Saturday, January 2, 2010

Life of a Working Girl in Mexico City

Here I am (in the funny glasses) with my coworker Sai at my company Christmas party.

My New Years resolution is to begin this blog por fin. I should have begun ages ago, but I’ve been so busy that when I actually have time to sit down and write I am at a loss for words or for where to begin. I want to start by thanking all of the people at Tech that made this scholarship happen for me, Michelle Dion and Jennie Lincoln for writing my wonderful recommendations, Karen Adams and Phil McKnight for guiding me through the application process, and most of all Vicky Galloway for introducing me to the beauties of Mexico and encouraging me to return as often as possible.

I can honestly say that this trip has been incredible since the moment I arrived in late August. We started with a kick-off orientation the first week, learning about Mexican history and culture, speaking with past grantees, visiting cultural sights and getting settled in (unfortunately I got horribly sick and had to spend a whole day in my hotel room ordering chicken soup and watching TV). It was interesting to meet all of the other Fulbrighters and learn about their projects, one studying city planning, another researching pine tree genetics. I met an artist/writer who spent her previous grant walking down Insurgentes Sur, the longest road in México, speaking with locals from different zones of the city and documenting her experiences.

There are over sixty US Fulbrighters living in Mexico this year, ranging from English Teaching Assistants to researchers to professors. I am among a group of ten who received Binational Business Grants to both work and study in Mexico. I chose to apply for the business program because I wanted to gain some work experience before starting law school. Since the beginning of September I have been working at Volaris, a Mexican low-cost airline that follows the business model of Southwest. I chose to work for Volaris because I had studied the Mexican low-cost airline industry in one of my economics courses at Tech.

The atmosphere at Volaris is exciting, because it is one of the first low-cost airlines to take off in Mexico, and since 2006, has risen to become the third largest airline in the country. I work within the marketing team as a commercial strategy analyst. Since I began, my bosses and coworkers have entrusted me with a high level of responsibility and high-profile projects. I started off working under my immediate supervisor Manuel, with whom I get along very well. My first assignment under him, a competitor analysis, resulted in our CEO’s decision to open up new routes to compete with a rival airline. One of my proudest moments so far was hearing him announce the new routes at a marketing luncheon.

The project I am working on now, aimed at increasing customer loyalty, will change the face of the airline forever, bringing it onto the global stage. My partner and I presented the project to the CEO and he gave us the green light to move forward. In a few months I will have the opportunity to work with our in-house lawyers on negotiations for this project. I am excited about the prospect of getting some legal experience before going to law school. From the very start, Manuel has made a serious effort to involve me in projects that will help build my professional skills.

Aside from my internship position, I have been taking classes at the business school of ITESM, which has a campus in the Santa Fe neighborhood where I work. The first semester I took a finance and accounting class, and next semester I will be taking an economics course with another business Fulbrighter who also works at Volaris.

I live with two girls from the business program in Colonia Condesa, a beautiful art deco neighborhood close to the center of the city. The neighborhood is full of green spaces, restaurants, book stores, and just about everything one could need to pass the time - if only I had endless amounts of it. I work in Santa Fe, a business and financial district in the far western part of the city. While the commute can be up to an hour each day, it has been worth it to work for Volaris. I started off riding in to work with my boss Manuel, but now I catch a ride with a friend who works close to my office.

Looking back over the past four months, I have to say that one of my favorite aspects of working in Mexico is the business culture itself. Granted, the minimum 9 to 6:30 schedule is tiring, but the work environment is very relaxed and welcoming. In the morning everybody greets everybody else on their team, giving hugs and kissing cheeks and asking about their night or their weekend. The first hour of work is devoted to getting coffee, chatting, and settling in for the day. Lunch is taken late, usually around two, but often lasting an hour and a half or more. My team often goes to lunch as a group, but not to talk about business. In Mexico, coworkers are friends that you enjoy seeing every day, and often see outside of work, rather than people you complain about to your "other" friends. In a word, the work atmosphere is very warm, just like Mexican culture as a whole.

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