Relocating as a Global Mobility Specialist: A Q&A with Christina Urrutia
Christina Urrutia took a sabbatical from the relocation industry in 2017 to experience life in Mexico. She is now returning to the US with a multi-cultural mindset and looking for new opportunities. She recently sat down with Danny Herskowitz to share her thoughts on the industry and the impact of her sabbatical.
Tell us about your career trajectory and your recent sabbatical
I stumbled into a relocation specialist role shortly after graduating from University and realized that I really liked helping people and the fast-paced, constantly changing, results driven environment.
I started my Global Mobility career as a Relocation Specialist in 2008 where a great mentor told me that one of two things would happen by the end of my training:
1. I’d fall in love with relocation and would never leave it
2. I’d run away before I even reached 6 months.
Turns out that they were right. Throughout my career, I saw many specialists come and go, usually right in the midst of the summer rush. The pressure is intense sometimes; the attention to detail, the demands, and making the impossible possible - but that was exactly why I loved my position. Hearing a customer’s surprise when I’d pull the magic rabbit out of my hat was the best feeling ever!
In 2011, I moved from Pittsburgh, PA to Los Angeles, CA and took on a vendor manager role for a legal services firm - this was the first time that I tried to break away from the industry, only to find that I was miserable without it. However, the year I spent managing a team of 6 was essential to building my leadership skills as well as many professional connections. Upon my return to the industry, I received my Certified Relocation Professional (CRP) and my Global Mobility Specialist (GMS) designations, issued by the World Wide ERC, and I held roles in Business Development and Sales for a van line and a relocation management company. It’s been over 10 years and I’m still in love with my career!
In 2017, I began a 2 year sabbatical where I have been living in Tehuacan, Mexico - a small city in southern Puebla State. I received my TOEFL English as a Second Language certification and have been teaching English at an institute to children and adults alike. It is extremely rewarding and has been a great experience. At the same time, I have also started to learn Spanish and have been engulfed in a culture that is not my own.
How did your experience as a relocation professional help you during your sabbatical?
The short answer is - Not Enough. From my time in International Relocations, I knew plenty about MOVING, I knew about currency exchanges and arranging travel but I had no idea what was in store for me when I decided to live in another country. I had sent hundreds of employees to foreign places, I had arranged language training and cultural training, but I never really understood how critical it was for them. I knew about extra baggage fees but I didn’t realize how hard it is to start from absolutely nothing because you weren’t authorized an air shipment.
What my career did prepare me for was the emotional roller coaster I'd likely feel. I had counseled countless clients during their relocation and talked them through difficult assignment decisions. Also, it provided me with a great book of resources to find the help I needed. Everything from moving tips to language and culture shock, I knew where to look for help or who to ask.
Of all of the experiences I've had in Mexico, the one that will stick with me the most is understanding how important it is to manage expectations and how stressful being in a new country is, with a very limited understanding of how things work. I feel this sabbatical has given me a renewed appreciation for our industry and the impact that we as coordinators, managers, and sales professionals have on its success, and ultimately on the family's life.
What are you looking for in this next phase of your career?
One thing that my sabbatical has allowed me is to really identify who I am as an employee and what my ideal roles are. In this next phase of my career, I’m looking to expand into a more senior role within a well-structured team that is fluent in Global Mobility services and policy administration. I’m looking for an organization that values and has a passion for growing and nurturing their employees in a flexible, work-hard, play-hard environment. Ideally, this team would have change leaders who are passionate and active in the Global Mobility community (ERC), and possess drive and vision within the organization.
How has the industry changed in the last 5-10 years?
Since Millennials have joined the workforce, the shift of Global Mobility has gone from long-term, company initiated moves for senior managers to short-term, employee initiated moves with a focus on DIY - high tech services. Global Mobility teams have begun to share the proverbial table with other cost center managers as the importance of seeing the ROI of Mobility increases. The size of the relocations have also shifted greatly, in part due to the high fuel costs and the trend towards more minimalist households. 5 years ago, companies offered a very structured approach to mobility with pre-chosen options that were one size fit all with no exceptions and hardly ever a lump-sum. Today, those companies are much more flexible and a-la-carte options allow employees to choose what is important to them while still providing basic relocation needs.
How do you see it changing in the future?
I believe that we will continue to see a shift toward DIY moves and employees who are much more selective when choosing an employer, taking into consideration the opportunity for personal growth and international experiences offered by Talent Mobility. I think we will see more industry disruptors that will change the way we service relocations, and with the continual decline of long-haul truckers, I believe that the move to freight solutions will be likely. The days of 2 week delivery windows will become a thing of the past and a scheduled pick-up and delivery dates will be in place BEFORE the move happens which will allow for total cost reductions and greater employee satisfaction at destination.
What areas of the Global Mobility function do you think could be improved?
One area that I think is important to improve on is the care of Expats and their families. It’s easy to say what is “in policy” and “not in policy” but the impact that those decisions make on the family unit is incredibly important for the success of an assignment. Happy employees work harder, stay longer, and cost less than dissatisfied ones. It’s essential to provide assistance before, during, and after the assignment.
Additionally, I feel that it’s important to constantly benchmark against other companies to see where your policy exceeds or falls short of others. Understanding what works for your company culture is essential to the success of your employees - it’s also a good idea to constantly review your partnerships and not get complacent just because it’s easy. RFP’s open the doors for new partnerships that could completely change how you do business. With a workforce that is increasingly tech-savvy, shouldn’t you be using a provider who can match that with excellent technology, reporting, and tracking?
Do you have any career advice for anyone wanting to get into Global Mobility?
My advice for anyone who has found themselves in Mobility and enjoying it is this - stay the course - find a mentor and actively participate in as many regional groups as you can. The wealth of knowledge that can be found in those groups is unmatched. For younger professionals, I suggest YP40 as a must-attend group. Don’t form partnerships, form friendships because the partnership ends as soon as the person moves to a new company but friendships won’t. Finally - be an active advocate for your career - ask for the tough assignments, ask for more clarification and ABL - Always Be Learning!
If you would be interested in featuring in a future Global Mobility interview, would like to discuss the industry or learn more about current opportunities, please get in touch with Daniel Herskowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org