Zuzana left the office yesterday with a week’s annual leave and no idea where she was going. This afternoon we received a text saying, ‘We’re in Turkey’. This spirit of adventure is one of many reasons that Zuzana, Grant’s right hand woman, completes our team so well.
Zuzana’s life started in Slovakia. Having grown up and schooled here, straight out of high school, she enrolled on a bachelor degree in politics and European studies, graduating in 2008, and then a masters in regional development – her dissertation: the distribution of funds to European Union members. Upon graduating she spent a time working for the Direction Social Democracy (SMER-SD) party (currently the ruling party) organising events for heads of region.
Skipping back a little, she had allocated a considerable time, during her long summer holidays as a student, travelling back and forth between Slovakia and England, in part to better her English, but mainly to visit those friends and family who had moved here. After a time with SMER and after much deliberation, Zuzana took the plunge and joined her Fiancé, Ivan, in Brighton, permanently. She has lived here ever since.
Since British regulations for certification of accountancy seemed to be different to that of Slovakia, Zuzana was resigned to ‘starting all over again’. So, after working in an esteemed position for the ruling party in Slovakia, Zuzana took a job as a receptionist at the equivalent of a motel just outside Brighton. It wasn’t easy.
‘Some of the rooms were £10 per night – I think a lot of them [the guests] expected luxury or something though. ‘Why hasn’t my room been tidied? Where’s the room service? Why don’t I have extra towels?’. A lot of the guests would come in a five in the morning after a night out in Brighton shouting and singing and get pretty argumentative when I’d tell them to be quiet. But I learnt a lot here. My dad’s favourite saying growing up was ‘Čo ťa nezabije, to ťa posilní’ (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger). It was the first time I really understood what he meant!’
Her stint was a year-long, after which she began undertaking odd jobs in all sorts of places.
‘I was assisitant manager of a café for a bit. That was only temporary though. I did some admin for a wholesalers. I was even a senior barista. Then I got this job as assistant manager at a language school…for adults who spend time in Brighton for the summer to learn English. This was one of my favourites – I had daily contact with the host families and students and felt like a fairly niche role. I eventually had to leave when I was pregnant with my son – the shifts weren’t so good and it took lots of energy! Besides I wanted to take a course so I could have a universal accountancy qualification.’
‘After I left I helped my partner set up a deli café in Brighton. I was basically the voluntary accountant. I still am. But at the time I hardly knew anything about setting up a business. I learnt a lot about accounting and finance doing this. The first bit was really difficult, but you sort of just work it out as you go along and get used to it after a while.’
After some much deserved time out on maternity leave, Zuzana took up arms again with twice the vigour and by the time she came to work full time at Journeys by Design, she not only had a one-year-old to look after and a family business to run, she was also doing a part time evening accountancy course.
‘The only time I can study for exams is very late at night and very early in the morning. I just get on with it. It’s all part of life and the adventure.’
Which just leaves me to say, on behalf of all of us: Welcome Zuzana – and thank you for choosing JbD.