José Amoretti-Córdova has been Vice President Corporate Human Resources at BMW Group in Europe since 2015 and has been linked to the Group for more than 17 years. Galician by birth (Vigo, 1976), he has been a Zaragozan by adoption since he was seven years old. He has worked on five continents and although his life is outside Aragon, his ties with this community are enormous.
José, you were born in Vigo but you also consider yourself Aragonese.
I was born in Vigo and when I was seven we moved to Zaragoza, where most of my family still lives. I always say that I feel very lucky because I have two places in Spain where I feel at home at very special times: Christmas in Zaragoza, summer in Vigo. It’s a luxury.
I come from a large family that is amazing and my best friends are from Zaragoza. That’s the biggest attraction for me to always come back to Zaragoza with a smile on my face.
When did you leave Zaragoza?
I spent all my school and university years in Zaragoza, until 1998, when I left the city to study Erasmus. Before, going on Erasmus was not so common, now it is fortunately much more so. I went to Belfast, at a delicate time because the IRA was still active at that time. My idea afterwards was to work in Madrid for a while and then return to Zaragoza. So did my friends. They all came back except me.
Since then I’ve hardly been back, because after that I studied for my master’s degree in Madrid, and I’ve also lived in Munich and London. Now I live between Madrid and Munich.
Do you still have that relationship with Aragon?
Of course I do. I am married with five children and although international life has been wonderful we have always visited Zaragoza regularly.
In the pre-covid era I was taking about 80 flights a year and although I am passionate about what I do, in January 2020 we decided that the family would stay in Spain to live and travel from there. Everything changed a few months later with the pandemic, but the intention was already to give that place, those roots to our children.
Did Zaragoza cross your mind when you decided to return to Spain for good?
When I started working in Madrid I went back almost every weekend to see my family and friends. But now, to be honest, it never crossed our minds to live in Zaragoza because we have found our place in the world, in San Lorenzo del Escorial (Madrid).
Did you have an international profile when you were studying?
Not at all, I was quite bad at languages and I was a bad student, so I never thought I would be so international. I’ve been lucky and, above all, I’ve had the opportunity to go abroad. So I think I have enough perspective to be convinced of the attractiveness of Aragon.
What are the reasons?
For many reasons. I believe in its human potential, in the potential of its professional and university talent. I know what is on offer, because Human Resources is my sector. But there is not only potential there. Aragon is very powerful because of its geographical location between Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and the Basque Country; because of the level of logistical infrastructures… And in terms of tourism. When people come to Zaragoza they are amazed, or surprised when they visit the Pyrenees or when they discover places like Teruel or the Sierra de Albarracín, which for many are hidden corners of Spain.
My experience when I talk about Aragon to people from other regions of Spain is very similar to the experience I have when I talk about Spain to people from other countries. That is, it is not known (valued) enough, only a few things are known. Aragon should be positioned higher in the Spanish imaginary.
In what way?
I am going to explain it with a humble example. As I said, for me, Aragon is like Spain in the world. We don’t quite believe how good we are, what we have to contribute and offer, we are very critical of ourselves and we compare ourselves a lot with those outside. We need to know how to “sell” ourselves better. When someone comes from New York or London, we always believe in how good they are and in their potential because of the place or the entity that endorses them, and we have a certain “complex” when in reality we are people with wonderful roots and as well prepared as the others.
What is so special about us?
I know it is a stereotype, but I am a big fan of competences and not so much of knowledge. From a business point of view, I am referring to skills such as teamwork, communication skills, persuasion skills… And there is a skill that is very characteristic in Zaragoza and in Aragon in general, which is that which is summed up in the spirit of resilience or what in English would be called “never give up”. Aragon is a people where people are tough and that is one of the skills that always comes out when you meet someone from this land, wherever you are.
Companies are increasingly looking for these acquired skills.
That’s right, I would go so far as to say that what really makes the difference when it comes to hiring people nowadays is much more the skills than the knowledge. Knowledge is just a click away. Skills are not.
For example, the last person I recruited for my team in Europe, a girl from Germany with a business degree, I hired her because what made her different from other candidates was that she had taken a year off and gone with a backpack to Cambodia to work in orphanages. You have to be able to identify that kind of talent, with not only professional but also human skills. What is that person not going to be able to do in a company?
Profiles that combine technical and professional knowledge but also human competences are used to manage (and solve) problems, unexpected situations, deal with people of different profiles and mentalities, etc. Problems that are undoubtedly much more difficult than a Powerpoint. Therefore, these profiles have an advantage in a corporate world.
José, you are also closely linked to these volunteering experiences, both personal and professional.
I carry volunteering in my heart because I learned and lived it at home and at school. What gives me the greatest satisfaction is to combine what I like, volunteering, with my job, Human Resources.
One of the happiest moments in recent years was just a few weeks ago when BMW San Rafael – a dealership in Cordoba – made a donation to help set up an Interdisciplinary Treatment Centre for the Cordoba Cerebral Palsy Association (Acpacys). We do a lot of things in which we link charity, team-building and performance. We always look for an objective, that “purpose” that good companies should have, the ones that are really worthwhile.
We have also collaborated in campaigns with the Food Bank, Movember, Fundación Hogar, among others. Whenever I can, I try to put organisations with good causes in contact with my Group in order to support these kinds of initiatives.
Another example, I played in the Club Deportivo Universitario Rugby de Zaragoza (I didn’t really stand out, but I had a great time!). That is one of the reasons, as well as supporting the values of sport, why Goya Automoción, the Zaragoza dealership, has supported the rugby team. This is a win-win. Good for the youngsters, good for the dealership where it is involved with its city, with its people.
What do you miss about Zaragoza?
Many things, but as an example, before covid, when we moved to Madrid, I wanted my children to come back to experience Easter Week in Zaragoza, because it had been many years since we had seen it. Holy Week in Zaragoza is spectacular. Because of the coronavirus I have been left without it, but only for the moment.
What memories do you have of your Zaragoza?
Many and very good ones. One clear one is my time at school and university, which I enjoyed 150%. Zaragoza has a brutal university life and that makes it a very good place precisely for that.
Zaragoza is a typical city because it is a medium-sized city with great infrastructures. That’s why it is used as a pilot city for many industries. As a minor but curious example, when I worked as a waiter in McDonald’s while I was studying my degree, the “Deluxe” fries were tested for the first time in Spain only in restaurants in Zaragoza. The same can be said of the opening of shopping centres and other initiatives where different industries use Zaragoza as a “pilot city” to see if certain products or trends are going to work (or not); this aspect should be promoted more so that, apart from being a pilot city, it becomes a driving force in Spain!
A restaurant to eat in Aragon?
There is a place where I really feel at home. The restaurant “La Bocca” in Zaragoza, the location, the purely Mediterranean food and above all the staff are top notch!
Which museum would you visit in Aragon?
I’ll tell you three that I love as a family, all three different but special in their own way. In Zaragoza, the Goya Museum. In Teruel, Dinopolis. And in Huesca, in the paradise of Ainsa to be precise, the Ecomuseum of fauna.
Where would you take your children for a weekend getaway?
To the Pyrenees without a doubt. Ordesa, Monte Perdido, Jaca, Benasque… a thousand places to choose from!