With a Masters degree in Glaciology, she is a seasoned mountaineer (who aside from exploring her backyard growing up in Switzerland, has also trekked through Peru, Nepal and New Zealand). She worked many years for an NGO in remote regions of Nepal and travelled for research to far away countries like Bhutan, Thailand, and Hawaii. She is fluent in four languages, and a long-time meditation and yoga practitioner.
Andrea’s own path has taken a few unexpected turns. In 2015 she was pursuing her PhD in International Development while also working for an NGO in Nepal, applying her research in sustainable farming. One day while in Kathmandu meeting with Nepalese farmers in an old three-story building, an earthquake struck. She sprang to her feet as the floor and walls undulated, scrambling down the shaking stairs and out onto the street to safety. Andrea led her colleagues away from the falling wreckage of buildings towards the river, and there they waited out the aftershocks until dusk. That night, riding home on a colleague’s motorbike, she found Kathmandu unrecognizable with debris. People were gathered around makeshift fires, communing and singing to find comfort in the midst of disaster.
This 7.8 magnitude earthquake that later became known as Gorkha killed nearly 9,000 people, destroyed or damaged over 600,000 structures, and forever altered the direction of Andrea’s life.
The following 6 weeks, Andrea slept outside, suffering symptoms of PTSD from the deadly quake. With the help of friends and family she raised over $50,000 USD to help villages rebuild their homes, and lent a hand with every humanitarian task she could. The monsoon came and she returned home to Switzerland expecting that everything would go back to normal, but her body still tensed at every train or heavy vehicle that made the ground vibrate, and her sleep was disturbed by irrational fears of another earthquake hitting.
After the monsoon, she returned to Nepal to complete her research. When she met with her local co-workers, they delivered the required research interviews as promised from a district far away. Yet there was some inconsistent and missing information. As she trusted her co-workers deeply, she couldn’t understand why she was not approached or actively informed. They presented the reports as though they were complete. In the confrontation that followed, one co-worker finally said, “Andrea, we were scared. You sent us so far away from our homes. Yes, we agreed to do the research, but we feared for our families in case another earthquake came. We only partially filled the questionnaires so we could get back to our families sooner.”
With all her experience living and working in the global community, Andrea had thought of herself as an effective communicator, approachable even across deep cultural differences. But when her Nepali team struggled to approach her that day with information that might disappoint her, she saw how layered communication can be, including not only the cultural context, but also personal history, the somatic, the cognitive, and even the moral layers.
During this time, she discovered the power of Integral Coaching and knew the training would help her strengthen her interpersonal capacities. Alongside this she pursued training in The Non-Linear Movement Method® that effectively healed her traumatic imprints from the earthquake, while imparting lifelong somatic skills.
Andrea had started transitioning from her work in NGOs towards a career in coaching and the human side of organisational development continuing with further adult development programms such as change and innovation management. Today, Andrea works in a portfolio career in the theme of personal devleopment: be it with individuals, teams or organisations. She is the co-author of the book “The Human Organisation” that will be published spring 2023. Aside she is collaborating with Pfyffer&Partner for personal and team development, lecturing at the HWZ, University of Applied Science in Business Administration the subjects “Leadership” and “Change Management” and leading workshops for women with her business partners.
Today Andrea lives in Zurich with her husband Leonidas and their children. In the mornings she works with coaching clients, deeply immersing in their challenges, while in the afternoons she dives into “being a mum”, curiously exploring earthworms between the potatoes. When she has solo-time, she likes to explore the Alps on ski, with a harness or camping out wildly.
Edy Portmann is Professor of Informatics at the Human-IST Institute of the University of Fribourg and member of the board of the Swiss Informatics Society. His transdisciplinary research focuses on soft and cognitive computing and its application to the network industry. After an apprenticeship as electronics technician, he studied business informatics and got a doctorate in fuzzy systems. Among others, he worked for Swisscom, PwC and EY. In addition, he was also a researcher at the universities of Singapore, Berkeley and Bern.