Employer Branding Associate Bel Merens on uni, travel, and living your dreams
Team spotlight: Bel shares how she made her dream—moving to Europe to work for a popular FinTech—a reality.
9 min read
As a child in Buenos Aires, Bel Merens didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up—she just knew it needed to combine time in an office with plenty of opportunities to travel. Oh, and something that engaged her creative side. After studying International Business at UADE (Argentine University of Enterprise), Bel landed a position at N26, where she now works as Employer Branding Associate. It’s been a wild ride, but she isn’t ready to slow down: “I just want to be the best I can be and make my company super successful. I want to learn new things, engage with the community, and talk with people from other companies. It’s a lot of work, but I really enjoy it!” We sat down with Bel to talk about her accomplishments and how her university experience shaped her career path. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Can you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself—where you grew up, and what you were interested in before heading to college?
I’m 24 years old, and I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I spent my whole life there—always lived in the same house. However, because of some opportunities at my university, I got the chance to travel quite a lot. I came to Europe and eventually made my way to Berlin.
Thinking back to when you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I guess it all started when I saw my father coming back from work. He always wore a suit, and he had one of those card holders that you use to open doors—I just thought that was so cool! The image of the suit was incredibly powerful. I didn’t know what I wanted to study or what field I would end up in, I just knew I wanted to work in a company. I wanted to have a team and a manager, I wanted to talk to clients and work with other teams. I just always believed that my place would be in an office somewhere.
Let’s talk about your studies. Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
It was difficult for me to choose a university. We have several really good universities in Argentina, especially in terms of business, which was what I wanted to study. In the end, I chose UADE because I fell in love with the career options, and because they offered a bachelor’s in international business. It also offered a lot of opportunities to travel: Erasmus, internships in other countries, and so on. The program really piqued my interest because I knew it would prepare me for an international life—one filled with travel. This, again, comes back to my father. He’s a sales manager, and he traveled to other countries for work, making lots of contacts. This really appealed to me. Another thing that was great about this bachelor’s program was that it was in English. I always felt English was such a powerful language, and I really wanted to master it.
What are some strong memories you have from your time in college?
When I think about my experience of college, I always think of my classmates. Many of them came from different countries—I remember going up to someone and saying “hi” in Spanish, and they couldn’t speak the language. I thought that was great; it forced me to really practice my English. We also did a lot of team work. Having to work together with people from other cultures—it’s great but it’s also challenging. That’s still the case for me today at N26, but this program gave me a lot of practice.
Do you have a class that really helped crystalize your path for you?
My marketing classes were amazing. For example, we had business cases where we would exchange with another university in Italy. Those students would come to our university and we’d work on creating a company and taking it back to Italy. This was really cool—I learned so much by interacting with these other students. This particular class was on Fridays, and I always looked forward to it. The teacher was quite young, which was shocking to me because she knew so much. Also, having a woman professor was really inspiring.
How did your professional life kick off?
I got the opportunity at university to go and study abroad for six months. So, I went to Italy, and while I was there, I was doing my thesis, which was about the FinTech industry. Of course I knew about N26, and dreamed that maybe one day I would have enough experience to be able to work there. So, when I started looking for jobs, and N26’s company page came up on LinkedIn, I figured, “why not!” I applied to many positions, and I ended up getting the one I wanted, which was in the recruitment team. It was the perfect place to start out because I was able to get in contact with so many areas and decide which was right for me.
Furthermore, as a candidate, sometimes I didn’t have the best experiences with recruitment processes. Interviews are stressful, you never get an answer—candidates often wonder: Why is this happening? So, I really wanted to get inside the process and try to improve it from the inside. Of course, the process here was so good that I didn’t have much to do! Anyhow, I started out in recruitment and then we started doing projects for employer branding and I discovered that this was my path. I’m about to mark one year in the company, and I just moved into employer branding a month ago. But I worked with them since day one—I always admired what this team was doing. I’ve always been very creative and enjoyed anything having to do with creativity, but I knew I didn't want to become an artist. Employer branding really combines creativity with my other skills, which inspires me to come to work every day.
So, was this your first job out of college?
I did two years as a working student (internship), so I always worked and studied at the same time. I think it’s a great experience for anybody to have, especially in these careers where it’s really good to sit in university and read books, but it’s also great to put all of that into practice.
Working during my studies helped me a lot, especially in terms of time management. It also improved my communication skills and helped me negotiate with people within companies. I was also really looking for the reassurance that what I was doing was the right thing for me. I tested out an internship in finance, then in sales, in the human resources area—I wanted to see what my choices were.
It sounds like you were thinking strategically about what you wanted. It’s impressive to be so lazer-focused on where you’ll feel the most comfortable. What’s your favorite thing about employer branding?
I think it’s being able to create something important—having an idea and bringing it to fruition. I’m a really visual person, so whenever we can have something that looks great but also has great content, I respond to that a lot. Sometimes the process is hard, but seeing the results is always worth it. I just really love my job. We have a new manager, she started around the same time as I did. She’s amazing—her personality is great, she knows so much, and has a ton of work experience. She’s really a role model for me.
I’m currently managing events, which I love—it’s my passion. When you get to the event and see that all your hard work was worth it—that’s the best. I especially like recruitment events, being able to hire amazing talent and see them working at the office is very rewarding. I also enjoy the process of bringing our brand to the public, especially for younger people who are studying. And I enjoy anything that has to do with graphic design, or creating processes within the team so that anyone can come to us and say, “hey, we want to do an event, or create some assets, or post something on social media,” that there are processes in place that no one struggles with—that’s something I care about a lot.
Looking back, what are some skills you learned in your degree that you apply today?
I would say teamwork, definitely—it's so useful. Communication as well, especially when you’re dealing with someone different from you who may not even speak the same language. Most of us speak English, sure, but not in quite the same way. What’s more, communication is about more than just speaking: We need to be empathetic enough to “get” each other. I learned that at school.
Do you have any more memories of college you’d like to share with us?
There were certain professors that will always remain close to my heart. Sometimes I had deep conversations with them—talking about my experiences and my hopes and dreams. I remember there was one professor named Alejandra. I told her that I wanted to travel and work in Europe, and she said, “You can do it!” I remember saying, “Of course I can’t,” to which she replied: “Why not!?” She started coaching me, teaching me to be more confident and helping me believe that I could achieve my dreams. I think about that moment a lot. And today, people from my university reach out to me, asking how they too can do what I did and come to work in Europe—so I have the opportunity to pay that support forward!
What’s some advice that you give those students?
First of all, confidence. That’s something that I lack sometimes, especially when I was younger. The phrase “believe in yourself” may sound corny, but it’s actually true. Apart from that, do everything in your power to make what you want happen. Do internships, study other languages, do your research, talk to others or reach out to them on LinkedIn. Sitting around and waiting for things to happen…I don’t think that’s the way forward. I think you should go out there and try.
Thank so much, Bel, for chatting with us!
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This N26 Strategy & Operations Analyst has made it his life’s mission to have a positive impact.