Interview with Gerardo Tejo, Partnerships Manager
“Reinventing yourself means you try to work with what you have, but with that necessary twist to make it interesting again.”
Throughout his career, Gerardo has made it a point to keep exploring new horizons, always challenging and reinventing himself in the process. His commitment to continuous learning has led him to Peers.
What did you do before working at Peers?
Going all the way back to the beginning, I’m a law graduate and have practiced law professionally for several years in Argentina. I come from a big family of lawyers, but I never really felt like law was my “vocation”. I think I can genuinely say I never had a vocation at all: I always had lots of interests, but nothing really felt like, “And this is what I’m going to do for a living”. In a sense, that is part of my profile: Always reinventing myself a little bit and finding different ways to make it all work.
Over the years, I’ve worked as a notary, became a legal interpreter, worked on documentaries with the BBC, went on to pursue management roles across different sectors like retail, hospitality, HR, and education. And I moved around a lot: From Argentina to the UK with long stays in Canada and Sweden, and then, eventually, to Germany. Normally, when you make these sorts of changes, you have to start over again. There are a lot of situations where you say to yourself, “What do I have? What can I achieve with what I’ve got? How can I make it work?” So, that requires a constant reassessment of what your skills are. Reinventing yourself means you don’t want to throw everything away every time: You try to find a way to work with what you have, but with that necessary twist to make it interesting again.
“My best option was to tear apart all the things I did in my previous position,
decide which direction I liked the most and just follow that.”
Why did you join us?
I spent 9 years with my last employer, an academic institution, and I really enjoyed my work there because the tasks were so diverse. However, after such a long time in one place, I felt the need to face new challenges. I knew I could have continued doing the same job, just at a different institution, but I didn’t want that. So, my best option was to “tear apart” all the things I did in my previous position, decide which direction I liked the most and just follow that. Since my role had touch points with a lot of different fields, I could have gone more on the Learning & Development path as a consultant, I could have gone towards Sales, I could have gone on the management side of the education sector. I ended up saying to myself, “Let’s just see what’s out there and how things develop.”
And one of those avenues which I explored, because I had worked with all sorts of institutions at a global level, was partnerships within the education sector. So that’s how I ended up here: Peers offered me the opportunity to join a fast-growing Edtech startup and that has been terribly exciting for me.
“Having the best learning partners is essential to the experience of our users.”
What is your role at Peers?
I was hired as Partnerships Manager, so my role is to make sure we have the best possible relationship with our existing partners while cultivating and acquiring new ones. That involves lots of research, outreach, assessing the quality of learning contents, and negotiating contracts. Each partner is different and is looking for different things, so that always keeps it interesting. And since Peers offers a wide range of high-quality content on our platform, having the best learning partners is essential to the experience of our users.
What does a typical week at Peers look like for you?
I live between Berlin and a small town in the middle of the woods in Brandenburg, so I guess I am what the locals would call a “Pendler”or “commuter” in English. So, normally I will be “home” in Brandenburg Friday to Monday and “home” in Berlin, at the Peers Office, Tuesday to Thursday. Further adding to the mix: My partner lives in the UK and I spend some time there, too. So that new-found flexibility that the post-pandemic world offered us was very important to me when I decided to look for a new professional challenge.
I absolutely love that mix of home office, with all the pros and cons that come with it, and being in the office, working elbow-to-elbow with colleagues, going for lunch or for drinks with them and being able to have an impromptu five-minutes meeting about whatever comes up. I can honestly say I need both of those environments.
What do you enjoy most about our team culture?
I think we all have the feeling that we are part of something bigger, that we are building something together. To me, that´s very important, to see that there´s a sense of ownership in our tasks, knowing that we are all contributing to the end result in equal measure.
Apart from that, I was also very pleasantly surprised by how quickly I felt part of the team, even gate-crashing the office housewarming party months before I even started working here!
Since you have been working in the education sector for a long time and are quite passionate about it, we would like to know: What does learning mean to you?
I think continuous learning, for most people, is a joy: Something that you choose to do, not something that you have to do. So, to me, if you are someone who chooses to never stop learning, it’s because you are someone who wants to improve, who wants to know more, who wants to understand things better. Learning never ends if you don’t want it to end.
Of course, learning can also have more “practical” goals: You can become better at your job, you can get a promotion, you can do things you were not able to do before. You have access to a world that, perhaps, was completely unknown to you before.
As an example: If you learn a new language, you don´t just learn how to speak that “particular tongue”. You learn how to communicate better, you come out of your shell. You experience how other cultures work, how they think, and you understand that “your” way is not “the only way”. People do things differently and you will always learn things about yourself in the process. And I think that applies to everything you learn.
“If you are willing to make it work and find ways to continue learning,
it says a lot about who you are as a person. “
I think it says a lot about people if they choose to continue with their education. To be clear, that doesn’t have to mean you have to go back to university or get a post graduate degree. Any type of continued learning is part of your education. To me, continuing to learn shows determination: Giving that extra little bit, even if it’s uncomfortable because it’s something that you don’t understand yet. But if you are willing to make it work and find ways to continue learning, it says a lot about who you are as a person.
It definitely has to do with discipline. In my opinion, when talking about education, most of the things you encounter for the first time could represent a struggle. You might be lucky and just happen to be studying something that you absolutely love and you just can’t get enough of – but if you think about it, that’s rare. Normally, you are kind of scratching your head and trying to get around things that are unfamiliar to you. That’s why I think determination plays such a huge role in the process.
Are you willing to challenge yourself? And are you willing to commit to something that may not seem easy at the beginning, but you carry on because you know it’s going to pay off? If you can confidently answer these questions time and time again, you have the determination to stick to something.
Do you have any tips for learning new skills?
I would say that it really depends on the skill or area you are interested in learning and what your personal learning preferences are in terms of format, pace, and available time. Either way, successful learning requires a bespoke approach to fit your individual needs.
For a long time, people used to think that the most bespoke, high quality, top-of-the-line way of learning was having in person one-on-one sessions. Even group classes weren’t “ideal”: For optimal results, it had to be you, alone, in front of the teacher. And I think that was so ingrained in our way of thinking that anything which didn’t have that format seemed, in a way, less valuable.
“As a learner, you have to be able to like how you are learning, you have to find it easy for you, you have to enjoy the experience. And that can mean different things to different people.”
With the pandemic and everything that happened, the requirements have shifted towards making learning comfortable for the learner, make it work for them. As a learner, you have to be able to like how you are learning, you have to find it easy for you, you have to enjoy the experience. And that can mean different things to different people.
For example, I like using apps to learn. Here, a user-friendly experience is key: I want to be able to select the lesson I want, easily customize it to fit my needs and skip content I am not interested in. And once I make my selection, I wanted to be able to find my saved lessons and preferences quickly, not having to click through hidden submenus and scroll endlessly – It’s the little things, really! But keep in mind: Learning already is a challenge. And if on top of that, you are forced to spend extra time on finding the right content again, delaying the actual learning experience – then that’s it, you might never open the app again! And it’s those little things that can make you stop learning and say, “To hell with it all.”
So, my recommendation: Whatever you do, make it enjoyable, make it easy for you to start doing it. Make sure to enjoy the process and don’t overexert yourself: The trick is to finish each session thinking, “I actually quite enjoyed that”, so when you start the next time, you have a positive feeling associated with that activity. Over time, this will help to establish a routine, build up discipline, and I think that is the way to make sure you truly carry on.
What are your goals and next steps at Peers?
We can only do what we do at Peers if we have the right partners. So, for me, I just want to have the best possible relationship with our existing partners but also grow our partnership network and make that an ever-evolving thing. As the market keeps changing, and our users’ requirements and focus areas change with it, we will always need to get new partnerships.
Our mission is clear: Offering high-quality personalized learning programs to everyone. There will never be a point where we say, “That’s it, now we have everything we need.” If we want our product to stay versatile and 100% bespoke, we will always stay committed to finding and curating new content. And I don’t want us to ever stop doing that.
So, that’s my goal.
That and to stop my direct boss from eating all the chocolate and ice cream in the office. I am not naming names, but you know who you are!