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Meet Petra Botekova, the Slovak expat coach changing the way we look at global mobility

Kafkadesk is a proud partner of the USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit, organised by Polish-American Women Entrepreneurs and Cultural Vistas, that will take place on October 17 in New York City. By bringing together 350 business leaders, innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs from across the USA, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, the exciting new initiative promises to be the largest and most important summit of its kind. petra botekova

In this context, Kafkadesk recently met with Slovak entrepreneur and expat and international leadership coach Petra Botekova who aims to help today’s young global minds navigate their moving abroad experience. An avid entrepreneur, she tells us about her successful YouTube channel, BoundaryLess, and unveils her brand new project, ReloPilot, a mobile relocation guide for professionals traveling or moving abroad. 

Hi Petra, thanks for taking the time in your busy schedule. You live in Austria now, your 5th destination since you left Slovakia you say… can you tell us a bit more about the previous steps that brought you here?

I first moved to Vienna during my studies and fell in love with the city. Since then, I knew I wanted to come back at some point in the future. Then an opportunity came up when the Viennese office of my former employer got into some unexpected trouble leaving the office completely empty. I remember calling my former boss back then sitting in the cafeteria of one of our client’s plants in the middle of nowhere in China, saying I wanted to take the lead. Being only 25 years old back then, everyone thought I was crazy. Three years in, my team and I increased the revenue by 300% becoming the company’s largest foreign office.

You’re now an Expat & International Leadership Coach. What is that, in a few words?

Over the last couple of years, I had the chance to coach over thousand professionals and executives relocating to a new country or/and leading international teams. Being an expat myself, I understood the struggles of leaving everything behind and starting fresh some place new. First time I moved, I thought it would be this exciting adventure. And it for sure is. But it is more than that. It challenges you to your core, changes you and leaves you question your own identity.

Living in Vienna, I was under lot of pressure, spending most of my time in the office, not having a private life whatsoever. One year in, I had a burnout. This experience completely changed the way I conducted my trainings. Today I believe it takes a more holistic approach to prepare for a move to a new country and feel good about the journey.

Can you tell us more about BoundaryLess and ReloPilot and how these projects came about? 

So I started my YouTube channel BoundaryLess after my burnout, wanting to share my experience and to prevent others from making the same mistakes I did. At some point a realised, there was not much information available online that was accessible to individuals moving to Austria. Also seeing the trends in the workspace, like war for talents and people becoming more and more mobile, I wanted to create something that would bring the fun in the otherwise extremely administrative process of relocating to another country while creating an intuitive, user-centered experience. That’s how ReloPilot came around, a mobile relocation guide for professionals traveling or moving abroad.

Petra Botekova started her YouTube channel BoudaryLess to help today’s young global minds navigate their moving abroad experience. Credit: BoundaryLess

You talk a lot about “success”, yet many people have very different ideas of what success is. What does it mean for you? Does ReloPilot take into account the different notions of success? Personal success, spiritual success…

Absolutely. That’s why the first thing you do when you sign up is add your goals and interests. The app then guides you through the relocation process while keeping track of what is truly important to you. At ReloPilot, we believe everyone is different. Someone prioritises their family, someone wants to build a professional network and someone wants to start fresh and feel at home asap.  So you get the tips from us and the access to a marketplace with local experts on things like visa, culture, finances etc. But it’s then up to you what you truly make out of it. We just want to slightly push you in the right direction knowing the blind spots when relocating for the first time.

So what is your best advice for young expats – or aspiring expats – to better deal with the move?

Take care of yourself. For instance, once a week write down your achievements to remind yourself how far you’ve already come in your journey. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all. Fit in, speak the language, perform at work from day one. It doesn’t quite work like that and we can very early find ourselves disappointed and feeling like we’re not enough. Not doing enough, not achieving enough.

Also get clear on your values to understand why your local counterpart drives you mad and NEVER underestimate the importance of making friends. I had coachees who told me, they would never move abroad again because they felt alone all the time. It doesn’t have to be like that. Our app for instance also has a community function. We understand especially more introverted fokes don’t want to get out there and network with random people at random events. Sometimes it’s easier to reach out to others online.

“By 2020, 80% of millennials are expected to move abroad throughout their careers”, says Petra Botekova. Credit: BoundaryLess

I recently spoke to Polish writer and journalist Magdalena Parys, who lives in Germany, about the idea of cultural identity and how national identities are becoming less and less relevant in today’s world. Would you agree?

I absolutely would. It came clear to me recently when visiting San Francisco, going to a startup event, being on the other part of the world and not really feeling a big of a difference. Why? We all spoke English, talked about business and tech trends and used Uber to get back home. It’s more than ever before about your tribe than it is about the national culture. All this time, I was looking for a place to belong to.

Now I believe the world is my home. According to statistics, by 2020, 80% of millennials are expected to move abroad throughout their careers. That is a huge opportunity for organization to attract and engage talent by offering change and flexibility in work and providing an opportunity to make an impact. petra botekova

Yet, at the same time, there is a strong rise in nationalism around the world, and especially in Central Europe which seems to be on the fault line between these two visions. Do you still believe we are moving towards a “boundary-less world”?

Yes, I do. Every change comes with pain. It is only natural that people fear what they don’t know. The world is changing at hyper speed. It makes a lot of people insecure about their future. I think we should listen more and try to understand and not force someone to believe the same things we do. I hope to see more dialogue and balance in the future.

So what’s next for you, personally? Any plans on returning to Slovakia or is it all up and ahead for you?

I would love to give back at some point. Whether as a mentor or coach. I was given this beautiful gift of being born in a young country that some people don’t even know exists. Which also means, I was free to define who I am and who I want to be. I believe Slovakia has many talented people who just need the right push to feel confident to pursue their dreams. There is so much potential and I’m sure we will see a huge progress there in the future.

Find out more about Petra Botekova on her website and on Instagram, and don’t forget to check out her YouTube channel BoundaryLess for great advice on expat life as well as her new project ReloPilot! In the meantime, here are her few tips for those interested in moving to Bratislava and Slovakia  :

And here’s one for aspiring Czech expats :

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.