Disclaimer: we wrote this article before the outbreak of Covid 19. At the moment, everything we do at Nmbrs is online, and the Exchange Program is on hold until it is safe. However, since we are all at home, it is good to remember how everything was before and hope we all work together to make this possible once again. That is why we have decided to publish it anyway and give you a glimpse of how we (used to) work.
We are a distributed company with offices in two different cities, Lisbon and Amsterdam. Our mission is to go global, and this is not entirely specific to our product. Two years ago, we started a new initiative, the "Nmbrs Exchange Program". The premise of the program is simple, for 4 months you get to work at the Nmbrs office that isn’t the one you are based on at the moment. People from the Lisbon office have the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and vice-versa.
Everyone at Nmbrs is used to working in this semi-remote environment. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to the other office and engage with everyone that often, and with this program, you get to work with your peers face-to-face daily. Furthermore, on the self-development scope, you get hands-on international experience by diving into another country's culture, habits and perks. Whether that is the sunny days in Portugal or the great beers in The Netherlands.
The Nmbrs Exchange Program
My name is Tiago, I'm a Software Developer at Nmbrs, and about a year ago I was starting this adventure: going to Amsterdam for four months. The program itself was one of the reasons why I joined Nmbrs.
For some time, I wondered about how it would be to work abroad. I see it as a likely scenario for myself in the future, but I would like to understand better how balanced the scales would be in terms of what you give and what you take by moving away. On top of that, Amsterdam was the city where I previously had been as an Erasmus student, and I had a great time there. Now, as a full-time worker, I was curious about how different the Amsterdam experience would be.
The start of the international adventure
Ideally, you should pick the time that allows you to make the most of your stay. However, I did the exact opposite. As I said, I have been to Amsterdam before during the summer. Amazing times! But this time around, I wanted a different experience. Aside from Portugal and other southern countries, most European countries have this period of long darkness and rainy weather. I wanted to go through that and join the dark side. “If I can endure that, I can live anywhere!”.
It turns out that what I thought would be the hardest thing about this experience was not that bad. Because it is gradual, you get used to the dark days. Furthermore, the Dutch have found a couple of ways to manage how rain affects their life pretty well. It's a matter of checking the right apps at the right time. In regards to my daily work, nothing changed. I continued to perform my duties as I was before in Lisbon, with the only adjustment that more of the meetings I had were virtual since most of my team was actually in Lisbon. But as mentioned, that is daily life for everyone at Nmbrs.
The inclusion process
What needed a bit more adjustment was my off-work life. It's easier when you have your friends and family near. That makes any place a comfortable one to live. Going out of this place and still feeling like that elsewhere is the real challenge. Of course, you can catch up with everyone, but it’s not the same. You have to invest in staying connected to the people over there, to create new habits and avoid succumbing to the vicious cycle of Netflixing at home. Only that way you can make the most of your time there.
The Dutch are quite fun, but there are key differences from the Portuguese people that need to be managed. They separate work and off-work life very well, and they party hard when that is their goal. But you have to fit your slot in their agenda that is planned with several weeks in advance. This is hard when you are someone like me that can’t even think about their meals for the next few days!
At the same time, there are so many internationals at Nmbrs that every lunchtime or Friday drinks easily become a multicultural exchange where you discuss and compare so many different aspects of all these different corners of the world.
People ask me what is the difference between the two offices? I think it's exactly the points I just mentioned before. The Dutch office is way more multicultural than the Lisbon one. It also requires a bit more time for you to connect with people. In the Lisbon office, after the first couple of days, you end up having beers somewhere else in the city for no apparent reason. However, I have to say that people in Amsterdam sure know how to throw a party!
All in all, it was a great thing to go to Amsterdam. Not only I came to know colleagues that I wasn’t normally in touch with, but I also had the chance to see what and how things go by in the other office.
I also got to know a little better how life abroad looks like and I think I passed my test. Curiously enough, by the time I was finally acquainted with the people and life in Amsterdam, it was also time to go back to Lisbon. This ended up influencing my attitude towards things which was something I wasn't expecting.
Finally, I’m convinced that it is a very nice adventure and a challenge for anyone that feels up for it. Of course, it requires some life logistics management, but if you are willing/able to do so, I strongly recommend it.
Do you want to have an international experience as well? We're hiring a Senior .NET Developer to join us in Amsterdam!