My experience with being an Agile Coach in Europe, part two

    Hello again!

    In the first part of my article, I talked about the motivation that prompted me to try to move to Europe, and also covered in detail the first 5 months of my searches. Below you will find the continuation of my story and a few conclusions that I made for myself.

    Act Three: “Dizzy with Success or the German Ordnung, Part 2”

    October 2017

    So, I returned to Cyprus again. Since I agreed in principle to the offer of Company # 2, we briefly discussed the potential deadlines for my entry to work ( early December ), and I quietly started preparing the rest of the visa documents, while the company had to send me a signed contract . I was scheduled to be served at the German embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus, so the list of documents was somewhat different from the one requested in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

    On my part, almost everything was ready, but here the notorious ordnung came to the fore. The company's CEO was the only employee with the right to sign a contract. At the time of my consent ( October 17 ), he was on a business trip, followed by a two-week vacation. Since for my part almost everything was ready, I decided that it was not critical (I was never wrong).

    November 2017

    Time passed, the specified period of absence of the CEO in the office came to an end. The office manager who was in touch with me already asked which dishes my wife and I prefer - the day after the Christmas corporate event was fixed in the contract. She managed to sign documents with the CEO by the middle of his first week at the office. Send the contract and accompanying documents to me - only to the end. Calendar meanwhile sadly demonstrated on November 8 .

    In parallel with this, I continued to lazily look through vacancies and came across positions in 2 well-known companies: in Amsterdam (housing reservation service) and Berlin (the largest bus carrier in Europe). I considered the level of both companies to be significantly higher than my capabilities, but I decided to try to respond. What was my surprise when they came in contact and offered to conduct an interview. The first and second stages were completed successfully, and both companies expressed a desire to invite me to their offices for the final interview. At that time, nothing stopped me from this step, because through the efforts of the office of the manager of Company No. 2, the documents were sent to me by the usual Deutsche Post, and not by courier delivery service.

    A five-day tour of the capitals of two European countries gave me a lot of new experience and impressions. The interview in Amsterdam was especially unusual. If most of the other organizations with which I managed to communicate before and after, saw in Agile Coach a specialist working full time with two or maximum three teams, here it was a question of coaching 15-20 (!!!) teams at a time. From their words, it looked like this: each Agile Coach monitors its teams, pays attention to the existing anti-patterns or process improvement options, and passes this information to team members who independently implement this. I had little idea how this works, but the name of the company and location pushed me to continue.

    Interviews were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. The company from Amsterdam paid me 3 nights in a hotel and brought it to the capital of the Netherlands two days earlier, so I came to the interview on a positive and fully rested. After a short conversation with the recruiter responsible for me, I was escorted to the team in which I was supposed to facilitate the Retrospective. The event was very messy: my “wards” turned out to be a boarding team of 14 people with completely different specialization (from copywriters to engineers), English proficiency and work experience in the company (from 1 to 6 weeks). In addition to this, they were only “on paper” as a “team” - on a daily basis each was involved in his profile team. As a result, the Retrospective was not glued and, despite the resulting action point and positive atmosphere, I clearly could not impress the colleagues in the workshop who were present at it. The hour-long conversation that followed with the other two Agile Coach from Mexico and the United States was more successful, but I left the company unsatisfied with myself.

    The very next morning I was scheduled for an interview in Berlin, where the situation turned out in a diametrically opposite way. The retrospective with the team was a great success, while the conversation with the participation of Product Owner and colleagues left much to be desired. By the way, it was the first company in half a year of searches, where I was met by two Agile Coach from Russia at once. Both moved to Germany a decent time ago, but the very fact of their presence in this role in a company of this level inspired me very much.

    By the end of next week I received a refusal from both companies. The disorder was not strong - as already mentioned, I initially did not consider myself an experienced enough specialist for this level. The motivational part did not surprise me either: in Amsterdam, I expectedly failed the Retrospective, and in Berlin I had an in-person interview. And the second happened, in my opinion, since I simply didn’t have time to reorganize into a purely applied practical way after extremely “general” questions that I had to answer the day before.

    December 2017

    I didn’t have time to come to terms with the fact that finally my plans came to certainty, as the unexpected happened. Having received the original contract only on December 2I informed the company that I definitely didn’t have time to join them on the dates indicated in the contract (until December 4) and offered to shift my exit to the end of December - the middle of January. At that time, I could only assume the timing of the consideration of my application at the embassy, ​​as it was not possible to detect the mention of similar cases in the network.

    Two hours later, I received a reply letter, sent not from the postal address of the manager's office, with which I corresponded from the very first contact in July, but from the address of the company's CEO. In it, I was notified of the termination of interest in my employment and withdrawal of the contract. Of course, I was unpleasantly surprised and immediately sent a reply letter asking for clarification, because of the past 52 days, 44 days were lost precisely because of the company. But somewhere in the depths of my soul I was relieved - after two interviews with companies of the level of Amsterdam and Berlin, I wasn’t very attracted to this startup.

    So I was convinced for the second time that “German Ordnung” is a story that is clearly not about IT startups from Germany.

    Act Four: “Light at the end of the tunnel”

    The very next day I continued to respond to the vacancies, and during the week I managed to schedule three interviews with companies from Vienna (medical service for people suffering from diabetes), Dresden (dating service similar to Tinder) and Berlin (mobile bank) . Since my wife and I had planned joint vacations in Europe in mid-December, I agreed to hold all three interviews in the second half of the month. There was nowhere to hurry: the goal I had set myself to leave Cyprus before the end of the year I failed in any case. Despite the approaching Catholic Christmas, all three companies agreed to wait.

    The first stage was successful, and I was asked to continue. Companies from Berlin and Dresden promised to get in touch in the second half of January, at the end of the holiday season. But the guys from Vienna decided not to delay and appointed an on-site stage in the middle of the month.

    January 2018

    The option of working in Austria suited me, moreover, just two weeks before that, we visited Vienna with my wife and she made a favorable impression on both of us. I have been there before, and I liked Vienna more than Berlin. There were also disadvantages, for example, the absence of preferential conditions for obtaining a Blue Card and a small number of IT companies. It is no secret that Berlin is called the “new Silicon Valley”, so it was difficult for the capital of Austria to deal with it. Further employment of a wife who does not speak German also threatened to be a greater problem here than in the German capital.

    Communication with Lead Agile Coach during the first stage inspired significant optimism. The company's philosophy and goals were close to me, and I was ready to try even in spite of a significant downgrade in money. In this case, the social significance of the product under development took the upper hand: I myself have relatives suffering from diabetes, and I perfectly understand what these people have to go through.

    Office of the company made a good impression. Full openness and a positive atmosphere immediately caught my eye. During the day, I had to talk alternately with six people, and also to take part in the Sprint Review and Retrospective of one of the teams, but this time only as an observer.

    Each of the teams in this company is completely cross-functional and is responsible for a specific direction or feature within the product. Accordingly, in addition to Back-End and Front-End developers, in each there are also iOS- / Android-developers. “Synchronization” of specialists from one stack and sharing of knowledge occur within the relevant Community of Practice. Doing Backlog and Sprint boards in most teams is carried out on physical boards.

    Goals at the company level are formulated with OKR once a quarter. Based on them, each team forms its goals. At the end of each Sprint, teams check their progress and update information on a common corporate resource. According to one of the founders, it was not easy to implement and understand the use of OKR, but after 2 years they felt more than comfortable working with this tool.

    But back to my interview. The day passed unnoticed and on the positive. All the people with whom I happened to communicate, made a good impression on me, and I was eager to become part of this team. A separate plus in my eyes was the attitude of the leadership towards the preservation and development of culture within the company. In particular, CPO saw maintaining eNPS (Net Promoter Score among company employees) at last year’s level as one of its key goals for the year. This is despite the goal to double the number of people. In part, this was a very specific condition: all six interviewers, without exception, had to speak for the candidate. This is where I got “stung”, having received 5 votes “for” and 1 “against”.

    February 2018

    Thus, my list was again reduced to two companies. On the first day of February, I was assigned a final call with a company from Dresden, where I had to talk with the company's Senior Agile Coach, who participated in the first call, and the company CTO. As a result, CTO was unable to participate, and the company to a colleague I already knew was an intern practicing for a similar role. Previously, I filled out the form provided to me with questions and practical cases. As a result, the conversation did not take much time, and it was announced to me that within a few days the final decision would be announced. This time, the lack of on-site interviews has already embarrassed me, since I understood how useful the in-person acquaintance was to me and to the companies that invited me.

    An in-person interview with a company from Berlin was scheduled forFebruary 14th . Already on February 8, I received an offer from a company from Dresden. At that time, my wife and I were in Ukraine, having tickets for a flight Lviv - Berlin. After deliberation, it was decided to exchange them for Lviv - Katowice, so that, on the way, I would drop by for one day in Dresden and at least superficially get acquainted with the city.

    I liked the city itself, pleased with the presence of a developed public transport system, short distances and the availability of everything necessary for comfortable living. His “provinciality” did not bother me, since, compared with Cyprus, any German town was the center of civilization. In addition to this, the city also had a professional community, albeit not of such a grandiose scale as in the capital.

    I knew about the company itself much less than I would like. From communication with future colleagues, it turned out that they had recently been acquired by a large American corporation, which has several other projects in the field of dating. Also in the near future they planned to launch the transition to the LeSS framework. I liked it, because at that moment my colleagues and I did the same at the current location. As a result, after spending one day in the city, I went to Berlin with a positive attitude, because I understood that one option that suits me is already “in my pocket”.

    The next morning was interesting. When I came to the office of the mobile bank and received my temporary pass to the reception, I remained to wait for the recruiter, who was supposed to conduct me for an interview. First impressions were mixed - I knew quite a lot about this company, but what I saw went a bit at odds. A large room was filled with people dressed in a classic bank dress code. Deathly silence reigned in the air. A few years before that, I managed to spend a year and a half in a “classic” bank and did not want to return to the shackles of corporate slavery with strict rules and minute reporting.

    Fortunately, the subsequent tour of the rest of the office and communication with colleagues dispelled this feeling. As it turned out, the first building was occupied by a small team responsible for the functioning of the company's regulated banking activities and finances. Each dev team occupied a separate space. Somewhere there were physical boards and other visualization elements, such as a roadmap or storyboard UI application, but this was not the case everywhere. This was due to the fact that in the event of successful interviewing I was to become only the third Agile Coach in the state, while the number of development teams had already exceeded a dozen. The company also used OKR. From a cultural point of view, I particularly liked the practice of the monthly two-day “hackathons”,

    The interview was a success, as was the subsequent Retrospective. After talking with colleagues until seven o'clock in the evening, I went to the hotel, and the next day - back to Cyprus.


    March 2018

    As a result, I received offers from both companies. After an in-person interview in Berlin, I also had to go through a short call with the company's CTO, which was a pleasant addition to the already good impression of the company.

    And yet the choice was not easy: my wife and I spent 2 days trying to weigh the pros and cons. We never wanted to live in a megacity, but the level of the company and the opportunity to get new experience from communication with colleagues took over. An additional factor was the same notorious social impact. Of course, working at a bank, even the most progressive, is not a search for a cure for cancer or preparation for a flight to Mars, but anyone who has used the services of European banks at least once will understand what I mean. In addition to 17 countries in continental Europe, the goal for 2018 was also to launch in the UK and the USA, which indicated the company's far-reaching plans. And, of course, the opportunity to take part in a variety of Agile-mitapov, of which in Berlin passes 3-4 pieces per month.

    I received the signed contract 10 days later, after which I applied for a visa in Nicosia. The approval of my application took only one week. It is also worth noting that the company provided me with the help of a relocation agency that accompanied me from the moment I applied for a visa, until the end of my first month in Berlin. This greatly simplified the solution of bureaucratic issues. So I got in N26.

    In the end, I would like to share a couple of tips and observations accumulated by me during these 9 months:

    • Resume preparation. My CV went through three iterations: “German format”, a PDF file with LinkedIn and, as a result, a PDF file compiled in CakeResume. It was for the latter that I received direct compliments from recruiters during face-to-face interviews several times, and I was even able to interest companies that had previously ignored my feedback.
    • Search for vacancies. The first few months I used a lot of resources, but in the end it all came down to LinkedIn, forgive me for the RKN. It was from the responses left there that I received the most calls and invitations to the on-site stage.
    • Skillset. Knowledge of frameworks and experience in their use are certainly important. Also, you should be aware that abroad such an approach to work has long become the norm, so much attention will be paid to testing your Agile mindset and soft skills.
    • Certification. Of all the ads I viewed, the requirement of mandatory certification was met only a few times. Many companies prefer candidates who have certification, but its absence is not a reason for an automatic refusal. I personally received my first certificate after signing the contract and obtaining a visa.
    • Tongue. Much has already been said on this topic, I just wanted to repeat that the main working language in most European IT companies is English. Yes, they need to be proficient at a high enough level, but this is definitely easier than knowing an additional other language, for example German. To solve everyday problems in Berlin, English and the most basic knowledge of German are enough.
    • Relocate. During my search I came across different options - someone does not provide any support for relocation at all, a one-time relocation bonus is paid somewhere, and someone takes all the expenses, including tickets and accommodation for all family members, and transportation of things. This question is worth checking with the recruiters in advance.

    Starting the search, I had a lot of doubts. Will I be interested in foreign employers? Do I have enough experience? Would not the lack of certification be an obstacle? Do they want to wait for me to get a visa? Now I can say that it is always worth trying. The labor market in Europe suffers from a shortage of specialists and hiring expatriates with relocation has already become commonplace for most European companies. They absolutely do not care where the literate specialist will be transported - from the USA, India or the CIS countries. The need to wait for a visa is also not a significant barrier - the notice period for most companies in the same Germany is 3 months, so you have every chance to join the company even faster than a local specialist would do. In any case, you also get an invaluable and rewarding experience.

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