of applying for internships with tech companies, I received an offer from Tesla Motors to work as an IT Operation intern in Reno, Nevada at the Gigafactory for the Fall of 2016. My heart exploded with so much happiness, I had finally achieved a major goal of getting a job at Tesla. I told everyone, my father, my Facebook friends. My excitement and happiness were accompanied with heartbreak as I knew deep down inside that I couldn’t accept this internship as I was required to take a whole semester off school and move to Nevada. I was torn between this huge opportunity or to finish my degree on time. I knew deep down inside that another opportunity would come and that the completion of my degree in a timely manner was more important to my life plan.

With an intense passion to move to Europe after an amazing trip to Switzerland, as the Universe would have it, I landed an incredible offer at a Fin-tech company in Barcelona two months before I graduated. I was to move to Barcelona in February of 2017 and start my new life with a new and exciting company.

Now, as I mentioned previously that I went to University in Silicon Valley, where there is no shortage of tech companies. As soon as December 2016 rolled over, the month of my graduation, I had recruiters from different companies reaching out to me, even Tesla. I had two months of free time before I was to move to Spain so I took a few contracting jobs from Tesla and Medallia. I worked at Tesla for a month as a Product Specialist and it was surreal. I ended up working for my dream company and I got to drive amazing cars and share the experience with others. What more could you ask for right? Well for me I was missing the most important aspect of starting a great job, providing value to a large amount of people. Providing solutions that work and that allow people to be more efficient and effective. When I started at Strands Labs, the fin- tech company in Barcelona, I was extremely excited. I finally had the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge I had attained from University, projects and previous internships. The first project that was assigned to me, I was adamant in surpassing the expectations of my boss and my teammates. I was able to provide real value to this company and to change how different teams work. Four months in and I feel even more excited about my work and I love what I do.

I have learned five major lessons from working in a fin-tech company in Barcelona.

1.   To bring value, you must continuously stay informed, which means A LOT of reading.

  • I think that I read and research more now that I am a post graduate working in a tech company than I ever did in University. To bring value you must continuously be informed, and your boss is not going to tell you what to learn or read. You must take initiative and read an enormous amount. As someone working in the IT department, I should know more about the software than the engineers or the marketing and sales teams do because we provide support. My day consists of analyzing software’s and researching for hours.

2.    Having an open mind, patience and the ability to adapt are paramount to being successful in a company in a different country.

  • When I first moved to Spain, I had major issues adapting to the culture. It was so different from the US, multiple languages being spoken in daily meetings, at lunch, everywhere. It was very easy to feel left out but once you realize that it is not personal and you open up to others, learn about their culture, try to learn the language, and put yourself out there; things become much easier. Also, remembering that they have to adapt to you as well.

3.    When you love your job, it doesn’t feel like work.

  •  Many days I have found myself leaving much later than closing time or than my colleagues. There are days you are working to the wee hours of the night because a client is in a different time zone and you have to be available to provide support. When you are able to get to point where you genuinely enjoy putting in the extra hours, you realize that you have found a job that you love.

4.    Being nice goes a long way.

  • Working at Strands for almost 4 months, I have realized that being nice to everyone you meet and work with goes a long way. When I am assigned a new project, I usually have to work with a new set of people, so I measure how successful the project was in two ways. If I have provided a usable solution that addressed their needs and requirements and how our relationship is after the project. Was I effective in making them feel important, and did I listen to their needs? If at least the latter was achieved, then I know the project was successful.

5.    How important being with a company that values work-life balance.

  •  When a company understands that their employees have lives outside of their work, it shows they value their employees. When I started working at Strands, I was in constant fear that my personal issues would get in the way of my work, or that my work would never be good enough, imposter syndrome. Moving to a new country, there are many situations that occur which can interfere with your work, like living situation, getting accustomed to a new culture, learning a new language, and so forth and I had many of these. My boss and team were extremely understanding to my situation and helped with everything I could need, moral support, and just an ear to talk to.

Now for the major question you all have; Do I regret leaving Silicon Valley? No, I don’t, I have found a company that values hard work, integrity, innovation, agile development, provides the opportunity for growth and work-life balance. I have made the best decision for my career and I can’t wait to see where it goes, but for now, I am a proud #Strander.

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