Team Cake: this is Mayte

By Davy Kestens

Meet the people behind Cake in this interview series. Today, it’s up to Mayte, HR Manager at Cake.

Name: Mayte La Mattina-Dominguez		
Role: HR-manager	
Making Cake since: April 2022
Location: Hasselt, Belgium

Hi Mayte La Mattina-Dominguez. Your last name is quite a mouthful. How did you get it? 

My dad was born in Italy, my mom in Spain. They came to Belgium at a young age and met in Hasselt later on. I obtained the Spanish-Italian nationality at birth and got both my parent’s surnames. 
La Mattina’ is Italian and means ’morning’. ‘Dominguez’ is Spanish and comes from ‘Domingo’, which is Sunday. Mayte is a Spanish and Basque name meaning ‘dearest, beloved‘. So my name actually means ‘dearest Sunday morning’. Sunday mornings are indeed very dear to me (laughs).

So you are an Italian Spanish or a Spanish Italian?

At the age of 12, I had to choose one of both nationalities and chose the Spanish one.
All my family is Spanish by the way. My husband is Spanish and my daughter has the Belgian-Spanish nationality.

So you also speak Spanish?

I speak Dutch, Spanish, English, French and Italian. I was raised bilingual in Dutch and Spanish. My dad’s family lives in Wallonia. So they speak Italian and French. I’ve studied business interpretation in English, French and German. But I do not practice the German language anymore.

How did you end up working at Cake?

After the bankruptcy of my previous employer, I started looking for a new challenge. I saw the vacancy for HR Manager at Cake on LinkedIn posted by Patrick Kestens, Cake CEO Davy Kestens’ father and decided to apply. After a few conversations with the management, I was hired immediately.

Why Cake?

Because I was inspired when I read the interview posts of the people behind Cake on the website and saw a ‘common thread’: highly motivated, enthusiastic and passionate team members working together towards one goal.  The mentality of such a startup environment in full expansion is very inspiring and stimulating to me. 

Being a very passionate and engaged person myself, I love working in a startup in full expansion.  I like to build new things.  Bringing structure to a chaotic environment is something I prefer over working in large companies where there is nothing to improve. In smaller companies, I can have an impact on the processes that make the difference in the success of the organization and the satisfaction of its employees. That is also a very important aspect to me, our people’s satisfaction and wellbeing.

And is it going a bit like you imagined when you read the job description?

I have a backpack with quite some professional experience which means I can easily compare Cake to other employers and I can honestly say that Cake stands out in keeping its promises. Cake’s core values are real, they are not empty promises. Transparency, trust, and flexibility to name a few.  You will find these values in every policy, procedure and decision that Cake takes on the working floor.

Euh, we don’t have a working floor.

You know what I mean. As an HR manager and already having experienced these values myself, I can honestly pass on these values to new hires.

Tell us something about your job at Cake.

I support Cake’s management with all the HR challenges that come along with the growth of a start-up company, including attracting, retaining and developing talent. It also involves a lot of legal and administrative formalities that you have to comply with as a company, it entails setting up and reviewing policies and procedures, developing employer branding, creating a pleasant and stimulating work environment, making sure that salaries are paid on time, in short, everything that has to do with ‘people and culture’.  That actually sounds better ‘people and culture’ instead of Human resources management. Perhaps I should change my function title from HR Manager to Head of People and Culture?

Discuss it with your manager.

But that’s you, right?

Ok, that’s right. Alright then. People and Culture.

Maintaining the company’s culture is very important to Cake.  The co-founders founded Cake a few years ago and consciously created a specific company culture focused on trust, transparency, flexibility and autonomy. When expanding the company, it is important to maintain that culture. So I see to it that Cake’s DNA remains present as Cake grows and attracts new talent. When we recruit, I personally pay great attention to a candidate’s profile in order to find out whether that person meets our company’s core values.  We call that a ‘culture fit’.

What makes you happy, professionally speaking?

I first held various project management and leadership positions, then later on I moved into HR management and grew a broad interest and feeling for ‘People & Organization’.  I get a lot of satisfaction from creating a positive work environment and seeing people develop and grow professionally. At Cake, I also hope to be able to contribute to a positive and stimulating work environment for our employees, making us an attractive employer. If that succeeds, my mission will have been accomplished.

Tell us something about your workplace.

We have 1 separate office at home. But now that my husband, my daughter who graduated last year and I work from home more often, we had to make choices. My daughter now has a desk in her room, my husband works in our separate office and I moved to the living room.  Working at a large table just for me, with a view on my garden is great.  And in the mornings I get a free concert from the singing birds in my garden. 

So do you have to clean up your workspace every night?

No, my laptop, screen, keyboard, mouse, papers, … are just part of the interior. In the beginning I cleaned that up every Friday evening but now everything just stays like that in the living room.

What do you think of working at home?

Working at home has many advantages and it works perfectly fine for me. Provided we keep an eye on the social aspects but that is also my responsibility at Cake. Employees should not be isolated. I support employees who are not used to working at home and give them practical advice, do’s and don’ts.  I am also a very social person, I need to be in contact with people. That’s why we have a lot of video calls, but also organize several after-work meetings or team events.

The nice thing about working from home is that you can define your own work rhythm. I used to set my alarm clock and my day was programmed from start to end.  Now I wake up without an alarm clock, get up quietly and have my first coffee while reading my emails. Such a great difference from the hectic and stressful times of the past.  
Working from home is also only possible if you get enough confidence from your employer. Employers who allow remote working but in practice don’t trust their employees and have the tendency to continuously control or monitor them will at the end lose valuable employees.
In my opinion, great employers should judge their employees by their results and their engagement and not by the number of hours they work.
When you show your employees that you trust them, you get a lot of confidence, flexibility and engagement back. Flexibility and trust come from both sides.

OK, enough about work. What is your favorite meal?

My goddaughter calls me a ‘pancake monster’ in dutch they say ‘koekiemonster’ to someone who loves to eat cookies.  I could eat pancakes at any time of the day.

Just with sugar or can something be added?

Fresh fruit and ice cream, yummie. 

Which recipe is the best?

Piet Huysentruyt’s recipe.

Do you like to cook?

No, actually I don’t. I’m more of a baking type. My husband is the cook in the house, I bake something now and then, but I used to do it more often when I was younger though, probably because in those days I could eat whatever I wanted. Baking is easier than cooking. You just have to follow the recipe and weigh all the ingredients. You need more creativity as a cook. That’s not my ‘forte’.

Yes but, you are half Spanish, half Italian and you don’t like to cook?

Yes, I know. I’m not an ‘Italian mom’ who is often in the kitchen. My dad however is a great cook.  When my husband arrives late from work, and I am the one who has to take care of dinner, I mostly call my dad to find out what he has prepared.  Either we eat at my parents’ or he comes to my place and prepares a delicious risotto.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

I especially like Italian and Greek cuisine. So when we go to a restaurant, we often choose something like this. The Grill restaurant Nostalgia in Hasselt has a Slavic cuisine that I also appreciate. It does not always have to be a very fancy environment, I also like simple and authentic cuisine with friendly and hospitable people. When we are on vacation we also always prefer restaurants where the locals eat.

Which famous person would you like to have lunch with?

That’s a challenging question!  Well, perhaps with Maxima, Queen of the Netherlands. She seems to have a very warm, enthusiastic, balanced and approachable personality. Authentic and with a lot of charisma, ambition, passion and with a spunky character.  She doesn’t let the strict protocol tell her what to do or not, she is down to earth and stands among the people.
I think she also has a warm and happy family. It would be an interesting conversation about a lot of stuff.

What are your hobbies?

Sports are not my thing. I did aqua fitness and pilates in the past. But after a while, I stopped doing that. Walking is something I often do. Sometimes we take the car, drive to the city center of Hasselt and go for a walk. 

We, men, call that shopping.

No, I mean really walking. Sometimes just on the boulevard of Hasselt and then stop for a coffee or so.

Any other exciting hobbies?

I have a passion for interior design.


Yes, I can spend quite a bit of money on our interior design. My husband calls it the project ‘spending money’. I love watching interior design programs, reading books on interior styling and I follow a lot of interior design pages on Instagram. For example, on Netflix I follow “Dream Home Makeover”, a series by Studio Mcgee that gives homes a makeover. I often make a lot of changes at home, to the annoyance of my husband and daughter.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Most of all, I would like to travel more. I feel like I haven’t seen enough of the world. I want to visit unique places and meet interesting people. Luckily, with Cake being a fully remote work environment, there will be ample opportunities in the near future for me to travel while continuing to work.

Finally, what would you do if you won the Lottery?

I would travel and share my money with my family. But I would also donate some of my money to Alzheimer’s research. My grandmother who I often stayed with as a child when my parents had to work, died of it. That’s a terrible disease that we still haven’t found a cure for. So, should I win the Lottery, I would like to become a major supporter of Alzheimer’s research.  

That’s a nice gesture. I hope one day you pick the 6 right numbers.

Yes, but I’ll have to buy a ticket first. I never play the Lottery.

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