Stephen Garcia is a Dutch Caribbean tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Ngrane, an award-winning digital agency for design and technology. He has over 10 years of experience as a Business Executive, working with both small and Fortune 500 companies to explore digital opportunities and build communities that help people thrive. He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Webster University, St. Louis, US and Leiden, Netherlands. He is currently in the Executive MBA program of Nyenrode Business Universiteit with a specialization in Business & IT. Stephen is passionate about innovation and education and their power to solve labor challenges, reimagine the work experience and foster human connection.

What path has your career taken?

My career has taken a different path than initially planned. In 2003 I moved from a beautiful Caribbean Island called Curacao to a lovely student city in the Netherlands called Leiden. I first started my studies in Biotechnology, however shortly after I switched to Business Administration because it aligned better with my business and entrepreneurial interests. In 2009 and final chapters of my studies I founded a digital agency named Ngrane together with my business partner David van Delden, focusing mainly on building websites. In May 2020 we celebrated our 11th year anniversary and reflected on the path David and I took from our student house in Leiden to an Amsterdam based agency with a community of over 100 digital experts providing full-service from strategy and digital transformation to digital platforms and content development.

What brought you to Amsterdam and what is your relationship with and thoughts of Zoku?

We moved to Amsterdam in November 2012 when we made a deal with one of our clients that provided us with an office at Amsterdam Zuid WTC. Even though this was our first move to Amsterdam it did not feel like we were ingrained into the Amsterdam community, as none of us was living in Amsterdam and we did not get in contact with many people from outside of our company while working from the Zuidas. In 2016 this changed remarkably as we walked into WeWork Metropool’s energising building for a tour and immediately decided that for the next phase of our company we needed to be around like-minded and engaging people so we moved into WeWork and the rest is history.

My relationship with Zoku started in WeWork as we were neighbors with Zoku’s management team who were also renting an office on the same floor. I remember someone from Zoku bringing cake to our office, so it was not hard to become friends with Zoku. 🙂 I remember walking into Zoku for the first time and being swept off my feet by the vibrant, warm and welcoming character of everything. I believe that spending so much time at Zoku played a significant role in our way of working and still is a big inspiration to the way we build and nurture our community of creators.

What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?

One of the books I read that really shifted my perspective on things is The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle. I think self-awareness is something very valuable, especially if you want to live a happy and productive life. This book helped me put things into perspective and “live in the moment”. Tolle suggests that we have the power to focus on this very moment, as it is the only one we really have. This book was also the start of my journey doing Zen Meditation, which further helps me putting these philosophies into what really matters; practice. 

Whats your current/newly discovered go-to product, service or app you would recommend to others and why?

I actually have 2 that I would like to recommend. The first one is an online collaboration tool called GroupMap, that makes it a very easy and useful tool for remote teams to brainstorm and make decisions.

The second service I would recommend is from Mindvalley which is an online education platform focused on personal growth that offers courses from leading teachers with an engaging community of over 12 million students. Mindvalley has courses for building better relationships to learning faster and from parenting to getting better sleep (which does boost productivity!).

Which book/product have you gifted the most, and why?

The book Tao Te Ching is the book I gifted most because it is one of my favorite books that has powerful leadership as well as life lessons that can help everyone. Tao Te Ching is based on a principe called Wu Wei which means “inaction” or “effortless action” that illustrates the futility of our attempts to control life and emphasizes that only when you give up forcing or control that you begin to get the kind of control you always wanted but never knew existed. These teachings focus on a more harmonious and collaborative life, which is something I believe is essential in things we value whether in the context of work, family or friendship.

What is one piece of advice or tip in your field of work that you want to give to people?

In the field of innovation and new ways of working I believe one important lesson is about culture and to make sure we create a safe environment that allows people to bring their whole selves to work and are not afraid to speak up, share their ideas and make mistakes. Investing in continuous learning and tailored personal development programs is key to a resilient, engaged and productive workforce. In especially these times, I believe it is vital for individuals and organizations to invest in creating the right mindset, culture and build future skills.

What is your top tip for being productive while working from home?

I believe that having a great home office experience with the right equipment and tools can make a world of a difference. Most of the time being productive for me has more to do with things that have a negative impact on my productivity rather than improve my productivity. For me upgrading my home office desk, a bigger screen, upgrading to higher speed internet (cabled) and the right online collaboration tools etc. was essential. In the end for me, it’s about enjoying my workspace, removing distractions and having a seamless experience – so I would say spoil yourself with the right gear.

How do you manage to keep up your mental health/wellbeing while working from home during these times?

I plan time off more strictly to only focus on one activity at a time – such as walks and gardening without music or audiobooks, quality time with family and daily meditation and reading.

What is the most interesting/inspiring place you’ve been to or have visited and what was so special about it?

I have lived in different countries and traveled to many places, however the most inspiring and interesting place I have been is in my home country Curacao. There is a special thing about Curacao (not only because it’s my hometown) that from the moment the airplane door opens and you feel the warm tropical breeze hug you it feels very welcoming, slows you down to the pace of the moment and everything about the island reminds you to enjoy life while also inspiring you to chase your dreams!

Stephen’s LinkedIn | Ngrane