An Interview with Professor Gomez

Lindsay Lieber sits down with her marketing class instructor, Professor Gomez, while studying abroad at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Drawing from his experience working with Mondelez, Safilo, and other partnerships, they discuss the difference in business culture between U.S. and Spain, as well as skills that are valuable in the business world today.

 Front of Universidad Pontificia Comillas

The other week I had the pleasure of interviewing my marketing teacher, professor Gomez, about his experiences teaching, in the business world, and the differences between the culture in Spain and the US. Professor Gomez graduated from Universidad Pontificia Comillas studying under the general business E2 track with a focus in marketing and research. He worked at the international food company Mondelez from 1999 until 2017, which houses recognizable snack brands, from Oreo to Nabisco to Ritz,  where he gained extensive experience in the marketing field. He stayed with Mondelez for such a long period, because it was fast growing and there was always something new to do. He held 10 different positions over the 18 years taking on projects in trade marketing, sales strategy, a Hello Joy campaign which required work in sharing market space, and more. He worked a lot with coffee and collaborated with other companies such as Tassimo, Bosch, Corte Ingles, and Carrefour. He greatly enjoyed working with a wide range of people and learned a lot over the nearly 20 years working at the company. After leaving Mondelez he wanted a change in projects and sectors and joined Safilo, an eyewear company in 2017, and left the company in December to teach.

Since, he has jumpstarted his teaching career with an opening at his alma mater, Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He loves teaching because it has given him the opportunity to talk to more people and he really enjoys training, explaining, and making things easier to understand for his students. Engaging his students is fundamental in his teaching method, and he aims to always make the content more interesting. And while he loves teaching, he also loves drawing and illustrating too. Outside of the classroom he takes art classes and mentioned he would really like to find a way to combine illustration with teaching.

Now, with extensive experience at Mondelez, an international company, when asked about differences he’s noticed between business culture in the US versus Spain he said he didn’t notice too many. He mentions that generally, the US has many commonalities with the Mediterranean culture, but he did point out the great enthusiasm many of his US colleagues seemed to have. Professor Gomez elaborates that they are quite good at communicating and motivating as Spanish coworkers tend to be less direct than their US counterparts. There is more nonverbal or unwritten communication and dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty more than in the US. Further, he compliments that American workers tend to be better at building their personal brand and selling themselves, mentioning that he thinks it reflects a higher level of competitive and individualistic tendencies. Meanwhile, Spaniards will tend to emphasize collaboration and the need for a stronger relationship between coworkers. For example, he indicates that business lunches happen frequently, and it is not uncommon for them to last two hours. Professor Gomez acknowledges this can make working in Spain less efficient, and they generally work a 9:30-7:30 day instead of the 9-5 that is typical in America. Things happen later, but he expresses that a healthy emotional link between coworkers is extremely important and supports a collaborative work environment.

When asked about the importance of internships for university students, he answered that most Spanish students start looking their last two years of uni, which is pretty similar to the US. Nonetheless, he admits that there doesn’t seem to be as much anxiety about finding one and that sometimes he wishes his students would be more driven in finding one. Being that the majority of my classes are in English, I also asked him about the importance of learning a second language. He said that it was very common for students to be able to speak more than one language, and that he didn’t start learning English until he was 12 which is considered late (don’t worry, his English is still quite good despite his “late” start). Knowing another language will undoubtedly give you a leg up in the business world he claims, especially as we are becoming more globalized and many large companies are now international.

Finally, for those that are considering working in Spain, Professor Gomez shares his advice. He reiterates that collectivism is very important in the office, and it is good to be open to conversation and making new friends. Reflecting at his time at Safilo, he reminds new hires to have fun because you will feel closer to your coworkers, and a positive environment helps to get things done. Be ready for teamwork, good spirits, and to be a part of the group.

Going Abroad Tips That Are Actually Helpful

Studying on the Student Exchange Program, Lindsay Lieber lists up the 9 things she wish she would have known or have learned since landing in the country. From cloths to plugs to traveling, let her help you get prepared to go to Madrid, Spain!

Image may contain: Beth Dooley Lieber, smiling, standing, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

You’ve just stepped off the airplane and you already feel jet-lagged and dehydrated. People are rushing around you, they’re not speaking English, and all you want to do is get your bags and get to your accommodation. Studying abroad can be stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be. Below is a list of 9 things I wish I would have known or have learned since landing in Spain.

  1. Bring a change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry on. A few of my friends had their luggage lost on the way to their host country, and the only clothes they had were the ones on their backs. This is especially problematic if your luggage is lost for several days, so to avoid being that smelly newcomer when meeting your new international friends it’s a good idea to pack a spare outfit.
  2. Don’t forget an adapter! If you’re like me, you brought an adapter for a two prong plug but failed to remember that your laptop has a three prong plug and needs charging too. And if you’re even more like me, you ended up buying a $16 one at a store in Spain that still didn’t end up fitting your plug. Moral of the story: it will be cheaper and more convenient to buy an adapter beforehand instead of in your host country or at the airport. And Amazon sells them for very cheap.
  3. Getting Euros at a decent conversion rate. If you arrive and need Euros, I can almost guarantee you that the airport will rip you off in terms of exchange rates. Since I need cash to pay my rent, the best option for me so far has been to use the Santander ATMs and withdraw large sums of Euros at a time at a 5€ ATM fee and a $5 PNC fee . Depending on which bank you have it may be different, but the PNC Virtual Wallet Student reimburses the PNC fee up to 2 times each statement period which is nice, especially if you don’t intend to open a checking account with a Spanish bank.
  4. Know the holidays of your host country. Again, if you’re like me, you flew in on Epiphany which is the equivalent of Spanish Christmas. Therefore, when you were hungry and tried to find food by your apartment, you realized that everywhere was closed. To avoid this situation, make sure you know if there are any holidays when you’re booking your flights.
  5. Siestas are a real thing. The siesta occurs around 2-5pm where many shops will close and there is a block in the day where there are no classes. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is sleeping. People will take leisurely walks to clear their heads, run a couple errands, or eat a big lunch that will hold them over until their dinner at 9-10pm.
  6. Smoking is very popular. Walking on the streets the person in front of you may be smoking, the students before class are outside smoking, it’s likely that you have a roommate that smokes. Coming from the US, this was something that surprised me. You don’t see as many people smoking in public and it has been ingrained since an early age about how harmful it is for your health. Nonetheless, there is a strong social smoking culture in Madrid that you should be aware of.
  7. The truth about traveling around Europe. Yes, it is very inexpensive to travel around Europe, and you have probably heard about buying a round-trip ticket for $40 or less.  But the truth is, if you’re a student with classes during the week, finding that $40 round-trip ticket will be difficult. Most of the best deals for flights are only if you are willing to travel in the middle of the week, with Wednesday usually being the cheapest day. Due to my class schedule I try to book flights Thursday (I have Fridays off) to Sunday or Monday and they usually cost me between $80 and $110.
  8. Not all hostels are created equal. Definitely do your research if you plan to stay in one. Think about location and cleanliness- How close is it to the city center? If it’s not close to the city center, is it close to a metro? Does it seem like they clean it regularly? And girls beware. I chose to stay in a mixed hostel towards the beginning of my trip and was the only female among 4 other guys who snored and farted all night in their sleep.
  9. Don’t  forget to travel around Spain! I know lots of people talk about traveling throughout Europe but don’t forget to travel within your host country as well. Toledo is just a short (and free with your metro card) bus ride away, Salamanca has the third oldest still operating university in the world, Malaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and Valencia is famous for the Falles festival held every March.

I have been in Madrid for about a month now, and while the transition wasn’t always the smoothest, I am having the time of my life. My favorite part has been seeing all of the intricate and unique architecture throughout the cities I have visited. There’s so much to see and do and I am beyond grateful that I get to be a part of it. So get excited about your trip, and get excited about exploring a new culture!