I am Nicolas, the new SWAP Fellow for LGT Venture Philanthropy in Monterrey, México. Before joining the iCat Program, I worked in a big global investment bank and decided to take a sharp turn in my career to make it really meaningful for the less advantaged people and the planet. I now see myself building a career in impact investing as the wellbeing of people -through the reduction of poverty and the fight against climate change- is at the center of strategy and contributes to creating a better world through supporting sustainable and responsible organizations.
I consider myself very lucky to be in charge of setting up SWAP in México in partnership with DESUS – a group of companies involved in sustainable development. I am excited about starting SWAP from scratch here as I will have to go through all the stages to make SWAP a successful project: from marketing the program, selecting the potential high-growth social businesses and mentoring them to increase their positive impact on the less advantaged population and/or the environment. That sounds really exciting, doesn’t it?
I have been in Monterrey for more than a week now. And what a week! I arrived very late at night due to a 6-hour delay of my connecting flight in Dallas. There was a big storm and landing in Dallas was already the start of the adventure. My connecting flight was then cancelled…and the next one was three hours late. As one Tanzanian old man told me once : “White people have watches, we have time”. Looks like American Airlines could use it in their next advertising campaign. 🙂
I arrived at 2 am (9 am in France), slept at an Ibis hotel for few hours before being picked by my new colleagues of DESUS Pepe and Marcela. You can imagine that I was not feeling really fresh. But I had to cope with it as your number one priority when you arrive in a new country in our 24/24 connected world is: buying a SIM card! And second priority when you arrive in México: setting up whatsapp (never heard about it before). I had everything I needed to be fully operational for my new Mexican life.
I have to admit that my first week was not work intensive (but please keep it as a secret… I need my stipend!). Indeed I wanted to leave the nice Ibis hotel by the motorway as quickly as possible and desperately looked for accomodation: I visited lots of houses, flats, shared houses, saw luxurious places as well as very dodgy and dirty ones, met tons of great but also weird people, was called by all the real estate agents of San Pedro – the rich suburb of Monterrey where the office is based and where it is advisable to live for security and traffic reasons-, surfed on all the real estates and appartment-hunting websites… and finally found an incredible place on the first floor of an house in a very nice and quiet neighbourhood, located about a 10/15 minutes car ride from work.
I guess that any iCat can understand how great it is to find a place to live in the country of fellowship! Furthermore when the previous bedroom was in an hotel by the busy motorway!
I was then ready to concentrate 100% of my energy on work… well almost 100%… as now my next challenge is to purchase a car.
Indeed, I arrived in Monterrey, one of the most americanized Mexican cities, a place where the car is king, public transports are bad, heat can be unbearable in spring and summer, and safety has considerably worsened for 3 years. When I said to my colleagues that I wanted to cycle to work, they said it would be really “padrisimo!!” (very cool in Mexican Spanish) but also gently smiled at me and told me that people do mountain biking on week ends but noone cycle to work because it is too dangerous and in summer too hot. It looks like even though my profesional life is meaningful for people and the planet, my personal karma will not improve when I have a car!
Anyway, although I travelled a lot, it is exciting to settle in a new city that is different from what I used to know. Travelling in different places is one thing but living and settling in a new place for more than one year is another. Resistance to change is huge and at first I found it hard to appreciate Monterrey/San Pedro. But everyday , I am getting more integrated in this new life – particularly thanks to my colleagues and the new friends I am making everyday. Wherever you are, what does really matter is who you meet. And so far, the Mexican people have been great to welcome me…
But I won’t tell you about it now. I need to keep some ideas for the next blog entry!