Marketa, linguist who found love in SQL and Portugal
Marketa’s first contact with Mews? A rejection email. More than a year later? She’s talking to me for the fifth Meet MewsDevs interview. It was a real pleasure to do this one (again, long distance) because how often do you see a transformation from linguist to data analyst? Not too often… and when you add fashion, New York, and Portuguese wine, it’s the perfect mix. And there may be a baking pro-tip waiting for you at the end. Enjoy!
Beginnings? No experience = no problem!
So what’s your story about starting with Mews?
I was approached by an external recruiter on Linkedin. Important thing to say is that I wasn’t actively looking for a new job. But as you know, you get approached by recruiters from time to time, but I never really paid attention to any of them. This one was different and the way the recruiter talked about Mews was really nice and the website was really neat. So we scheduled the first interview -- actually with yourself -- and I was really anxious, took home office, got ready. And fifteen minutes before the interview I received an email saying “Hello Marketa, thank you for the call today, but we decided to hire a different candidate who’s more suitable for this position.” So I was really upset, I thought you found out something about me. I picked up the phone but it was just a mistake in your internal processes.
Right, you were the victim of the automation we love so much but which backfires sometimes… Sorry about that, but I’m happy I didn’t scare you off and you’re with us now as a Data Analyst. Is it something you were doing before?
Basically, yes, it’s called something different in each company, but it’s the same thing. I was a Reporting Specialist, Business Analyst, etc.
How does someone with a degree in linguistics become a data analyst?
It was totally random. The only thing I knew after finishing my studies was that I didn’t want to be a linguist. I was teaching English, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I don’t see myself as a teacher and it’s a tough career path. So out of the blue, I went for an interview at IBM for some reporting specialist with no knowledge of anything. I don’t even know why I did it and it was horrible.
From your blog I know you’re really into fashion as well. Did you try to pursue your career there?
Yes, I got myself a job in a young fashion store in a shopping mall as a manager. I had a little bit of experience from summer jobs in shops but definitely not enough for a manager, but I persuaded them. I really did everything. Managing twelve people, hiring, firing, dealing with annoying clients, closing cashiers, carrying big boxes of new clothes at night… It was hard, but fun.
And when I think about it, probably the main reason I got that job was my passion and knowledge about the world of fashion which is completely irrelevant in such a place.😅 All the shops look the same across the world so there’s no room for creativity.
But you are a fan of sustainable fashion... I guess this wasn’t really the place for you after all, right?
As a teenager, I didn’t have much money. I really enjoyed discounts and going through the shops and I had a lot of clothes. And with the combination of what I experienced in the shop, it really pushed me towards slow fashion.
So after a terrible experience at an IBM interview and one year as a shop manager, you got into the corporate world. How?
I felt like I needed to slow down, sit behind a desk. And since my boyfriend (current husband) was working in IT, he encouraged me to pick up some technical skills and recommended me to the company where he worked at the time. And even though my knowledge or experience was far from good, there was this empathetic manager who, during the interview, explained to me how to query in SQL as I had no experience with that (but it was the whole job 🤷♀️). And I felt like it was terrible, IBM all over again… but I got a positive response and there I was, a Reporting Specialist. The beginning was really hard, but eventually I started to get better. 😊
Brno - Portugal - Prague -> Home - Homier - The Homiest
And this was all in your native Brno. How was it to move to the “big city,” Prague?
I didn’t want to. I was a pure Brňák, born and bred, and with a great job where I was getting better [during this time Marketa’s Slack notifications went crazy -- you gotta pause those notifications!]. However, my boyfriend got a lifetime opportunity here and we’d talked a lot about it over many beers and we decided to try it out. He’s Portuguese and, after all, Brno is still kind of a big village. And I was lucky enough that the company I was working for had an opening in Prague, so it worked out well.
How did he get to Brno in first place?
He came for Erasmus in 2008. We met, started off, and by the end of the exchange program he dropped from his University in Portugal, found a job in Brno, and stayed.
But now you’re fine with Prague?
Yes, I love it. It’s my home now. But the problem is that my family in Brno calls me Pražák and here in Prague I will always be this hillbilly from Brno. I am kind of a stranger everywhere…
What is Portugal, where your husband comes from, for you now?
Second home, definitely. We’ve been going there at least twice a year for the last 12 years and it feels very homey there. Antonio’s parents are from the north, on the border with Spain. And I have to say I’ve never met people anywhere else as friendly and welcoming as in Portugal. It’s almost weird. It's a really big change from what we know from Czech Republic and our restaurants, etc. I guess the fact that there is wine everywhere helps Portuguese people be nice. 🙂
Are you a wine person yourself?
I became one when I started going to Portugal. Antonio’s family (as almost everyone) has a vineyard. It’s always a big thing when there is the harvest and everyone in the village works, drinks, and eats together. Funny thing though, Antonio hates wine. I think it’s because he had to work in the vineyard when he was young. He’s a big beer person so coming to Czech Republic was a good step for him. 🍺
Where did you have your wedding?
It was a small wedding here in Prague. And it was quite funny because we had a lot of problems during the planning. Antonio had to get official papers from the embassy that he’s eligible for the wedding and we also had to have an official translator because he didn’t nod when the lady from the town hall spoke to us about the process (and I could be forcing him into the marriage 🤦♀️). So, we finally managed to get all the necessary papers and brought the translator with us. The lady was going through everything, and then she told us that she had everything except for the divorce papers. 😳 Apparently, the embassy had mistranslated ‘single’ to ‘divorced’. I was close to a heart attack at that point.
My favorite food in Portugal is definitely francesinha. Have you ever made one at home?
I don’t think we have, but our friend here in Prague throws food parties with francesinha. Even though it looks like an easy food, it’s really tricky. You have to make the sauce right and it cooks for a really long time. I guess something like goulash here in the Czech Republic. It also takes a long time and you gotta make it right. Here in Prague you can taste it in Cafe Oliveira where they make francesinha evenings sometimes.
For the last couple of years Portugal and its capital Lisbon are known as a hub of technology being the host of the Web Summit. You visited last year -- how was it?
I was blown away by the magnitude of the event. It was over 70,000 people and it almost felt like a huge music festival. Lines of people everywhere. The best talk for me was the one by Margrethe Vestager [EU Commissioner for Competition] who is a very powerful woman who checks that big companies don’t do whatever they want, but at the same time making sure not to block them. And, of course, Edward Snowden -- that was interesting because his talk was cut short when he started being a little too critical…
Fashion blogger in New York
You covered your trip to Web Summit on your blog and I had to scroll quite some time to get to the beginning of it. You’ve kept a blog for a long time -- what got you into writing?
I’ve always loved to write. Ever since elementary school when we had to write essays (in Czech it’s Slohovka). For me, it’s a way of expressing myself. At the beginning I sort of combined two of my passions -- fashion and writing -- and I was one of the many fashion bloggers which are not as common now as all of it moved to Instagram or Pinterest.
You know, not all of my friends were interested in fashion so I had to broaden my reach to get to people who shared the same interest. Then at some point I stopped caring as much about fashion and it became more of a travel blog.
Yes and that’s where I read about your honeymoon in New York (where, btw, mine was as well). How was your flight to New York? Did you sit next to your husband?
Where did you find out about this?! 😁 Yes, we decided not to be cheap and got a direct flight so we could enjoy all the benefits of not travelling low-cost as it was a special occasion. When we started doing check-in, we realized we needed to pay a lot of money to sit next to each other! But the great thing was that when we got to the plane, many other people had the same problem so everybody just shuffled, so luckily we didn’t have to sit apart for the eight hour flight. A good thing about the trip was that we met Hubert Palan [founder and CEO of Productboard, where Antonio works] who somehow found out where we were staying and sent a bottle of wine to our hotel. 🍾
That sounds like something our founder Richard would do… (Hey Richard, are you reading this?)
For you New York was the dream destination for you (for me too). What was the best part?
I have to say, it was the most intense five days of my life, so it’s really difficult to pick one, but I guess it would have to be sunrise at the Brooklyn Bridge. That was truly out of this world. We were lucky. We were jet lagged, so we couldn’t really sleep, and the best thing we could think of was to walk there and it was totally worth it. Burning sky, light reflecting on the skyline of Manhattan. Really epic.
And I liked that you went to the Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building for the view. I did that too because when you’re on the top of the Empire State Building, you can’t really see the Empire State Building.
Yes, that’s true and you can also see the whole Central Park! But wait, now when I think about it, a better or equal experience to the Brooklyn Bridge was going to Broadway. I am really into musicals (saw Hair like seven times in the theater), so it was a dream come true. And plus, we went to see The Book of Mormon and it’s just non-stop laughter. But it’s also an amazing performance by the actors. I know you love it too, Jan.
Staying fit in the lock down
Everyone is spending a lot of time at home these days. How do you get away from your desk and work?
Well, finally I have no excuse, so I am doing yoga every day. Currently, I’m spending my time with the one with Adriene. But it’s a bit dangerous because I started posting it daily on the Insta Stories and when there is a day I don’t post people get back to me quickly, so it’s keeping me fit! But my cat is not helping me much because whenever I do yoga, he lies in front of me with his “I don’t give a shit” face. 😼
And how much do you “workout” with Beat Saber?
Quite a lot actually. I am on Expert level now (Antonio is on Expert Plus, though) and we bought a lot of new songs. Funny part about Beat Saber is that once you are on a real fast regime, you lose control of your hands (they are just not fast enough) and look like a windmill…
Last question: What’s your tip for great banana bread?
The bananas need to be black and soft. That’s when they are the sweetest. I promise, I will make banana bread when we’re back in the office! 🍌🍞