Issue 1

Education should be about passion Interview with Ramiro Murguia, the founder of Latinomics

“People here in Vienna think I am rich. My parents think I am poor, because not owning a house in Mexico means that I am a poor guy. As for me, being rich means I can do what I want to do. So for me, I am rich.”

Ramiro Murguia, born in Mexico, founded the non-profit organisation Latinomics, which helps Latin Americans getting better education or gaining work experience abroad through social programmes. As an example, their Global Internship Programme links talented students with startups around the globe, allowing them to gain their first professional experience.

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The headquarters of Latinomics is located in Vienna’s 3rd district, in a co-working office. I see young people chilling with their laptops in a small cafeteria on the ground floor on a Thursday evening, at 7 pm. I am surrounded by motley pieces of furniture and artwork while inspirational quotes are painted all over the walls in the stairway. It feels like a cosy flat-share of creative students.

Ramiro is walking barefoot up and down, talking loud on his iPhone when I enter his office. “Holaaa Marlena, que bonito verte… Wait one moment my colleague will bring you a coffee and then we can start. But we might have to sit outside on the small sofa in the corridor, because a friend will need my office for a team meeting later.”

While I am waiting for Ramiro in the lounge, I see other young creatives passing by and saying friendly hellos. After a while, Ramiro joins me and starts to share the story of Latinomics.

“We are a young worldwide non-profit organisation, which I started in 2010. The idea was to create a blog for a »new« vision of the economics in Latin America. In the beginning I was blogging once or twice a week about my own ideas, how to change the economic situation there. It was both criticising and finding new solutions. I always compared my theories with personal stories so that people could understand my ideas better.” – starts Ramiro. “I could hardly believe that after only a few months I had close to 5000 followers. Therefore, still within the blog, I started to create social educational programmes for Latin America. In a few years, my small blog turned out to be a worldwide organisation, already having a great impact on the lives of millions of people.”

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YZ: How did you finance the project?

“I started out with my savings, and my partner, Roberto Arrucha, also contributed a lot. Nowadays the programmes are founded by our stakeholders.”

YZ: When did you decide to start Latinomics?

RAM: “I was 23 years old when I started travelling alone in the world. I have been to over 35 countries and saw a lot of differences between the economies of Europe and Latin America. I come from Mexico City, from a poor family. The people there still believe that education is not necessary or important, but for me it always was. During my travels I discovered other ways of life, and got inspired by the places and things I have seen and the people I have met.

However, the actual turning point came later. I was already working for 3 and half years for the United Nations, when I realised that I wanted to create my own business instead. I can work with assholes, you will find them everywhere — but I cannot work with people who have a very short vision. It kills my soul. I just did not feel good there anymore, because I could not think different in that working environment. Decisions are largely influenced by politics and come from top to bottom. So if you are in a lower position, no one will realise your ideas, no matter how much of a genius you are. I felt limited, so I had to get out of that system and try something different. I knew that I would have to give up the »high standard« I got used to, like the big flat and the good salary. But how much does money count when your daily life makes you unhappy?”

YZ: You have your main office of in Vienna. How come?

RAM: “Because of love.” (Smiling.) “I have met an Austrian girl in Argentina, and we fell in love. I applied for an MBA programme in Vienna, and that’s where the journey started, although unfortunately we broke up since. And the decision for the office’s location is just strategy; our programmes have nothing to do with Vienna. Just imagine we would have the main office in Bratislava or Vietnam?! People trust our organisation more because we have our main office in a city like Vienna. They think, »Wooow an office in Vienna, it must be an successful organisation!« (Laughing.) »But we do actually also have offices in Mexico, Vietnam and Kairo, where the programmes are managed.«”

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YZ: What are the challenges in your business?

RAM: “Money, money, money… As we are a non-profit, we have a very limited budget and that makes our business quite tough. Beside the financial problem, we are doing things that no one has done before. For example, with the “Future Maker Programme”, we want to give Latin Americans the chance to work for non-profits around the globe. Since no one has done this before, we cannot use existing concepts or learn from our competitors. Another challenge is that we have to convince our stakeholders to believe in our complex concepts, and it’s even harder to find the right people to work with.”

YZ: Did you ever want to give up?

RAM: “Three times per day!” (Laughing.) “No, honestly, it happens to me two times a month. These times are often hard, because I still have to motivate my team. But since I am a hyperactive, proactive and creative person, I think I will always have an inner creed, which is pushing me forward.”

YZ: What is your strategy for fighting the weak moments?

RAM: “I like watching motivational videos. You can find a lot of those podcasts on Youtube. My favourite example is “Mateusz M“. In general, I am always trying to surround myself with people who are trying different things, and who inspire me. Also, I learned to isolate myself from the real world. I do not like to watch the news on TV, because I do not want to infect my ideas with bad news.”

“I am not sure whether I am happy or not. I do not ask myself such questions.”

YZ: What is your recipe for finding happiness? Do you have any advice?

RAM: “Personally, what makes me happy at the moment is that every day is unique and different in my office. I am happy that I can work with people from different countries and cultures. It makes me feel alive when I see that I can help to improve people’s lives. And of course, my social environment is very important to me. As I am living far from my family I enjoy talking to them as much as possible on the Internet, and every winter I have to go back to my roots for a couple of weeks. I have one personal advice to everyone: travel travel, travel, it makes you so much richer!”

YZ: If you could change something in this world what would it be?

RAM: “Definitely the educational system! It does not fit to the reality we have now. We cannot create »box brains« anymore, it’s too old fashioned. Our educational system comes from the industrial revolution, when you studied something, then you got a job in the same field. Today the world works in a different way, so we need to change the education! It should be related to passion. That is the key factor we are using on in our new social programme for universities: we try to figure out the profile of students, then use this to create them a better degree programme.”

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YZ: Would your 6-year-old-self be happy about you now?

RAM: “Haha, well I remember that I wanted to be a firefighter! But yes, I think the little guy would be satisfied with me, because every day I am doing what I believe in, and try to give the best I can. Also, I think that happiness is not a constant state, it is more about the satisfaction, that I am trying to reach in my life. I am not competing with anyone. I do not believe either in failure or success. However, right now, I am not sure whether I am happy or not. I do not ask myself such questions.”

(Check out Latinomics.)