From volunteering in an international student club to life at Kiwi.com, there’s something of a thread running through Eliška’s life
When I first sent Eliška a message to ask if she wanted to meet for a chat for this feature, she apologised for answering late “because BURGER! It was awesome!” It’s this mildly frantic eagerness about… well, almost everything, really… that means that after two years working at Kiwi.com, most recently as a Development Specialist, she’s carved out a reputation as someone who’s passionate about helping people get the best out of their roles in the Customer Service team. “It’s actually two years and ten days. No, twelve days!” Sorry…!
So how did it all begin? “Firstly, I didn’t want to work in a call centre at all! But this seemed somehow okay; it was a startup, and it was something different, and it was fine because… well, I’m still here! When I joined there were seven people in Customer Support. We’d just started to launch the foreign language lines for customers, and they only had one guy for German, so I went for German. It was my degree – German language and literature.”
The German thing seems to have a bit of a history. Eliška’s actually from a small town towards the Czech-Polish border, but a number of her family live in Germany. Every summer they’d spend a couple of months visiting: “Then to Switzerland for the same, then France, Belgium, Italy, Majorca, so I’m used to travelling. My family is based on travelling!” This meant an early exposure to different people and different cultures which continued at university.
“Before I joined Kiwi.com, I was part of an international student club in Brno at Masaryk University. I was there helping the exchange students when they come here to study. Part of it is like a language exchange thing, so I know some words in some other languages as well now, but only on a student-friendly level! I never reached anything higher!”
The ingrained travel bug and a capacity for grabbing useful snippets of language have meant that when I ask how many countries Eliška has visited, she says she’s lost count. “Oh… um… a lot! I guess almost all of Europe. The furthest I’ve been is Fiji but I really don’t know how many,” she says. And her favourite? “I love Germany – but the best for food is Georgia. Oh my God. Just don’t talk about Georgian food right now! It’s too awesome! I mean, I haven’t seen much of the country – we travelled across with friends and we stayed in some family houses, but I think we just ate a lot! They don’t have such great wine though. Everybody says they have the best wine but I don’t think so. We have better wine, and beer, of course. Come on!” Favourite Czech beer? “Radegast, obviously!”
We manage to drag the conversation back to her work at Kiwi.com. “I’ve been here since almost the beginning of Customer Service, and I’m happy where I am. I’m helping other people with their careers and what they want to do, which is great. I applied for the job I’m doing now not necessarily because it’s my career but because it seemed exactly for me. I had the opportunity to coach people and be with the people on the floor, and that’s what I always wanted.”
This seems to be a constant theme, both when it comes to work and everyday life. People, it seems, are a massively important part of what makes Eliška who she is. When we start chatting about our favourite cities, it strikes me that things like seeing the sights and famous things are never really remarked upon.
She mentions she’s going to the States next year. She’s never been, but – surprise, surprise – it’s not necessarily the touristy things she’s looking forward to. “I was on this exchange programme, ERASMUS, two years ago. There were a lot of guys from the US and all the people from Europe want to go over so we can all meet up, like some kind of reunion.”
We agree on Budapest though. Personally, it’s my favourite European city (apart from Brno, of course). I love its mix of faded grandeur and rough-around-the-edges charm; its walkability and friendliness coupled with some of the best underground bars in the world. Eliška admits: “I was surprised by Budapest. I was there for five days, and it’s such an unusual city. So many great aspects, the culture, the nightlife… I don’t know how to describe it. I liked it so much.”
We clash on the issue of London, however. I’m not a fan, although I understand why it can seem amazing. Eliška again: “London is a city of life. There’s just so many things. Even if you don’t know anything around you, you can just walk and you feel comfortable. And also because English is the native language there, it’s so easy just to go around, ask around… And I really love when there are these narrow streets with pubs everywhere with people standing outside. The atmosphere is just so great everywhere.”
That’s the overriding feeling I take away from this chat. The boundless enthusiasm is utterly genuine; as is the love for her friends, colleagues and even for places she’s yet to go and people she’s yet to meet. “When I’m travelling, I’m not a museum type of person. I’d rather live the city. I don’t like history that much; I want to live life as it is now.” she says.
“Rather than seeing things that you can see in endless pictures, if you experience something that you find on your own or with your friends, something that you didn’t find that easily… For me, it’s far more precious than any of those other things.”