Sunday, September 09, 2012

Changes at Yoigo, to Stockholm and then Santander, the girls in Valencia, Conchi, customer 20 million and finally home to stay

Sunday 9th September, 2012

Changes at Yoigo, to Stockholm and then Santander, the girls in Valencia,  Conchi, customer 20 million and finally home to stay

Outside the 7th floor of the TeliaSonera HQ in Stockholm

Hi everyone,

You will have noticed I didn’t post anything last Sunday.  That’s because I have been travelling and so busy.

Since I last wrote, lots of things have happened.  To start with there were changes at work.  On Tuesday 28th September, TeliaSonera (our Mother company) and Yoigo appointed a new CEO.  That won’t mean much to many of you, but to me it means a change in boss.  My charismatic young Swedish boss, who took me on board just under 6 years ago, Johan, is leaving to head up Orange Switzerland.  It has been a rollercoaster 6 years with him at the helm of Yoigo and he will be sorely missed by the sector and his employees, me too, if I have to admit it.  But for him who always said he would only be here temporarily, it was time for a new challenge.  He is very much responsible for the great position he leaves our company in, with its 3.3 milliion customer and ever growing popularity in Spain.  The new CEO, my new boss, is Eduardo, who up till now was head of sales and marketing.  He is a great professional and charismatic too, although in a different way, so Yoigo’s future is in really good hands.  I have been much involved, of course, with the communication around this and am happy and relieved the media took it really well and of course for the good coverage I contributed to.  And there has been lots, but I especially like this article in today’s Cinco Días which if you can read Spanish you might be interested to take a look at here. But more about that later.

That week was really busy and hectic, not just because of the news I had to communicate but also because I had to prepare for our participation the following Monday in Santander at the annual Spanish telecoms conference where literally all the big guns from the sector gather, including the Minister of Industry.  To cap that, I had to fly to Stockholm on Wednesday for a team meeting with my communications colleagues from TeliaSonera Mobility Services, the division in the company that encompasses the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as Spain.  

So off I went on Wednesday morning to Stockholm. On the way out I was lucky to get a seat on the only direct flight which gets you there at just past 2 in the afternoon.  I wasn’t to be so lucky on the way back on Friday and had to fly via Amsterdam, making the already long journey even longer.  I was pleased to arrive to sunshine, something which you don’t see often in Stockholm.  I was also pleased to be staying at my favourite hotel again, the lovely Skeppsholmen Hotel on the little Island of Skeppsholmen just outside the city centre.  It is of course surrounded by the sea.  Gamla Stan is just in front and on the other side you can see the incredible Vasa museum.

The Hotel Skeppsholmen in Stockholm where I love to stay.  It's a home away from home.

I just love walking from the hotel by the Baltic Sea to the town centre, and as always, when I arrive and have a few hours to myself, after settling in and dealing with anything urgent at work, I head towards the Galerian shopping centre. 

On the walk from the Skeppsholmen Hotel to the centre of Stockholm

Here I love to browse the low cost Swedish clothes shops such as Lindex, Vero Moda or Kappahl.  Funnily enough this time I didn’t find anything that attracted me.  So I wandered to the pretty little street called Biblioteksgatan where I briefly entered another Swedish store I like, Peak Performance.  But it was at Jackpot, a Danish brand I am also fond of, that I found what I wanted in a pretty flowery skirt in pink hues.  Needless to say, I wore it the next day for our first day of meetings.  I always love to wear something I have just bought; bit of a child really. You might be amused to hear that whenever I go into a shop in Sweden they talk to me in Swedish, thinking I am Swedish.  It's obviously the colour of my hair but I do find it rather funny.

The flowery skirt I got at Jackpot

That night I had dinner on my own at the hotel where I always enjoy their fabulous open prawn sandwich.  It was quite warm in Stockholm but not warm enough for me to eat outside, although it must have been for the Swedes as the restaurant at the hotel was only serving outside.  Thank goodness for the blankets they provide and the outdoor heating, otherwise I would have been frozen.  Later I was joined by my Lithuanian colleague Indre and we had a good chat sitting covered in blankets and in the dark in the gardens of the hotel.  This was in sharp contrast to how I had been sitting the night before at home, on our lovely terrace and lit swimming pool at nearly midnight where, of course, it was much warmer.

The terrace at home at night.  A lovely place to be

That night when I was having dinner on my own, Eladio was sending me whatsapp messages from the terrace.  And, as he knew, I would be missing our lovely dogs, Elsa and Norah, he sent me this delightful picture of them.

Beautiful Elsa and Norah

On Thursday I was up early to take a walk before our meeting started at TeliaSonera’s head office in Stureplan.  It started at 10 am sharp and it was good to see my colleagues again, Oyvind from Norway, Mette from Denmark, Timo from Finland, Indre of course from Lithuania, Kaja from Estonia and Anna, Karin, Nicholas and Linda from the head office in Stockholm.  We had lots to discuss and our heads were full of information when we took a break for lunch at the nearby Scandic Hotel. The afternoon meetings were held on the 7th floor lounge from where you get great views of Stureplan and the spires of buildings in the Nordic capital.  The photo of me illustrating this week’s blog is of me on the terrace of the 7th floor during one of our breaks.

That evening, we had a team dinner just outside Stockholm in a parkland called Djurgardsbrunn which our Swedish colleagues told us was very up market.  We were to have a typical crayfish dinner together but before we would be playing “boules”, the French bowling game which is played a lot in Spain too where it is called “petanca”.  My image of this game is of old men playing it in villages in Spain but actually the game was good fun and is apparently much in fashion in Sweden.

The team I am part of in TeliaSonera, about to play boules.

You will notice we played with our coats on, as it was threatening rain.  We also drank pink Spanish cava which helped to warm us up.  Dinner was held in a wonderful summer pavilion which we had just for ourselves.

The summer house or pavilion where we had our crayfish dinner

We were to be served a huge dish of Swedish crayfish which is a sort of big headed shrimp with a small tail that is salty and comes from the river.  It tastes quite good but it is a hell of a lot of work to shell and your stomach never seems to fill.  

The crayfish we were served

It is apparently a Swedish tradition to have crayfish at the end of Summer and the Swedes make a party of it, wearing hats and bibs and hanging up Chinese looking paper lanterns.  And this was exactly what we did.  I must say the whole affair was great fun and a good experience.  That night we were joined by Charlotte who heads up the PR for Telia Sweden.  It was good to see her again.

My team ready and dressed for the crayfish dinner.  What  a laugh

You can see the rest of the photos of my visit to Stockholm here.

Friday morning came and the meeting started early but I had to leave before it ended as my flight was leaving early, or should I say my flights as I went via Amsterdam to return to Spain.  I didn’t get home till quite late and as far as I can remember neither of my daughters were around.  Olivia had just come back from a short holiday in Almería with Miguel and had started working that morning with her TV programme, La Mañana de la 1.  I wasn’t to see her again until yesterday.

I hadn’t seen Suzy since before she went to Galicia the previous weekend and wasn’t to see her until I came back from Santander.  It just seems I hardly see her these days which I can sort of understand as she’s moved away from home, but on the other had I miss her a lot.  One thing is for sure, since she has moved out and broken up with her boyfriend, she looks absolutely radiant and seems very happy.  I especially love this photo I found of her Facebook.

Suzy looks radiant these days.

I have to say too that Olivia looks equally radiant here in Almería in this  photo taken by her new beau Miguel. I think he has a lot to do with her current state of mind actually. I love to see my girls looking happy and radiant and right now that is how I see them.

Oli on holiday in Almería

On Saturday morning, Eladio and I were up early when I had pack again and at about 9.30 we were on the road again and on our way to Santander.  Santander is a beautiful city on the north coast of Spain and we go there every year for the telecoms conference.  In fact I have been going nearly every year for 12 years and always look forward to it. 

The drive is just over 4 hours, so with one stop in Rueda for a glass of wine and ham, we arrived at our destination, the Hotel Silken Río, where we stay every year, at lunchtime.  As soon as we had checked in, we had lunch by the Sardinero Beach at the very slow Mondo Nuevo. We spent the afternoon on the beach which was pleasant enough and actually not too cold to bathe, but the temperature was only about 21ºc, so part of the time I had a towel around my shoulders to protect me from the cool wind blowing on this usually pleasant beach.

The Sardinero beach in Santander

I couldn’t really enjoy my “free time” as I was constantly in touch with my events agency about the production of our rather ambitious presentation for Monday.  Working remotely suits me fine, but sometimes technology works against you, as it did when I received the We Transfer file but wasn’t able to view the flash presentation as my PC wouldn’t install the programme necessary to see it. That night, however I relaxed over dinner at La Bombi, a great favourite of mine with Eladio and my colleague Juan Manuel and his wife Amparo.  Above all, I always enjoy the walk from the Sardinero beach along the Avda. Reina Victoria, past wonderful English looking mansions,  to the vibrant Puerto Chico.

On Sunday morning I was up early and met with Bea and Nuria at the cafeteria across the road to go over the presentation.  I was very pleased with the result, the animated production in flash created by Angel and his team at Iralta Films.  There was only one minor adjustment to make before putting it on show the next day at the conference.  Judge for yourselves here in the video of the presentation which is the best way to see it if your flash programme is not the latest hahahaha: 

Thus, with the presentation ready and all things under hand for our party for the attendants of the conference on Monday night, I was able to nearly fully enjoy Sunday relaxing with Eladio and with my great friend Julio who joined us for lunch that day.

With Eladio in Santander last Sunday

We spent the afternoon on the beach but again it wasn’t very warm, although the water was great and we bathed quite a lot.  We also walked up and down the Sardinero beach often to work off the lunch and get some much needed exercise.  On Sunday night, Julio and I duly walked down to the Puerto Chico with Juan Manuel and his wife to the Zacarías restaurant.  Here we had dinner, as we do every year with the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, Bea and Cris and with Isabel and Carlos from my press agency, Ketchum.  It is our bit of fun before the hard work begins on Monday.

Monday was our big day, a really hard and intense day of nerves and worrying that everything would go off ok.  With that I meant our presentation and party in the evening but mostly the former.  This year both my old boss and my new boss presented and they wore t-shirts with “I’m new” and “I’m old” which had everyone in stitches, just the right tone we wanted.  The presentation was technically very good but also the content and messages we wanted to get out; especially the fact that we would soon be entering the enterprise market and would be offering a low cost roaming tariff.  To end the presentation in true Yoigo style, a Gospel group came on to sing a song  “Yoiguización” to the sound of “Oh Happy Day”.  It was difficult to get the very staid “men in black” audience to react and I think they only did so when our “show” ended.  Someone posted a video of the grand finale, where I am told I am dancing to the Gospel song.  Frankly I prefer not to look at it.  I am also told it has made the rounds on internet via You Tube and that even the Secretary of State, made a reference to it when he closed the conference a few days later.

Our presentation in Santander was well received as usual!

Later we had a long round of questions with the press who seemed pretty impressed with our performance as well as with our intentions for Yoigo in the near future.  So, all in all, the big day was going very well.

I had time to go back to our hotel, join Eladio on the beach and have a quick swim and walk before going up to our room to get ready for the evening’s events.  First there was a Yoigo dinner to attend at the Posada del Mar restaurant.  We have dinner here every year before our big party begins at the Sailing School nearby, and we were in good hands with waiters such as Dani who knows us from other years.

The annual dinner at La Posada del Mar in Santander on Monday night

At 23h on the dot we crossed the road to our party which was just starting and to which all the attendants from the conference are invited.  I think nearly 300 people attend, so quite a big crowd including manufacturers, operators, media, bloggers, distributors and friends, such as the owner of the Zacarías restaurant who always turns up. This year we had created various areas with activities related to our new 10 commandments or our values.   The best one for me was the “transparent” activity which consisted of a small inflatable swimming pool with two huge transparent balloons which you got  into. They were then inflated and sealed and then floated on the water.  I spent the whole time inside my bubble or balloon laughing.  It was a great night and even I enjoyed it when I don’t usually enjoy my own parties, but somehow I felt really relaxed after the stress of the day.  Also it was great to be surrounded by so many friends and colleagues, such as Eduardo F, Julio and my ex Nokia boss Félix. However, as I am always a bit of a Cinderella, I slipped away at about 1.30 am when the party was in full swing.  I walked back to our hotel feeling tired but relieved another Santander participation was over and that all had gone well.

Just loved the transparent balloons at the Yoigo party in Santander this year

I have to mention here that although I have been going to Santander every year for the last 12 years, the first time I ever came here was on the ferry from Plymouth in England.  So when I saw the Brittany Ferry on Monday afternoon going past the Magdalena Peninsula where the conference takes place, I just had to take a snap for the sake of nostalgia.  How could I have known when I first took that ferry that my whole future would be in Spain and that I would be coming back to this lovely coastal town for professional reasons so often?  If I had been told then that that would be my future I would never have believed it. 

The ferry in Santander that goes to Plymouth in England.  I went on one the first time I ever came to Santander.

On Tuesday I was up quite early eager to see the press coverage from Monday’s activity and I was not disappointed.  Then all that was left to do was to have breakfast, pack, check out and hit the road again.  

We were home in the early afternoon and happy to be so, but as always after a big event I have a sort of empty feeling, a sort of anti climax and need time to settle in again. 

The girls were away.  As you will have seen from this week’s headline, they were in Valencia.  And no they were not on holiday.  Olivia had been sent by her TV programme to cover the news there this week and she was staying with Miguel.  I was so busy I only managed to see her once on the TV when she reported on a nasty case of marital violence.

Oli reporting live from Valencia this week

I knew Olivia would be in Valencia this week but had no idea about Susana.  At the last minute, when we were in Santander, her company, Aramark, asked her to go to Valencia in connection with an internal programme her company is implementing in Spain.  So off she went too and also stayed with Miguel, although she could have stayed at a hotel if she had wanted.  I thought that was a lovely coincidence for them and a bit of a fluke really. So, no neither of them were at home when we returned.

Suzy in Valencia this week

On Wednesday and Tursday I was very busy, working on the communication of customer 20 million within the TeliaSonera Mobility Services group (basically their operations in Europe: Nordic and Baltic countries and Spain – for the record the whole TeliaSonera group has actually some 175 million customers).  It appeared that they had reached that number on Friday August 31st and that the customer was Spanish.  It took some time to find out who she was but we did eventually.  Her name is María Concepción (Conchi for short) Tejedor. She is a 47 year old civil servant working for the Ministry of Public Administration in Madrid and she bought her subscription in a Yoigo shop, owned by Adela, in Las Rozas just outside Madrid.  It took us some time to convince Conchi that she was indeed our “winner” and to get her to agree to include her name in the press release.  She had no problem about that but balked at the idea of her photo in a press release or on social media which is perfectly understandable.  It was my job then to coordinate with Sweden, the photo shoot at the shop, an interview, a press release as well as an article and video for the group’s intranet.  And everything had to be done in just one day.

The Yoigo shop in Las Rozas where Conchi bought her subscription

I was rather pleased that customer number 20 million was from Yoigo.  Conchi, as I wrote in the article and press release, made “the right choice”.  She chose our very popular “infinita tariff” and the fantastic Samsung Galaxy S3 through our attractive financing programme where Conchi was to save at least 200 euros off the retail price. 

I had hoped to have a quiet Friday to do the food shopping with Ivanka, but had to go into the office for another interview with my new boss.  Cinco Días wanted to do an extended bio on him for this Sunday’s edition and had lots of questions to ask.  When you organize interviews, you are always worried how the journalist will write his or her piece.  Will it be favourable, correct, have the messages you want to transmit?  And you are always slightly nervous as you begin to read the published bit of news you had a hand in organizing.  And today was one of those days.  The article came out today. Thankfully it was very favourable, although the journalist, not from the telecoms section, had mixed up Yoigo with TeliaSonera and said we had 20 million customers, when in fact we have 3.3m.  Mistakes like this cannot be “controlled” by the communications manager (my job) because journalists never show their articles to us before they are published.  And this, my friends, is the difference between PR and advertising.  Advertising you pay for and control. PR or rather editorial you do not pay for and you do not control, but and the big but here is that the latter carries far more credibility.  Hence there is far greater risk and emotion in the job of the PR manager than the marketing manager.  You can read the article here by the way.

By Friday evening, I needed a bit of relaxation, so invited Eladio out to dinner.  We went once again to La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo and enjoyed their great gazpacho and steak, the latter being the best in the area in my opinion.

Yesterday Saturday I was very tired.  Ivanka was due to have 3 days off, after having stayed at home last weekend, so Eladio and I had to do the food shopping.  Normally I don’t mind doing it but missed Ivanka putting everything away at home.  I spent the afternoon by the pool sun bathing and reading an easy book.  I can only concentrate on more serious books when I am totally under stressed and relaxed, so I am rather ashamed to admit that this weekend I have devoured two Danielle Steele books.  But she did the trick, she took my mind off work and I finally wound down.

Yesterday Saturday was the day before last of the end of theTour of Spain.  Funnily enough the cycling family was in Santander this week and I missed them by hours.  The day of the stage from Santander was the day Alberto Contador became the leader of the General Classification, robbing the red rather than yellow jersey from the ever popular “Purito”.  And yesterday was the last mountain stage ending in the mountains just outside Madrid and we were all wondering whether Contador would be able to keep the jersey and win the Vuelta or whether his rival Valverde (from the Movistar team) would snatch more time from the leader and eventually win this year’s edition.  That didn’t happen.  Contador lost some time, but came away unscathed and still the leader.  Today, the last day, is the traditional non competitive stage where the leader is always respected.  So a bit later on this afternoon he will be officially crowned this year’s winner.  

Last night I went to dinner, as I do nearly every year, with my friends from the Tour of Spain, Carlos de Andrés, the TVE commentator and Pedro Delgado, ex cyclist and winner of the Tour of France and Spain and Carlos’ fellow commentator.  We were joined by Pedro’s wife, Ludi, Sergi and his wife, as well as Miguel Angel and his young and pretty companion Rebeca.  This year Olivia came with us too and brought her new boyfriend Miguel who is not unfamiliar with their world as he works as a cameraman for Spanish TVE in Valencia.  Most of the night, we spoke about cycling, but also about how I first met them all.  Believe it or not, that was now 20 years ago when I worked for Motorola and was involved in the Motorola Cycling Team.  Sadly I told them that I had heard that Motorola Spain would be closing down soon. That is hard to imagine and deserves a longer mention in this blog when the time comes.  We had dinner at a restaurant in the centre of Madrid called Las Tortillas de Gabino a place we have had dinner at before with Pedro and Ludy.  I was glad and not unsurprised  to hear from Miguel Angel, Pedro’s ex team mate, that in all the stages of the Tour of Spain there had been just about as many signs and banners cheering on or in pro of Pedro Delgado as there had been of Alberto Contador.  Pedro stopped cycling in the early 90’s yet his popularity has never decreased in this country and he is a well loved public personality.  I can vouch that he is just as people imagine him and am proud to be his friend. 

Dinner on Saturday with my friends covering The Tour of Spain.  Something of a tradition.

It was a great dinner as always and also nice for me to still feel part of the cycling world after all these years.

Today is Sunday, everyone is asleep or watching the television, either the Vuelta or the F1 and now that I have finished this week’s blogpost, I shall go and sit by the pool with our dogs and carry on reading my rubbishy Danielle Steele book, after which it will be time for a light dinner and walk with the dogs.  Tomorrow is Monday and a start of another week.  This week I will be at home and hopefully there will be no more globetrotting for a while.  This time I am finaly home to stay after so many weeks of travelling.  And I look forward to it, to our walks, to reading and being with my family.

I wish you all a great week.  All the best

PS You can see the rest of the photos of my trip to Santander here.

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