Interview with Rogelio Schwarz Lopez
Rogelio Schwarz Lopez is a Hispano-Swiss, living in Amsterdam, who speaks multiple languages, is happily married, works as Transition Consultant within the banking industry, is a partner at VP advisory VOF and owner of Schwarz Advisory.
Why did you decide to become a Transition Consultant?
I have to admit, it was less of a decision, than a chain of beneficial circumstances which led me to become a change agent, specialised in major corporate transitions, such as mergers and carve outs.
As a strategic thinker, I am used to analysing challenges in order to define how to tackle them. I love to structure things, hence the bigger the complexity, the more drive I get from it. Additionally, people genuinely intrigue me and I am keen to facilitate and empower them. All of the above, along with knowledge of the impacted products and processes, are key ingredients to manage change.
In most of the projects I have been involved so far, my clients can define their aim, but how to get there is another story. That is where a transition team comes in.
The transition team consists of one or more analysts, a project lead and a transition consultant. We gather information, abstract it, sort it, prioritise it, create a flow, communicate, build alliances, focus efforts, support management, empower staff, manoeuvre issues and processes, and engage stakeholders.
My role within the team is to define the strategy, approach and control framework from a Finance department perspective, in order to ensure a controlled and complete transition of financials and cash.
So, together with the team, we orchestrate change efforts, if you will.
Sounds like a difficult process..
Well, it is certainly challenging. Timelines and overall design does not always allow us to linearly develop ideas, concepts and planning. Sometimes, design requirements are due before the analysis phase is concluded or even started, which requires a good understanding of the business and the change related challenges in order to compensate. Additionally, we deal with and on behalf of people, hence we have to take the crucial human factor into consideration.
Is structure important to expat life?
Although the level of structure in our lives might be a choice, the level of preparation, especially for expats, should not be. Moving into a country without a minimal preparation may be quite a disturbing experience.
And even if you are well prepared, nothing can simulate the real day-by-day challenges, such as dealing with authorities, getting utilities properly set-up, negotiating rental agreements, getting insurances, opening bank accounts and interacting with the locals. Your network, knowledge, experiences, adaptability, flexibility and tenacity will become critical to master difficulties.
In short: although preparation is not everything, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!
Be aware of social isolation and exclusion. Try to reach out to your hosts, attempt to learn their language as they usually appreciate it as a token of respect, learn how they think and act. I cannot help but to notice how some "expats" develop antibodies to anything new. Instead of developing survival strategies, they end up complaining about any and everything.
It is my belief that my attitude defines my experience. My piece of advice would be to be receptive as well as willing to explore and enjoy your host country, which in itself is very rewarding.
Speaking of hosts..
It is important to understand that Dutch society is rather egalitarian, hence they expect to be involved in decisions and consultations at all levels and cannot cope that well with extravagant behaviour. Their drive for consensus is commonly referred to as the "Polder Model." For the authoritarians amongst us, do not underestimate the extensive dialog they expect.
The Netherlands has a rich history of trading and sailing around the globe, hence mastering a second (mostly English) or even a third language (usually German), is quite common. I experience the Dutch mostly as joyful, open minded and easy going.
Overall, I feel welcome in the Netherlands and I enjoyed each single day in this country. From the provinces of Zeeland and Friesland, to the gorgeous cities, such as Amsterdam and the Burgundian Maastricht, the country has a lot to offer and to enjoy!
Do you speak Dutch?
Of course! Language is not only a tool to communicate; it mirrors a nation’s soul, which helps to better understand our hosts.
Do not get me wrong, you will perfectly find your way around if you speak English, but you will remain an alien. As stated previously, the attempt to learn Dutch is a display of respect, which I owe to my hosts, having chosen myself to be a guest in their country.