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.