They say experience is the best teacher, and this week’s featured expat, Shaheen Samavati, turned her work experience during her master’s program into a full-time English language consultancy in Madrid. In an age when entrepreneurship is becoming attractive to young workers hoping to make a splash, this hard-working journalist with an MBA saw the need for experienced language experts in the Spanish capital and began to grow her business.
Shaheen presented a business plan to the Spanish government and was given work and residency status under the social inclusion scheme known as arraigo social. She recounts her story to COMO:
Your Name: Shaheen Samavati
City and Comunidad: Madrid
Why did you initially come to Spain?
I came to Spain to do an MBA at IE Business School in Madrid in 2010.
How did you transition into your current position?
During my MBA I did two internships in the the communication departments of large, international Spanish companies. I realized there was a real need for high quality English communications services in Spain, so in 2012 I started offering writing, editing and “creative translation” services to all kinds of businesses. After the MBA, I spent two years in Málaga, and now I’m back in Madrid.
What was the interview process like?
I’m self-employed, so no interview was necessary! I have been through a few interviews in Spain, though, and I can say that generally that interviews tend to be short and the interviewer tends to assume you would want the job without doing much to try to sell the company. You might think the interview went horribly, and then be surprised to be offered the job the next day!
How are you legally working in Spain?
I applied for a work permit as an “autonoma” (freelance worker). The scheme I applied under is called arriago social, or social integration. It requires you to prove you’ve been in Spain for at least three years (with documentation like bills, travel receipts, rental contracts and activities you’ve participated in), show that you have work lined up (with a job contract, or a business plan and letters from potential clients) and interview with a social worker to prove you’ve integrated into Spanish society.
It took about a month to get all my paperwork together, and about two months to get approved. I applied from Malaga, and the non-profit organization UPTA was a huge help in advising me on how to get through the process. They have offices in most major cities in Spain.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country
The pay is generally about half what you would make in the States for the same work. That’s the price you have to pay for the benefit of living in Spain! In terms of the culture and the hours, it depends a lot on the company. Generally staying at the office late is popular in Spain, whether its because you’ve got a lot to work on, or because you’re chatting with your coworkers. I would say that people mix their work and their personal lives in Spain more than they do in the States. People are very social in the work place here, relish their lunch and coffee breaks, and they never seem to be in any rush to go home. This of course has its up sides and down sides!
What has been the hardest part of working or starting your own business in Spain?
The hardest part of starting a business was navigating all of the red tape involved in getting started. I would say overall that it’s not that hard to start a business in Spain, but it’s important to be familiar with all the laws (or hire someone who is) so you don’t end up paying more fees and taxes than necessary.
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
Yes! Join my Facebook group Madrid Communication Jobs 🙂 There are a lot of jobs for native English speakers who are good writers and communicators. But I would say, don’t leave English teaching to make more money. I think you can make just as much or more money English teaching than you can in an office job in Spain. But if you’re seeking getting experience in a different field, there are definitely opportunities.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
Yes, that’s my plan. As Inglista is just really getting off the ground, I definitely plan to stay in Spain for awhile!
Check back with us next week for more profiles of expats who have made a successful transition from teacher to trabajador or have started their own company! If you fit the bill and would like to be featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!