In this new series, we will be highlighting real, successful remote workers working in various industries across the globe. They'll give us an insight into how they got started in their industry, their advice to their younger selves, and tell us why they chose remote work.
Introducing: Adela Alonso - strategic branding specialist with a background in fashion design and management.
Born in Spain and educated in the best universities in Spain, Italy, and UK; Adela started her entrepreneurial journey after 10+ years working in the fashion industry. Her multifaceted experience covering visual merchandising, design, sourcing, and buying gave her a 360° understanding of the internal processes and the product life cycle. Her international trajectory in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East helped her understand the challenges and dynamics of cross-cultural business.
How did you start working remotely?
Almost by coincidence, really! I quit my last corporate job in Dubai and was planning on taking some time off, but two weeks after my last day in the office I started working as an expert consultant part-time with a fashion-tech startup. The whole team operated remotely, so when summer was coming around the corner (which in Dubai means HELL) I thought - why should I stay here and spend $1500 on rent to be stuck inside when I can go around and explore some nice places and live way cheaper? I spent one month in Batumi, Georgia, and then another month working from Kohub in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
There I got in touch with the Digital Nomad community and the rest, as they say, is history!
What made you choose your current field, and what do you love about it?
I decided I wanted to study fashion when I was 14. I chose my high school courses with the pamphlet of the university I wanted to go to in hand. I graduated with honors and I did a master's degree in trend research, which I also loved. I worked for 10 years on different sides of the business (from design to buying to merchandising and tech) and I find it absolutely fascinating and exciting. However, the fashion scene wasn’t always a space I felt comfortable in, nor were these massive, vertically-functioning corporate structures.
Taking my strategy, branding, product design, and consumer behavior research skills and applying them to a wider field gave me the chance to keep growing and learning, as well as helping more people! Most recently I have been trying to focus on two things: the first one is a business mindset for creative people (I am in the middle of writing an ebook and putting together a course called “The passion entrepreneur”) and Sustainable Fashion with a realistic/long term/business-positive approach.
What has been the highlight of your remote career so far?
Without a doubt, the community. I have met so many inspiring people on this journey. I always thought of myself as someone with a lot of critical thinking and not very prejudiced but it has been the people I have met in the past couple of years that made me realize how much potential there is for each and every one of us if we just take the chance to explore it!
What are some of the challenges you faced?
Ha, name one! I have faced a lot of challenges, from recovering from depression and a break-up to jumping an endless number of legal hoops to move the company legally from UAE to Bulgaria. The hardest part for me has been the loss of sense of “belonging” sometimes. Yes, you build your tribe and I have made so many friends that I believe and hope would be for life - but there is something about having a little corner of space that you call home and a group of people who are a constant day by day. I miss that.
Plus dating as a nomad is a nightmare for me. Like, that part of my life has disappeared. I gave up at this point - I am co-fostering a kitten :D
How did you stay motivated when facing these challenges?
I have learned to take one day at a time while keeping my vision clear. If nothing else, living like this teaches you resilience and acceptance. We have to deal with unexpected changes, with constant efforts in adapting to new surroundings, to start over again every few months. I think the best mantra is remembering that this is a choice. And choosing is a privilege. So I feel privileged and thankful!
What is your opinion of remote work? Benefits vs disadvantages?
I think that is the future of many jobs, to be honest. I think there are benefits to the employee, to the employer, to the overall communities - I could go on for hours about this, but the main point I guess for me is that I don´t think it´s an option. I think it´s the future and if there are some downsides we will have to adapt to.
When companies first started to use computers I am sure there were many hurdles and disadvantages at first, but nowadays nobody expects you to work with pen and paper. I see remote work going in a similar way.
If you could advise a younger version of yourself to do something different - what would it be?
Be gentle to yourself, know your limits, and learn to quit situations that are no longer adding value to your life. Be on your own team, and put yourself at least at the same level that you put everybody else.
What do you predict for the future of your industry?
If we are talking fashion, I predict a big shift towards a slower, more sustainable approach to clothing as well as the development of digital fashion products. If we are talking entrepreneurship, I see more of the positions that traditionally are done by employees being taken by self-employed individuals, ultra-specialized experts, etc. Automation and AI will take care of repetitive tasks, so humans will be needed for creative and critical thinking.
What would you like to achieve professionally in the next five years?
I would like to be known as an expert in both sustainable fashion and strategic branding. I would love to spend half my time mentoring up and coming talent and half the other helping established companies make this better (more efficiently, more sustainably, with happier teams).
Any words of wisdom for people looking to get hired in your industry?
Make sure you understand the reasons why you want to work in fashion - because you might be disappointed by the lack of glamour in the job! Make sure also that you choose a company whose values match your own, otherwise it can be very heartbreaking as well.
Any predictions for what will happen to remote work as a whole?
I think I pretty much answered this question already, I think remote/flexible work is the future. I think talent will be appreciated for what they do, for the results they bring - not the hours they clock.
Final question, what is your go-to recommendation for others to read/listen to/watch right now?
Go watch my Youtube videos! Haha, but also - if you are interested in behavioral science I always recommend Dr. Robert Sapolsky´s course on Human Behavioral Biology from Stanford University - you have the whole course online for free and for me has been extremely eye-opening. Learning how we behave is learning how we consume, so it´s the best way of understanding how to create products and brands that fit people's lives.