Sunday, 13 May 2012

Start Me Up


again my apologies for the length of time in-between posts. I have been working a new job and although it is awesome and precisely what I have always wanted to do, ever since I was a little boy in short pants with a cape, I have also been working preposterously long hours and not been able to make the blogging curfew (aka, my bed-time).

However, it's not all bad news. Allow me to explain. Because it is a bit of a strange thing working for these fledgling Berlin start-up companies and loads and loads of people seem to be flocking here to join in the fun, I thought I would write a list about the best and worst of it for anybody else mulling over the decision.

If you were not yet aware, Berlin is the Start-Up Capital of Europe. With cheap rent and youthful optimism in abundance, exciting new companies seem to be founded here on an hourly basis. It's all tremendously rousing and, if you work for one, it's a great opportunity to work with some very passionate people who really care about what they are doing. In addition, because the companies are so new, you'll also have the ability to influence and improve their future direction. This is wonderfully rewarding.

However, there are some pretty awful downsides, too. One of those is working until 1am and/or working on the International Worker's Day Off to ensure 'the launch' goes as planned. This irony is not delicious. Below is a list of some of the other things you can look forward to if you move to Berlin and join the Gr├╝nderszene.

I am a qualified expert, of course. I have worked at 3 different start-up companies over the last 4 months and although there are crucial differences (the latest one is flipping brill, despite the currently ridiculous hours), you will almost certainly experience some of the following: 

  • Because the company is so new, they often won't have their corporate structure well defined. You'll usually be allowed to give yourself your own title. Because English is not their first language, you can sometimes get away with being hilarious - and even if they make you change it, it's sure fun trying to get away with Supreme Lead Researcher of Maximum Effectiveness. Unfortunately, it can also be stupid and not funny: in my current team of 16, there are 8 self-titled managers.
  • You may be required to assemble your own desk and/or chair and/or air-conditioning. This can prove challenging if the company's sole screwdriver has been pocketed by some cheapskate.
  • As a young company founded by young youngsters who enjoy being young, there are often a lot of excellent perks. To pay you back for working late, they will often send out for pizzas or burgers, and take you out to lunch the next day, and fill the freezer full of ice-creams, and order in six crates of beer to help with evening creativity. After a while, though, you might just start to wish they paid you overtime instead. 
  • The headquarters are usually located in a run-down converted apartment block in East Berlin. This is excellent, as you'll have loads of cheap and delicious foods to eat at lunchtime. Less excellent, there'll often only be about  one toilet for every 30 people in the office. It also may have had some interesting modifications to cope with the extra load. Fuck knows what happens if it ever breaks. Also, don't ever touch the hand-towel that's hanging alongside. 
  • Impressive mysteries abound. Whole couches may go missing from the conference room (so you might have a meeting on the floor), and nobody will have any clue where it is, only to return a week later with a brand new coffee table at its side. 
  • You will learn a lot of helpful shortcuts. For instance, OHS requirements for huge swarms of computer cables strewn about the lounge room office can be met by simply chucking a couple of door mats and carpet samples over the trip hazards in thoroughfares.
  • You might be required to write your own orientation papers. This is a great way to learn on the job, because you get to decide what it is you need to know, but you might feel pretty guilty for the poor saps starting the week after you who take it seriously. 
  • If your start-up can't yet afford its own office space and instead rents a couple of desks in a co-working office, you might share the open-plan with some real weirdoes. One of them might laugh each afternoon, almost on cue, in a near-endless serial killer snigger that echoes around the concrete walls. It's even creepier that he looks just like Moby. 
All of the above are true stories that I have lived through. I am sure that people who have lived here longer than me will have even worse and better to tell. Isn't it splendid? I cannot wait to see what will happen next. When are you coming to Berlin?

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