Giovanni made his move to Lithuania six years ago. Now, he leads the Outbound Sales Team at Oxylabs. With Giovanni, we discussed the local startup ecosystem, family life in Lithuania, and how much Vilnius has changed in just a few years.
I spend more time outdoors in Lithuania than I ever did in my life!
It’s a very common story: I came here because of the woman who is now my wife. Originally from Kaunas, she studied in a conservatory in the city where I come from originally in Italy. That’s why I started travelling to Lithuania regularly in 2015. I really liked the country and saw a lot of potential here.
When our relationship evolved and we decided to live together, there was no choice other than moving to Lithuania. I think that Italy is a wonderful place to have a holiday, but for a young guy like I was then, there wasn’t much opportunity workwise. I moved to Lithuania in 2017 and I started working for Barclays – a prominent international company – literally two weeks later.
That was my start in Lithuania. I like to say that while my wife and our relationship led me to move to Lithuania, I stayed because of everything else I found here.
My relocation was relatively easy, because I had my wife, her friends and family here. I know that massive effort has been put towards easing this process since I first came here. Back then, the paperwork wasn’t the easiest, but when I recently went to renew my residence permit at the immigration office, the experience was completely different. Now, everything is automated and there are many English-speaking employees to help you out. Also, there’s now a consultation office called International House Vilnius, whose team is providing great support for foreigners coming to live in Lithuania.
I was in Sales in Italy, and I knew I wanted to do sales in Lithuania at some point. But I didn’t have the network and, perhaps, the experience to sell myself as a salesperson. So first, I spent two years at Barclays in an HR role before getting a sales position at Elsis Pro, a software development company working in the defence sector. There, I had the chance to work with Brussels-based institutions, which was very interesting. I then moved to Interactio, where I led a team of account executives working with small and medium businesses. Now, I’m a Sales Lead at Oxylabs, heading up a team of eight people that’s supposed to grow to twelve soon.
Oxylabs provides tools and resources for public web data gathering. We are a very data-oriented company, so there’s a lot of activity like checking numbers, reports, and statistics. My team is outbound; that means we do a lot of work on talking to our clients, deciding on the best channels to reach them and the best ways to approach them. Oxylab’s product is flexible and useful in numerous fields, so we do a lot of analysis of opportunities, accounts, and industries.
My experience at Oxylabs has been wonderful. It’s a truly international company with Californian superpowers – it has a humble though ambitious environment, it’s all about growth and learning, and it’s a truly horizontal organisation. I didn’t expect a company of this size to be this flexible, fast, and responsive. I like to be there, and I feel privileged to represent a great Lithuanian product and company.
For me, sales is not a profession, it’s a vocation. I know that whatever I will be doing in life, I will always be a salesperson. My job title might change, but it is more of the way I see the world: there are a lot of problems that I’d like to solve, and there are a lot of people that can benefit from the knowledge my team and I have.
When training new employees, I invest a lot in motivating them. There are different types of motivation, and if we dig in, sometimes our motivation to do our job well is not even related to our profession. For me, it’s this: if I do my job well, we’ll be able to sell more and generate more revenue. Then, we’ll be able to hire a new person to the team. And what if that person is the next Steve Jobs, who revolutionises Lithuania and makes it the next Silicon Valley? This is what pushes me forward.
These days, everyone is about working for a big startup with a big name. But Lithuania is about working for a startup that will become that in five years. Take Nord Security – five years ago, they were just a promising Lithuanian startup. Today, it’s a truly global brand, one that my friends from Italy always ask me about. This is what Lithuania’s startup scene is like – it has all the pros and cons of a young tech ecosystem. There are a lot of new things happening and new startups set up, and it’s full of opportunities for somebody who’s willing to grow, invest, and take risks in this environment.
I cannot speak much about Italy, because I’ve never worked in startups there. But in Lithuania, there’s common ground between business and the political establishment on the country’s overall direction. The Fintech ecosystem is a good example – the Lithuanian Central Bank has created a very appealing environment for Fintechs. That takes courage, and I think Lithuania has a lot of appetite for risk. This is what makes the difference – Lithuania is a young country that has just started playing the startup game, but it already has two (somebody says three) unicorns. Imagine what will happen in the next 10 years!
I’ll start with the elephant in the room – Italians are historically afraid of the cold. For us, winter is an accident. But since moving to Lithuania, my relationship with cold has changed. I was running in Italy – not competitively, simply jogging for my own pleasure. It’s a hobby that I brought here. And the fact that I have such a beautiful place to run in, full of forests and parks, made me think about bringing this hobby to the next level. So I did a running competition last year and completed my first full marathon in Vilnius. I trained in the snow and in bad weather, and discovered that I really like to exercise in the cold! I love exploring nature while running – that’s something I was doing less in Italy. I spend more time outdoors in Lithuania than I ever did in my life!
Another hobby, which turned out to be useful, is language learning. I tackled Lithuanian straight away, and while it was challenging, I really fell in love with the language. Last year, I challenged myself to give an interview in Lithuanian, which I did! Fun fact, I also learned Spanish in Lithuania, because in my first job, 80% of my team were Spanish speakers. They would speak it among themselves, and I took it as an opportunity to learn it. Fast forward a couple of years, I’m able to speak and even do business in Spanish when the opportunity comes.
Lithuania is very family friendly. I can go to tens of different restaurants with my four-year-old daughter and have a wonderful experience. I doubt we would have the same experience in Rome. In Lithuania, there are a lot of young families with kids, and since everybody speaks English, it’s quite easy to bond with people. I’m happy to see that family is important here. I not only hear this spoken by politicians, but I also feel like family is something that the society takes care of in general. And really like that.
In Vilnius, I live five minutes from the Cathedral and five minutes from a proper forest and several lakes. That is simply amazing. I challenge anyone to find me a European capital that is able to provide this. Vilnius is basically a city in a forest, and it’s also very livable. Everything is reachable – there are parts of the city that are farther away but there’s a great public transport system.
Vilnius is also a very cultural city. There are cinemas that offer film screenings in English – for instance, one showed Mulholland Drive a couple of weeks ago. There are plenty of other events, too – the recent Vilnius Light Festival is a great example. It’s a lively city, and it’s really easy as a foreigner to enjoy all the variety of activities here.
Vilnius is constantly growing. More people – including expats – are coming here and the urban landscape of the city’s continuously changing. When I came here, the wonderful building where I work now was a sock factory! Now there’s a full campus of modern offices that’s still expanding. Another thing is the food scene, which has changed incredibly over my time here. When I first came to Vilnius, it was challenging, for example, to get some Indian food; now, there are so many opportunities to try out different cuisines, and even some dedicated shops! I mean, the sky’s the limit, but there is so much choice now.
As someone who cycles often, I like that Vilnius is becoming more cyclable. There are many projects happening that make cycling better and easier in the city – for instance, they’re building a bike lane connecting my district, Antakalnis, and the city centre. I also see more bikes on the streets than I did when I first came here, and especially families with kids travelling on bikes. I think that’s great. There’s also talk about making the city centre car free – that would be the cherry on top.