Victoria Hernández Valcárcel

It has been difficult to get Victoria Hernández to spare me a couple of hours. Her far-flung business trips around the world are part of the daily life of this tireless traveller and entrepreneur from Barcelona.

Her professional life takes her all over the world, and when I finally manage to get hold of her, I find her at her home in Paris.

For over thirty years, this engineer and expert in new technologies has worked as a senior executive in banking and in several international companies. Due to her experience in telecommunications innovation, she also carries out the important selection process for the attribution of subsidies to companies within the European Commission.

Victoria Hernández Valcárcel – El País

The pandemic caught you by surprise in Paris, I expect you won’t be staying in France for long. When will you resume your business trips?

At the moment, I’m in the middle of the vaccination process but I am looking forward to travelling again. Right now, I’m like a Ferrari in the pit stop, revving up my engines.

The first confinement caught me in Tarragona, where I stayed for a long time thanks to the possibility of working from home, until the point I had to return to Paris and here I am still.

I hope we soon go back to normal; even though nothing will ever be the same again, we will certainly manage to adapt to any changes.

You studied in Paris when you were still very young. Did that first adventure help you become a cosmopolitan woman? 

Well, I already had a work contract when I arrived in Paris. I graduated in Engineering at the UPC. Once in Paris, I took a Master’s degree at INSEAD, the European Institute of Business Administration.

Sometimes you start things as an adventure and then… At the time I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll come back to Barcelona at some point”, but in the end, I stayed here. I felt at home, the city has a lot of things to offer…

You came to Paris for a short period and ended up staying. 

Paris is a beautiful city. This is where my professional career began and I’m comfortable here, but Barcelona is also cosmopolitan, it’s like Paris, but smaller.

Afterwards, while balancing jobs in different companies, I continued studying. I studied at the Business Council of British Columbia, and even now, during the lockdown, I have taken the opportunity to study.

I’m specialised in technology and innovation. I spent 25 years creating telecommunication operators and then developing them later on, two thousand workers in eighteen months…

I also consolidated my studies in economics with a Master’s degree in finance at Harvard because, naturally, if you are working in these sectors you need the know-how that your position requires.

You navigate the business world like a fish in water, often living at a frenetic pace. 

In those moments that you need to stop and take a break; when you’d wish time would just stand still, where in the world would you be able to call home? 

To relax, I spend a month’s holiday in a small village on the coast of Tarragona.

While I’m there, I don’t usually accept invitations from friends to travel elsewhere, no matter how attractive the proposal may be, Bali, a cruise… No-one has yet managed to get me away from there.

The best place for me to disconnect is that little corner of the world that I consider my village: l’Hospitalet de l’Infant. In my apartment by the sea.

What must always go with you when you travel?

My breakfast is sacred, my porridge which is what I usually eat when I’m home. And I always carry tea bags in my suitcase, which I buy from my usual shop when I go back home.

Madrid-Barcelona-Brussels are your most common routes. I expect that for you, getting on a plane must be like taking a taxi. (she smiles and nods) Do you feel at home in these cities? What makes you feel most comfortable while you’re there?

My business trips are usually short, to Brussels…I also often go to London. Rome was another of my frequent destinations before the pandemic.

Wherever I stay, I need to be able to relax and unwind. It is important for me to read for a while before going to sleep, which is why I must have a comfortable space that makes me feel at ease. 

In any case, I do like to travel, I like changing languages, changing cultures…

On one occasion, while spending the night in a hotel, I woke up at dawn and for a few moments I didn’t know how to react, my mind had gone blank because I didn’t know what country I was in. “If I call down to reception now, what language should I speak in?”, I thought. A minute later, thanks to the decoration, I recognised the hotel chain and remembered the city I was in.

Occasionally, your business trips are scheduled by the company you are working for. Have you been satisfied with the corporate apartments that were made available to you? 

The apartments I have stayed in belong to apartment hotels and they are pretty well-equipped. Normally, for a week’s stay, I prefer the comfort of an apartment, it feels cosier than a hotel room.

I make sure there is some sort of sports equipment so that I can exercise. Caterina.house could be a good option for future occasions, their accommodation meets all the requirements.

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Victoria Hernández Valcárcel –  Speaker

During your business trips, it’s not strange for executives from different companies to meet. I know of your love of culture, so I imagine you enjoy it too. In your experience: Do temporarily displaced professionals take advantage of their trips to enjoy performances, concerts, exhibitions, etc.? 

I find your question amusing. Many people have idealised business trips, we don’t have the time to visit the city, see museums or attend shows. Although we do manage to improvise a dinner or two.

The truth is that exchanges of knowledge don’t always take place in meetings; nevertheless, a coffee or a meal with work colleagues is something we can do from time to time.

What do you do when you get a chance to get away from work? Do you go to the beach, the mountain or do you practise sport…? Is it easy for you to find these escape options wherever your business trips take you?

The beach is where I get the most out of my “relax” time, but only when I’m on holiday. I either go swimming or walking on the beach.

When I’m on a business trip I do try to continue with my sport routine, it’s a prerequisite during my business travels.

Interview by Rocío Corriàs – Writer / Storyteller

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