Moving Continents

I just passed my first night as a resident of the United States. More precisely, yesterday I took my overseas flight to San Francisco, California, which is where I’ll be living now, at least for the near future. It is certainly still surreal that I am here now and not going to leave in foreseeable time, and it will probably be a while until I have fully grasped it, let alone fully settled in.

If you’re wondering now, I am still a Developer Programs Engineer for Google, and I am still working in the CMS ecosystem, mostly WordPress. And my primary focus is still going to be engineering the Site Kit plugin. Only from now on, I’m going to work from the offices in San Francisco, in person with the team that is located here.

So how did this happen?

It’s been a long time coming

You may already know that I started working at Google in fall of 2018, in Zurich, Switzerland. What you may not know is that, when this became an opportunity, I originally intended to apply for a position in San Francisco. I have been travelling and exploring the US quite a bit over the past few years and always enjoyed spending time there, so working and living there is an exciting experiment for me. Plus, I loved the idea to go for a bigger change, somewhere further away. Although they were interested in that too though, the conclusion was that obtaining a work visa would have delayed my start date way too much. Hence I moved to Zurich and started working there, and we’d be revisiting a relocation to San Francisco at a later date. It’s still hard to believe for me that it is happening now.

Despite all my excitement, I also very much enjoyed my time in Zurich. It’s likely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to, and the surroundings are gorgeous too for many reasons. My personal favorite way to enjoy them was to go hiking. City-wise, Zurich has so much to offer, and especially the summer there was outstanding. Going to free open air parties with chill vibes at daytime by the river or the lake, with the mountain scenery in the background is hard to beat. Location-wise I’m especially gonna miss my favorite city “mountain” (not a mountain by Swiss standards), the Uetliberg. I can certainly see myself living here again some day. I truly mean it – who knows where life will take you, who knows how much I’ll like it here over time. If I move back to Europe, then Zurich is on top of my list.

This is the gorgeous view over Zurich and its lake from Uetliberg, during sunset.

The People

Still, Zurich is only a place. What makes me actually leave with a heavy heart is to leave my local colleagues and friends from there behind. It’s been a ton of fun to work with all of y’all. While all of us are working hard, there’s still been time for occasional fun, stupid jokes and retarded actions. Particularly, we make so many bad puns that there have been puns on puns, and sometimes you catch yourself thinking about a pun in a serious conversation that you just can’t get out there right now – it’s a pun mindset. To paint a small picture, I’ve been sitting with Pascal and Thierry from our immediate team, Mariya who is the product manager of the Site Kit plugin, Anna who is a video producer, and John, Martin, and Gary from the WTA team (although some of them actually travel even more than we do). You have all been a really enjoyable work environment, and it’s been great how well we worked together, having fun at the same time and facepalming each other. I want to give a quick callout to my closer colleagues and friends.

Mariya, I really appreciate how you have tolerated our puns despite them sometimes derailing entire conversations. Although you probably don’t want to admit it, you’ve become great at puns as well, and you should join the “Bad Puns” Google group too. I have learned a ton from you about product management, something very foreign to me before. I think over time, we have developed great trust in each other to do the right thing, and I really appreciate how well we collaborate between the product direction and engineering side. Please take care of my downosaur well!

Thierry, you have become a great inspiration and friend to me, as well as my pun buddy. I’m amazed by your planning skills and how you have shaped project management of Site Kit to become a super well-oiled machine and a highly enjoyable project to work on. We have ways to go, but I can’t believe how far we’ve come already, and I’m excited for where we’ll go in the future. And despite your name, not only do you strive in theory, but also in practice. You have really supported me and helped me grow in the months so far, and I couldn’t ask for a better colleague who I connect with so well on a both work and personal level.

Pascal, we already hung out quite a bit before I moved to Zurich and before we started this job, but I feel like it’s really become a great friendship in the past year. I appreciate so much how you just took me along to all kinds of events and parties with your local friends when I didn’t know anybody here, and now I can call some of them friends too. And while we haven’t actually worked together that much, it’s always been helpful to have you around for regular consultation and more pun fun. And although we sometimes joke about it, I can actually learn a ton from how chill you are (in a good way). Thanks for becoming such a great friend!

This is my downosaur that Mariya now takes care of on Kilimanjaro – I haven’t even been there myself!
This is Thierry, me, and Pascal with the two cheesy Switzerland shirts I got right before leaving.

All of you, I will dearly miss you and our overall vibe and chemistry while working on location. But at least, I’m looking forward to still collaborating closely with you, having regular meatings, and even occasional cheesings when I’ll be visiting Zurich. Thank you for being who you are! I’m already excited to see you again so soon in Bangkok.

Now, I’m excited for working with my new on-location colleagues in San Francisco though too: Alberto, Crystal, Ilya, Paul, Renee, Sam, Terry, I can’t wait to enjoy work with you, learn from you, and have fun with you! But be aware that with me you will get Pundora’s box: It is pundemic and cannot be healed. I hope you won’t be too annoyed, and if you are, I hope the annoyance is quickly going to turn into smilingly shaking your head. My personal OKR is for all of you to make bad puns. Okay, on a more serious note: I’m excited to work with you in person!

The Future

Except for the different location and local colleagues, as already hinted at, not that much else will change. I’m really excited to be here, get to know the area and surroundings (more hikes!), and work from the San Francisco offices with my colleagues here. It’s going to be great being closer to the hub of Google in the Bay Area.

Working at Google, particularly with this amazing cross-continent team I am part of, has been nothing but inspiring and delightful, I continue to learn a ton every day. And I’m happy to walk to the office every day. After more than a year, I can still say I cannot imagine going back to being remote (myself two years ago would have laughed at me). I hope to remain a part of this for a very long time.

Regarding being in San Francisco / California / the United States, while it’s a big change in location, it’s not that much of a change otherwise. I don’t believe that you change as a person because of location, and I therefore don’t see this as “a new start”. I’m just grateful and excited to be able to experience what life is like here, and hopefully I’ll make the most of it.

Wuppertal practically has its own “San Francisco” hills, as seen here.
For those who are not that geographically savvy: This was on a Swiss interstate and proves that California is not far away and actually reachable by car.

For now, if all continues to go well, I will be here for three years. What comes after that, I don’t know. It is dependent on so many factors, internal and external, and I don’t want to think about it now. What I’m going to do is enjoy starting to live here in San Francisco, while continuing to do what I already loved to do before.

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