Damien Pignataro is business analyst consultant at SERIAL, the Positive Thinking Company Swiss counterpart. He has explored more than 20 countries around the world, always looking for new experiences. He explains with great passion his never-ending appetite for adventure and his natural vision for professional mobility.
You are back after three months off… How do you feel?
I’m back from Saint- Jacques de Compostelle, a personal project that I shared with my father. Usually, I take a plane and wake up 10 000 kilometers later. This time, I wanted to be part of something deeper, a more authentic travel experience: each kilometer really makes a difference!
What has been your greatest travel experience?
For the first time, the project was bigger than the journey.
I was in Montreal when a friend told me about the Solar Impulse project. I’ve always been very much attracted to aviation and the project was held by a well-known Swiss visionary: Bertrand Piccard, the first adventurer to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe. His grandfather, Auguste Piccard, also inspired Hergé and its Professeur Tournesol (Professor Calculus) fictional character.
The aim was to build a solar device capable of traveling round-the-world (that is to say 40 000 kilometers) without fuel. He needed a strong logistic team to test the aircraft when flying over the United States. I was available and immediately accepted this inspiring 6-month mission based in San Francisco.
It was incredible. Pilots, technicians, doctors, … We were all passionate volunteers. Before, I was always traveling alone. With Solar Impulse, I was part of a group looking in the same direction.
Which culture stroke you the most?
Japan: Cultural shock guaranteed!
At the end of my contract in Nouméa, I’ve discovered Japan and I was astonished.
The city of Tokyo, for instance, is cleaner than this room. Smokers must stand on strictly delimited areas of 1 square meter to put on their cigarettes. You can also walk alone at night, in every neighborhood, without any danger.
This extreme discipline really impressed me. I’ve appreciated being there as a tourist but I could not imagine myself living there.
What was your worse souvenir?
The worse experiences always become the best memories…
One of them is my Woofing experience in Australia. My host planted trees on his land to sell them on a local market. I’ve worked on his farm for 15 days and planned to go to Darwin next. He dropped me in Coolalinga, telling me that a bus will stop by.
Alone in the middle of nowhere, between a small market and a gas station, 150 kilometers away from Darwin, I’ve quickly realized that my host had abandoned me on the biggest Australian highway and that no bus would come to pick me up.
After 3 hours of intense hitchhiking, I finally arrived at my destination.
Do you always travel alone?
For a good team experience, everyone needs to have a certain level of independence.
I usually travel alone. It all started with a trip in Spain: I was supposed to leave with a group of friends and ended up alone in Barcelona. It was my first and best solo experience!
It’s never easy to motivate an entire group. Experience has taught me that when you rely too much on others, you hardly do anything.
What are your tips and tricks for successfully integrating yourself into a group?
The first place to network is the workplace!
You spend at least 8 hours a day there, a good atmosphere is thus essential. It’s also the starting point of many discoveries… You also have to explore the city, feel its atmosphere and build a strong network. The fact of sharing an apartment or doing sport are also great helpers.
Why do you travel?
You need to step out your comfort zone to find opportunities.
I travel for the cultural enlightenment, to learn other lifestyles, other ways of working. There are some countries which are extremely close yet completely different: Belgium and France for instance!
I’m not sure yet if this is because of the Positive Thinking Company or if this has to do with the Belgium spirit but in Brussels, you have your chance. I love this feeling, it really helped me grow professionally and personally “You know how to do it? Ok, I believe in you, do it!”.
Today, I start a new career in Switzerland with higher responsibilities and different standards, it’s a new exciting challenge for me!
How do you link mobility and performance?
Behind the fear of the unknown, I found my adrenaline…
When I spend too much time in the same place, I feel like I’m stagnating. I need a change in my life, I need new projects. This allows me to always challenge myself. No need to rush though, otherwise you end up with a superficial knowledge of things, and this is not good. The key is to find the right compromise between deep understanding of your environment and avoiding staying too long in the comfort zone.
What would be your advice to other consultants who would like to follow your path?
There’re opportunities for those who can seize them!
It’s when talking and sharing my experience with Jimmy, my business manager, that we found the right arrangements with the customer. My team has been there all along the process to listen and support me in this Saint Jacques de Compostelle career break.
Whatever the company, you should always feel free to share your projects with your managers. If the project is not feasible, the reasons should always be transparently disclosed.
Damien’s experience is the ultimate proof that curiosity, ambition and persistence open doors to opportunities. He has been able to accomplish his dreams.
Based in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland but also in Asia, with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, the Positive Thinking Company allows its co-workers to discover new cultures and habits while working.
Want to know about other success stories around the world? Click here to read another positive experience with Lionel Nisen and his school opening in Madagascar.