On the surface, everything in my life seemed alright when I was 19 years old. I was studying both Management and Computer engineering in the best but most expensive university in Colombia, I had good marks that will likely get me into an internship and a top company afterwards and was going out every weekend as a lifestyle. But the truth is that my family was financially broke. I was only able to study in that university because of two loans (one of which depended on my top marks). I wasn’t very sure if the career plan of joining a tech giant for 20 years was the right choice. I dreamed of going abroad and getting to know other cultures but I wasn’t able to afford it. One day whilst going through FB news feed and caught a friend’s post saying “Join AIESEC. It’s up to you to make a difference in the world”; lucky me.
I joined my university chapter back in 2011. I admit the first few weeks I wasn’t very sure what we were doing but it was there, working with other students like me but from other degrees, that I understood both the meaning and power of purpose. We were decided to increase our impact in our community by providing exchange experiences for youth on which they could develop their leadership; it was this ambition of growing our impact what led us to transform our local chapter from being a small one with barely 40 exchanges a year to be one that nowadays impacts 10x times more people.
How did a bunch of young people with 0 experience do this? Understanding that it wasn’t a matter of ideas but execution; it is common for us as young people to brainstorm and get excited with new ideas but then many times the execution ends halfway. It was up to us to revert our past and grow for our community and we ended up doing it. From running stalls the 5 days of the week at the university to manage a CSR project for a multinational by bringing internationals to rural schools, we did it all. After all those, I practically learned what that post on facebook said, “It’s up to you” to make what you dream with a reality and I got the confidence to pursue a different career plan far from the 20 years in a big tech one. When I left the local committee at the end of 2013, we were already 200 and we were developing leadership with more than 250 exchanges; nowadays people from that generation is impacting communities in Congo, working with the government or with top consulting firms, starting their own businesses or preparing themselves in Harvard to transform Colombia.
From there, I jumped to AIESEC’s national office in Colombia as Sales executive as my first job. Why did I choose this instead of EY or other companies from which I had offers? Because this position was giving me the chance to contribute to the current problems of my country whilst I was only 21. Going around Colombia engaging young people to join AIESEC and organisations to work with us for youth was my day to day. From Pereira to Cartagena, I had the change to deliver sales training when 3 years before I had no clue about sales; I learnt it by doing because I had the platform to do so. That year taught me about privilege and changed my perspective towards life and career; after seeing the needs of the people around my country, I decided that sooner or later I’ll go back to Colombia to work for a better country.
Then, for the last years, I worked in London and the Netherlands in both the UK team and the Global team of AIESEC. I aligned my role to my career and understood that my passion lies in product management, exactly in the middle between business, IT and marketing and that I strive for the generation of opportunities for people through technology. I worked on teams with 11 different nationalities and I’m currently the final responsible for our global online platforms that have more than 500K visitors monthly. Thanks to these roles I got to visit all the continents, deliver or be part of conferences in Poland, Uganda, Brazil, Mexico and India and my passport is almost full; something that was a dream but I had no means to pay. These years abroad taught me about me and the world; we are so insignificant and yet so powerful to make a change.
It has been 6 years since that FB post and now I’m leaving AIESEC. Couldn’t be more grateful for what it has been, for how it shook all my plans and life in general. Now it’s time for new endeavours contributing to a better world, not necessarily in an NGO or with the government, simply making my part and generating opportunities. For me, it’s going to be in a Fintech startup unicorn in Estonia making the financial system better for the people; what about you?
Did I manage to graduate from both degrees I pursued? Yes.
Do I still pay for both student loans? Yes, every month.
Do I own a passport which makes it even harder to travel? Yes, proudly.
None of those stopped me and shouldn’t stop you. This blog post can be what the FB post was for me; your choice.
Was this all that I was pursuing? Nope, not at all, this was just the beginning. Now, as AIESEC taught me, it’s up to me.