The Glovo Gap Year – 1 Year later
It’s been 1 year since 11 determined Glovo employees set off for their Glovo Gap Year in search of a once-in-a-lifetime professional experience. Also known as the International Leadership Program (ILP), their challenge was to take part in an assignment at one or several countries where Glovo operates, finding ways to shape the long-term strategy of the country while taking part in fundamental manager training sessions.
To celebrate the success of the class of 2023, we caught up with 4 participants of the program to hear about their experiences. These are their stories.
Let’s start with some basic info. Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves and your experience at Glovo?
From left to right: Carlos Feria, Juan Gomez-Angulo, Ludovica Luongo, Luis Martinez de Salinas
Carlos: My full name is Carlos Alberto Feria Garzón; yes, those are many names as I am originally from Colombia and there, that is the norm. I joined Glovo in April 2021 as Expansion Lead for the North West of Italy and with the ILP, I first moved to Nairobi, Kenya in February 2022 to lead the Expansion of Glovo in the East African country, later on, in August 2022 I moved to Kampala, Uganda where I’m currently leading the whole country.
Juan: My name is Juan A. Gómez-Angulo and I come from Alicante, a town on the sunny southeastern coast of Spain. I had the privilege of starting my Glovo journey in the International Finance & Strategy team almost 2 years ago. This first role allowed me to get to know the amazing international team and get familiar with all the countries Glovo operates in. After applying to the ILP, I was assigned as the Head of Operations for Nigeria where I had the opportunity to lead the Operations and Expansion teams.
Ludovica: Ciao! My name is Ludovica Luongo, but everyone calls me just Ludo! I come from Italy, I was born and raised in Napoli and then I moved to Milano to pursue my professional career. I joined Glovo in March 2021 – yes, in a few months it will be my second anniversary in the company – as Area Operations Manager. I moved to Poland in March 2022, where I have been working initially as Head of Operations and then as Head of South East Poland (which is still my current role).
Luis: My name is Luis Martinez de Salinas. I was born in Barcelona and I have lived there almost all my life. For me it is incredible to end up working for a local company, which I have also known since it was practically born. It is a great fortune to have a Barcelona company that is a world reference, and even more so to be able to work at it. I have been working for Glovo for a little over a year and a half and always focused on the field of international expansion. I joined the company as a Q-Commerce Launcher, first in Italy and then in Georgia, and for a year now I have been in Nigeria in the Partner Operations department.
Have you ever lived abroad before this experience? If yes, why did you choose to do it again? If it was your first time, what made you want to experience a new culture?
Juan: Yes, I had the opportunity to study for one year in Shanghai as part of an exchange program with my university. The experience was terrific, it triggered a 360° change in my thinking, you look at the world completely differently after living in a different culture. So after China I always wanted to have another similar experience but from a professional point of view and the ILP was the perfect occasion.
What made you consider applying to and accepting a program like this?
Ludovica: I remember when I received the email about this new program to be launched in Glovo, I immediately forwarded it to my Manager, telling him (quoting): “I need to do it. What do you think?”.
I believe the ILP represents not only a great work experience, but is also an inestimable opportunity to grow personally.
Professionally, I believe I have learnt more during this last year than in my entire career. During the program you have the possibility to cover different strategic roles in other countries, which is an incredible stretch in terms of responsibilities; moreover, you can explore different areas of the business, in order to figure out what you really want to do.
Personally, oh, I don’t even know where to start. I have at the same time learnt how to live and enjoy time with myself, and also at the same time met so many new people I can not imagine my life without anymore in the future.
Ludovica making her very first snowman
What was it like trying to navigate a new culture from a professional standpoint? Did you experience any cultural clashes or surprising similarities?
Carlos: It’s no walk in the park. It is easy to underestimate the impact of cultural differences when taking on a challenge like this; from the way of giving feedback to a colleague to how to approach a partner, expect most interactions to be different, mainly if you’re coming from a low-context culture to a high-context one or vice-versa (By the way, I recommend the book “The Culture Map” if you’re planning to get on-board this experience).
On the other hand, both in Kenya and Uganda I found big similarities with Colombia, both geographically and culturally; like the uncontrollable urge to dance or the high on carbs diet, it was nice to find those small details that made me feel a bit closer to home.
Juan: As I had the opportunity to work with most of the international teams at Glovo, I was already used to working with different backgrounds and cultures but obviously it is not the same as being fully on the ground, living in a different country 24/7.
To be honest, it has been easier than I thought, and I do think that is due to the shared values and the common culture that we have at Glovo. Sharing and living the same values, no matter which country are you from or who you are, is key to accommodating yourself easily and quickly at the office. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is not easy and you will face difficult situations where you need to think twice before acting as your words and actions can be understood differently – you always need to put yourself in another’s shoes.
Surprisingly, there are more similarities between Spain and Nigeria than most people would think (and not only because Nigerians also drink horchata!). In Nigeria, the friendship and family links are very strong, like in Spain, something I didn’t imagine before.
Juan (far right) feeding Giraffes in Nigeria
While the list is surely long, what are a few things you’ll miss about the country you’ve spent the past year in?
Luis: Indeed, the list is endless, but I think there are three fundamental ones.
On the one hand, to a wonderful team of people who make up Glovo Nigeria, and with whom we have spent incredible moments together and I will always carry them with me.
On the other hand, my two co-workers, roommates and, above all, friends, Juan and Queco, with whom we have shared unforgettable and exciting moments this year, and who, although our paths may divide now, will always be able to count on me and (I hope haha), I with them.
Finally, abandoning a project (until further notice, you never know at Glovo!) that we have seen grow from a very young stage and that I feel is partly mine. It has been a wonderful experience and I am going to miss being there every day.
Luis (far left) and Juan (far right) pictured with a colleague
How has this experience better prepared you for continued success in your role and how will you apply what you’ve learned upon returning to ‘normal life’?
Ludovica: After this first year, I know there are no boundaries, and that hard work and willingness to challenge yourself and to learn will always pay off. I am ready to face the next challenge and I am curious to see where my future will take me.
One of the most important things I have learnt during this year is that being honest and establishing trust with the Team is the main key for success. I will try and do my best to continue to be an honest leader, trying to learn everything I can from anyone who crosses my path.
Ludovica (center bottom) and her team in Poland
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future participants of the International Leadership Program and would you recommend it to others?
Carlos: My main piece of advice would be to approach every situation with lots of humbleness; come with an open mind and be ready to learn and understand the culture that is hosting you, ask questions and do your own research, people appreciate it.
I would hands down recommend this program to anyone who is interested in immersing themselves in a new culture while giving their career a boost.
Ludovica: Go for it and live it 100%. This will be one of the most unique experiences in your life, and you need to make the most out of it. Key answer must be “YES”, throw yourself into all kinds of experiences, try to live the country you will move in at 100%, be honest, be humble, learn from everyone and everything you experience, open your eyes and your heart and you will never forget it!
Juan: Of course, I highly recommend it. This has probably been my best professional and personal experience so far! So, apply as soon as possible!
If I look back and compare today’s Juan with Juan from one year ago, I can totally feel that I’m not the same person. Of course, I learnt a lot from a professional point of view, but personal growth is the most substantial for me. That’s why I think if you want to fully enjoy the experience you need to be open to radical changes and challenges. Do not worry about the difficulties, in the long run all the efforts will pay off.
Luis: That they take advantage of this incredible opportunity that Glovo offers to be able to grow as a professional in countries where they might never have had the opportunity to work otherwise. Make sure you work hard and learn, that you soak up the local culture and that, in turn, teach your future companions something they may not have realized about their own culture. It will be an exciting journey for everyone involved!