Testimony of the company culture’s impact on mental health.
The expressión “a before and after” has intense meaning for Alina Sainz.
Her life took a real turn of 180° when she changed jobs. She went from suffering bullying to feeling “immensely happy”.
Her history is a mirror of how company culture can impact directly on the people’s mental health and quality of life.
Alina lives in Fray Bentos, a small city in Uruguay with about 24.000 inhabitants, where it is real hard to get a job in the IT industry. So before working at Abstracta, she worked in the dining room of an industrial plant of her town, where, in her words, she lived practically “in war”.
“Since I got on the bus to go to work, hired by the company until I came home again, it was a war with God and the world. I worked there for 3 years and a half, I had such a hard time that I was depressed for months. When I came to Abstracta, people treated me so well that I was scared. I thought they were looking for something to fire me, suspend me or something” she said.
Time passed and she gradually understood the importance of healthy, harassment-free work environments. As soon as she entered Abstracta, what she first experienced was a pleasant onboarding process to start getting acquainted with the company and its members. Then, she learned Abstracta’s roadmap in detail, a platform in which career plans and all their possibilities are visualized.
“There was harmony from the beginning, everyone enjoyed what they had to do. We all worked with the same goal and gave our best. If there was a problem, we solved it together. I get goosebumps when I remember”.
For the first time in her professional life, she felt she had a say: “I began to enjoy my work and every progress: from finding a bug to being able to recommend improvements and be heard. It was like living a dream”.
Photo of Alina in her first day of work at Abstracta
A difficult road to cross
She began working at the age of 17, going through different roles and companies. When she entered the industrial plant, she did so as a cleaning crew. Then she became a “qualified pawn”, a position in which she prepared salads for 800 people everyday and also attended tables.
Alina continued to rise: she worked as a cashier and later as a kitchen manager. However, she suffered bullying. She was 19 and the rest of the people 35 and up. They “mistreated and humiliated” her everyday.
“I was suffering for many years. It’s quite difficult to get a job in IT at Fray Bentos because there aren’t any. And it is very difficult to change jobs when you already have one, it’s a small town”, she explained. And she detailed: “I continued working there, it was the only way to pay my expenses and studies”.
As the years passed, Alina’s mental health suffered. She came to suffer from depression and was hospitalized. It was very difficult to get out. It was hell, but she did it.
“Now, sitting comfortably at home and working from what I love, immersed in amazing company culture, with a beautiful relationship with my peers and carrying on Abstracta as if it was my son, I do not regret anything. Abstracta gives many opportunities to people like me, that’s why I am so proud to be able to say that now and after so much, I am Abstractera”.
In the first person
Alina is 24 years old, was born and lived her entire life in Fray Bentos. Currently, she works as a tester at Abstracta, and studies the Bachelor in Information Technology at UTEC SO.
To be able to work in what she loves so much from his village, remotely, grow professionally day by day, develop in international projects and having the doors open to the world through her work is for her today a dream made.
“There are days when I do not fall into everything that I have advanced: now I moved in alone, I work on a project for The United States, I went through half of Uruguay because working so allows me, I met beautiful people, and I learned tons. You can’t pay for that with anything”.
– In your work at the industrial plant, you were promoted over and over again. However, you had a very bad time. What happened back there?
People can sometimes be very cruel to newcomers. They did everything to me. They threw hot oil on the floor that I had just washed. They left me locked in the freezer chamber being short-sleeved. They stole everything I had in the locker, they humiliated me in front of customers, they threw trays over my head and much more. A whole range of insults was the nicest thing I could get.
– How did it affect you on a personal level?
I came home crying everyday, but that money was meant to do the networking course in BIOS. I could not afford to leave. I never returned an insult, I held my head high. I kept studying and knew that as soon as I could get out of there. But I ended up in the hospital with depression, I didn’t eat, I didn’t want to see anyone, and I tried to kill myself.
– How strong… Did those who led you at work know what was happening there?
Yeah. Bosses, managers and HR personal knew about the abuse. They had already accepted that it was a war with everyone every day. I was the first to officially report this. I was hospitalized for about 2 months. Once, I went back to work and ended in emergencies because I went into crisis again. Fortunately, the next day I was called from a coffee shop to have a job interview, where I was treated very well. They helped me start to accept that the worst was over, that I had to lift my head and move on. As soon as I signed the contract, I quit.
– How did you get ahead?
Quitting and changing jobs was the first step but not enough. I was still very depressed, but a person from another company who worked at the plant, who knew what I was going through because he had suffered depression too, helped me getting ahead. I started to meditate. I started in reiki, yoga and took an impressive spiritual leap. I started leaving things or people that didn’t vibrate at the level I expected. I quit that job. I left my ex who was more toxic than Chernobyl. I left friendships that hurt me. I started reading metaphysics and appreciating myself. Keeping my mind busy in college also helped me a lot. Even so, I was deeply affected.
– What happened when you applied to work in Abstracta?
At that time, I was still on medication, but it wasn’t five pills a day, it was three. I was doing my best to stay, not only for the salary but because I had been studying for this for years. April 12 was officially my first day being an “abstractera”. I’m tearing down right now to tell you about it. That’s when I got up. My incorporation process was great. Every day I was asked if I needed something, if I felt good with the team, with the project. They had never cared about me in other jobs, I was a number but here I had a name. I had feelings.
Alina recalls that she was very afraid that people with higher positions would talk to her. “The amount I value the horizontality of leadership is indescribable”, she said.
– How did your work in Abstracta impact on your life?
What didn’t impact would be the question (laughter). It impacted my physical and mental health. It inspired me to continue learning languages, to want to develop in other branches of testing. It helped me monetarily and to have more confidence in myself. It’s amazing how company culture and the way they treat you impacts your head so much, and your mental health and quality of life. Today I travel every other month with my boyfriend. I have new friends who share my values. I won an INJU award for science and IT, and I could go on all day. I started as an apprentice of a functional tester, because it was my first experience in IT, today I am already functional tester Jr.
– What projects do you currently have?
I want to continue growing professionally. I have the goal of reaching Jr. Advanced next year, and start doing automated testing on my own. I will continue to learn English, finish my degree and do a master’s degree. I want to continue to enjoy the freedom I have now to study and work from the part of the world I want. I long for a quiet, happy life, and to be able to marry this man who helped me so much to get out of depression, who is my partner today. I want to get to share the knowledge acquired with other people, do another course of barista because I love coffee, not be so lazy to exercise, and be able to lie down with my head still that everything is going as I want.
Why are we telling you this story?
Firstly, it fills us with pride and motivates us deeply.
It can sometimes be complex to truly understand the impact of the workplace and the company culture on mental health and people’s quality of life, in all its areas, in a comprehensive way.
According to a publication by Scielo, “Numerous studies have shown the relationships between psychosocial working conditions and the mental health of employees, and especially how the combination of perceived low control and high work demands predict certain mental health problems. Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression have a very negative effect on the quality of life and functional capacity at work”.
Alina’s story helps to make it explicit and to feel it almost tangible. Experiences like hers are undoubtedly great muses and can serve as a profound inspiration.
If you want to know more about Abstracta’s culture, we invite you to deepen this article.
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