Shaping the employee experience: Maria’s EF journey ‹ We are EF

If Maria could choose one phrase to sum up her EF Education First journey, it would be: “Is this real?”

From Boston to Berlin and every in between, throughout all her EF travels and triumphs, Employee Experience Program Specialist Maria has had to pinch herself more than a few times. Every day, she’s reminded in ways big and small that making EF a fun, rewarding place to work is actually her job-and she couldn’t be more grateful.

Traveling from Maine to Rome and back again

Raised in southern Maine, Maria had early aspirations to explore the world. In high school, she traveled with EF Educational Tours to Barcelona, which sparked a desire to live outside New England. Inspired by her international travels, Maria decided she would dedicate her college years to studying abroad.

And so, while most U.S. first-year students are busy immersing in dorm life, she started her studies with Sacred Heart University in Dingle, Ireland, a remote seafaring town on the Emerald Isle’s west coast. She describes this as one of the best decisions she’s made.

Later, Maria took her studies across the pond to Italy. She rented her first “big girl” apartment in Rome and joined approximately 500 fellow degree seekers at John Cabot University, where she began cultivating a circle of friends from places like Germany, Spain, Russia, and the Czech Republic.

“We were all so far away from home,” Maria recalls of her crew in the Eternal City. “We became a family, and we all took care of each other.”

During her time in Italy, Maria kept close ties with the global affairs office at Sacred Heart University, serving as a liaison for students beginning a semester abroad in Dingle or Rome. Having studied abroad in both places, she was the perfect sounding board, mentor, and guide.

“I worked with program directors on orientations, I led workshops, and I took students out to experience new neighborhoods every week,” says Maria, who began to realize that her passion for helping people study abroad could open doors to a global career.

Following a gut feeling

After plans for graduate school fell through, the communications and creative writing major decided to return home and start her job search in the U.S. Following a referral from a friend, she applied at EF and found her perfect fit on the Employee Experience Team, which is dedicated to making EF’s North American headquarters the best place to work in Boston.

“I knew EF was the right place for me from the moment I walked in for my first interview,” recalls Maria. “I came in to meet with the Employee Experience Team, and I was hired on the spot. When I was leaving, my manager looked at me with a smile and said, ‘This where you’re meant to be. You’re meant to be on this team.'”

In her role, Maria gets to be what she describes as a “hostess,” guiding people through their EF experiences, whether she’s greeting them as they come in the door or creating programs that fuel their career satisfaction and professional growth.

“I love being able to help people, whether it’s connecting them with someone to form a new relationship or experience or answering their questions,” says Maria. “Being on the Employee Experience Team allows me to do those things on a daily basis.”

Making EF the best place to work in Boston

As a Program Specialist Maria is fine-tuning EF’s employee perks to reflect our staff’s needs. For instance, with EFers traveling around the world so often, discounted luggage, headphones, and grocery delivery services make going away and returning home just a bit easier. Want to explore Boston? Take a food tour, see a movie, attend a play, and more on the cheap, thanks to Maria. Finding it hard to hit the gym? Break up your work day with free studio fitness classes at EF’s Sweat Lab, which Maria is continuing to refine and grow.

Another key component of Maria’s day-to-day work is finding ways to make sure EFers are staying curious, making connections, and progressing in their careers. She facilitates peer-to-peer networking opportunities called “Midweek Mingles” as well as interdepartmental sharing and learning programs known as “EF BRICKS.” And let’s not forget those epic, team spirit-building holiday parties-Maria has a hand in those, too.

“I’m thankful that my team is involved in so many different events and experiences, from EF Halloween to groundbreaking ceremonies to office-wide parties,” says Maria. “But the experience that truly sticks out to me is when I attended the EF Global Student Leadership Summit in Berlin as an Assistant Innovation Coach.”

At the Summit, Maria worked with small groups of high schoolers to come up with new ways to harness the potential of technology to improve others’ lives. Watching the students blossom and become more confident over the weekend was a life-changing experience.

“I’ve cried so many times,” jokes Maria, “At our Summit, our charity drives, and even our staff talent show. All of the events we do, whether large or small, are incredible. Everything we do is so amazing.”

Whether she’s tossing glow sticks into the crowd during EF’s Got Talent or chasing down staff on a golf cart during our groundbreaking ceremony, as unpredictable as her job can be, Maria wouldn’t have it any other way.

“EF employees are all very different, but we’re all here for the same reason,” says Maria. “That’s what makes working here so fun and unique.”

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