Category Manager Juan Pablo Nieto started as a Discover Trainee at VodafoneZiggo three years ago. We asked him how he looks back on the start of his career:
When considering traineeships, some people put on their
bee-costume and sniff the flowers until they identify a company that is nectar to their ambitions. Others engage raging,
no-holds-barred unicorn-on-steroids mode, and drive their horn straight into their favorite organization. Juan Pablo belongs to the latter category...
“Ha ha! Well. I have a background in technology and telecommunications, so that industry naturally holds my interest. Another factor is that VodafoneZiggo was the telco most open to internationals, at least as far as I could tell. When I applied, the merger with Ziggo hadn’t yet gone through, so the general vibe was even more international. After the joint venture started, parts of the company were obviously ‘Dutchified’, but I have the feeling it’s all balancing out nicely now. Anyway, the fact that VodafoneZiggo is so welcoming to internationals was a major reason to apply. It’s a great place for internationals to work. I’m originally from Uruguay, but I was already studying in Delft for my second masters, so it made more sense to apply to Vodafone Netherlands than to Vodafone Group.”
When you started your traineeship, you said you hoped to contribute to projects in evolving technologies and market strategies. How did that turn out?
“On a personal level, that depends on how well you find your own way. It’s not like the company will roll out a red carpet that magically takes trainees to every cool and exciting place. To some extent, that happens, but you also have to do your own red carpeting. What I found, is that there is a lot of room to do just that. I think that atmosphere is the positive outcome of two factors. The first is the international approach within the Discover traineeship program. The other is the relative lack of traditional hierarchies that you could call typically Dutch. For me, coming from a Latin American background, the hierarchy seems almost flat. So if you want to go for it and challenge yourself, you can be as involved as you want to be. What I learned early on is that if you spot an opportunity, you can run with it. Even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with your official role.”
It sounds like that really surprised you?
“Well, yes. That’s not the way things are handled in Latin America. Or even in some other parts of Europe. You may never even spot the opportunity to begin with, because no one will tell you about it unless you have, you know, the right level of clearance. But here, once you start asking, everybody will try to answer your questions. If they know the answers, you get the info. I’ve been involved in projects I would never have been involved in, had I worked in Uruguay. It would’ve been unthinkable to let a ‘rookie’ take on such important tasks. The amount of trust VodafoneZiggo has in you, is impressive. And I’m very grateful for that. To be honest, I think trusting people is the way forward. Because, sure, someone with 25 years of experience may very well be ‘better’ at a job than someone who just starts out. But – and this is important – not necessarily so. One of the reasons I left my country, was the realization that I could not grow fast. I would simply hit the ceiling. The only way to climb the ladder, would be by aging. Not by getting better at my job.”
Out of the three projects you did, which one has taught you the most?
“If you look at it academically, I could point to one of the technology-related projects. But I think my second project made the biggest difference to me as a person. I loved it! I was part of the B2B Customer Experience team. That fresh perspective helped me understand the customer processes behind our products, and how we can become a customer-centric organization by focusing on the needs of customers, instead of our own. One of the problems technologically minded people have in general, is that we tend to underestimate the intangible. We tend to believe that what we do – making technology work – is what it’s all about. But that’s just part of the customer experience. By zooming in on the customer experience and customer journey I discovered how much broader you have to approach things to really make a difference. I learned so much during this project. About the commercial side. About the need for customer centricity. The things I learned there, I still use in my work today. I started out a bit skeptical, but in the end this project was fantastic.”
Great to hear! Isn’t there anything you would change about the traineeship?
“I have actually been providing feedback to the program managers and made some suggestions that were already followed up. One of the main concerns was about the length of the projects. Four months each may sound like a lot, but the projects at our company are so complicated, it’s not enough time. So we lengthened that period, which should really help. What we may need to look into, is improving the transition to a suitable job after the traineeship ends. I have been lucky – I‘m very happy in my current role as 5G Product Manager for B2B – but sometimes it’s hard to immediately land a spot that really suits your talents. In the end, you’re gonna find a great spot, but that should go quicker and smoother. Other than that, the traineeship is really a fast track to achieving growth!”