The fast pace of the IT world fascinates me. You can just try out something new, discard ideas, and develop something different.

Martina Freers Principal Consultant

Martina Freers

With INNOQ since 2018.

Working as Principal Consultant.

Martina lives with her husband and two children in Berlin. After finishing her business degree, Martina got started in the IT industry through her first job as a project manager. She is now Principal Consultant at INNOQ, working primarily in the areas of processes, team building, and agility. Before coming on board she lived and worked in Argentina for ten years. Her most recent position was general manager at an IT start-up.

Martina firmly believes that people should just get out there and take the first step. Things will then start to happen all by themselves – that was certainly the way it happened in her own career. After graduating she had the courage to try out new things and explore the unknown, leading her into an industry where she had had no previous experience.

She took a job with an IT agency although she had studied business administration with a concentration in international management and marketing communication, and her internship semester focused on classic product marketing. She moved up to project manager, and then to consultant, responsible for designing e-mail marketing campaigns and CRM systems. While there, she became enamored of the technological possibilities: how quickly and easily one can try out new things and make changes, due to lower cost pressure and short development cycles in the industry.

It was a perfect job for Martina for a long time, as someone who is by nature curious and enjoys variety, with a constant stream of new projects, new technologies, and new customers from various industries. It was all a lot of fun, but involved a lot of overtime too, leaving less and less time for her personal life.

Martina sitzt mit Laptop am Esstisch. Hinter ihr hängen Familienbilder.
Martina mit Laptop am Esstisch

At some point came a “tipping point,” as she puts it, so at age 28 she made a radical move, quitting without really having a clear plan B. It was simply time to muster up courage and try something new.

I have always been fascinated with South America. So I decided I would simply do something in that direction.

What started out as a whimsical idea that came up in conversation with friends ultimately took shape as a serious plan for Martina. She decided to get into volunteer work in South America, where she had gone backpacking several times as a student. She was eventually placed at a Catholic agricultural school in a small village in Argentina. The children there have regular school classes in the mornings, followed by vocational training in the afternoon. Martina taught English there in return for room and board with an elderly lady living in the village. No one in the village spoke English, and she spoke very little Spanish, creating certain difficulties. She thus had to learn Spanish quickly to communicate. While mentally strenuous, she said it was good because she ended up learning the language very quickly.

Martina mit ihrer Tochter im Arm. Beide lachen herzlich.

Her deployment at the school ended after six months, but Martina was not ready yet to go back to Germany. Her room back home had been rented out to someone else in the meanwhile, and she felt comfortable in Argentina and still had some savings left. So she took the opportunity to travel around the country for a few weeks. Her money was then finally running out, but her solid network of contacts stood her in good stead. A friend in Germany put her in touch with an acquaintance who had just founded a start-up in Buenos Aires and was looking for someone to help out with marketing. So before long she ended up making a handshake deal with her new boss, that she would work for him as long as the start-up was doing well enough for him to pay her. But a mere three months later it was all over, from one day to the next. Luckily, a new opportunity opened up at a US company that was the main tenant of the very same office building where she had been working. Accepting an offer from her new boss, a developer named Chad, she thus came on board another start-up, active with web apps, native iOS and Android apps. She started out as a project manager working two days a week. Her responsibilities were quite similar to the agency job she had had in Germany, but under much less stressful conditions. The key thing for Martina was that now she could afford to stay on longer in Buenos Aires.

Martina sitzt am Schreibtisch und telefoniert. sie lacht.
Martina am Schreibtisch vor ihrem Monitor, in die Arbeit vertieft.

Over time, the company grew and expanded as Chad leveraged his contacts from his former employer Microsoft, landing orders from TV stations and other clients. Positioned as an expert in the programming language Erlang, the company developed second-screen apps for viewing and interacting with curated tweets for live broadcasts and TV shows. They primarily collaborated with freelancers at first, but as Martina pointed out, freelance working is different in Argentina than in Germany, lacking a stable contractual framework in many cases. Her boss thus decided to form a proper company with regular employees, to ensure that all orders received could be reliably fulfilled. This meant significantly more responsibility for Martina, who was then hired on a permanent basis.

In Argentina, nobody ever asks 'what do you do for a living?'

As Martina relates, there’s a different societal view of work in Argentina than in Germany. People don’t really define themselves in terms of their career. Family and friends are seen as much more important, which in part has to do with the country’s history of economic uncertainty, as she explained. Few people enjoy the luxury of choosing what they wish to study or do to make a living. Work is frequently seen as just a means to an end. Performance is not always rewarded, and career advancement often depends on who you know.

Martina mit ihrer Tochter auf dem Schoß, die sich eine Spielzeugkamera vor das Gesicht hält
Martina mit ihren Kindern kabbelnd auf dem Sofa

The joint decision was made that the fledgling company should have a vibrant corporate culture around such values as trust. Every employee should be able to rely on their managers’ word as part of an environment of openness, honesty, and transparent decision-making. Accumulating and sharing knowledge was explicitly recognized as a company objective, in line with which open-source projects and blogs were employed, further promoting a culture of sharing. Another values-based objective was to empower employees to more autonomy, allowing working from home before everybody was doing it, and permitting staff to attend conferences in the US. All staff were allowed to choose their own computer, including Macs, which at that time were very hard to obtain in Argentina. Anytime someone flew to the US, they were supposed to bring back a new Mac with them. It was important that everyone on staff should feel good about going to work, thus the company rented nifty offices, offered a wide range of beverages free of charge, and even had a cook come by on Fridays to prepare a meal for everyone to take together. None of these things were in any way common practice for an Argentinian firm, but they paid off in the form of more dependable workers and low employee turnover.

Being an executive, it was often difficult to 'leave the office in the office'.

While working for the company, Martina met the man who would become her husband and started a family with him. When pregnant with her first child, she was named executive, then her boss returned to the US, leaving her to take over operational management. Taking extended parental leave was then out of the question, partly as well because there are no maternity benefits in Argentina, so few can afford to take such leave, nor is significant extra vacation leave possible. Another consideration was that she was earning significantly more than her husband, which led them to adopt a model that is quite out of the ordinary in Argentina: the husband stays home with the baby while the wife returns to the office after three and a half months. Thus began a strenuous time, with an unweaned infant while simultaneously taking on greater finance and staffing responsibility at work.

Martinas am Schreibtisch, seitlich fotografiert.
Martinas Mann bringt Martina Mate-Tee an ihren Schreibtisch

When their second child was on its way two years later, the idea of returning to Germany was becoming more attractive. The company had been acquired in the meanwhile, and the new shareholders were less interested in culture and more about the bottom line. The company was shut down later, but Martina had resigned by that point. At the same time, the Argentinian economy was increasingly in trouble, and good schools for the kids were extremely expensive. So with their son about to start school, they decided to take a bold new step, which they took right after the birth of their daughter – moving from Buenos Aires to Berlin. It was ultimately an easy decision because Martina’s brother lives in Berlin, where there is a large Spanish-speaking community, and even bilingual day-care centers and schools.

Martina mit ihrer Familie in der Ubahn auf dem Weg in den Tierpark
Martina mit ihrer Familie auf dem Weg in den Tierpark

My work constantly changes, for every customer and project is different. And I love that about it.

Martina mit ihrer Familie im Tierpark. Sie schauen sich die Bananenpflanzen an.
Martina mit ihrer Familie im Tierpark. Alle über eine Hinweistafel gebeugt.

At first, Martina was looking to slow down the work pace in Germany. The last few months had been strenuous, having to plan the move with the folding of the company going on; she desperately needed a break. The idea was to look for a new job after securing a daycare place for her little daughter, but then things happened faster than anticipated. While talking to a former colleague from England who happened to be a Chief Technology Officer and have good connections, the company INNOQ came up. After looking over their website and listening to company podcasts, Martina came to believe she would enjoy good work-life balance there and so she decided to apply. Her CTO colleague passed on her name, and just a few weeks later, with two interviews behind her, she received a job offer as Senior Consultant.

Die Familie geht im Zoo spazieren

Martina had a lot of IT experience but was not a developer herself, so she started out as scrum master on a project. She built a team and managed the project, enabling the teams to do their work and move forward. Her job at INNOQ now is similar to her job in Buenos Aires, enjoying lots of independence and decision-making latitude. She rapidly acclimated to working in a non-executive role, which she was in fact looking forward to. Martina believes INNOQ is not your typical German company, because their corporate culture is much closer to what she views as ideal. Differences remain of course between working in Germany and Argentina, and there are certain stereotypes that have a kernel of truth to them, as she sees it. A lot of Germans like the idea of having 100% reliable planning. Years ago, she would have found some things more difficult to deal with, but now in light of all the experience gained during her time in Buenos Aires, change and unexpected developments are all part of the game for her.

Martina mit einem Matetee bei sich zuhause auf der Terrasse.
Martina geht spazieren, seitlich von vorne fotografiert.

This serene attitude is of great benefit in her current role, along with her strong communication skills. As Principal Consultant, her role spans the responsibilities of Senior Consultant, Key Account Manager and Sales Rep, including project management, customer relationships, and new business acquisition. She holds the project reins, acting as liaison between customer and consulting firm and serving as sounding board for both. Martina still does active consulting in addition to managing, specializing in processes, team building, goal formulation, organizational issues, and agility.

If I have to leave the office earlier, I don’t have to ask permission, I just make sure I have everything organized.

Having superb organizational skills comes in handy as a mother of two working full-time. Her husband works part-time, but she is still required for some personal appointments. In addition, her husband is learning German and still has some difficulties with the language, plus sometimes she just wants to spend more time with her children. Martina is thus very grateful to be able to structure her workweek largely on her own, scheduling her own calendar. While admittedly she lacks the time for continuing education and staying on top of industry developments at all times, she knows with great conviction that having fixed work hours has nothing to do with competency and performance. As many of her friends have noted, it by no means goes without saying that one’s employer will offer significant work flexibility.

Martina geht mit ihrer Familie spazieren. Ansicht von hinten.
Martina geht spazieren. Sie schaut zur Seite.

Of course, Martina misses some things about Argentina: her family members, old friends, and the generally more relaxed approach to life. But living in Berlin has many advantages, including a variety of things to do around the city, like biking out to a nearby swimming lake or to play on one of the big playgrounds in the city’s public parks. Buenos Aires didn’t have the same kind of things to offer. They also spend a lot of time with other families they are friends with. She had met her husband at a concert, and they still enjoy listening to live music and going dancing together. And now that her kids are a bit older, Martina gets to enjoying reading more than in the past.

Martina sitzt an einem tisch im Coffeshop. Sie hat ein Buch vor sich liegen und lacht.

Asked if she would want to change anything about her life today, she replies with a firm “no.” Martina believes that every new step she has taken has led to the right things happening. Her present job gives her the kind of exposure to interesting new things that she craves. She looks forward to a time when the children are older and longer trips will be possible for the family, and in the meanwhile … there is never a dull moment!