Out of the Comfort Zone
I backpacked across Asia, Europe and Africa in 2010 and made shorter sojourns in the years that followed — as many as my job would allow. I visited a diverse array of nations, including Botswana, Nepal, Japan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, and Egypt. What I saw, heard, and learned changed the course of my life.
This is the first in an occasional series on Victoria’s journey toward becoming a trader.
Growing up in Uruguay, where there are more cows than people, my mind regularly wandered beyond its borders. I often thought of Italy, my grandparents’ country of origin; then my mind drifted beyond those borders as well. While my childhood friends were caught up in teen drama, I was buried in atlases and encyclopedias.
I envisioned myself in wonderful new places. This was my focus. I had a global mind, a global heart.
Perhaps this was my father’s fault. When he graduated from university with an architectural degree in the 1970s, he hopscotched the globe with a group of future architects. Their mission: to bring new design ideas to Uruguay. So, when my siblings and I were young, he frequently hauled out the slide projectors and transported us to distant locales: Chicago, New York, Paris, Rome, the Greek islands.
Today, I am a trading assistant at Kaiju Capital Management, working from a home base in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I’ve traveled the globe and continue to roam, as is my nature. The journey to this sweet spot has been long and, at times, challenging. One thing is for sure: my life and career path have strayed pretty far from the norm.
When it came time for me to go to university in Uruguay, I found an area of study that lent itself to my global mindedness: economic sciences. Economics is about people, a social science more akin to psychology than finance. It’s concerned with behaviours, cultures, and mutual dependencies. Economics is ancient; a basic organisational building block that makes human societies work. Trade dates back to Paleolithic times, and the earliest known mints were built 3,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia.
My call to global exploration amplified as I moved toward an independent life. I wanted to see economies and cultures in action, not sit at a desk. Upon graduation in 2008, practicality set in. I didn’t see a way to combine a career with full-on nomadic existence. For the next 12 years, I worked in Uruguay’s financial sector, traveling when I could. I backpacked across Asia, Europe and Africa in 2010 and made shorter sojourns in the years that followed — as many as my job would allow. I visited a diverse array of nations, including Botswana, Nepal, Japan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, and Egypt. What I saw, heard, and learned changed the course of my life.
In Japan, I found a financially sophisticated society that values family as we do in Uruguay. Unlike home, however, Japan is exceedingly consumer oriented. In fact, consumer spending makes up 60 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Japanese eschew travel and leisure activities in favor of the latest digital upgrades and gadgets: gaming systems, smart phones, 4D televisions. The second-wealthiest country in the world, Japan is modern in every sense of the word. Manufacturing, real estate, and telecommunications dominate the economy, with agriculture and mining barely a blip on the radar.
In Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I found a city completely transformed since the turn of the century. Its GDP has quadrupled to more than $400 billion since 2000. With a laser focus on construction, Western-style tourism, and business travel, Dubai has transformed the UAE from an oil-based economy into an international centre of commerce. Half the people who call Dubai home today are foreign citizens working for foreign companies. With its man-made islands and skyscrapers, Dubai is the face of a new, globalised Arabian peninsula.
Nepal feels like a different planet. Landlocked, lacking substantial resources for economic development, and hampered by a poor transportation network, Nepal is one of the least developed nations in the world. Its literacy rate is less than 70 percent and unemployment sits at 30 percent, the highest in Southeast Asia. The country could not stay afloat without remittances from its citizens working abroad. Nepal does get a bump from tourism. Foreign climbers pour the equivalent of $700 million into the economy each year as they attempt ascents of Mount Everest and other giant peaks; even so, that’s not enough to keep the country out of deep debt. Nepal’s economy is an example of what happens in nations with limited GDP and poor educational resources. It’s next to impossible to get ahead.
My travels and discoveries changed me, emboldened me. I was struck with the realisation that an international existence had evolved from a dream into my future. So, in 2018, with only a laptop and suitcase to my name, I left the comfort zone.
Having given up a prestigious job, I flew to Valencia, Spain. It was jarring. I was jobless in a foreign country and seeking freelance gigs. I had been in Spain a month before I earned my first $5 testing a videogame app. However, I found something in Spain that made the price of my new life feel like a bargain: my people, a big, welcoming, diverse community of globally minded expats. They encouraged me to indulge my desire for roaming and discovering. And I roamed... to Slovenia, Andorra, Hungary, France, and elsewhere.
After two years of consulting — during which I upgraded my skills in writing, computing, and QA testing — I felt the pull toward a job in finance once again. But there were caveats; mainly, I needed a job that could travel with me.
In January 2020, an opportunity came. I secured an interview with Kaiju Capital Management. If hired, I could work remotely from anywhere in the world. My first job at Kaiju was in financial reporting, an area of mastery and comfort for me. Life was good. But as time passed, I gravitated toward bigger challenges. I was impressed with Kaiju’s vision and ideals: strong ethics, financial education, innovation, good capitalism, and global mindedness. Employees live around the world. Maybe I could have it all.
I was told of an opportunity in the trading department. I was a bit intimidated. I had never worked with financial derivatives and was not certain I could fulfill the requirements. But, as had become my way, I decided to step outside my comfort zone.
For the last nine months, I’ve worked as a trading assistant in a thought-provoking and fast-paced environment. I’m learning invaluable skills from groups of people I’ve never met face-to-face, particularly David Grodsky, Director, Trading. Kaiju’s cutting-edge technology allows for a fluid, dynamic, and flexible environment, even with oceans between us.
This works for me. Experiences from my travels have made me adaptable, resilient, and open to change. These are great strengths in a trading position. I can read a situation quickly and recalibrate on my feet, all while maintaining a sense of calm and emotional stability. These are hard-won skills developed over years of reaching out into the unknown.
I see growth possibilities as both a professional and a person at Kaiju. It is a workplace free of borders or prejudices; a place where innovation and evolution are rewarded. I see opportunities beyond my goal to be a trader. I would like to be a leader in strategic global education with an eye to increasing financial literacy in parts of the world where it is needed. That aligns well with Kaiju’s vanguardist principles which promote leadership and service.
It all goes to my current philosophy: the more uncomfortable I am, the better off I am.
Photos by Victoria Ferrando
Victoria Ferrando lives and works in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She is a trading assistant at Kaiju Capital Management, previously working as a financial controller and planning analyst in her native Uruguay.