In her voice, you can detect an Irish lilt, Mandarin influence, and Castilian roots. Sandra Otero Castaneda has a youthful energy fueled from having experienced so much of the world. Which is why she wants to continue continent-hopping with Microsoft—because it provides a professional market that simultaneously connects the globe as it reveals the unique culture behind each country in which it operates. Sandra explains this international infrastructure quite simply: “If you have a culture more receptive to technology, it will resonate to another country.”
Originally from Spain, Sandra considers herself a citizen of the world. Her friends back home even gave her the nickname “Suitcase.” She’s lived in Finland, Ireland, Holland, China, and, most recently, Singapore. She arrived at her new post in the marketing pillar of the Time Zone Team just three months ago, and she still expresses wonder as she revisits the quick immersion into both Southeast Asia and Microsoft.
In a broad and complex role, Sandra provides project management to executive sales teams—with the end goal of increasing collaboration across licensing and support services. She works with 13 executives who are split between Australia and Singapore but always traveling. For this reason, VP Chris Cheadle wanted someone with strength of character. Some people wouldn’t last in such a demanding position—Sandra says he thought of her, a former colleague, immediately because he knew he could rely on her to remain flexible and adjust her approach with varying cultural exchanges.
Through the tech industry, Sandra discovered a passport that expands her career opportunity as well as her personal insight.
“I find it interesting to live in those places where something is really different from what you’re used to,” she said. “It puts you away from your comfort zone, and that’s where you grow more as a person.”
Her strong mindset and influential nature made her the perfect candidate for the new role—the role did not exist before she arrived. No onboarding, no protocol, and no established process. Fortunately, she approaches her work as she does new cultures—with determination and resilience to immerse herself in the transition and emerge with tested strategies for success. “Sometimes you don’t believe the things you can do,” she said.
More than ever, working in the global information age requires intentional communication from all corners. As Sandra puts it, “Technology makes you more demanding—to be faster, better.”
We can only perform as quickly as our understanding of the job allows, however. And because culture doesn’t exist in digital apps, tech companies still rely on vibrant people like Sandra to interpret for maximum effect. She acts as translator between internal and external stakeholders from countries who represent various communication styles, expected deliverables, and corporate cultures.
At one time, the notion of moving halfway around the world meant sacrifice. All that has shifted, however, in the tech industry without boundaries. No longer does one set sail for a horizon where, upon landing, one must start over again with a new livelihood. Modern professionals with wanderlust have skills that transfer to opportunities around the world in very career-forward ways. For Sandra, Microsoft brought her to the exciting frontier of ex-pat life where she is most certainly at home.