Working for a foreign company does not necessarily mean leaving Slovakia
We talked to Miroslava Kuchárová, Head of Procurement for Mitto, who works from our HubHub center in Bratislava, on how external cooperation with a foreign company may look like.
Today, more and more young people are using the opportunity to work for companies externally. They don’t have a permanent office. They travel the world, discover new places and look for coworking centers where they can work undisturbed. We talked to Miroslava Kuchárová, Head of Procurement for Mitto, who works from our HubHub center in Bratislava, on how external cooperation with a foreign company may look like.
What have you experienced professionally and what are you currently up to?
My first work experience was an internship at IBM while still studying applied mathematics in Brno. I didn’t like IBM’s “corporate culture”, so I decided that working in a corporation wasn’t for me.
Then I took a break and went to Barcelona as part of the Erasmus program. After graduation, I had the opportunity to move to Berlin. I didn’t have a job there, but Berlin is known to be full of startups and small businesses and it’s a very international city. They all work in English, so you don’t even need German.
I was lucky then and I came across Mitto, where I currently work. I joined the company as a Business Analyst. After a few months, there was an opportunity to learn new things as a Pricing Analyst and start helping with valuing our services. It was very dynamic. Many times, I had no idea what was waiting for me that day in the morning. It was a big difference compared to a corporation, where it is a big stereotype, and everything is set according to the tables. In Mitto it was quite the opposite. There was no hierarchy.
A year and a half ago, I changed my position within the company again, allowing me to gain experience in another area – in Procurement, that is, dealing with our suppliers. I am currently managing a small Procurement team based in our Belgrade office.
What is Mitto dedicated to?
Mitto focuses on sending A2P SMS, which allows companies to communicate with their customers. An example is SMS messages with marketing campaigns from stores, confirmation of reservation of dates or purchase of tickets. Another very common use of our services is sending verification codes via SMS within 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication). This two-step verification ensures secure sign-in to bank accounts or to various applications and social networks like Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, …
Standard P2P (peer-to-peer) SMS between individuals is provided by the operator. Individual operators have contracts with each other, so we can send messages from, for example, O2 to T-Mobile. But companies that want to send SMS to their customers around the world would have to conclude contracts with all operators. It is therefore of more benefit for them to use the services of SMS aggregators like Mitto.
How did you get back from Berlin to Slovakia and why?
The main reason was that after three years in Berlin I was still not feeling at home. And since I had no family or close friends there and I missed it, I raised the topic at the office, what if I returned to Slovakia and whether it was possible to work for Mitto from Slovakia.
By having offices in Berlin, San Marino, London, Oxford, Pula, colleagues in Munich and Kiev and we also have a large branch in Belgrade, Serbia, we have a team that is basically sprawled across Europe. The fact that I’m now in Slovakia wasn’t a big deal. A year and a half ago, I started to work more with “procurement”, that is, dealing with our suppliers, I started to travel a lot to meetings and conferences, so I didn’t really live in Berlin. I travel a lot, so it doesn’t matter if I travel from Bratislava or from Berlin.
How long have you been in Slovakia and how do you perceive this change?
I have been in Slovakia since February. It’s a short time yet, but the first impression is definitely great. I was very pleasantly surprised when I joined the HubHub coworking. I was pleased that we have something on such a level in Slovakia. I didn’t even consider working from home. I didn’t want to have my home as my office, one doesn’t even know then, when one’s actually at home and when at work. It is still better to go somewhere, to be among people, even if they are people working in completely different areas. It provides me with another perspective when I talk to them.
When you were looking for a coworking center, why did you choose HubHub?
My very good friend who works at Swiss Re in Twin City told me about HubHub. That was the first impulse. I went to check it out, I compared HubHub with other coworking centers in Bratislava, but it seemed to me to be at the highest level. When I expressed my interest in a space here, they also asked me about my area of interest, because they care about good relations in the community and similar working areas of the companies. So, I also had to go through a “selection process” and I liked that. The location is excellent as well, it is located close to the center.
Many people might have a similar desire to work for some foreign companies, could you advise them how to get there?
I do not want to discourage anyone, but it should be borne in mind that in Germany or Western countries, they label us – Slovaks – as “Eastern Europe”, that is, cheap labor. If a Slovak and a German are interested in the same position, they will hire the Slovak because he or she is cheaper. If they want the same money for the same position, they will hire the German in most cases.
On the one hand, it is unfair, but on the other hand it is motivating. You need to show how smart you are, what you know and what you can do. Now they wouldn’t part ways with me in the company for anything anymore and I see how their attitude changed over time. I do not want to discourage anyone – on the contrary, I want to encourage you – it will be harder at the beginning, but when you show what you can do, they will appreciate it abroad as well.
Is it possible to get to work for a foreign company also from Slovakia?
If a foreign company does not have a branch in our country, the only option from Slovakia is to look for offers on the internet where it is explicitly written that you can work externally. Many times, you need to have a license to carry on a business for these positions. It is popular nowadays, many people are traveling and working for several hours a day, and they don’t care where from. It’s a little different with me, first I had to leave to get a job abroad. But I think that more and more foreign companies are opening branches in Slovakia and Czech Republic and trying to create teams here. Just as we do in Belgrade and I believe that soon in Bratislava as well.
How can we attract foreign companies?
When I helped with the selection process in Belgrade, I was looking for two colleagues for my team. Of course, foreign languages are important, English at a professional level is a must. In addition, for example, when I was interviewing, it caught my attention when the candidates were not afraid to show up, they had confidence. You need to show during the interview that you want to grow, you are not afraid of challenges and want to dive into it for one hundred percent.
How do you perceive the “drive” of Slovaks compared to other countries?
I think Slovaks are very motivated and hard-working. We can set our teeth and go forward. I had a really demanding first year abroad too, and I was thinking many times that I’d quit, but I was determined to succeed. I think that many Slovaks have this in themselves and want to achieve something more. They don’t give up right after the first obstacle and that is very important in my opinion.
Another thing is that we have somehow rooted in us that we are from Eastern Europe. Hard work is very important, but it is good to set a limit. To tell the boss when something is not right for us and to approach the matter in a different way and not just agree with everything blindly. There will be a time when one deserves to be better evaluated or to have more people in the team to help. I think we are still afraid to speak up regarding this matter.
We should be more aware of our value. I have met with Germans many times, who knew nothing and thought they were world champions. If we show that we are worth it and bring results, we have nothing to worry about when we ask for more money or another position. It is a journey, but at the beginning one should be humble.
What does your working week look like?
My work is about constant communication and negotiation. Before we use the services of suppliers, everything must be technically, cost-effectively and legally set up in the contract, and all this needs to be agreed with the supplier. In addition, our sales team, who directly communicates with customers, gives us special requests for price or exact type of SMS services. As a result, we are looking for new services, a precise solution or a better price on the market. To negotiate and conclude agreements, whether with current or new suppliers – this is a major part of my work.
How does your employer know how many hours you work over the week?
As I work alone from Bratislava, it is of course built on trust. However, I gained it with my work and results for 3 years at our branch in Berlin. My working time is quite flexible, but it is very easy to check the results. In the case of procurement, company management can see contracts with new suppliers or reductions of our spending on service purchases. In addition, I am also in charge of managing the price and quality of our services for one of our biggest customers. In this case, my work is visible in the revenues of this particular client.
How do you manage yourself?
Mostly, I can’t make a precise plan, because my work is very dynamic, and it is often necessary to deal with urgent topics. It tends to be exhausting in the sense that it is 6 pm, the end of working hours and I still have a “call” with suppliers in Latin America. On the other hand, flexibility is an advantage. I manage my time as I wish. If I have a phone call until 9 pm, I stay in bed longer the next morning and nothing bad happens. However, I also have regular weekly phone calls with my team as well as managers from other teams. During them, certain tasks are distributed, which must be fulfilled within the teams within a specified period. Mostly they are long-term goals, not urgent matters, and I deal with them in my “free” time.
What do you consider most important when working remotely?
It is important to have self-discipline. I’ve always been a hard-worker. Already at school, I needed to understand everything, to know how things worked and that would give you a lot of self-discipline.
It is harder to get oneself to work when it comes to work that a person does not like so much. This is because there is no motivation. A person who is motivated has a much better self-discipline. Of course, there is no work where you enjoy everything at 100%, but if you do not enjoy working at all, you will never get the self-discipline and motivation. First and foremost, you need to have passion, constantly broaden your horizons and gain new experience. This is especially true for a young person.
What do you think is the greatest myth about coworking?
Many people from Slovakia do not even know about this possibility, like my family. They had no idea what coworking was. So, I think that most people do not even know, what coworking is.
Which place in HubHub do you like best?
I look forward to the summer terrace, but my favorite spot is my desk right now. Then there is the phone booth when I have a call and I want to have privacy. The kitchen is ideal for relaxation and socialization.
Which is your favorite restaurant near HubHub?
I like Poké bar with rice. There are several places where you can eat well.
Article in cooperation with Daily Upgrade.