For our 50th Anniversary, EFMD has created a “Behind the Scenes” series so you can get to know us better. This conversation is with María Quílez, one of our Coordinators for International Projects in Brussels.
Hi, María. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this today. Can you start out by telling us a little about yourself, how long you’ve worked at EFMD and what you do?
Well, I am María, as you said, and I am Spanish, as you will hear very soon from my accent. I work at EFMD in the International Projects Department. I’ve been at EFMD since November 2019, and I work together with Christophe, Jean-Baptiste, Athanasia and now with a new colleague, Leo.
And what do you like most about the work that you do?
I really like the international atmosphere that we work in. I like the possibility to work with people from different countries, different backgrounds, different cultures, different ideas, and different ways of seeing life. And it’s different languages as well. So yeah, that’s it. The international atmosphere, let’s say.
I think a lot of people may not know much about the international projects team at EFMD. Can you explain a little what you do?
We manage mostly European projects. We have a big portfolio of projects that we manage with international partners from all over the world. All of the projects are linked to higher education. We even create projects from scratch, submit a proposal and then we are granted those projects with a consortium that we create; or we get invited to other kinds of projects that someone else created. Anyone can visit the web page to take a look at all the projects that we are involved in and that we have been involved with to have a better idea of what projects are about, where our partners are from, etc.
Sure. And what are you most proud of in the International Projects Department?
The way we work. I don’t know how other departments work, but the way we work inside our department is that we are all linked and know the work of the other colleagues. It’s not like one person says, “I take care of this project. So I am by myself.” Somehow, we all are involved, and we help each other. So whenever someone needs the help of another colleague, it’s like, okay, “we are going to”. “We”, we’re always speaking in plural. We have to do this; we have to do that. So yeah, I like to be able to work together and to know what is going on. Yes, the teamwork, let’s say.
That sounds very nice. And what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your work?
To be able to meet the deadlines, let’s say. Because we have internal deadlines, but we also have external deadlines. So, there are things that have to be done at a certain moment regardless of the amount of work that you have at the moment. Deadlines to submit a project proposal or to submit, send or prepare a financial report or the final report. These deadlines cannot be missed. To be able to meet them, I would say. Actually, the first day I started working here, it was with an external deadline in mind. So, a lot of things had to be done in a very short period of time.
Was COVID a difficult time period for international projects? Did you have to adjust the way you did things?
We had to adjust very quickly because, as you may think, we have to travel a lot. There are trainings, meetings in different parts of the world. So, before COVID, we all were travelling a lot, all the time. So, then that stops. So like, okay, then what do you do? Everything had to go online. Things that before we didn’t think that they could be done online. They were done online with no, well, I wouldn’t say no problem, because you always have to adjust. And yeah, I guess it was hard for everyone, but we managed very well.
Are things going back to normal?
Everything is going back to normal. People are back travelling, and especially at the beginning, we all were very happy to see each other in person because we had been speaking or having weekly meetings with these people, and then it was the first time we could see each other. It was like we were hugging. Well, no, because we had masks and everything. But we were very happy to see each other.
So, on a personal level, what are the three words that best describe you?
Family, loyalty, and, I think, empathy.
You’re based in Belgium. I’m assuming your family is in Spain. Do you see them very often?
At least twice a year during summer and for Christmas, for sure. And then maybe family and friends come for two or three days or a week, or maybe I can escape two or three days.
That’s nice. And what is something you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t gotten around to?
Diving. Since I was little, I have always loved being in the water. I guess I haven’t had the time, but definitely, I would like to do that. I’ve always been interested, and I guess I would be good at it, or I would really enjoy it for sure. Like I’m not scared of being under the water with all this noise of the breathing. No, I think I would like it a lot. It’s on my to-do list, for sure.
Sounds fun. And our last question. What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Think before I speak. I try to apply it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work. When I was very little, I remember that someone in my family told me; I don’t know why they did, I don’t know what I said, but they told me that very seriously.
I think that’s good advice for all of us. Well, thank you very much, María. It was nice to talk to you today and get to know you a little better.
Learn more about María in the video with Eline Loux below.
See more of our staff interview series.