Alberto Cuesta Noriega – From ‘IT Man’ to Candidate for Chairperson

“If you have been to any Agora since 2010, you might remember me behind a computer”. This is how Alberto Cuesta Noriega (AEGEE-Oviedo) introduces himself in his candidature for Chairperson of the Agora.

He has been the IT Responsible with several Chair Teams. However, Alberto feels it’s the time now for a bigger challenge: this time, he is running for being himself the Chairperson of the Agorae and EBM for the next term. He spoke to The AEGEEan about his experience in the Chair Teams, his best memories, and his ideas to improve the quality of statutory events…

Let’s start from the beginning: when did your adventure in AEGEE start?

I joined AEGEE-Oviedo in November 2009, after having my very good friend and mentor in AEGEE, Juan Sordo, asking me to join dozens of times for months. At first I went only to a dinner they had in Gijón (our hometown) and there I met most of the active members in AEGEE-Oviedo and learnt about the association. I liked it so much that I decided to join. I joined AEGEE when I was already working so although I didn’t have much free time I have always tried to be as active and involved in everything surrounding my antenna as I have been able to.

Please, tell us a bit about your experience!

I’ve been secretary and president, tried to be involved in all events organised since I joined and helping and supporting new members to start their own careers in AEGEE, in the local level as in the European level, here I have to mention Gerardo García Díaz – currently member of the Summer University Coordination Team (SUCT) and running for it again and whom I am really proud of – who still has some ‘contracts’ to fulfill with me!

Now that I am living in Madrid I have found a new AEGEE family and I try to help them also as much as I can, guess that trying to fill the big empty space AEGEE-Oviedo has left in me!

…and then the opportunity as a member of the Chair Team, as IT Responsible, came to you.

Exactly. Related to the position of Chairperson, I would say that my three different terms in three different Chair Teams, the fact that Zarágora will be my eighth agora in a row being always delegate or envoy of the Chair Team is the most relevant and that I have been somehow involved in preparations for six out of those eight agorae and my two EBMs, and from all the Chair Teams – and CD’s – I have worked with I have learnt lots of useful things.

Then, what does working at the Chair Team have that is so charming?

It’s not only the work from the Chair Team what charms me – as interesting as it is being so closely involved in the organisation of such big events like Agora and EBM, knowing every step which will be given – or almost all – during our statutory events, being closely involved in all major discussions… is the people you get to know and work with and their commitment with our association.

During my terms in the Chair Team I have met many of the most amazing and interesting members in AEGEE, I have met super hard working people able to organise an Agora or EBM being serious and responsible, working hard 24 hours a day – and stressed to limits I can’t imagine – but also being able to have fun and be a great hosts and friends when circumstances allowed it. I have seen shaking nervous candidates before their first presentation running for a position in the European level being now the main actors in our association.

All this is – year after year and after saying to myself that it would be the last one – what makes it difficult to say no, especially when request comes from really special people to me as for instance it’s been the case with Alla Resheten (current Chairperson) this year.

What have you learnt from the previous Chair Teams you have worked with?

Buff… not that I wasn’t expecting this question, but is tough one, too many things I could say, good and bad, but I will try to summarize a bit.

I would say main thing and the first I learnt – and might be the most obvious also – in my first term in Chair Team with Rob  [Robert Martínez Carrasco, whom Alberto sends many hearts], Bea Irastorza and Percin Imrek, you have to enjoy what you are doing, every second of it. In that term we worked really hard and giving till last gram of energy we had, a lot of hours, had thousands and thousands of ballots to count manually for hours, but we enjoyed it so much working together that everything was fun and having to work till 2am or not seeing your friends or anyone else during whole agora because you were running from plenaries to vote counting and back to plenaries was ok. When you lose that is when you start having difficulties to work together and fulfil your tasks, because you feel pressure much more, you perceive the amount of work as bigger and everything becomes more overwhelming and difficult.

Alberto with the Chair Team at Spring Agora Rhein-Neckar

Another important lesson I have learnt is that Chair Team and statutory events can’t be your entire life and you can’t take anything too personal even if it affects your own decisions and actions. There are usually too many confronted interests in the organisation of an Agora or EBM and a lot of people trying to get as much time, resources, rooms, presentations as they can, complaining for whatever small tiny detail you could think is not such a big deal… and sometimes their ways of demanding it are not the best most polite ones. Being in the Chair Team means to be exposed constantly to everybody in the Network when the Agora approaches, moreover being Chairperson or Vice-chairperson. You can’t let that pressure affect you as an individual or in your out-of-chair-team life in AEGEE.

I have seen how an apparently good innocuous choice by the Comité Directeur to have an experienced and motivated ‘emergency’ Chair Team was turned into a huge debate because me and Rob were at the that time members of the Mediation Commission, and how demotivating and sad for such a dedicated hard-working AEGEE member it was.

I have learnt to live with that and I think I can always see the bright side in all these situations.

What has been your greatest memory in the Chair Team?

This is a tough question also, I really have great, great memories of all these three years, but if I have to chose one I would say the EBM in Riga, the first event of our team in that term (with Percin being the Chairperson, Rob Vice-chairperson and Bea secretary), we all were very nervous but also excited and eager to start.

The first day was a complete mess for me, I didn’t manage to make the presentations system work properly despite the great manuals and support I got from Patrick Kabasci – former IT assistant in previous Chair Team –, my computer crashed several times, in fact so many as to make me change the hard drive right when I came back home after EBM, and we continued taking some controversial decisions. But last day after commendations to CD and local organisers and the great atmosphere we had there, all the sincere – hope so!– good words we got and all the good friends we  made everything worth the effort, the lack of sleep time and the hard work.

I think I remember that EBM in Riga as my best event and also the coldest winter in my life, not only because it was amazingly well organised but also because it was my first event from behind the chair-table.

You say in your motivation that you were actually attracted to the Chairperson position since you joined the team in 2010. What made you think that the time to go for it was ‘now’?

As I also say in my candidature… I don’t want to be the IT assistant again!

Nah, seriously, I have been tempted to run for the position of Chairperson since Autumn Agora Skopje, even until the night before the presentations were taking place, and in Autumn Agora Budapest more or less the same, but for personal reasons once and that I was a bit disappointed with AEGEE I decided that being Chairperson was not for me in that time.

Now even after some controversial decisions (we all have fresh in our minds the visitors-selection-gate) I am really as motivated as the first day and have not found the cons I had before, plus I have 1 and 2 more years of experience than in those two previous occasions so I think I am not only ready but I’m also a better candidate than I was before!

I know you are being quite busy preparing the upcoming Agora, with the different presentations and making sure that everything works smoothly. But how are you preparing for your candidature?

Indeed I am, and even more than I expected since I offered myself to make a new presentation system which is giving me some headaches and extra work for this first version.

For my candidature I am not really preparing myself in any special way, just preparing for Agora itself as I did for all previous ones, only that this time I have to work on my own presentation instead of just in the one about the presentation system and taking care of collecting all the presentations from others.

I feel there is not much more I can do to prepare for my candidature than just be ready for Agora and having a nice pdf presentation.

Do you plan to keep up with the work done by the previous Chair Team(s), or are there any major changes you would like to introduce?

As I stated in my candidature my main aim is to continue improving quality of our statutory events, not only by trying to stick to the scheduled agenda which is always nice, but also improving quality of delegates and all participants as we’ve been trying to do last year, trying to improve the voting systems to make it a faster more accurate (with systems like electronic voting or the new one we will try this agora with a scanner to automate reading and counting private votings).

There are no major changes in my mind because I don’t feel there is the urge of a huge change in our general assemblies, but of course I am always open to dialogue and any decisions will be taken as a team, like we have always been doing in all Chair Teams I have been part of.

One of the biggest issues for the Chair Team has been to find a Secretary of the Agora. A few days away for the Agora, nobody has applied for the position yet. According to you experience with previous secretaries, why do you think it is?

Honestly being secretary is something I would never be able to do and I admire all and each one of the secretaries I have had the pleasure to work with in my Chair Teams.

I guess that nobody wants to do it because the secretary task is seen as something boring, where you have to just sit there and write and write and write each word anybody says. This requires a lot of concentration and even if you are just sitting there all day, I know it is exhausting.

But in the end secretary is one more in the team, same as I was being just the IT assistant, and that means enjoying all these from a unique point of view which only 4 people at each agora can feel. As I said before, when the team is working and enjoying, every second you spend working seems easier and if I am doing this, and willing to do it again, I would say that being part of the Chair Team is not that bad – or that I am a strange freak guy, but I swear I am not!

What about the IT Responsible, then? If elected, have you started thinking about anyone?

Well, this will be easier, if I am in the team, the IT assistant will have bit of extra support, so I hope that will make possible future candidates for the position not being so afraid as I was at first (smiles).

Also I have of course talked about it with some people I know from AEGEE and in all the workshops and speeches I give about AEGEE I always take good care of saying how amazing and cool is being the IT of the Chair Team, and surprisingly I have had many questions about it several times, so who knows, maybe one of those newbies I had in my last WS will become the next IT assistant, really hope so, because for me it has been an amazing experience.

In three adjectives: how would you describe yourself?

This is by far the most difficult question of all! I would say talkative (yeeees, I know, I’m much more than that…), shy (this doesn’t fit much with the previous one but I really am… ) and too stupid and lazy to think a third one, that actually makes it four…!

Thank you so much and good luck with your candidature, Alberto. See you in ZarAgora!

Written by Anna Gumbau, AEGEE-Barcelona