Dear Future Colleague, relocation is not a puzzle you have to solve on your own

September 28, 2022

Read time 7 min

Being a self-starter and independent is great. But sometimes, to get on your feet, you need to ask for a hand.

Dear Future Colleague,

When I moved from Brazil to Lisbon last month, I didn’t bring much with me. My belongings fit into two checked bags and a carryon. But in that luggage I packed not one, not two, but four Rubik’s Cubes.

I’ve always loved puzzles. It’s that same curiosity that got me into software development. Plus — much like solving a Rubik’s Cube — in life, I’ve often been forced to figure things out on my own. I was raised by a single mom and money was always tight. Private lessons for things I was interested in were out of the question. So I taught myself the guitar and several other instruments. I picked up English and Spanish from movies and songs. When I couldn’t afford both rent and tuition and had to drop out of college, I learned how to code from books and online tutorials. That led to my first developer job, and within five years I was a tech lead and software engineer specialist at a global consultancy.

rubrics cube

Working there slowly made me realize that even though I was self-taught, I truly had what it takes. As my imposter syndrome eased and my confidence grew, I found myself in a unique position —

To get my skills, companies were willing to foot the bill for an international move.

That had been a dream of mine for a while. I’d lived in Brazil my entire life, growing up in a fairly small town. It wasn’t the safest place, especially for a young LGBTQ woman. Then Covid happened, and I felt like I had lost two years of my life stuck alone in an apartment. 

So I told my employer I wanted a relocation. I thought the process would move pretty quickly, because my company had 48 offices in 17 countries, and I was open to many places — San Francisco, Toronto, Amsterdam, Berlin. But after a year, I still hadn’t heard anything. Growing impatient I thought, “well, if they won’t relocate me, maybe I should relocate myself.” Again, I went into do-it-yourself mode.

I started looking at my options and spoke to several friends and colleagues who had already made moves themselves. One of them was Patricia. We’d worked together before she joined Reaktor’s Amsterdam office. Because we had a lot of things in common, I felt if Patricia was happy with Reaktor, maybe I would be, too. I decided to apply.

They’d just opened positions in Portugal, so that seemed like a natural fit. When I got the job, I became the first international hire at the office. Immediately, I was put in touch with a relocation company provided by Reaktor and the paperwork and logistics began.

reaktor lamp

It took over three months to get everything in order. When I finally arrived in Lisbon and waited in the border control line, I felt really nervous. There was so much about the process that I couldn’t control and didn’t have a part in — and that was unusual territory for me. Reaktor took care of the work permit. Lawyers had handled the visa. And it was up to one immigration official to decide whether or not to let me in the country.

I’ll spare you the details, but it didn’t go exactly as planned. After a short delay, though, I was out of the airport and headed to the studio apartment Reaktor provided while I did my house hunt. Because of my self-sufficient nature and since I had rented eight apartments over the past 12 years, I felt I could handle the search on my own. I soon found out there was no comparison between where I came from and where I was. Brazil had tons of inventory and the process was simple. In Lisbon, just finding availability was tough. It didn’t help that I came at the peak of tourist season in a housing market that was already hot. When I eventually secured places to tour, for the first time in my life I felt I needed to woo the landlords. So I turned on the charm and even changed my WhatsApp profile photo to look a little more, I don’t know, tenant-worthy. Whatever it was, it worked. After 20 showings and eight applications, I finally got a place. 

Lisbon streets

I’ve gone through life just assuming many situations call for me to go-it-alone. For the most part, that’s worked out fine. I’m an independent person, and I get a sense of satisfaction from figuring things out myself.

But this experience has taught me that sometimes in life you need to welcome assistance.

Patricia helped me a lot, and so did friends outside of work who had moved from Brazil to Lisbon. Friends of those friends also took me under their wing. And then there was Reaktor. In addition to my coworkers here in Lisbon, the HR team at headquarters really supported me. I’d ask them about some unexpected thing I had to buy related to my move and they would tell me, “you can expense that.” I worried about needing to leave the office at 2 p.m. to meet a landlord and they’d assure me, “you can take the afternoon to look for apartments.” And because housing was so scarce, I had to pay five months rent as a deposit. Reaktor gave me a loan to cover it.

Plus, there’s the main thing Reaktor is providing me — my job. It’s what grounds me. Everything around me is new, but when I sit at my computer and start coding, I’m suddenly in a very familiar place. Right now, I’m actually on the bench waiting for my first project while I complete my orientation (and do things like open bank accounts), but I’m anxious to start. I miss programming. I’m told by others who have relocated, though, that it’s important to take time to settle in, and I should really just try to enjoy it…and I am. I feel like Lisbon and I are still in the honeymoon phase and I continue to be amazed that I’m here.

looking up in the sky
After years of dreaming about moving abroad, the future looks bright. It’s full of possibilities.
And concerts.
And beaches.

The relocation process wasn’t perfect for me. But as the first one to try it out at Reaktor Lisbon, I feel that’s to be expected. What reassures me is that Reaktor wants to take the learnings and make things better. The Leadership Team here has talked to me about what went wrong and how it can be addressed. Plus, they just sent a team of ambassadors from other offices, and a key mission is to improve relocation. In fact, one of them is Patricia! So we’re back to working together again, thousands of miles from where we met. I’m really interested in the efforts and said I’d do whatever I can to make the transition easier for the next batch of expats.

With that in mind, dear future colleague, I encourage you to let Reaktor help you solve your puzzles, especially when it comes to major things like moving halfway across the world. It will ease your stress level, get you acclimated a little faster, and introduce you to some awesome people. Then, at night when you go to your new apartment in a foreign city that you now call home, you can pull out your Rubik’s cube and do that all on your own.

If you’re nervous about a big move for a new job, we’ve got you covered. Read some of our top tips from Reaktor’s relocation experts.


Dear Future Colleague: A series of letters written by Reaktorians. Come join us, as you are.

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