I am so chuffed to have Caterina fill out this questionnaire! Let me tell you why and let me start in, oh my, the year 2000.
That year I moved to England to study for a B.A. at the University of York – the early days were mad, I met so many new people: Scots I didn’t understand, Germans that were all from Hamburg, Chinese that were called George, French that talked only French and a Finnish/Sizilian girl that you couldn’t put in a box. Caterina.
What made Caterina special (besides her colourful heritage) was the way she very much followed her own agenda – it’s so easy to get carried away as a young student, to be taken up with all the socializing, the newness (especially as „continentals“ who have just arrived in England), to merge in or to seal off – but Caterina somehow didn’t fall into any of these traps. She seemed to know what she wanted and she pursued it, she lived her subject – ecology – she was curious about this England and yet she didn’t stop pondering the beauty (and the proper foods) of her home.
And after we both graduated I always wondered where she would „end up“, suspecting that I would not have put anything past her. Luckily, we stayed in touch and when I thought about who to ask for this questionnaire, Cat was one of the first people I thought of. She’s interesting, she’s brave, she tries to live consciously. And with that, she can sure tell you something about work as well!
Childhood Dream Job: being a Vet or a Greenpeace activist saving the planet!
What is your current occupation?
Well… most of my time is occupied by my 5yr old boy, so being a mum is my first occupation; from an economic point of view, I’m a manager of a hotel appartment; and from a general heart /serving others perspective I’m a yoga teacher. (see here)
What was the path to your current job?
I should probably summarize my life here in a few lines…
I studied Biology, Ecology and Conservation in the UK, finished my Master thesis in France and then worked in the environmental sector for a few years.
I was gonna start a PhD but then realized (and accepted) that I wanted to live a more relaxing and stress-free life, closer to Nature, to my roots and to my family. I wanted nice weather, stunning Nature, a child, good food and have less negative impact on the planet… so I moved back to Sicily (I was born in Finland but grew up here).
However, there are no paid job opportunities here in the environmental sector (I’ve always done a lot of voluntary work for the environment!) so instead I started looking for a job in the tourist industry.
As I speak a few languages I was contacted by someone who needed a receptionist in a hotel for the summer season, which lasts 7 months here, from April to October. But then I got pregnant and took 1 yr off work and in 2010 I was asked to start managing a brand new hotel apartment complex 10 min away from my house (by bike), where I now work part time for 7 months of the year.
Having a lot of time off, I completed my yoga teacher training (Yoga Alliance RYT200) last winter and now I also teach yoga in my spare time (I do not do it for money though!) and fully enjoy being able to share my knowledge with people… I often do yoga classes up the mountains, in the wild, and feel I am fulfilling my childhood dream of doing something for the environment. By guiding people in a path of discovery of their true nature they realize our deep connection to mother earth and only then they will really start caring about the environment, about Nature! But it took me 15 yrs to finally get to the point where I’ve come to terms with myself, and a lot of changes and hard decisions along the way…
What is your educational background/history?
Here in Sicily I studied classical studies for 5 yrs in the lyceum. That means studying loads of Latin, Greek, philosophy, history of art etc… After that I took a gap year and then decided to continue my studies abroad, in the UK. I was accepted at the University of York to study Biology (BSc), and I felt that was exactly what I wanted and needed to save the environment! I graduated in 2004 with a 2.1 (not bad considering how bad my English was in the first year!) and continued my studies with a Master (Mres) in Sustainable Environmental Management at the University of Plymouth (UK). I did my master thesis in a research institute in France.
What are the essential skills required for your job?
If we consider my manager job as my main job: communication skills (the more languages the better), organizational skills, knowing how to deal with people (this involves psychology too!), a profit-orientated mindset, marketing skills, team-building capacity…
Then, to be a yoga teacher, you need to be true to yourself, and your teachings need to come from a pure heart, but that’s another story…
What do you like about your job?
The 5 months off I get every year! We are open from April to October and the rest we’re closed. I also really like working with people, making sure everyone is happy
Describe a typical day in the office (if there is such thing as a typical day, or if you work in an office!)
No typical day really, I need to be at work a few hrs 3 times a week (when I have arrivals, that is Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays), the rest of the days I go for a few hours whenever I want, except on Sundays (day off). I am always on call for any problems that may happen though, so I’m always on alert…
Was there one moment in your career that somehow felt decisive?
My 3 months trip to India in 2007 was such a decisive time in my life, and a major career turning point for sure. Before that trip I had worked as an environmental researcher and really got into it, I had a few PhD projects lined up, some very cool stuff indeed, some of them where really dream-PhDs for any ecologist (read: spend a few months every year in Patagonia working with pristine, wild forests…). I very much enjoyed going to conferences, and generally living in an exciting innovating young research environment… Till I wondered: why am I doing this? Do I really want to spend the rest of my life in academia? Writing papers to get funding? And applying for more funding… Having to be the best in such a competitive environment, where for sure there are much better and more clever (and maybe more dedicated) people than me? Why am I doing this? What for? And do I really believe in what I am doing? Of course I still want to save the environment and I still care for Nature, more than ever, but ethically speaking, I started having some issues on the means and objectives of the whole “industry” of research, where ecology seems more a branch of economy and everything is money orientated… And I started asking myself where am I, and why do I run after a career? Who cares, really, to have the perfect job? Why should I spend so much time working? Shouldn’t a job be something extra that you do just to have some money to enjoy more of life (assuming you need money to do what you enjoy most), and not the most important thing you live for?
Who influenced your career path?
I am really really grateful to all the wonderful people I have encountered during my career as a researcher. I have met some amazing people that have really inspired me in my life. But I’m talking about my life, not my career. I don’t have a career now, I don’t care about it, I am not looking after it and do not want one. I am still friends with many of these people that I met in my previous life as a researcher with “great career opportunities”.
What is there left for you to learn (again, with regards to your career/job)?
There is something to learn in every single moment in life, if only we are open to it. We can learn from the smile of a passer-by and from the sound of the wind in the trees. We can learn from the raindrops that hit the concrete and from the noise of a busy motorway.
Do you have any further ambitions? What are they?
I am searching to become a better person in order to better serve others. There is no end to the learning curve that is our life.
Is there a piece of advice you could give someone who wants to follow your career path?
I would just advice to look into yourself for a moment. Stop and think. Where am I? Why am I doing this? Do I live the way I live to make someone else happy? Do I do it ‚cos society wants me to do it? Do I do it cos I have no other choice? Is this really so? How scared am I of the idea of stepping into the unknown, to dive deep into myself and find an answer I don’t wanna hear?
How does the ideal job world look like?
A world where one is free not to have a job.