Interview with Ismail, a Neoma Business School graduate and twice a Planet Expat candidate. He is now based in Costa Rica, working at a startup.
First of all, congratulations on your new job! How have these first few months been?
Thank you! These first 2 months have been amazing. It’s like I have been knowing my teammates for years. We really get along. There is already a great bond between us, which I think is fundamental to our success. Besides, I came in a very early stage of the startup growth, which I am very happy with. There is still so many things to do in order to take the company to the next level. This is a unique opportunity to work on what I truly love, and improve on what I am really good at. My team is skilled, passionate and incredibly motivated. The ingredients for success are there. It really excites me for the future.
Before going to San José in Costa Rica, did you have any other destinations in mind? What made you choose that city?
Yes I had other destinations in mind: Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. What made me choose San José was not the city itself, but rather the team. In the first place, I had 2 criteria for my future experience: First, I was looking for a very early stage startup in which I could significantly contribute. Second, I wanted to go to Latin America. My current team attracted me the most during the interview process. They happened to be in Costa Rica. Why not? I just made the jump.
How does a normal day at your new company look like?
There isn’t really a normal day at my company. We work on a per-project basis, with objectives to meet and results to reach. It is up to me to organize my day as I want. There is no official working schedule. Each person is different, and my company embraces that. We have a few meetings every week to catch up with everyone.
How would you describe the work culture in Costa Rica? Is it very different from your homecountry?
The work culture in Costa Rica is informal. Knowing people first is important before getting into business. It is not that different from my home country (Morocco), southern work cultures tend to have many characteristics in common. People tend to be flexible with schedules, and devote time to team bounding out of work context, which strengthen my motivation to give it 110%.
What do you like the most from your new city?
I like the simplicity and of the people, and the food!
Did you encounter any difficulties in your first few weeks? If so, how did you overcome them?
The main difficulty that I encountered was the work permit procedure. I am still going through it. The bureaucracy in Costa Rica is not an easy thing to deal with. Thankfully, my colleagues are very helpful, and do not hesitate to rely on their connections the ease up the process. Being patient, positive and strategic is key.
What would you say is the best thing about living abroad?
Living abroad gives you the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone on every aspect of your life. It is the best opportunity to take a retrospective on yourself and upgrade on a personal and professional level. You learn better about yourself, more objectively I would say. You know better about your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, which is the best way to know what you really want, and do what you love.
From a professional and personal side, how beneficial you think international experiences are?
From a professional side, international experiences are the best occasion to evaluate your skills and question your methods. Methods used in Europe might not be adequate in Costa Rica. You learn to develop new ways of working, on your own. Besides, it broadens your way of thinking, in the sense that you exchange ideas with people that have a completely different background and experience than yours. This gets your ideas challenged and enriches your mind.
From a personal side, international experiences are truly amazing. They are a mix of excitement, surprises, joy and inspiration. You experience the unknown, know more about yourself and therefore grow as a person. You completely renew your view on the world, and realize that although you may come from very far, people from the other side of the globe are closer to you than you can imagine.