Ali Meehan has enjoyed a varied and interesting career; from a Canterbury law firm, to an export wholesaler with lots of travel, to a business development consultancy in the oil and gas industry in the Middle East. Now living in Spain, Ali and her husband run a social media consultancy business sociomimetics.com helping to demystify social media. Ali is also the Imagineer of Costa Women, a social and business networking community for women living in Spain, or women who want to move there as part of life goals. In just over 2 years membership has reached 1,400+ members.
Tell us about your corporate career
It’s been an interesting 30+ years! What better than to have careers where you travel for business and get lots of variety; my career reads rather like a Revels pack! 17 years working for a law firm, followed by 5 in sales and marketing for an export container glass wholesaler and then 9 customer relationship management, sales and marketing, and community building with a business development focus for an Oil & Gas Business Development Consultancy in the Middle East. Now I am Imagineer for an incredible group of international Women in Spain.
What made you leave corporate life?
After living and working in Dubai, my husband and I decided to take a step back from corporate life and move back home to Spain. Corporate life has changed dramatically since I started working in the late 1970s. I was fortunate to have been in early with the computer age: the first course I attended was at the University of Kent at Canterbury in 1986. So I really have gone from the pen and quill of a Lawyers office, to web product development in the Middle East!
The speed of change now is phenomenal.
Today I believe the world is moving towards personal brand, from the cradle to the grave. You can find out about a person online before their CV drops on your desk. Obviously that brings challenges, but used correctly it can bring many opportunities too. Costa Women has gained 20% of its members through social media channels which is a good percentage (particularly for a site that has no advertising budget!)
How did you end up working abroad?
My husband and I met when he was living and working in Spain. I was working virtually for a company based in the Middle East from home in the UK so with a little negotiation I was able to move my virtual operation to our apartment in Spain. We ended up moving to Dubai in 2004 but still kept our home in Spain.
What made you set up Costa Women?
Having lived in various countries overseas (Australia, Spain, Dubai, Thailand and back to Spain) I was aware of similar networking sites for Women to connect and share. Costa Women was initially set up as a punt to see if it would be of interest as I was concerned that Women were moving back to their home countries because of the global financial crisis.
Did the Women who already had networks of friends and business contacts want more?
Just over 2 years later and with 1,400+ members I think the answer is a resounding yes! And whilst originally set up only for women on the Costa del Sol, we now have Women joining us from all over Spain, as well as the Islands and Women who are planning on moving here as part of life goals. We are now meeting up offline too East of Malaga, in Fuengirola, Calahonda, Marbella, Sotogrande and Granada, with this month a new Group in Barcelona.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Funny you should mention that 😉 I was 50 last year and wrote an article What would I say to my youngest self … Top of the list has to be –
“its never too late to become what you might have been” and “someday is not a day of the week”. So many of us live on the “someday” islands. Its time to jump off and just do it!
If any of our members were thinking of moving abroad, what advice would you provide?
Research, research, research! Unless you already have a job lined up and speak the local language don’t assume you will be able to easily find work.
Rent initially in the country you are looking at living before you buy to work out which areas and locations you like best.
Join Forums and Groups (Facebook is great for this) covering the area where you are planning to live to ask questions and get feedback.
And of course join Costa Women!
What’s next for Costa Women and Ali Meehan?
- Costa Women – we are just about to launch a new Group meeting up in Barcelona (we aren’t just about the Costas!).
- More local offline groups connecting and sharing
- I’d love Costa Women to have members in the whole of Iberia
- On International Women’s Day (8th March) we are launching a book of inspirational stories, poems and images put together by our members and there’s talk of a song too.
- The wonderful Vanessa Vallely will be meeting us in Marbella in the Autumn and sharing her thoughts and experience.
- A personal goal of 4000 members by the end of 2013.
- Me – fighting the continual struggle of a work life balance, releasing my own blog and growing our business and of course Costa Women!