I code. I write. I draw. I learn. I love.
I decided to write this page in order to provide a qualitative overview of my growth. It is a long story, but the complete one is even longer. I am a storyteller, and this is my playground.
I was 8 years old. I define this age as the time I became aware of living in a world where you need to decide what do you want to make of your life. Though I was young, I was aware that I would grow up and that life was a great adventure. I have to thank the Encyclopædia Britannica (British Encyclopedia) indirectly and my mother directly.
Once upon a time, people went from house to house selling anything they could. It was just before the time of the public internet. So when a man came by selling my mom a massive set of 5 (I think) volumes of an encyclopedia and how it will help us with homework, she did not hesitate to buy them. I don’t know how much money it was, but it was a lot, as it needed to be pay on settlements, and even then, my parents could barely afford it. I never asked them, but I think they believed it was worth investing in our education through them.
By then, I was an avid reader because I got an early start back in kindergarten in Chicago. Having read my sister’s school books and the handful of small history books I found around, this was like hitting the knowledge jackpot.
I read it. I dreamed. I read more. I dreamed more. A whole world began to form in my mind’s eye. A bigger world filled with adventures and challenges and lessons waiting for me to learn them. Languages I could barely imagine how they sounded. Castles, trains, houses cramped against each other, coats, boots, great libraries of endless knowledge. I wanted it all and more. I started to dream and try to find my way to the life I wanted.
And for an 8-year old, this meant waiting patiently to start University.
Forward to 2004. I scored top in school and university entry exams. I was proud, as this allowed me to do anything I wanted to do (a constant reminder from my parents and teachers).
I had a lot of options in mind and all within my reach, but my focus on my academic studies made insecure about leaving the comfort of my own family. So instead of studying anthropology to learn all the languages I could or aerospace engineering to make those beautiful stealth planes, or even joining the computer science program consisting of 100% boys, I settled for a B.A. in Clinical Psychology just a 30 minutes ride from home in one of the smallest campuses of the island. I thought maybe helping people would give me some purpose, as I enjoyed analyzing behavior. To learn why we act and think the way we do.
I enjoyed it and learned a lot about human nature and that one word that took hold of my heart ‘holistic’. A holistic approach to psychology meant for me a holistic approach to everything in life. I wanted to apply this concept wherever I could. My favorite psychoanalyst became Carl Jung.
During the last year of my studies, I had a realization. As I experienced the excitement of my peers with their chosen career paths, I noticed something was missing for me. Again, I had top scores, perfect essays, never late, every professor willing to dedicate time for me, and even give me extra opportunities and credits. I was good. I knew I was, but I still felt out of place. I wanted to feel that passion I saw in them. I did not know where nor how, but I wanted it. So I finished my B.A. in 2008 and began my search for it.
During this time, I met my partner online. The world was opening up to me thanks to the internet. I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn what else was out there. I daydreamed of getting lost in a foreign country, not knowing the language and learning out of necessity. The challenge called me like nothing else. Thanks to having met a few people via the internet, including my current partner, I decided I could just venture into the unknown.
I had friends who could aid me and a home to go back to if it was not for me. So why not? I took a leap of faith and it has been the best decision of my life. I became Aupair to a family of 3 children. I had my struggles from day one with learning to ride a 3-wheel bakfiets. “I thought you said you could ride a bike,” said the lady of the house after seeing my deep black-inked knees.
I knew I was here to learn. I learned to count on myself. I rode a train for the first time and got lost. I biked for 2 hours in the same area and also lost and learned to eventually use a compass to guide me back home (thank goodness now for modern phones). I learned to cook, what making friends from scratch meant, and how to speak a foreign language the way I always dreamed of. I learned that people did not exaggerate when saying how hard it was to bike in Amsterdam. I kept biking and enjoying the changing seasons.
In January 2010 my Aupair time finished and off to my warm country I went. I was sad to leave. But I knew I was coming back. I did not know how or when, but I would.
The next couple of years were spent between a couple of jobs where I had such wonderful bosses who understood the special circumstances of my love life and allowed me time to visit The Netherlands every 3 months while I continued to work for them online.
While at Print Gallery, I worked in a store dedicated to printing advertising material for small businesses around the area. We also sold basic stationeries and souvenirs. My main task was to create the designs for the printed materials as their Graphic Designer. Back then I was using my own Adobe inDesign software (1st generation) and learned a lot of tips and tricks on design thanks to the internet. I applied these in the job and my boss was impressed.
When Print Gallery ceased to exist, I joined a project management consultant for education programs. I applied the same skills with designing the material for them as well as maintaining their online website (which I designed from scratch). It was simple but presentable and useful. From the moment I had my own computer I played a lot with website building and blogs until I got busy with life.
I will never forget one lesson from my first boss: “never close a door behind you. You never know when you will need to reach out for help”
In 2012, my partner and I took the big step. I came to live in the Netherlands after 4 years of a long-distance relationship. I started from zero, bringing only my journal collection and a few items of clothing with me. I knew basic Dutch but had no tangible skills to show off to get any job I wanted. Six months in and I needed to do something and feel useful. Anything would do as long as it allowed me to integrate into the Dutch society.
I found an online posting for housekeeping in a new hotel in Leiden. I applied with my Aupair experience and got the job on the spot. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I just wanted a job and I took it. Zero hours contract and weekend work. It allowed me time in-between to find another in the meanwhile, as well as to improve my Dutch.
My Dutch did improve, but so did my physique. Soon I realized my clothes didn’t fit and there were muscles on my legs and arms I never thought I had. I met many people just like me, trying to figure things out.
I learned a lot I could apply in my personal life. Best of all, I made my first long term friend in the Netherlands. A small, super funny, passionate, hard-working Indonesian girl who also embraced life’s unexpected surprises.
After 8 months, I decided that I needed more stable hours, this was really the main reason to move on. It was a hard job, but I got so strong I actually enjoyed it. I loved the focus, the routine, the surprises behind each door. I had so much energy I felt I could do anything (and eat all the food I wanted!)
This is where it gets magical! 🦄
I had no idea where to start. My only experience was cleaning and the work I did in Puerto Rico. What would that get me? Online, I found an ad looking for hard-working staff for a new hotel. I had no idea what it meant as everything was written in such a style that I wondered if they were not exaggerating. It was my first encounter with people who thought like me. It sounded interesting, and I decided to start with hotels since I was already familiar with the environment and could expect more expats like me.
My goal with this application was to get experience with finding a job and meet people outside of my comfort zone. I had nothing to lose, so I went for it. I had no idea how big this would make me. They invited to a second interview and called the next day to join the new team. I was so happy! Their selling point? I would learn it all. All. All. All. And that I did. From the moment I stepped into their big white office / mansion 7 years ago to the day I stepped out. I never stopped learning. It was incredibly fulfilling.
It is hard to describe what I learned during this time as it will take many many pages. I will, however, tackle some things on the blog such as how I improved my customer service skills to how I learned tricks to become super organized. The best advice I’ve received and the friends I made.
During my years as citizenM ambassador in Rotterdam, I was always on the run. I loved every minute of it. Switching from the front desk to the bar when I wanted action. Or to the pantry when I was not at my best to greet guests. To the occasional training which I loved as it meant passing on this enthusiasm and passion for the job. My favorite spot was the front desk, as I loved playing with the systems and find out how it all worked as well as solving things for guests.
Soon the support team was established in our hotel inside a small office the size of our small rooms. I volunteered along with 2 others in order to help them when they had busy times. A year later, I was invited to join full time. I was very happy as this meant I was going to learn more again. We were in charge of the systems and ever-growing hotels from all across the globe. With the knowledge I acquired from Rotterdam, I needed to do the same with each and every hotel. This is how I became citizenM’s own breathing knowledge base (as my team called me).
This small team of 5 grew and years later we were 20 and with our own name (which I proudly took a great part in), the citizenConnect team. I was proud to train most of them and they were stars. I got to do what I wanted, learn, and teach to pass on the joy of working for citizenM. After 4 years I needed a new challenge. The next step. My goal is always the journey. What would teach me more, and still be a stepping stone to even more growth? I applied for the Groups and Meetings position, which was similar to citizenConnect but on a corporate scale.
My time there was short, as I began during the start of the pandemic and ended because of this reason. Because of this I put my heart into it, making sure I learned as much as I could, just in case. Just as with citizenConnect, I saw opportunities to improve processes for the team. I perfected my organizational skills (as I knew WFH was going to be for a while), learned more about the Agile method with their online training, learned to play with google sheets and create colorful practical tools. I wanted to make things more automated and help them as they were a small team with little time in their hands. So I applied all I could from my connect days and left my mark before waving my last digital goodbye. 👋
I was sad. This was not just a job. It was my first career path and a second family. But I grew stronger and I learned and discovered myself. I became not just a better version of myself, but a truer version of myself. I embraced my silliness, my colors, my dreams, my art, my passions. There was no need to fit in, I could just be. I learned that whatever you do, you need to do it with joy and commitment. That is all that matters in the end. As long as I did that, I would have the space to learn, grow, and create.
My journey with citizenM was magical. Now, I am on a new adventure! I want to spread the same joy I found during the past 7 years. I want to keep making people smile. 😊
There are a few things I have learned about myself through these years:
1. I love learning. Learning keeps me young and healthy.
2. I am more persistent than I realized.
3. I really can do whatever I want to do if I do it with joy (and good music).
4. To live a good life, most of the time, joy is enough.
5. Skills can be learned, what matters is my attitude to learning.
After thinking and evaluating my feelings towards certain areas, I decided to embrace my geeky heart 💖 and learn to program 💻. I want to be part of this momentum in technology where everyone can collaborate together for a better world.
My heart gets excited whenever I think about myself as a woman in tech. This is my new path, and I will follow it as persistently as I always have. Commitment to your dreams is what makes them come true. ✨