21st March 2016

Hello Amsterdam

So I have left London and moved to Amsterdam. I quit my job at the biggest music label in the world, cancelled my hotdesk membership and said goodbye to all of my friends then moved to foreign climes. This didn’t happen overnight. It involved countless emails, a few Skype chats, 1 weekend away, and a 12 hour return van trip. Its abit crazy but its worked out quite well.

This story starts back in Late October 2015 when I got an email from the head of Global d2c (he’s not anymore but thats a whole different story). This email concerned getting me involved in a large project called Access All Areas (AAA). The background to AAA is that if you love Ellie Goulding, Rod Stewart or The Vamps you’ll go to HMV and buy a AAA pack which contains everything you need to be a superfan (CD’s, T-shirts, Bracelets etc). Part of this pack is a code that you use to get online access to the AAA website. Here you get up to the minute photos, videos and information that takes you from superfan to active stalker. Now you’ve reached this new rank, you can get discount from the official store. This is where I come in (as the guy who built the stores).

My curiosity got the better of me and I started to google some the people on the email chain and came across Your Majesty. Their website was impressive, their portfolio more so and I liked the culture they were fostering. These guys seemed to know what they were talking about. I was so impressed with their work I sent them a tweet (its the obvious thing to do)

It wasn’t till a few days later that I wondered if they had any jobs going. I returned to the website and found they were actually looking for a developer. I looked through the job spec and I could tick 90% of the requirements and a few of the bonus points too. I watched the videos on the company culture and concluded that I had nothing to lose. Instead of applying directly (with a link to my portfolio) I sent them an email asking for more information. It was at this point that I was informed that the job wasn’t in New York but in Amsterdam and asked if I wanted to hold out for a job in New York or continue. I’d been to Amsterdam once and quite liked the city so continued in the process. There was a foray off emails between me and the guys at Your Majesty but actually having an interview posed an issue. See I had planned on the job being in New York which is around 5 hours behind GMT. This would mean I could do interviews and communication outside of work but Amsterdam is 1 hour ahead. This meant that I’d have to find time in the work day to do interviews. This made me a little uncomfortable if I’m totally honest. In the end we scheduled Skype meetings in the afternoon and I booked a meeting room downstairs from my desk at work. The Universal office isn’t exactly built for doing super sneaky ninja Skype call with its glass walls and limited privacy, but thankfully different floors don’t tell each other everything. The next challenge was getting there. For most people this wouldn’t prove an issue but I don’t leave my desk very often (I had few meetings or any other reason so) so when I did it was noted by everyone around me. Thankfully this went without a hitch and the Skype chat went well. It was at this point that the email trail went quiet. I assumed the worst and thought I had lost it. In this situation I was told it was professional to ask for feedback as to why I hadn’t got the job and how I could improve next time. It turned out that it had gone quiet cos they had a large project launch and not cos I had crashed and burned.

We scheduled another Skype chat that went without a hitch. This one was more serious than the first where I was asked personality questions like ‘what makes a good manager’, ‘What irritates you’ and ‘what makes a good colleague’.

A few weeks passed, more emails were exchanged but I got the answer I was looking for on the 12th of December. It was Friday night and I was checking my emails while watching tv and there was an email from Your Majesty. “Now, as promised, an offer” read the first lines. I did a victory dance (of course) and read through the offer letter.

When I calmed down abit, I looked up the cost of living in Amsterdam (taxes, rent, food etc) and then tried to map that against the offer. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to figure out if I could afford to live on the money they were gonna pay me and whether I wanted to go. Up till this point I hadn’t really considered actually going (I’m a opportunistic pessimist – I will apply for jobs and experiences with the view of ‘in it to win it’ but don’t get excited until I get a firm offer).  I setup another meeting on the following Wednesday and compiled a list of questions i wanted to ask (pensions, 30% tax eligibility etc).

The next week didn’t go to plan. On Tuesday I setup a meeting with the head of the new tech team at UMGI. I wanted to make sure I had explored all angles before making my decision. I had met up with a few members of the new tech team at a Star Wars brainstorm a few months earlier and had kept in contact. In my option, it was one of the few areas of the business that was embracing tech and giving techies the room to build some great in-house software. This is a large step for a organisation that traditionally gets all of its digital tech built by outside agencies.

The meeting went quite well. We talked about the stuff his team were working on and some of the stuff I was doing in my spare time. I also told him about my offer from Your Majesty and asked him if there was any opportunities in his team. But my timing couldn’t have been worse as half of his team had been made redundant the day before as the result of an internal audit. It wasn’t the answer I wanted but I at least knew were I stood. There were no opportunities for me at UMG.

Later that day a good friend was unexpectantly and brutally fired for “Unreconcilable differences” with his boss. He was (and still is) a great guy, loved and respected by all of the people he worked with across the business, was professional and had the task in hand. His departure caused quite a stir. I will remember talking about it on the way into work with one of my colleagues and thinking ‘I’m probably gonna hand in my notice today…’  but didn’t voice this. Up until this point very few people knew I had been interviewing for jobs elsewhere and even fewer knew I had secured the job aside from my dad, flatmates and a few of the guys at my co working space.

Once again, I snuck away to the floor below to have a secret ninja meeting and to ask the questions I had. At the end of the meeting I was asked what I was going to do now? “I’m gonna go upstairs and quit” was my response. The Your Majesty guys wanted me to hold off on quitting so they could send an email to various people across the business as a kind gesture (as UMGI are a client of Your Majesty). This would have been fine but one of the people on the email list was the head of the e-commerce platform.

I ended the call but decided that I had to quit there and then as there are many complicated internal political relationships. My boss hearing of my departure ‘through the grapevine’ would have been the worst way to find out. I walked upstairs, sat at my desk, took a deep breath and made my decision. I was moving to Amsterdam.

I wondered into my boss’ office with my letter of resignation that I had drafted the night before and told him we needed to have a chat. I closed the door and told him my plans. In my head I expected him to be disappointed, even angry but he wasn’t. He congratulated me and we chatted briefly about it.  Afterwards I returned to my desk expecting the whole team to have seen what had just happened (through the glass walls) but there was nothing. My boss and I decided that we’d tell the team after christmas but that plan fell apart very quickly.

Two days later it was Friday and my last day before christmas (I had taken christmas week off to avoid a repeat of the year before where I had worked up to lunchtime of christmas eve). My bosses boss, one of many other David’s, came down and put me into a playful headlock exclaiming “You’re trouble Endersby! So who else have you told?”. This isn’t normal office behaviour and the whole team were immediately very suspicious. Up until this point my boss was the only person I had told but the secret was now out. It wasn’t until after ‘christmas Proseccos’ that the barrage of questions came flooding in from every angle. I made the decision that I wouldn’t tell them until after christmas on the basis that I was still there for 2 more months (my notice period) and by the time that came about no one would care anyways. It was so far off that I hadn’t even considered it. Its fair to say the rest of the team were less than impressed by my refusal to tell them what was going on. But they’d find out in January.

I went home for the christmas break and told my family  the news(over christmas lunch). In January I started looking for places to live on Kamernet. The second week in January I booked a last minute weekend trip to Amsterdam with one viewing confirmed. I took my laptop and managed to sort out viewings for 3 more places. I sent an email to Kristofer at Your Majesty saying I’d be in Amsterdam for the weekend but thought he wouldn’t see it until Monday. I got a reply on Sunday morning asking if I wanted to go out for lunch.  We managed to find a time that was good for both of us and ended up going to the Waterkant (pronounced ‘Vater Cunt’ – **Giggles**) which is under a carpark on one of the canals. Its quite hipster, is lovely in the summer (apparently) and makes a tasty burger. After lunch I was shown the office and some of the stuff I might be working on.

It was a productive weekend, I had met one of my new bosses, sorted out somewhere to live and got chance to explore more of Amsterdam. The enormity of what I was going to do was slowly starting to sink in but I was excited at the same time.

The next 6 weeks went seemed to drag a little. The working week was slow and repetitive , where I had little control over what I was producing and the quality of the code I was writing. It further reinforced my opinion that moving was the right thing to do. I told the rest of my team of my plans in the meeting on my first week back after christmas but the surprise was dead. Everyone seemed to appreciate the champagne though.

The weekends on the other hand went super quickly. Rather than making an announcement on Facebook I took the opportunity to visit my friends in person. I had a weekend in Plymouth where i managed to get 3 friends from uni in the same place for 24 hours – Its taken 4 years to do this. We had Tapas on the hoe and played Cards Against Humanity until the early hours. The next day we had brunch at Capt’n Jaspers went down into Cornwall to catch up with a few more close friends over dinner at Pizza Express.

On another weekend I visited some friends in the Cotwolds at their new home and they showed me their super fancy Daulit toaster made by a guy called Jon. We got lost trekking across the fields near Broadway and took a trip to Bristol and brought some super expensive cookies. I will miss all of my friends but they have vowed to come over so maybe they will.

The second weekend in February came around and it was time to pack up the majority of my lives possessions into boxes throw them into a van and drive to Amsterdam. In hindsight I should have been alot more aggressive with my packing – i.e putting more stuff in the van so I would have lest to carry later on when I moved over officially. I started packing my stuff into boxes on Friday night which was pretty successful. The plan was to get my van at 10am on Saturday, dismantle furniture and pack boxes in the van an leave at 2:15pm latest. In the end I didn’t get the van till after 12 as it wasn’t ready. Then I had to get an international driving pack (with breakdown triangle, gb sticker etc). It didn’t leave me much time to pack. In the end I left at 2:40pm and had to rush to get my Channel Tunnel train which had a checkin time of 4:20pm. I got there at 4:27pm expecting to be charged for another ticket but made it through checkin without a hitch and drove straight on to the train dragging the aerial along the roof (there was about 10cm clearance between the top of the van and the roof of the train). I couldn’t believe I had made it.

I did get horrendously lost in France though. I came out of the tunnel and was bombarded with signs to seeming everywhere in Europe. I might have been heading in the right direction for a little while before taking a wrong turn. At this point I turned on the GPS on my phone and sought directions. I ended up going via rural France on unlit roads with seemly no indication of speed limits. I might have almost died on a crossing when I failed to notice it until the last minute but thankfully it was late and there were only a few people around so didn’t die in a huge fireball. Despite my phone almost dieing and being very conscious of my roaming charges, I found my way back to the motorway and through Belgium via Brussels, Gent and Antwerp and into the Netherlands where there were finally signs to Amsterdam.

I arrived at around 10:40pm, got the keys off my new landlord and dragged all of my stuff inside by about 1:30am. The next morning I had a few hours to reconstruct furniture and start unpacking before heading back to London via McDonalds for brunch. The trip back was less dramatic and I arrived back in London at around 5pm, completely knackered. My room had an empty echo. It was a little bit sad.

For the next week I lived out of a suitcase using all the stuff I hadn’t put in the van the weekend before. We had my leaving party at work at a pub around the corner. It wasn’t a grandiose event but there was plenty of alcohol. The team got me a leaving box full of ‘essentials’ like clog slippers, a dutch language guide, glowsticks, a personalised Chundersby t-shirt, bourbons and a 1kg tub of Haribo amongst other things. It was a good sendoff.

My last day at Universal came and went. I completed a handover document and tried to finish as many things as I could before I left. At the end of the day I put all my stuff in a box, handed back my ID and left. That was it. It was abit surreal. Time for something new. On my way home I dropped into my co-working space and handed back my key for my hotdesk.

The next day I packed my remaining belongings up and cleaned up my room. It was at this point I wished I had been more aggressive with the van packing. Now I had to hurl a large suitcase plus 5 large plastic bags of stuff across London and onto a train back to Bournemouth. It was exhausting.

I spent my last weekend in the UK with family, who were super excited for my move (they even started calling me David van Endersby). I repacked my stuff into 2 large suitcases and flew out of Southampton airport. I got into the flat just after 10pm.

This was it. I was finally in Amsterdam. Day one of new job was the next day.