Why did you choose Amsterdam?
Right after I got my bachelor’s degree in computer science, I started working at Macy’s programming department. During my studies, we worked a lot in project groups. We were divided into teams and had to develop our own applications. Since I had already interned with Macy’s during earlier summers, it was a logical place to start my career.
After two years at Macy’s, I wanted to do something more adventurous. That’s when I started looking for expat jobs. My first hunch was to look for a London job. I’d studied there for a year during my bachelor and had a great time. Finding an expat job in the UK turned out to be quite difficult though: I had to find a company willing to sponsor me for a visa application. These difficulties made me consider a job in Amsterdam, where getting a visa is much easier.
How did you find your current job in Amsterdam?
“I first got in touch with them through LinkedIn. Casengo offers tools for website and webshop owners, mostly via software as a service. This seemed very interesting to me, especially since they were a start-up.
After doing some tests, things got serious. The people at Casengo made sure that I really considered the expat life and then started helping me out with the visa application. There was almost no red tape; much to my surprise, the Dutch expat regulations were quite easy to work with.
What do you like about your job in the Netherlands?
What surprises me most about working in the Netherlands is the openness of the working place. There are no cubicles… Everyone works together in big open spaces; even the boss sits there with us. At first, I had to get used to this. It feels like someone is constantly watching over your shoulder, even though that isn’t really the case. Now that I’m used to it I really like it. Everyone is much more involved in what’s going on with the company, including the boss. This creates an open and very positive atmosphere.
Is your working environment typically Dutch?
The approach to work is quite realistic, since no one pretends to know more than they actually do. When we’re working with new front ends, it’s new terrain for everyone. So the lead developer encourages us to try everything out and find out how new techniques work.
What surprised me as well was the relative easiness with which people switch between languages. My colleagues constantly switch from Dutch to English, sometimes even to French. Coming from a country where most people only speak English, this was quite surprising to witness.
Was it easy to settle in?
For my first two months in Amsterdam, I crashed at a colleague’s apartment. This was a great start and really helped me getting to know the city. When I was familiar with my new surroundings, I started looking for an apartment of my own. This took some time, but it worked out in the end. Together with a Dutch pal, I found a really nice apartment near the city centre.
My Dutch roommate helps me reading Dutch letters, amongst other things. And he knows how things work around here, even though it isn’t that different from my life in the US.
What do you do to get to know Amsterdam?
Asides from meeting up with colleagues, I participate in several expat groups. There’s even a Reddit page dedicated to living in Amsterdam. This makes it relatively easy to get to know new people and do fun stuff.
I’ve visited some of the tourist highlights, of course. But there’s a lot of other great stuff to do as well. Personally, I really enjoy visiting concerts in Paradiso, for instance. And there are some great local pubs, such as the Gollem. They’ve got all kinds of beer; it’s really an enormous collection. Places like that make a city great.
Would you consider Amsterdam expat friendly?
Amsterdam is a great city for expats. I didn’t notice it when I first visited the city, but almost everyone speaks English. Even better for me was the fact that there are a lot of jobs available for ICT experts. And as long as you keep your job, you don’t have to worry about your visa.
How does your Dutch job compare to your job in the US?
It’s difficult to compare my job at Macy’s and my job at Casengo, since one was a huge corporate and the other a start-up. But in general, I would say that the Dutch are on par with the US in terms of IT expertise. One thing I do notice at Casengo is that everyone, even those without IT backgrounds, seems to have a really good idea of how the IT industry works. All employees are familiar with terms as productivity tools, Google analytics and website optimisation. There’s a good understanding of how software development should flow.
What are your plans for the future?
I think I will still be living in the Netherlands in two or three years time. At the moment, I’m still learning quite a lot at Casengo. But there’s always room for ambition, of course. Due to the many nationalities living in Amsterdam, it’s a really friendly start-up environment for an expat. It would be nice to start a business of my own in a couple of years.