How an Argentinian Entrepreneur Found a Home Halfway Across the World

by Gonzalo September 22, 2016

A lesson in how opposites attract

Meet Carlos Miceli, our very first user to land a job through Jobbatical! Before he joined our business development team in Tallinn last year, he had already lived in Australia, China, Chile and Colombia. Estonia was the last stop in his long period of traveling; incidentally, it was also the place where he met his girlfriend.

We recently caught up with him back in his country of Argentina, where he’s busy launching his own startup.

How did you get involved with Jobbatical?

I looked into it because I was very interested in the whole future of work trend and the future of HR and how talent and companies find each other. Jobbatical had an interesting take on this problem.

I took a full day to apply because I wanted to take all the time I needed to make the best application, which I think people should do more.

If you’re gonna apply for something, go all the way.

I did some research and saw connections in common on LinkedIn. I was able to get an interview with Karoli and Ronald and Allan (Note: Our 3 founders) live, because we were all in San Francisco at the same time.

What was it like moving to Estonia?

Latinos, we’re from a very heartwarming, very open, touchy culture. I would not say that of Estonians, in the initial interactions with them. Once they get to know you, once you’re in, they treat you amazingly well. But I realized, “Okay, it’s gonna be a little different in terms of how quickly you get into the culture.”

Did you have any interesting discoveries in terms of culture?

I think the thing I liked was something I’m trying to embed in my own life––how quiet Estonia is. How calm. I love that about Estonia.

I came out with this idea of proactive and reactive hospitality.

With Americans, Argentinians and Brazilians, there’s no, “Oh, do you need something? I’ll help you with that.” There’s, “Hey, let’s go out tonight. I want to take you out, I want to show you this thing. I want you to have the best experience you can have.”

Estonians are more like, “If you have a problem, we’ll help you.” But it’s not in their genes to think like, “How can we help you to have the best time here?” I mean we have very different cultures, Argentinians and Estonians, socially.

Was there a notable difference in the work culture?

For them it’s weird to speak up and question things. It makes sense. Look at their history. It’s a little bit of “Don’t stand out,” which has a lot of great things about it. I don’t like how loud we can be in the Americas sometimes.

But one time I went to a meeting with a business team, and they’d just wait and be like, “Are you gonna say anything else because we’re not gonna ask anything.” It was a little awkward.

The curiosity that they may have is hard to see sometimes because they don’t manifest it so much.

You met your girlfriend in Estonia. What are some things you’ve learned from each other, being from such different cultures?

A very typical one is being on time. Meeting, dinner, whatever. Argentinians are never on time. If you have a party, and say let’s meet at 9, and they come at 9, you’re in your towel and you’re like, “What? Why are you here already?” Of course that’s not Estonian.

One thing I talk to my girlfriend about is how to think outside the box of social structures of how things are supposed to work. So I think it’s a little bit of an opportunity to introduce certain values to Estonia and vice versa, go to Argentina and take attitudes from Estonia that could be very useful.

Which attitudes in particular did you take away from Estonia?

Speak in a lower volume. I probably talk a little loud, and she would ask, “Why do you have to be so loud?”

I think there’s a certain communal discipline in Estonia that I like. And I like that to an extent. I think in our part of the world, in the U.S. or South America, we have a bit too much of, “This is what I want to do.” Fine, but it is nice to see a situation where there’s a certain tranquility and I think she brings that to what we do and to the house.

Looking back, what were some important lessons you learned from the experience?

I think Estonia sort of helped me realize what my place was at that particular time. It helped me remember the things of my own culture. You know, it’s pretty hard to value your own culture unless you travel, unless you see other cultures. Estonia was the reminder that it was time for me to be a bit more home.

Jobbatical played a big role in helping me understand what I should do in this part of the world, because I knew I wanted to be in Latin America. It helped me understand different angles of this problem.

What have you been up to since?

I basically just kept exploring. It was a whole year of exploration by doing small projects. And that kept going until May this year. Eventually this idea for the business that we launched came — called Escuela de Nuevos Aliados, School for New Allies.

It’s a four-week program online but in real time, for people all over Latin America to develop interpersonal skills in a digital age. The second thing is to create a lot of new allies in Latin America. We launched two and a half months ago and we already have people signing up from more than 8 countries in 23 cities around Latin America.

Last but not least, do you have any advice for people interested in taking a jobbatical?

If you’re already thinking “maybe I should,” then you probably should. Listen, traveling is awesome. Working on new problems, learning new things, that’s all great. I would say, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Sometimes first-time travelers or movers — I remember because I had this — have this sense of finality. Oh, I’m gonna go forever. But now it’s just like, “Dude, if you don’t like it you’re gonna be back in a year and life is fine again.” If you go out, you don’t love the city, at least you had the experience. You saw something new, you learn something about yourself.

Just keep exploring.

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