The first post of our new series profiling members of Digital Nomads Medellin is all about Katie Shaw – an expert on ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry. We first met Katie, from London, UK, at a Digital Nomads Medellin meetup a few months back and have since found out about all the awesome stuff she is doing – not just in the fashion industry but also here in Medellin…
1. What kind of work do you do/projects are you working on?
I’m not your traditional tech nomad – in fact, I can be a total luddite at times! My background is in sustainability, and my first remote working job was as Lead Researcher for a site that tells the stories behind our clothes, Project JUST. I’m fascinated by ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry, so spending hours pouring over the policies of giant global brands, and also all the awesome, smaller ethical brands that exist now, was the perfect role for me. I’m currently working on a couple of different projects relating to that work: one with a start-up fashion brand, and the other is to create an open-source database of global apparel factories. It might not sound like the sexiest work in the world, but understanding where factories are operating is a crucial step in being able to enforce better standards for the people who are working in them.
I also wanted to get involved in something local here in Medellín, so am helping out a fantastic charity, Enable Medellín, which is using the power of 3D printing to create prosthetic limbs for people throughout Colombia. We´ve been working mainly with children to date, but our aspiration is to help victims of landmines here.
2. How did Medellin catch your eye, and why did you come here for the first time?
I studied Spanish at university, so have had a long-standing love affair with Latin America for a while. Colombia has been on my radar for a few years, as the country has gone through such monumental changes recently. I was keen to get here before it’s completely discovered by the rest of the world! As for Medellín itself, I was drawn to the growing digital nomad community here. And, as a English girl used to endless grey skies and rain, the idea of living in the city of eternal spring seemed pretty dreamy!
3. Which neighbourhood do you live in and why?
I live in Laureles. I love it for the fact that there are a good number of locals living here and it has a nice, chilled residential feel to it, whilst not being short cafes to work from, bars and restaurants. Salsa at Son Havana is an obvious highlight of the neighbourhood!
4. What are your favourite places to work from in Medellin?
Cafe Cliché in Laureles is my unofficial office. The staff there are lovely, and the internet connection is great (caveat: I don´t work with massive files, so can’t vouch for people needing greater capacity!). Preludio is another favourite spot, and I recently discovered New Hearts Cafe. They don’t serve food there, but it’s a lovely space and you pay what want, with all proceeds being donated to local charities. That kind of business model ticks all my boxes.
5. Do you have any tips or recommendations for other digital nomads visiting the city?
Get involved in something local, if you can. It’s so easy to fall into an expat / digital nomad bubble anywhere you go, but you lose out on such a huge part of the experience if you do. At Enable Medellín, we’re lucky enough to work with an amazing team of local volunteers, including bio engineers, bio-mechanics, doctors and the incredibly brave people who work in mine clearance in Colombia.
6. What are your favourite and least favourite things about Medellin?
I’ve noticed a bizarre trend in this city for desks/tables being built much higher than the chairs, so it can be tricky to find places where you’re not pretty much typing above your head – not great for your posture! I also miss restaurants that serve decent vegetables with their meals – sorry Colombia, but I just struggle to get excited looking at a plate of beige food!
Without a shadow of a doubt, my two favourite things about living here are the mountains, and the people. I’ll never get bored of the view we get to enjoy every day, and each time I think I’ve seen the mountains in every possible way, the light plays an amazing trick and I fall in love with them all over again. I’ve also been blown away by how kind people are throughout Colombia, and here in Medellín. It such a joyful nation which, given everything the country´s been through over recent years and the challenges it still faces, I find totally inspiring.