It has been only six months since he moved to Switzerland with his family to work as a tax specialist with the luxury brand known all over the world, Swarovski. But he already knows it has been the right decision. Javier Gómez Gázquez, alumni of Law and Master of Business Administration of CEU UCH, has always had an international calling and a passion for the legal world which, he says, came from his professors. To students he gives two pieces of advice that have worked for him: to learn destructively, and to reject fear.
How did you end up working as a tax specialist at Swarovski?
After working for PepsiCo in Spain as an international tax specialist I had the desire to work at the central office of a big company, to continue learning and cooperating with multidisciplinary teams.
I had already got to know what an esteemed multinational American company was like in my previous job, so I wanted to join the corporate team of a big familiar European company with a global calling, very different to my previous experience.
CEU allowed me to get to know an exemplary teaching staff. Passion is contagious, and many of the professors showed great affection for their field and teaching.
Are you satisfied with your decision?
Yes, very. It is an exciting time to work in international tax law.
International taxation is today more than ever a changing field and has great importance to business management teams, both for the media coverage some companies get for their tax practices and for the strategic value it has for the large groups.
The recent legislative changes are truly revolutionary, and the competitive model of the world’s largest economies is being defined by the fiscal framework.
And how have you adapted on a personal level?
My wife, Shira, my son, Pablo, and I live near Zurich. We have been in Switzerland for about six months, and it’s not so different despite its peculiarities. We have found a very welcoming environment and, although we don’t speak Swiss German yet, the integration is going well.
It’s not our first move, but it’s our first move abroad. We keep in mind that it’s better to see each small difficulty as an everyday adventure rather than as a problem. It’s true that we miss our families, the Valencian flavours, the sea, and the climate.
It’s inevitable. Let’s go back to your days at the university. You studied Law and a Master’s degree in Business Administration at CEU UCH.
Yes. I graduated in Law in 2004 and finished the Master in 2005. The CEU study plan allowed me to combine the degree and the Master, as the first year of the Master’s degree was studied alongside the five years of the Law degree studies, following the study plan at the time, and then the sixth year of studies was wholly dedicated to the Master.
This allowed me to achieve a very versatile education that has opened doors for me in the areas that interest me and in which the professors of CEU UCH had a great influence in waking my interest.
Any student that reads this interview is more than capable of telling in a few years their own success story, and what they will tell depends on the decisions that they will make.
What happened next?
I started my professional path as an intern and a few months later I joined a consulting firm as a tax specialist, which allowed me to observe the needs of companies and gain experience in Spanish tax law.
Later I started to work at PepsiCo in Spain, also as a tax specialist. I worked advising the departments of different European countries and gained experience in international planning.
Although you were located in Spain, your work was already international…
Yes. And that led me naturally to my current work in Zurich where I form a part of a team of tax specialists who plan, coordinate, and defend the interests of the company.
It seems like you have good memories of the professors at CEU UCH. What do you value the most from this period?
Very good. CEU allowed me to meet an exemplary teaching staff. Passion is contagious, and many of the professors who picked the contents of the courses showed great affection for their field and teaching. I enjoyed constitutional law, tax law, Roman law, philosophy, and the history of law intensely.
I can’t say if I enjoyed the subjects and as a result enjoyed the classes, or if I actually enjoyed the subjects because the professors influenced me. The answer doesn’t matter too much: the important thing is to fuel your own interest for learning, for your chosen job profile, and finally for the job that you practice.
Focusing your professional skills and experience on the international environment gives you opportunities and allows you to share paths with professionals from other countries, to learn about different mentalities, and to improve through healthy competition.
Studying law doesn’t mean one can only be a lawyer. You are an example of that. What weight does international outlook have in employability?
I think that an interest in the field is the main motivator, before employability. A practical vision that is disconnected from your own personal motivation might give you a good job, but it is rarely enjoyable and it will not help you to strive to improve during the many years you have in front of you.
It’s true that competitiveness is increasing, and it follows that focusing your professional skills and experience on the international environment gives you opportunities and allows you to share paths with professionals from other countries, to learn about different mentalities, and to improve through healthy competition. Labour mobility is crucial for gaining access to many jobs and for being successful.
Companies that operate globally demand that professionals understand the bases of their work in the same way. A person who is drawn to the world of multinational companies and the legal debates that arise between countries and regions will discover that an international outlook is an ideal vehicle to work in whatever they want.
Learning should extend throughout the whole professional life so that we can adapt our skills to the changing environment and answer the needs of the business as professionals.
More advice for Law students?
I’m not sure if I can give advice, because personal circumstances are crucial. I can give two tips that I have received and which have helped me, hoping that they can aid somebody else, too.
First: Learn destructively. Opinions, beliefs, and certainties that form mental schemes we have today do not define us. Learning destroys these schemes and we can construct them again on a more solid base, just to knock them down again with the next lesson. Experience cracks the schemes: this is good. Ambiguity is constant and there is always uncertainty in making decisions, both personal and professional. It is not the schemes that define us, but how we construct them and the values that sustain them. Learning should extend throughout the whole professional life so that we can adapt our skills to the changing environment and answer the needs of the business as professionals.
And the other one?
Fear is not a good traveling companion. The decisions that you make because you are afraid or that are influenced by fear are flawed. Making mistakes is necessary, as is failing. Media and social networks are full of success stories and there is rarely space to tell about your flaws, the anxiety in difficult situations, the uncertainty before a challenge or an unfulfilled goal. All this happens, and to accept it as a natural part of development helps to overcome it and frees us to face life.
The decisions that you make because you are afraid or that are influenced by fear are flawed. Making mistakes is necessary, as is failing.
Tell us, is there something we have left out that you want to say?
I would like to say that there are no foolproof formulas for professional success and any career can in retrospect appear as an exemplary list of achievements, even though they are rarely free of failures and conflicts.
Any student that reads this interview is more than capable of telling in a few years their own success story, and what they will tell depends on the decisions that they will make about the field they will choose to work in, the contacts they will make, and luck.
A solid academic education helps not only to narrate the story of a successful professional life, but also to overcome the ups and downs.
Learn destructively. Opinions, beliefs, and certainties that form mental schemes we have today do not define us.
Javier, thank you so much.
Read the original post in Spanish here!