In Spain, we have a phrase: punto y aparte. It refers to someone who finds their own way in the world, someone who lives by their own rules.
The phrase first stuck with me during my eighth-grade religion class (yes, I went to an all-girls private school). The teacher had tried to embarrass me in front of the class by connecting the phrase to my name, but I actually thought it was an accurate description. And I still do.
I knew from a young age that I was a generalist. I’ve never felt comfortable with tags or trying to fit into a specific title, and I’ve never had a one specific calling; I've had many. I’ve worked in marketing, visual merchandising, advertising, innovation strategy, experience design, and creativity training. And what I’ve learned from all of these is:
I like to be close to the creative process.
I like to change things.
I like to learn new things.
And I love to see people shift their thinking from can’t to what if?
But when I moved to the States, I faced one of the biggest stuck moments of my life and my “tenacious generalist” was shaken. I was trying to make my own way, but hit a wall. I couldn’t work because of my visa, and since it was in the middle of the recession, finding a sponsor was next to impossible. I didn’t actually need a job at the time, but it was like I was living against my values without one.
After months of feeling discouraged, two of my close friends invited me to join them back in Spain to learn design thinking, a strategic design process that could help me figure out how to move forward with my life. So, I went and learned the process. But it wasn’t just the process that changed my way of seeing things; it was the mindset behind it. From there, my confidence grew and I felt empowered to reframe the challenges in front of me. I was ready to create new opportunities for myself.
With this mindset, I also started applying better ways of working with teams. I realized that no matter what project you’re working on or how many people you’re working with, in order to make a change, you need to care for the individuals. You have to see that, regardless of the size of the organization, the ones who drive change and innovate are people. And people get stuck, a lot. So if you give them the tools, help them understand their situation, and show them new ways to navigate their stuck-points, it’ll be easier for them to see the path to change—just like it was for me.
So I started applying that mindset and the process of design thinking to my life, and once I started reframing my own problems, everything changed. I went from telling myself, “I can’t work in the US,” to, “I can’t earn money in the US, but I can still grow professionally.”
And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since: growing and reframing every challenge I face. When I couldn't find a master’s program that fit me, I designed my own way to educate myself. I attended workshops, talks, and meetups; I experimented with side projects; I built a community of social impact creatives and collaborated with entrepreneurs, small business, and companies; I shared my learnings through talks and workshops; and I deepened my knowledge of design strategy, social impact, and the future of work. Then I turned all of that around and used it to help postgraduate students at Experience Institute do the same thing.
And now, I’m continuing this same work through my own practice and my latest side project, Merienda.
I believe that design and creativity are the keys to solving problems and living a happier, better life. Getting unstuck is all about facing “no,” and I’m determined to help teams and individuals figure out what lies beyond that “no.” I want to help others live punto y aparte.