Always keen to have positive impact and step outside her comfort zone, Vivian Pucher left her native Germany to spend six months volunteering in a women’s cooperative in Guatamala at the age of just 18. Six years on and she’s working at Google in Dublin and a member of the Seachange Foundation board, as well as planning a triathlon and a stint in Tanzania working with entrepreneurs.
About Vivian Pucher
Tell us a bit about your education and career to date
I grew up in the German Black Forest and after graduating from high school there wanted to see a bit of the world so I went to Guatemala for half a year to work in a cooperative of Mayan women. There I realised that nobody – including me, of course – had any idea how to run an organisation and that’s why I decided to study business. Because I’d learnt Spanish in Guatemala I went for a double degree between ESB Business School at Reutlingen University in Germany and Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. After graduating in 2015, I went on to do my master’s in strategic management at Smurfit.
During my studies I did several internships in consulting and in the automotive sector as well as working for a start-up. Besides that I have always been very involved in university initiatives and did a lot of voluntary work. For example, during my time at Smurfit, I did a project on social impact measurement in Gujarat (India) with Shanti Life India Foundation, a microfinance organisation focusing on empowering women through business and sanitation loans. I am also now on the board of Seachange Foundation, a partner organisation of Shanti Life based here in Dublin.
Tell us about your role in Google
Last November, I joined the sales department in Google in Dublin where I am an account strategist. This involves working with small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany on how they can grow their businesses nationally and internationally with online marketing. It’s a fantastic team and I get to work with very smart people.
How do you feel your degree at UCD has benefited you most?
I think there are two dimensions to what I got out of my time at Smurfit. One of those is the personal side. In Smurfit I really made friends with people from all over the world. It always sounds so simple but I think we underestimate a lot those cultural differences between people. I learnt an incredible amount about working with very different cultures. On the other hand, content wise we learnt about many concepts that I wasn’t really aware of during my primary degree. I sometimes wondered why on earth we would learn this in strategy management. Now, being in the corporate world I see it all the time and remember back. It really turned out to be very useful for me in terms of being able to see the bigger picture.
What motivates you?
I think what motivates me most is to have an impact in a positive way and to be able to see what my work has done. In my current work, making clients happy is really motivating for me. So, it’s really about positive change.
What are your career goals?
I have a mid-term plan and a longer term plan. I have done a lot of consulting, working on very strict business projects, and also NGO work and I would like to combine the two in the future. I would like to work more on the social side of business and that could be within Google or somewhere else. In the long term, I would like to return to university some day and share my experience. I could really see myself going back to academia... but that’s far away!
What for you is good leadership?
I think it depends a lot on the stage an organisation is at, but ultimately I would define it as being inspiring, having strong values and allowing your people to take risks and to think big. It’s not about showing what to do but more about showing what we are doing something for.
I have led projects in the past but haven’t yet been a leader professionally, but I think that’s the kind of leader I wish to become one day.
Who or what influences and inspires you?
I read recently that you are mostly influenced by the five closest people around you. Hence, I have been influenced a lot by my family and close friends. Nevertheless, when you move places a lot, also the people around you change. So it’s always shifting a bit and I see myself changing with it. So I’m probably really the cross sum of all the people that are close to me.
In terms of inspiration it’s a bit different. I’m really inspired by people who have strong ethical values and clearly stick to them. I’m inspired and interested by people who dedicate their lives to something amazing but manage to do so in a selfless manner. One, but certainly not the only, example would be Sheetal Walsh who I mentioned earlier. She is incredibly successful from a business point of view but still dedicates a huge part of her time to run a charity.
What achievement stands out for you so far?
Probably it’s the time I spent in Guatemala. I went there when I was 18 years old and spent six months in a mud hut. It was a very tough time. Since then, whenever things are getting difficult I always remind myself that I was able to do that at such a young age and that the challenge I’m facing now is not so big compared to it and I can probably achieve so much more. So, I always use it as my anchor point to put things into perspective.
Are there any failures you’ve learnt from?
Primarily my plan was to not even do a master’s degree but rather to start working right away. But I honestly failed at getting the job I really wanted straight after my primary degree. I was probably overconfident in what I had achieved and after I got rejected my whole self confidence broke down. Now I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. It was a really good learning that when something doesn’t work out the way it was supposed to then another door opens. Hence, I learned to move on and look forward.
What are your tips or advice for success?
It might sound extremely naive but the thing that I benefited from the most and that I try to continue doing, is to say “yes” as much as possible. I try to embrace any opportunity that crosses my way. I think it’s better to have a bit too much on your plate than just staying inside your comfort zone. And I’ve always benefited in some way from the additional experience I have gained from just saying, “yes, sure, I will give it a try”.
Any immediate plans for the future you’d like to talk about?
For now, I’ll try to move on in my current workplace and will continue the work I’m doing with Seachange and Shanti Life. I’m also going to Tanzania for two weeks this summer with Google, working with entrepreneurs there. And I’d like to do a triathlon – that’s actually another point on my list for this year!
What are your main interests outside work?
I really like to do sports and I also love to travel. And I enjoy reading and I have just started painting recently.
How important is your UCD alumni network to you?
So far it has been extremely helpful for having lovely friends in Asia when travelling there. But at the same time I see them all getting into great work positions, so also from a professional aspect I’m sure we’ll benefit a lot from our connections in the future.
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you
Unfortunately I’m very chaotic and even more unfortunately I’m allergic to mangoes.
What is your pet hate?
People walking super slow in front of me – I love being lazy but I hate to waste time unnecessarily.
Who’s your favourite writer?
Paulo Coelho has been extremely inspiring to me.
And what is your favourite band or musician?
It’s mainly one song that always gets me into an extremely happy mood: Golden Age (The Asteroids Galaxy Tour).
What’s the last gig you went to that you loved?
I went to a jazz concert by Christian Scott (my first one ever) two weeks ago and it was absolutely amazing.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
I always like to cook exotic things I’ve never made before. And even more if they are really spicy.
What is your favourite place in the world to visit and why?
Freudenstadt (which actually translates to happy town) in the Black Forest...because there is no place like home.
Name three things on your bucket list
Run a marathon, be published somewhere and speak five languages fluently.