It’s nice to be back in New York. While I didn’t grow up here, this certainly is home for me now. And with my new job, we’re here to stay for a while to come. That means that we’re back looking at homes for sale with the hopes that we can finally afford something in the third most expensive county in the country. There was a time earlier this year that I was ready to leave New York. I was ready to move to Seattle, Chicago or even Dallas, where the cost of living is much lower and real estate and taxes are affordable. But in looking for jobs, I didn’t have much luck, partly because of the job market and partly because of my background. In the end, the best opportunity that arose was for us to stay in good old expensive New York. And I’m still happy with that decision. I like my new company and think that there will be a place for me here for many years (assuming that the global economy doesn’t completely collapse, which after days like today, is not far fetched). Two years ago today I started my first job out of law school. Now, a short, but seemingly long two years later, I am at another company with new challenges, relationships, learning curves, opportunities and adventures. I just hope that my new position can take me the places and show me the opportunities that my last job couldn’t. Because the last thing I want to do in two years is have to look again.
I spent this past weekend in Zurich and enjoyed exploring the city. For being a fairly well-known global city, I thought that Zurich was surprisingly small. As of the end of last year, the official population of Zurich was listed at less than 400,000 people, a number that pales in comparison to most other global cities. Zurich was very clean and well organized, a Swiss attribute, and was proud of its wealth. From the luxury cars to the designer shopping available on every corner of the central business district, Zurich certainly is impressive. Of course, no Swiss city would be complete without a watch store at every turn, and Zurich is no exception. If you think that you have seen a fancy Rolex or two, it doesn’t compare to the style, design and luxury of a number of Swiss-made watches. Taking the train into the city is also a lesson in twenty-first century style and puts MTA’s Metro North to shame. Overall, the transportation infrastructure in Switzerland when compared to New York City really starts to make New York look like a second-world country (although I admit that NYC’s system is older and handles several times the volume of Zurich; in fact, there are more people on Manhattan on any given day than in all of Switzerland). Zurich is home to several global companies and a fairly cosmopolitan population, but in the end, its size would prevent me from wanting to be based there long term. Thankfully I’m not and will be returning to New York this Friday.
With all of the despair and uncertainty in the U.S. financial markets, it’s kind of nice to be here out of the country, unaffected. I hear from friends that New York is depressing right now. From this morning’s headlines, more carnage and consolidation is to come and no one’s job is safe. Thankfully I am now in a company where I hopefully don’t have to worry about losing my job anytime soon – or at least that’s what I’m told.
Which brings me to my new job. I like the people and the environment so far. It’s only been a few weeks since I started, but my overall impression is good. This is a company that cares about its people, is led by leaders with a vision, expects all employees to contribute to the business and to bringing in new deals and has big plans for growth. What I find interesting is that unlike a law firm where I often worked directly with the clients and the other lawyers, I am only one part of a well-oiled machine here at my new job, often not even on the front lines. There are many moving parts for each transaction that meetings are required to coordinate across departments and keep everyone on the same page and moving forward. Meetings were rare at my last job, somewhat to my frustration. But now much of my day is filled up with attending meetings. My Outlook inbox is full of meeting requests waiting for me to accept or decline. When someone here wants to do lunch with you, they send you a meeting request that is automatically added to your calendar so that a reminder pops up a few minutes prior to the meeting. Looking at other people’s calendars to try to find a time that works to schedule a meeting is common practice. But I don’t mind. I enjoy face time and working with other people. I just hope that I can learn enough in the meetings to know what I am supposed to do once I am out of the meetings.
This is day four for me in Switzerland. And yes, there are areas here that are as beautiful as everyone says. I was out of the office the past few days because we were at an offsite event with the group I work with up in the mountains. I couldn’t tell you exactly where in Switzerland we were and I can’t pronounce the name of the mountain, but we had a beautiful two-hour hike (that was harder than I thought it was going to be; they didn’t lie when they say it was a difficult hike) and then spent two days in a cabin on top of the mountain. The first day was full of team-building events and games and the second day was a full day of training, with the only interruption being a short hike to another site to enjoy the view and cook some bratwurst. I feel as if I know my colleagues much better after spending a few days with them up in the mountains and it was a good way to kick off my time at this company.
I am staying in the corporate apartment next to my office, which makes getting to and from work quite convenient, especially since I don’t know where anything else is or how to get around. The people here are nice and I find that they generally understand English, at least the simple English that I use when I speak to them when I buy a sandwich for my dinner each night because I have no idea what else to eat. I have found that no matter what the label says or what the item looks like, each food item here has three things: sliced meat (usually ham or salami), pickles and mayonnaise. I’ll have to lay off the sandwiches for a while when I return to New York. Last night was a breakthrough because I finally discovered how to use the television in our apartment and found that we have access to CNN International, the BBC and CNBC Europe, all of which will make our time in the apartment a little more enjoyable and help us keep up to date when not online in the office.
As for the work, I am learning and feel as if I am starting to get the hang of things. But I still have a long way to go. I am here for two more weeks and then I will be back in New York. There is talk of me and a colleague coming back to Switzerland at the beginning of November for another month and a half, but we both would like to minimize our stay here and think it a bit unnecessary to come back for so long. We’ll see what happens. For now, I need to learn as much as I can and make the best of the next two weeks.
So far, so good. I sit on the 39th floor in midtown and have a great view looking south over the island of Manhattan. This is my second day at my new job and while I am not sure what I am doing, I like the people, the environment and the work (from what I can tell). I am trying to learn the business and the systems and procedures. I am leaving on Monday evening to fly to Zurich to begin training for three weeks. I will then be back here in New York for a few more weeks before heading back to Switzerland for the remainder of the training. I wish, though, that I had the exact dates as it is becoming difficult to plan the next few months. I know when I am returning to New York, but have no idea when I’ll fly back to Switzerland for the remaining training. Will I be here on November 4 to vote? Will I be able to get an absentee ballot in time? Will I miss Thanksgiving in the U.S.? Will I know what I am supposed to do when I return to my office in New York? I hope I will have answers to all of these questions soon. But I may not. I will have to be flexible and take the changes as I go. Thankfully I like the job and the people enough that I am willing to be flexible and see where this position takes me.
It’s hard to believe that I have been studying Japanese for ten years. But it’s true. As of a few days ago I have been intensely trying to learn the Japanese language for the past ten years. But only two of the past ten years have been spent in Japan. With that being the case, I believe that I have learned the language quite well and have maintained whatever proficiency I gained while in the country. It took some effort, but I have been fortunate enough to live in areas with high concentrations of Japanese speakers since I left Japan, making it easy to make friends and keep up the language. I have been told that I have a knack for learning languages by more than one person. While I am not sure if I personally believe such statements, I am now approaching a new adventure in the coming months and am confident I can make the best of it.
I have accepted a new job offer that requires me to move to the German-speaking area of Switzerland to learn the business and to be trained for my new job. I will be flying back and forth between New York City and Zurich on a regular basis for the next three months and leave in a week to start the initial three weeks of training. While I will use English exclusively with my new position and my colleagues, the area I will live in will be entirely German speaking, a language I have never had much interest in previously, to be honest. But given that I will have the chance to be immersed and that it is not too different from English in many respects, I will put this so-called knack for languages to the test and see how much I can pick up. I will probably have the chance on the weekends to do some traveling as well, allowing me to visit nearby Munich, Vienna and perhaps Berlin, all of which I would be interested in seeing. I have been to western Europe, but the German-speaking countries will be a whole new world for me. My family, unfortunately, will be staying in New York, with our daughter being sent to California for some of the time to make it easier for my wife to get along without me. In other words, in the next few weeks my small family of three will be spread across nine time zones, a situation that few people would like to find themselves in.
But if we can make it through the end of the year, I think that we will be in a better position emotionally and professionally. And so, as I look back at what I was doing ten years ago, I look forward at what lies ahead. Just like in the past, I have a mission ahead of me now, a chance to live in another country, learn the language, the culture and further my skills and life experience. I am glad I have had the past ten years of moving from place to place, working with different people and trying new things to prepare me for this next step in life. May Switzerland be the beginning of another great ten years.