Medicus Sunday Serial: Relocation, Relocation, Relocation
Relocating to a new country for work is something that many of us dream about: a unique chance to see the world and get paid in the process. Despite the positives, uprooting your life and starting anew can be a daunting process, which is why a little well-placed advice can go a long way to ensuring the transition is as enjoyable as possible.
In this informative Medicus Sunday Serial, we discuss the experiences of two team members who have made the leap to work at our Vienna headquarters: Firas Ataya, Ninja Team Leader, who joined after a spell with our team in the UAE, and Faisal Dakkak, Senior Financial Analyst, who moved from London to start a new career with Medicus and a new life in Austria. Asking the questions, Head of Marketing and Content Serene Touma, who has gone through a relocation herself.
Serene: Faisal, Firas, thanks for sitting down with me today to tell me about your move to Vienna.
With Medicus offices all over the world, there are obviously plenty of opportunities to relocate between them. Both of you moved to our Vienna headquarters in the last year, so I thought this would be a good chance to chat about your experiences and some of the challenges relocating can bring. Like you, I also moved here from afar: I was in Dubai for 10 years beforehand, so the change was a huge culture shock for me.
To start, I’d like you to tell me about yourselves: what do you do at Medicus and who do you work with on a daily basis?
Faisal: First of all, thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to do this interview! I’ve only been at Medicus for nine months, but in that time, my role has changed already. I was initially hired as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, a trainee program, which involves a lot of different responsibilities.
One of the best parts of that position is that you get to work directly with the CEO on a variety of topics including fundraising, sales, and other initiatives. The idea of the program is to gather experiences and to see where you fit in: After that, you can move into a more specialized role within a department.
I spent three months as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and I loved it. Towards the end of this period, I spoke with Baher (CEO and Founder) and Verena (Head of Operations) about my future, and we came to the conclusion that I felt most comfortable when dealing with numbers. As a result of this, I transferred to a new position: Senior Financial Analyst. This mainly involves internal controlling: preparing budgets, cost reports, financial statements, and preparing reports for internal and external purposes, such as those for shareholders. I’m still involved in some investor relations work as well.
Firas: I started working with Medicus about two and a half years ago, in the tech team. In the beginning, I was a team leader for the team developing our mobile applications, responsible for the Medicus app that the public sees on Android and iOS.
After that, we started working with a different development technology: C++ SDK. Currently, I’m the team leader responsible for the work we do with that, which means coordinating with the team and training new team members, although I do have a range of technical responsibilities as well when it comes to planning new features.
Serene: Now you both find yourselves in Vienna, is it beginning to feel a bit like home? What were your initial thoughts about moving here when the chance to relocate was offered to you?
Firas: My main concern was that while I used to work in the same office as the team, we now have a distributed setup, which obviously brings its own set of challenges.
On top of that, there are challenges with relocating generally, such as a new culture and language. I also brought my wife with me, which is a different sort of experience than simply moving on your own.
Faisal: I was initially surprised when I was offered the position, I was still a student at the time, but the whole experience has been like a whirlwind. I got the offer only three weeks after the interview, which was really fast, so it was a little difficult to process it all properly. Despite that, the initial feeling was one of excitement: I love to explore new cities and Vienna is really special, one of my favorite places in Europe. The schnitzel helps with that too, of course. However, the main draw was the company itself. I’d heard only good things about Medicus, so I was really excited to get to work with such a talented and diverse team.
Serene: We work in distributed teams based in different offices across the world. Other than being the headquarters of the company, what do you think makes working in the Vienna office special?
Firas: I think it’s the opportunity to work more closely with other departments.
My previous office only had tech people in it, but since coming here it has become much easier to interface with the business teams too. It’s nice to see how they work, get closer to them, and to learn new things.
Faisal: Obviously as this is the first Medicus office that I’ve worked in, I can’t compare the experience to one of our other locations. However, what I really love about working here is the opportunity to see the different perspectives of the people throughout the team. It’s also where our CEO works, so it’s always valuable to have that closeness and to be able to visit him a few desks away for a discussion, review or brainstorm.
I think working hand-in-hand with such a diverse team generally allows you to grow faster and to develop the skills you already have, as well as to learn new ones. It’s challenging, but it’s rewarding too.
Serene: Tell us a little bit about when you first moved here. I remember for me, when I first found out I was moving to Vienna, I had no idea where I should live, what I should do, how should I get there, and so much more. However, I had the support of so many great people in the company, which really helped me get to grips with some of the basics of living here.
In recent times, we’ve formalized that: I know that Vera in HR is creating packages that help our team members to relocate more easily, but it’s obviously a learning process that will become more sophisticated over time. In your own cases, how did Medicus support your move to Vienna?
Firas: As soon as the relocation was in the pipeline, the company started to help me prepare: providing me with a free language course so that I could start learning German about six months before I got here.
However, there were challenges after the move too: half a year of language lessons isn’t nearly enough to handle some of the finer aspects of Austrian bureaucracy, so the company helped me a lot with facing these challenges and finding solutions.
The team here has continued to help with language learning and there’s always someone at hand to explain how things work in Vienna. Overall, I’m really overwhelmed by the level of support that has been provided.
Faisal: The help that I got from HR, both with the relocation and onboarding, was exceptional: really responsive, really helpful. When I moved here, Medicus provided accommodation for two weeks, during which time I could find somewhere more permanent to live. However, as my move here came on a little more suddenly, I didn’t have time to learn German. This means that the language barrier is there, but the team has really helped a lot with the transition.
Serene: I think it’s natural to imagine a scenario about how your life is going to be before you move somewhere, but the reality can surprise you in different ways.
For me personally, one of the most remarkable things about moving here was just how often I’m now able to walk to places. If you come from somewhere where a car is a necessity, that really is something you appreciate. The opportunity to surround myself with so much culture has really added a lot to my life.
On the other hand, the language barrier is something that I’ve struggled with a little: although there’s no shortage of people here who speak English, German is still the native language, and not being able to speak it can cut you off socially.
What challenges did you face that you weren’t expecting, and what was the most pleasant surprise you encountered following your move to Vienna?
Faisal: Before I came to Vienna, I was living in London: a hectic urban lifestyle that has so many positives but can be extremely tiring. While Vienna is obviously a world city in its own right, it’s still cozy and unique. As you mentioned, you can walk anywhere, which is a huge plus, especially in the summer.
The historical aspect is fascinating too: at the weekend you can go to a museum, an art exhibition, or any number of other attractions. You’re never bored here.
In terms of challenges, I’d agree that not knowing German is a bit of an issue. It’s not a problem at all at Medicus itself, because we all speak English here, but from a social standpoint, I think it would open a few more doors. I’m planning to learn as soon as possible.
Firas: For me, the most pleasant surprise was something that most people find annoying: the weather. It’s nowhere near as hot as it is back home, and it’s probably the thing I like the most about being here. On top of that, Vienna is just a nice place to be: the old buildings and streets are simply beautiful.
The biggest challenge was actually finding an apartment and getting to grips with the process behind that. You get used to it though, and it’s once you’ve got something you can just move on.
Serene: To wrap things up, if you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently? For me personally, I think I would have made more effort to develop a social circle outside of work. I think because everyone at Medicus is so friendly, and because we bond so well, it can be tempting to forget that there’s a whole city full of people on the outside as well. How about you?
Firas: I think I’d probably have been more thorough in my research about the day-to-day life in Vienna. There were a lot of things that I didn’t think of when I was working on the relocation, so I think I would probably have asked more questions to reduce the number of surprises.
Faisal: I’d say it’s probably a similar scenario for me too. The due diligence aspect is certainly important, but I was very excited and perhaps a little over-optimistic at first. It took a while for me to find a flat, and in the meantime, I had to stay in a couple of dubious Airbnbs, which obviously wasn’t ideal.
My advice for anyone who wants to relocate would be to put the work element to one side and really look up the city you want to go to: you’re not just switching jobs, you’re moving your life.