Andreina is a person with whom I could sit for a coffee and a few glasses of wine for hours and I would not get bored. She is a complex person who can walk you through a conversation in an ocean of topics: from oil and gas, to various types of wines, from charity to sustainability.
So we decided to transfer one of our discussions to the paper so that you could enjoy it too.
Could you let our readers know a few words about you, your professional experiences, why did you choose the Netherlands and how did you decide to move all the way from Venezuela to live in the Netherlands?
I was born and raised in Venezuela. I like to say that Venezuela is more than just a country in South America, Venezuela is a Caribbean land, with the tropical rain and the coral sand beaches and also with social and political problems as big as its avocados.
After I graduated from high-school, I lived a year abroad as an exchange student in Flanders, Belgium. It was my first time on this side of the Atlantic. My first time away from home for such a long period. And my first time feeling literally lost in translation. It was overall one of the best years of my life. I got the chance to meet awesome people from all corners of the world and travelled around many countries within Europe. It has shaped me as I am today.
Afterwards I returned to Venezuela, where I embarked on my journey of becoming a Chemical Engineer. After some time working in different industries (paint production, beer brewery and petrochemical industry), I decided it was time to get some international work experience.
Not long after, I started to think about my next adventure. Reminiscing on my time as an exchange student, I felt the curiosity of tasting the European work life.
As a kid I used wish for a trip to Neverland. As time went by with adulting, I came in touch with Dutch people who got me enthusiastic into getting to know more about their (work) culture and way of living. It was a job opportunity what brought me to The Netherlands. And here I am. I guess that’s the closest I’ll get to Neverland…
Tell us a few words about your career in the Energy industry.
Growing up in an ‘oil country’ such as Venezuela, the prospects of a prosperous career pointed (in many ways) to the oil & gas industry. Many direct and indirect jobs in engineering are associated with the Oil, Gas & Energy industry in Venezuela.
In 2007 I was granted a scholarship as a young graduate engineer to attend a conference about offshore mechanics and arctic engineering in San Diego, California. In Venezuela, we have so much oil underground (the largest known oil reserves in the world) that we don’t really explore (nor exploit) the possibilities that may lie under our seabed.
I consider myself an adventurous soul. This conference in the USA was an eye opener for me on the new possibilities that the oceans could bring up to my career. The idea of learning about something new (to me) was rather exciting. I took advantage of the setting to network and enquire about the offshore industry, the ongoing projects, and the possibilities for a young chemical engineer to succeed in it.
I met some European players in the industry, made some valuable contacts and navigated through job offers at a time where O&G prices were skyrocketing and there were remote & complex projects galore. A combination of all these took me to the first switch in my early career: from downstream O&G (what happens after oil and gas has been extracted) to upstream offshore (what happens before oil and gas is processed).
That sequence of fortunate events, and my professional background, led me to The Netherlands. At first, I worked as an engineer. It took me a good year to understand the differences between offshore and onshore engineering, the lingo, the difficulties, the differences in culture. And most importantly, where do I fit in all of that?
Soon enough I took more leading responsibilities and shifted to the operational side of the industry, where the theory and the design combine into reality. This took me to places such as the UK, Australia, Singapore, China and the UAE. I can’t say I’ve seen it all – neither wish I did – but working as a Transformation Manager in operations has been anything but dull.
What is your current occupation?
I’m a Business Transformation Manager. My focus is in the crossroad of the energy transition, sustainability and blockchain. I believe in the power of reinvention and continuous improvement. As a purpose driven person, and of course as an engineer, I focus on challenging the status quo towards operational excellence while maximizing efficiency. That is, changes for the sake of improvement and not to fix what isn’t broken.
I have also dedicated big part of my life to volunteering roles. I am currently Board Member and Leader at Lean In Network Netherlands (Randstad). As a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) advocate, I believe in the benefits of a balanced and diverse workplace. My aim is to grow, engage with, and empower a community to commit to actions towards DEI in the redefinition of current leadership models. We promote an environment where everyone can lead & thrive by being 100% themselves. I’m accountable for the strategic development, key partnerships, contracts management and community growth of our foundation.
Until recent, I also volunteered to the KIVI (Royal Dutch Society of Engineers) as a board member of the Offshore Technology department. I was responsible for communications, fundraising and event management.
You are also an entrepreneur. Tell us more about it. Did you follow a specific analysis, noting down the benefits and disadvantages of having your own business, or did you just want to be your own boss?
Good question! Yes, that’s quite true, I always wanted to be my own boss. I grew up in an environment where my father, at the height of his career, decided to take the step to become his own boss.
My case is different. I must say that working in a male dominated industry has more disadvantages than advantages. The glass ceiling is real and unfortunately so are the biases. As young professionals, we tend to put up with this type of roadblocks and think that it will not happen to us when we get there (the top of the company pyramid). Only to realize as mid-career professionals that there is no ‘there’ to get to and that many rungs on the ladder have just been cut.
I did give it a thought for several years about becoming my own boss and having my own company. Particularly after I spent a year on assignment in the Middle East. I was so overwhelmed with work that I began questioning, more often than not, on what I was working for. And more importantly, who was I working for? Am I doing this for me or for somebody else? The issue was that I didn’t know what to base my business on. I had experience in running and managing projects but none of them were mine.
After finalizing my MBA, I realized that I couldn’t just be waiting to find the million-dollar idea to go and register my own company. I woke up one day, made an appointment with the Chamber of Commerce and 7 days later I had registered my own business (as a wine importer & consultant). It’s been a rather learn-on-the-go journey. I am still discovering and adding activities I like to transfer my experience and skills to. A few years down the road in both the corporate and entrepreneurial world got me to the exploration phase of a tech startup. It’s a steep road up and it feels very good!
How did you manage to combine your job and your own business?
I don’t mix them. Elizabeth Gilbert says that there is a difference between a job, a career and a vocation: “Just recognize your job doesn’t have to be your whole life. Your life can be outside of that”.
It is a matter of being organised…and honestly talking to friends and family about your efforts and ambitions, because oftentimes you’ll have little time to spare.
When and how did you decide to start a business in the wine industry?
I’ve been a wine enthusiast and lover for over 16 years. Since I moved to Europe I was bitten by this oeno-tourism bug, I wanted to know more. I soon discovered that the best ways of learning (and remembering) all wine related stuff were rather simple. Visit the wine areas, drink local, dare to experiment with a new variety each time.
While I was living in Australia, in 2014, I used to travel quite often to the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia. Besides being a spectacular, breath-taking area, it hosts a relatively small production of fine wines.
After returning to Amsterdam in 2016, I focused on visiting wine regions off the beaten track. For example, wines in Granada and Malaga (in Andalusia, Spain), wineries in Santorini (Greece), Croatia, Empordà (in Catalunya, Spain), wineries around Toulouse, and many more.
I took a few wine courses in 2016 and kept on reading, tasting and talking about wines with other wine lovers.
In 2019, after finishing a wine course called SDEN3, I decided I wanted to give the wine business a try. As I said earlier, I didn’t give much particular thought to it, I made the appointment with the Chamber of Commerce and here we are.
What did your wine business do exactly?
The short version: I am a wine consultant, I organise & showcase wine workshops and import wine to the Netherlands.
Long version, I like to create experiences around wine. I focus on making wine accessible to wine lovers and enthusiasts by helping them discover what they like in wine and why.
My workshops were not just based on wine drinking. My events have a theme around them. For example, I’ve done wine & chocolate pairing workshops, wine & poetry, wine & music, wine & book readings, wines by region, by grape, by style…and I even teamed up with a psychologist / sexologist to give a wine & sexuality workshop.
On the work floor, as a consultant, my aim is to train personnel in the hospitality industry to help them make the whole wine list accessible to their customers and actually sell all the wines they have on display!
Do you think restaurants should train their employees to know what type of wine to recommend for different dishes?
You’d be surprised at how many waiting staff I’ve met that haven’t been given the chance to taste the wines they are selling.
With the professional workshops, I focussed on having a look at the restaurant’s wine list and (in discussion with the manager) selecting wines to taste under a professional workshop.
Of course, the wine & food pairing recommendation is my passion. The staff must taste the wines. I guide them to learn about where wines come from, their attributes, the correct serving temperature, the possible contrast and harmonizing pairing with their food menu. Believe me, as a customer, I know when the waiting staff has tried the wines and can give a solid recommendation for the food I just ordered.
What is your favourite wine?
All of them!
The more I taste them, the harder it is to pick just one of them out of the number of varieties we have available. Also, my palate has changed, I didn’t want to say with age but hey I’ve said it, so if I had to pick just one – maybe champagne!
What kind of wines did you sell (and where are they from)?
I sourced wines exclusively from family owned and boutique wineries.
I imported and represented Champagne Bonnevie-Bocart from Billy-le-Grand (France), Bodegas Bordoy from Mallorca (Spain), Bodegas Brugarol (Spain), and Bodegas Tres Pilares (D.O Rueda and D.O Ribera del Duero) Spain.
I’ve made a small import from France, from other wine producers, in the past.
How did the pandemic affect your business? What is happening to your wine business now?
It’s difficult. It’s difficult to not be able to have the workshops on location, at people’s places or restaurants / wine shops, but I still did online wine tastings.
It did affect me in a particular way because I made a large import back in February 2020, dedicated to the hospitality industry, and right now it’s a very difficult time for them. This means that I’m competing with other importers, wine shops and the remaining wine stock from these locations.
Soon enough restaurants took advantage of the remote/online experiences and started selling their wine stock with food boxes at a bundle price. As many other sommeliers began with the online wine tastings, competition became harder. However, the niche for the exclusive, sustainable and family produced wines, is still booming.
Do you think people are interested in educating themselves about wine?
Definitely. They are, and we see that people (particularly younger ones) are curious to try and learn about wine without becoming snobs!
People want to know what they are drinking and also want to understand why they like it and get better hints on what to try next.
Tell us some intriguing wine stories that have made you a connoisseur.
Might answer this in another time! (laughs)
What does your tech startup is about?
My business partner and I, combined, have extensive experience in the sustainability, business transformation and blockchain space.
We are in the exploring phase for a B2B solution to accelerate sustainability-centred business models.
We are passionate about sustainability, technology and impact and see the combination as an opportunity to move towards an incentive economy with better benefits for our society and planet.
Do you think passion and business are a winning bet?
The whole discussion took place over a glass of wine on one of the colourful Amsterdam terraces.