And suddenly, I quit my corporate job to board an aircraft that would fly me to the Philippines three days later. This is how my story began at Alpha Rock Capital, after a phone interview with Marc Roca. Moving from a conservative and non-flexible corporate job where everything is micro-managed to land into the e-commerce world and community is the professional version of a culture shock. But let’s start from the beginning.
Not Andorran nor Portuguese
It all began in Viana do Castelo, northern Portugal, on a Sunday of May 1989. Between the Atlantic ocean, the river Limia and the mount Saint Lucy. My parents were living at “Rua dos amores perfeitos”. The name means in English “wild pansies”, but to me it was better interpreted as “street of the perfect loves”, my favourite definition for the kind of love parents share.
It was love and the promise of a better life what set them to move from Portugal to Andorra. A 1,250-kilometres trip on a tiny Fiat 127 to a country they had never been to before, a country with a different language that they had never heard before and a country that, unbeknownst to them, had no constitution, despite having an 800-year-old parliament. All this while carrying tiny 3-year-old David with them.
It was at Christmas, 1992, and I still remember, upon arrival, the feeling of being a completely strange country, an eternity of kilometres away from home and my first glance at the snow. An incredible occurrence.
The initial Christmas experience was a success. The family went back to Portugal to start the process of moving to what my parents felt was a promised land for us. By March 1993, coincidentally the time where a referendum in Andorra would finally give them their Constitution we were there. Almost 30 years later Andorra is still our family home.
My passport says I am Portuguese, and I definitely feel so too, but I also feel Andorran, despite not owning an Andorran passport. I guess, ever since I was a child, I grew accustomed to being the Portuguese in Andorra and the Andorran when I go back to Portugal for holidays.
I never felt that kind of extreme patriotism that some people treasure in their hearts, I always considered myself from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Now, I understand, I was made in a way into some sort of “digital nomad”. However, the system is not completely ready for that.
Joining the corporate world
In April 2010, I was on the last year of my degree, and achieved maximum qualificatications in a subject called Audit. This lead the teacher of this subject to offer me a job in his company as accounting advisor and I immediately accepted. I had a specialized job before even finishing my degree! Coming from a humble family with no higher education, this was the pure definition of success. Everyone was proud of me, including myself.
However, that was not my end goal. I wanted to establish my own business, to be my own boss and to create something. I didn’t care much on whether it would be relevant or if it would make me rich, I just wanted to challenge myself to do it. Luckily life is always ready to surprise us.
I finished my degree in June 2010. We were absolutely submerged in the Economic Crisis that had started back in 2008, so my salary was easily 30% lower than the salary of those who had graduated from my university and degree back in 2007, at the time I started my Business Administration studies.
A few months passed, and my grandmother, who I had always been very close to, suffered from an eye disease called macular degeneration. The treatment consists of monthly injections at around €1,200 per eye and month! That was pretty much my whole salary. It became very apparent that something had to be done, but also, I had to take all possibilities into consideration because there was definitely the need for a stable stream of money.
I was faced with a hard decision: to risk the little money I was earning and put my efforts into trying to build a business that I had no idea on whether it would provide me enough to even feed myself or to keep my corporate job, stable and safe to a certain degree. I chose the later, and I would do it again, the risk was too big for me to take it, my grandmother could literally go blind if I failed, and I could easily avoid it.
Once the tough decision was made, it was relatively easy to devote myself to my corporate job. I was getting a wide view of several business models: car dealing, doctor and lawyer offices, retail stores, a diverse group of workshops. The list went on, but my task was always the same, give accounting advice as an employee of my teacher’s company and other companies I worked for later.
My advisor career finished in 2013, when I joined one of the few multinational companies we have in Andorra. The multinational is in the tobacco industry and has a factory, administrative offices and logistics. Something rare in my country.
Why did I choose an industry like the tobacco one? There are two main reasons:
- Andorra, has almost no production industry. The country lives mostly from tourism and financial services. We have a limited number of factories, and finding a place where you can see Fast-Moving Consumer Goods’ -FMCG- complete process chain is quite exceptional here.
- Tobacco is the main industry in the country. Almost 67% of our, alas reduced, crop fields are dedicated to tobacco farming due to several reasons: historical tax benefits, protective laws against imported goods that have been historically produced here (like tobacco) combined with the fact that, as we are not part of the European Union, import-export becomes complicated specially for this kind of products.
The overseas adventure
In February 2017 I met Vedast. We both joined the same Chinese Lessons at the University of Andorra. I guess that our love for frugality made the offer attractive for both of us: 60 lecture hours with a native teacher, an official diploma at the end of the course and all materials included in the price. A meagre €60.00 per student. This is the kind of deal we love.
Immediately, Vedast and I became close friends sharing good moments during and after class. After we passed our first HSK exam, he traveled to the Philippines with Marc, on a trip they both have mentioned in their introductions. At the time I had not met Marc yet, despite him being Andorran as well.
When Vedast came back from his trip the decision was already made: he was moving to the other side of the world! Of course it was an extreme change in his life and surely I asked him how confident he felt about it.
He was completely made up on his decision, so it was easy for me to show him my support and wish him the best of luck in his new endeavours.
A mutual friend and I organized a farewell dinner for Vedast and he brought with him his adventure partner, Marc. We had a great dinner talking about business, stocks, crypto currencies and all sorts of related topics. After dinner I was thinking: wow, these guys are really committed to the business world. That same night I received a message from Marc: “If things start working out in the Philippines, we would like you to join us!”
So they left for their adventure and I stayed in my “safe” corporate work. For two years I kept on receiving the same sort of message from them:
David come to the Philippines.
I was put on the spot again, should I take this new risk, or stay in my current position with a safe salary that assures me I can pay for my grandmother’s medication?
In 2019 and after two years with almost no off time nor vacation, I confronted my manager and told him: “This year I am going to take some vacation time.” I won’t get into too much detail regarding this, but what would seem a completely normal conversation to have with your manager, ended up in an argument. After a trip to China where my manager bothered me beyond comprehension, I decided it was time to leave the safety net and quit my job.
Luckily, I was going to get rewarded for my decision, because just as I landed back in Andorra from this trip to China I got a phone call from Marc:
We really need you now!
I resigned on my first day back to work from the trip. My last day at work would be September 16, 2019. The day before Marc called me again. He wanted me to spend a month in the Philippines getting to know the company and the people who work there. And he wanted me to do this immediately.
On September 18, two days after my corporate career finished for good, I found myself on a plane to a new country. A country I knew almost nothing about, just like my parents didn’t know anything about Andorra when they moved there. I was going to join the Alpha Rock Capital team as their Director of Finance & Controls. My dream of joining a business I feel I belong to and doing something special finally came through.
Do your dreams align with ours? If so, let us know via the contact us section of the website. Reading my story could be the beginning of yours in Alpha Rock Capital.