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The Hottest New Role in Tech: Chief Mindfulness Officer
Millions of people worldwide experience this state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, environments keenly related to startups. Fortunately, some very self-aware Latin America startups are taking steps to prevent their organizations from heading down the unsustainable path of “hustle culture” and are creating roles and processes to foster a healthy work environment.
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6 minute read

Burnout.

Millions of people worldwide experience this state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, environments keenly related to startups.

In a recent survey by job aggregator platform Indeed, employees indicated that burnout is on the rise. Over half (52%) of workers said they experienced burnout in 2021 compared to 43% pre-pandemic. Millennials, who were the most affected by burnout before the COVID-19 pandemic are now joined by Gen Z’s, 58% of whom say they experience burnout today.

These rising numbers can cast a dark shadow on the coveted entrepreneur life so many desperately seek.

Fortunately, some very self-aware Latin American startups are taking steps to prevent their organizations from heading down the unsustainable path of “hustle culture” and are creating roles and processes to foster a healthy work environment.

Ontop, a hiring and payroll startup based in Bogotá, Colombia with more than 650 employees and a truly global workforce, became a different kind of pioneer when it created the Chief Mindfulness Officer role, currently held by Federica Vegas.

The Org sat down with Vegas to learn more about the nascent role and how she became the woman behind the now crucial position at Ontop.

About Vegas

Born in Venezuela, Vegas knows a great deal about the importance of mindfulness through her own personal experience. An intense and lonely childhood caught up with her shortly after graduating high school when she became severely depressed.

Vegas said that “depression is a suppression of the self and it is a beautiful gift. The person you are suppressing is asking to come out and in order to fulfill this you have to accept the situation and begin a healing process that allows you to be your true self.” Who she is today is a direct result of this life experience, and she now focuses on helping others in their personal process.

Vegas studied Political Science at Columbia University and then went on to complete a Government degree at Harvard. During her time there, she was deeply impacted by professor Donna Hicks and her theory around dignity and how it is essential to resolving conflicts. Vegas took this framework to heart and created a coaching consulting practice focused on leadership and female empowerment.

For several years she worked with corporations such as CEMEX, helping them understand that humans are at the center of everything and if their goal is productivity, employees need to be motivated to go to work — and consequently,a suitable work-life balance environment is necessary to achieve employee motivation and productivity. “People who resisted changing work practices at first were not because they weren’t willing to change, but because they didn’t have the right tools,” said Vegas. Her work centers around creating cultures where people feel secure, feel seen and feel recognized and are then able to do their best work.

A serendipitous title: Chief Mindfulness Officer

In 2021 Vegas’s husband sent her a LinkedIn job post for a Head of Mindfulness position at a startup called Ontop. Coming from the corporate world, Vegas was intrigued by the novel position, mostly interested to learn what it entailed and to see if this was a role she could suggest her clients to incorporate into their own organizations.

The unique role was crafted by Ontop’s co-founders in an effort to make their startup a reflection of all the work they had previously done on themselves. Julian Torres, Ontop’s co-founder who has openly spoken about his previous struggle with anxiety, was adamant in making this role a reality.

Vegas scheduled a call with Torres, and the conversation quickly shifted towards her taking on the role.

Vegas approached the role by actively working with the founders and helping them revise their limiting beliefs and assumptions, as well as understanding the organization's culture, which is defined by the startup’s history, values and purpose. “Culture is a company’s collective personality. It is the decisions you make without thinking and that are a clear reflection of your personality,” she said. “The creation of culture has to be 100% intentional and if you are not intentional about it, it will create itself and that does not necessarily yield good results.”

Some of Ontop’s core values include hard work, delivering magic, adaptability and more doing and less thinking, and Vegas came in to complement these and make them the backbone of the organization. Part of the role includes getting these values reinforced and reminded on a monthly basis so employees are always acting with them in mind, from the recruitment process when assessing a candidate’s cultural fit to making pivotal company decisions.

Similar to the weekly talks at Google led by the company’s co-founders, Ontop’s founders are promoting an open and transparent company culture by prioritizing conversations with their team members and ensuring that the company they are building together is a safe and healthy place where great work can be achieved.

After working closely with the founders, Vegas moved on to working with other leadership roles at Ontop, and conducted a company wide assessment to identify opportunities for change.

In the three months the role has existed, Vegas already sees positive results. Ontop utilizes various tools to track employee commitment, engagement and wellbeing in general, which are all trending positively. The entire purpose of the Chief Mindfulness role is to help people transform into the best version of themselves and this requires significant time investment and continuous work.

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Mindfulness workshop. Image courtesy of Ontop.

Setting an example

Vegas has received many messages and questions about her role. As a member of Chief, she is constantly approached by others on the platform looking to learn more about the unique position and how they can create one for their company and reap the benefits of an environment that encourages balance and mindful work. Just like the position attracts curious eyes, it could potentially attract talent that values this type of work environment.

Much like the role she holds, Vegas has a mindset around “creating what doesn’t exist, if people will benefit from it.” She believes “the perfect time to do something doesn’t exist” so people might as well act now and take steps towards improving their lives. Specifically for women, Vegas is hopeful that “women can be successful by being authentically them. There is no need to compromise or ask permission to change and this should be the norm.”

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