Madrileña, Mother, former Marketeer with a Masters in International Trading turned Mentor and Coach, Caterer, Flower arranger, Teacher of business skills and Spanish and ever-enthusiastic dancing Queen, Area 4/5 Coordinator, Rocío Alférez talks to us about how living abroad and returning to Madrid has shaped her life and what makes her tick today.
As former expat, how have your experiences abroad shaped your view of Madrid today?
I´d say that I´ve definitely come to appreciate how rich, vast and fulfilling the diversity of life around the world is. Within that, Madrid has undergone a dynamic transformation from Spanish capital to pole position as a vibrant, cultural, international landmark city on the must-see map.
After working in marketing you moved to Ireland, what was that experience like?
I have experienced Ireland both before and after its dramatic economic transformation and have always thoroughly enjoyed my time there, both in the city and the country. The Irish and the Spanish have much in common!
What aspects of your job did you particularly enjoy when teaching Soft skills and Leadership on Masters programmes at university in Madrid?
I love teaching, especially languages as I also teach Spanish. I enjoy opening my students’ minds and eyes to exploring a new world and encouraging them to dive in without fear.
You spent 3 years living in Curitiba, how did you adapt to life in Brazil?
Despite Brazilians being fairly close to Spaniards both emotionally and linguistically there were certainly plenty of differences below the surface. For example, femininity is embraced and celebrated with less reticence there. The women ooze power and confidence.
In terms of vocabulary, the “false friends” often caught me out. Soon after arriving, I was fairly shocked when my driver announced to me: “Eu te ligo e depois te pego” which in Spanish literally means: “I’ll flirt with you and then I’ll hit you” as opposed to “I´ll call you and then come and pick you up”. That experience encouraged me to master Portuguese quite quickly.
You used to be the President of the Parent-Teacher Association at your son’s school, ICS, did that role present any particular challenges?
Ha ha, well trying to harmonise 65 different nationalities and their respective expectations, cultural traits and parenting experiences in addition to those of the staff was certainly quite a challenge! However, the school was great at listening and most of the parents were reasonably familiar with that particular type of education.
How did your stint on the PTA at ICS then become a springboard into catering?
I´ve always been passionate about cooking and inspired by my grandmother. When I returned to Madrid in 2010 people (moms, friends) started to ask as me for recipes, menus, then they asked me to teach them so I ended up holding a weekly class with different groups. Later on, I started to receive requests to cater for parties, business dinners, private dinners at home etc so I´ve been running cookery classes and catering for several years now.
What attracted you to coaching and mentoring?
When I returned to Madrid I had to reinvent myself professionally which was quite daunting yet liberating at the same time. I had a real drive to help others and thought that my inner motivation could be useful to share. My shrewd friends pushed me towards the sphere of coaching and I discovered fortuitously that it was a perfect match for my passion and skills.
What is Lindy hop and how did you get into it?
Lindy Hop is a dance in between Swing and Rock and roll. And I love it! Dance has always been part of my life (flamenco, jazz….) and prior to Covid I enjoyed classes and weekend dance groups all over Madrid.
In addition to catering you are also very creative with flowers?
Yes, I love flower arranging and décor. I can´t imagine life without aesthetics. I need it as a source of peace and joy. However, my main driver is humankind, I prioritise giving and doing my best by people. I sincerely believe that the main reason we are here is to truly love and be loved.
What is your secret Madrid?
The Parque El Capricho- I grew up in that part of Madrid and used to play there as a child. Plus the magic atmosphere of artists and intellectuals in the Café Comercial in the Glorieta de Bilbao conjures up special memories us congregating there with my parents and neighbours when I was going out in Malasaña in my youth.
What tips can you give to students looking for that motivation to be the best they can?
The first tip I would give to students is not to be hampered by fear but to enjoy every step of the way. Learn that life will gift them lots of opportunities in every season of their lives and that it is positive to have a vison for their own future and a commitment to their present.
When faced with tough decisions I ask them to focus on achieving a balance between and finding concrete examples of these 3 things:
- 1. what they enjoy
- 2. what they are skilled or best at
- 3. the kind of life they want to have
You have a very positive, social outlook, how have you maintained that during the pandemic?
I have to say that in my case being a Christian and having faith is what truly helps me go forward in my life. Also, understanding that what we think is not necessarily what we are is extremely helpful!
If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?
Can I just recoup a normal life please!!! And travel A LOT.