After living most of my life in the same twenty-mile radius in North Texas, moving to Buenos Aires was a bit of a culture shock. I didn't speak the language, I didn't have a job, and I had never lived in a big city before.
My name is Josh Cook. My life changed when I met and fell in love with an Argentine named Aldo. After a few years of being long-distance boyfriends, we decided to get married. This is not possible in Texas (any day now...) but luckily for us, Argentina was the first Latin American country to legalize marriage equality. The company I worked for in Texas was closing its doors, which led to the easy - but scary - decision to move to Buenos Aires, find work and live together with my new husband.
One problem with my plan: I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.
People are sometimes surprised by this -- Texas has plenty of Spanish-speaking households, after all, and most of my classmates took Spanish as their second language course. Me? I picked German. To be different, I guess. While I loved the class, jumping into Argentina without any Spanish was a challenge, to say the least – the good news is, it can be done!
My choices for employment were obviously limited, but I was lucky to spot a post that sounded tailor-made for me: a small, ‘California style’ web & strategy start-up in downtown Buenos Aires, seeking a native English speaker to help support their clients. I would need to train in NationBuilder, and commit to learning Spanish, but after a few interviews, it was clear this was a great fit all around.
The Tectonica Culture
The studio is in the heart of the city, just one block from the iconic Obelisco statue, which is wedged in the middle of world’s widest avenue, the famous Av. 9 de Julio. For the first time in my life, I began using public transportation to get to work, taking advantage of the massive bus and subway systems.
The office is located on the third floor of a historic building. There are wood floors, a charming birdcage elevator, and balconies that look over a busy pedestrian street. The small, committed team at Tectonica speaks a mix of Spanish and English. Everyone has a working knowledge of both languages and meetings are typically bilingual. Through the windows, voices from the street below are all Spanish, which is a great way to absorb more vocabulary. On most days you’ll hear a money changer or two call out “cambio, cambio”, while on a warm summer day (like today!) you’ll hear an ice cream vendor shout out “helado!” My favorite is the rainy days – we have one street vendor who strolls by singing a loud song where the only lyrics are “paaaaaaar-aguas, paraguas” (umbrellas).
There are wonderful office perks, like daily fresh bread and healthy snacks, all the coffee and yerba mate you can drink, and Jonas, the office dog who loves to cuddle with you while you work, or play catch during your breaks. (Sometimes he gets confused which time it is). In Argentina, office workers greet each other warmly one-by-one when they come into the office, and then come by for a goodbye-kiss on the cheek at the end of the day. We have spirited discussions about local and international news, take turns playing DJ and singing along to each other’s music collections, throw parties together, and help each other outside of work. It’s truly a family.
Passion for Progress
What I’m most in love with at Tectonica is the kind of projects and partners we take on. This is a passionate team that builds sites and design communication strategies so groups can make their voice heard. We have worked with organizations that promote wellness, educational advocacy, children’s rights, and that fight for LGBT rights around the world – and that’s all in just the last few months.
The co-founders, Mariana and Ned, are the ones driving this passion, and together they’re a perfect match. Mar is Argentinian, and an insanely talented designer with a deep understanding of user experiences. Her concepts are always on the cutting edge and her technical knowledge allows her to rapidly address client’s needs.
Ned, a US transplant, has a long history of working with non-profit groups and community organizing. He helps groups take bold, progressive action with the sites and communications tools that we build. When we take on a new project, Ned and Mar always do their homework and prepare the entire team with background about our clients, their missions and the challenges that they face around the world.
Focus on Team
Other perks of working for Tectonica – free gym membership, regular massages, language lessons, and cartons of ice cream (to reinforce the gym membership). Ned and Mar are always looking for ways to improve the quality of life around the office. More than that, they continually check in to help you meet your personal and professional goals.
My role slowly expanded from support and training on the NationBuilder tools and projects we build, to client communication as we create new sites and strategies. I also happily took on the role of IT management, helping build and setup new computers and network solutions around the office – though they may have given me those tasks because they know how much I love geeking out on them.
And now, personal matters are calling me back home to the US. After a wonderful year in Buenos Aires, Aldo and I are moving to Texas. I will miss living life as a porteño - as the residents here call themselves - but most of all I’ll miss being part of this team.
I’m super proud to have been a part of it, and grateful for the experience and perspective I gained. When I left Texas, I made a huge jump outside of my comfort zone. It’s not something I ever expected to do – but honestly, now that I’ve done it, I don’t know what took me so long. My advice to anyone who, like me, lived in one place all their life: keep an open mind and, at least once in your life, live and work somewhere outside your comfort zone.
The world is a wonderful place and teams like Tectonica are out there making it better.