A summer job can take you places. For some, “places” is the city of canal boats and cheap tulips.
In this post, Casper and Matti tell the story of how they ended up spending summer 2017 in Amsterdam. They also share the yays and nays of their first Reaktor summer and list their best tips for expat life in the Netherlands.
Casper, Matti, how did you end up spending a summer in Amsterdam?
Casper: Before starting work as a summer dev at Reaktor, I spent a lot of time wondering what kind of stuff I’d get to work on. Probably some internal project, I thought. Learning the ropes and all that.
About a week before starting work, I got a call from a foreign number. I wondered how this particular telemarketing company had found me, but decided to answer anyway.
“Hi, this is Ville from Reaktor. Would you be interested in coming to Amsterdam for the summer?”
“Uh…yeah, I think so.”
“Great! You should fly over in two weeks. Take enough stuff to last a couple of months.”
A week later, I got to meet a part of the Reaktor team in Helsinki. A couple more senior guys as well as another summer dev (Matti) were getting ready to spend the summer in Amsterdam.
Someone asked me once if I would’ve wanted a gentler start to my Reaktor career. I don’t think I ever gave an answer, because suddenly I found myself busy porting Polymer components to React. And it kinda just went from there.
Matti: So it happened that during one booze-filled student excursion, I got my first taste of Reaktor and the wonderful, smart people within. To make a long story short, some time after the visit I ended up applying for a summer internship.
One interview, a couple of emails and a short coding challenge later, I was in!
About a month before starting my actual internship, I got a message on Slack from Nizar. He had seen the aforementioned coding challenge, liked what he had seen, and asked me if I could start my internship a little earlier. He also asked whether or not I wanted to work in Amstrdam for the summer.
Honestly, I don’t care for “traveling” in its traditional sense, as I find there to be something really fake about it. However, I was interested in actually living abroad for a longer period of time, so I obliged. And I’m glad I did.
What was it like to work with the Amsterdam crew?
Casper: So after a week in Helsinki, we both headed over to Amsterdam.
The team in Amsterdam clearly knew what was up: we were greeted with beers, pizza, and all the wonderful people of the Amsterdam office. The summer was full of get-togethers like the first one, so it was made really easy to get to know everyone.
Even as summer devs, Matti and I didn’t magically get dealt all the boring stuff. We worked with the same stuff as everyone else.
This meant we got our share of responsibility, too. I found that really motivating. The highlights of my summer derived from having the power and responsibility to decide. When there was a technical decision to be made regarding something I was working on, I discussed it with our product owner. In the end, her response was pretty much always a simple “I trust you.” That was awesome.
Still, everyone was conscious that we (or at least I) didn’t have as much experience as the more senior Reaktorians – help was always easy to find.
There was also a slight dark side to working with such skilled people, people who seemed to know the answer to all of my questions. On occasion, I got hit by the infamous imposter syndrome. I found that the best cure for it was, in fact, to be asking more questions.
So I asked questions. And I should have asked a ton more.
Matti: Before starting the internship, my biggest fear was that the actual work wouldn’t be challenging enough to be motivating. After all, when most people think of internships, they generally think of “grunt work”, writing documentation or improving test coverage.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all.
The team treated us as equals from the start, which I’m extremely grateful for. They even entrusted me to take part in the interview process at Reaktor AMS, which is a huge sign of respect, to me. (Let’s hope the folks I greenlighted haven’t screwed up too bad.)
Since Reaktor Amsterdam was still in it’s early stages when I came to work there, we ended up being a nice and cozy community, which I enjoyed a lot. In many ways, working for Amsterdam felt like working for any small start-up, albeit one with quite an amount of “daddy’s money” to back them up.
Any tips for people taking on a project outside of the homeland?
Casper: When not working or otherwise enjoying the company of other Reaktorians, I spent much of my time exploring the city. Getting to know the parks on evening runs. Walking around the canals on the weekends. Trying all the different cafés and restaurants is always fun.
As a downside, I probably got a little too accustomed to all coffee being close to perfection. The stuff my dad makes just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Matti: For people planning on moving to Amsterdam, my biggest tip by far is to get a local bank card! My Visa Electron was all but useless during the trip, and carrying around cash all the time gets old real fast.
If you’re living abroad for longer stints of time, having friends come over every once and then is a good way of keeping away the intermittent feelings of isolation that inevitably creep on you when staying in a foreign country and culture.
For me, the most memorable experience by far in Amsterdam was the Gay Pride parade.
Tens of thousands of partygoers, a massive boat parade. The constant fear of death when riding on top of a rickety boat with too many drunken people on it, stowed under a bridge from the sudden and violent rainstorm, and you see one of those massive tourists boats heading straight toward the very same underpass and oh god the motor won’t start and we’re all gonna end up in the murky depths of Prinsengracht.
All that unsightly garbage and hangoverish feel of the city was soon gone, however, and so it was that our summer gig at Amsterdam ended almost as suddenly as it had started. It was definitely an experience unlike any other, and I’m very grateful for it.
This post (as well as the aforementioned language requirement) mainly concerns summer internships. However, our Amsterdam team is constantly looking for full-time developers as well. Get in touch!