Ask anyone at UP42, and they will all tell you the same: Virginia is a powerhouse.
Whether you’re a new joiner or a long-time employee, she is your source of energy and point of reference when you need advice at work, are desperately looking for housing in Berlin, or simply want the best recommendations to explore the German capital.
What makes Virginia our go-to person is not just her seniority. In only two years at the company, she managed to move from an administrative role as Office Manager and Executive Assistant to building a new career in Human Resources as People and Operations Manager.
If you are at a crossroads in your career or are about to throw in the towel, let this story breathe new life into your dreams.
Q: Where did you start your career, and how did you land at UP42?
A: Oddly enough, I studied fashion design in Argentina – something completely unrelated to my current role. At University, I started working as an administrator. I was in charge of the student department, organizing events and conferences. This helped me prepare for my future career in HR, though I was in for a long ride before finally reaching my goal.
When I moved to Germany, I needed a job fast, so I started working in sales. A year later, I was asked to onboard new hires in Berlin, as well as Turkey and Mexico.
Soon after that, a recruiter from UP42 approached me via LinkedIn. The product was still in beta, and I didn’t fully understand what it was all about. But I was clear from the beginning that I wanted to develop my skills in HR. So, I thought about my future and its two paths: did I want a career in finance at my current company or a potential one in HR at UP42?
I chose growth in a field I was passionate about and making an impact on an early-stage company with just 29 people. Plus, you may laugh about it, but when I was a child, like many other children, I wanted to be an astronaut. This, I thought jokingly, is the closest I’ll ever be to space…
Q: How was your experience of coming to Germany?
A: First, let me tell you: if you put in some effort, you can do whatever you have in mind. During my first tour in Europe, Berlin was the last city I visited. It was a cold and grey January in 2014, but somehow I fell in love with the city. I never thought freedom, chaos, and order could co-exist in such a balanced way, so I decided to move. I travelled back to Argentina to start my Italian citizenship application. I didn’t have all the necessary documents, but I quit my job and sold my furniture and personal belongings because I was convinced I would make it.
A week before moving to Berlin, some issues cropped up with my application. I spent the first three months here as a tourist, looking for a place to stay. I made ends meet by looking after kids or cleaning houses.
Before running out of money, I moved to a small village in Italy with a friend and spent another six months sorting out my papers. I didn’t speak a word of Italian, and nobody there spoke English. When I finally returned to Berlin, everything fell into place within a week: I found a job, a flat, and my future husband. That’s when I started to feel like things would eventually work out for the best.
Q: What personal experiences have shaped you into the professional you are today?
A: My dad was in a family business. My mom was a teacher. They both shared a sense of caring about who you work with and making the most of those relationships. In a family business, boundaries are often blurred, and you must keep your personal and professional interactions as healthy as possible.
My mom, in particular, was devoted to her job and the school children. She worked hard to bring them the best opportunities and strived to create a happy environment, as they often came from low-income families. In my job at university, I tried to recreate that environment. I worked there for eight years; I knew the names of the students I had helped, I knew their struggles, and I made sure to be there on the very last day to hand in their diplomas. Today, I still try to make our office environment loving and caring since we spend a lot of time together.
Q: What challenges did you face in your role, and how did you overcome them?
A: There have been many challenges, but I was fortunate enough to have an empathetic manager who allowed me to grow and gave me enough space to own my career development. Looking back, I don’t think I would have had the same opportunity in other companies. And it wasn’t just my direct manager: our team and CEO believed in me. They trusted that I’d be able to deal with Covid when no one knew how to handle it.
Learning by doing can be challenging: you start questioning whether you can deliver. But it pushes you to be self-reliant and know when it’s time to ask for help. At some point during my transition, I found myself balancing different roles – office manager, executive assistant, recruiter. I asked for help and learned how to better balance my duties and well-being.
Q: What words of advice do you have for people trying to build a new career?
A: Stay curious, take a positive approach, and believe in yourself. What you don’t know, you can always learn. And you will! When I joined the company, I remember hearing the engineers talk about “Jason.” I wondered, who could that be? Now I’ve reached the point where I know what an AOI is so that I can explain our product to potential candidates.
As long as you keep yourself open, there’s always something you can bring to the table. Maybe it’s related to your previous job or a life event you had to overcome: you always learn something new, and it’s never too late to jump into a new adventure to change the direction of your life.