Have Skills Will Travel: Expats of STRV
Expats are essential to technology’s ever-evolving success on the world stage and also bring invaluable diversity — enriching the lives of all those within a company. STRV understands this, which is why over a third of their talent-base consists of designers, creators, coders, and thinkers from across the globe.
Although by definition, expats come from distant lands — it is far from a one-size-fits-all experience. To gain some insights, we sat down with some of our own foreign-born professionals to learn their unique perspective on what traveling, working, and transitioning to life in Prague with STRV has meant to them.
So moving to Prague wasn’t just the first time you’d relocated for a job but was also the first time you’d left Colombia at all. How was that for you?
It was a complete change (laughs). In Colombia, I was living with my family. When I moved here, living alone in a different culture on a continent so far away, it was different but thankfully wasn’t too hard.
How’d you get recruited?
STRV was holding some conferences in Bogotá and Medellín. A friend had gone and told me about it, so I asked what was the company like and how was the presentation? STRV sounded interesting to me, so I visited their website but noticed in their careers section there wasn’t any mention of Android development. My friend insisted that they were looking for Android developers, so I wrote them an email to see. I heard back from STRV the next day, and the process started from there.
And... you got the job!
It was a very good feeling. I understand there are many people who don’t get through the interview process. However, I tried it, I made it, and now I’m here.
What were your first impressions walking off the plane at Václav Havel Airport?
People weren’t speaking Spanish anymore (laughs). Also, the weather. I arrived in the middle of winter. I had never experienced winter like this before because in Medellín it’s always around the same temperature the whole year. I was like, “what is this?” All I had was a small jacket. It was interesting.
Darker and colder?
Yes, but it was amazing. Very good to experience such a new thing.
Coming into the STRV office for the first time, dodging people zooming by on scooters, playing ping pong, etc. Was this style of work environment new terrain for you?
My previous companies were not what you’d call corporate style. They were relaxed environments and friendly people, but STRV is different, it’s nice. If you’d ask me if I’d prefer to work from home, I’d tell you no way. I need to come to the office. I prefer working here.
As someone who relocated from a country with stark differences in culture and geography to that of the Czech Republic, what advice would you give to someone who’s interested in doing the same?
Take the challenge. That’s the important thing. Feeling reservations and fear is part of it, but it’s worth it. You realize that once you get here.
What are you working on these days?
An internal project called Zoe. It's a lesbian dating app.
What's been an experience that has stood out for you working in the international community here at STRV?
I'm very keen on Hispanic culture and language, so when I realized there was such a big Latin community here, I was super happy about that — I've met so many soulmates from Latin America at STRV.
You've recently started speaking at international meet-ups as a representative of STRV. How has that been going?
It was actually a huge step for me because I honestly never imagined I could do something like this. When I see people in the crowd agreeing with what I'm speaking about, it's like, "oh yes, they understand!" I'm really enjoying that.
What's the process like to become a speaker?
If you are accepted all of the arrangements are up to you set up, but STRV will support the trip, which is nice.
So I take it STRV is the first company you've represented as a speaker.
Oh yes. As I said, I don't know if I could have done this before. The Speaker's Program at STRV has helped me out a lot. Without it, I would likely have never attempted becoming a speaker. The program showed us ways to turn the fear of public speaking into excitement. It's about switching your mind to think differently.
Head of Delivery
Tell me a bit about your work at STRV.
I started as a project manager about a year ago, and now I’m heading the delivery department. What I mainly do is make sure that all of the projects are managed well and that we’re delivering on time and on budget. At the moment, I don’t manage any one project in particular, but I get involved with a lot of them when stuff goes wrong. Basically, when the shit hits the fan, I put out the fire. In addition to helping with ongoing client work, I’ve also transformed the department itself from doing mainly account management to true project and product management. We have a ways to go, but we’ve made solid progress this year.
You first came out to Prague in 2014 and spent some time between here and the States with school and various jobs. How’d you eventually land at STRV?
That’s a funny story. I originally applied as a developer for STRV in 2016, and interestingly enough the response was like, “your code is ok, but you’re a bit junior for what we need.” So the fitting wasn’t quite right at the time. I then reapplied again to be a developer in early 2017. Somewhere mid through the application, while I was working on the test project, I emailed Barbara who was my recruiter at the time and said, “you know what, I’m trying to do this, but my heart’s just not in it. I’d actually like to be a product manager here. I know you don’t have the role on the website, but if it opens up again, please let me know.” She hit me up around a month or two later. I quit my job, and the rest is history.
Once you were working in the office, what was your initial impression of the culture?
It’s honestly a little difficult to find the words to describe it. I had been living in Prague with a normal, sort or regular shitty corporate job before moving to STRV where there’s so much freedom, so much friendliness. It was like going from having asthma to suddenly being able to breathe normally. Having the innate trust of the company and the support group of a bunch of friends that I’m working with. It really unlocked something that inspired the hell out of me.
What would you say to someone who is considering applying to STRV but has reservations about relocating to the Czech Republic?
If you’re the type of American where even the idea of traveling abroad sounds scary, it’s probably best to stay where you are. If you’re open-minded and curious about different kinds of people, different cultures, go for it! Moving to the Czech Republic has expanded me so much. It’s made me realize the things I do and don’t like and what I value in people and culture. It’s even made me appreciate where I’m from more. It’ll really open up your perspective on life.