MARCEL, DUTCH ENGINEER, LIVING NOW IN SWEDEN WITH HIS FAMILY
Could you introduce yourself in a few words?
My name is Marcel, I am a 33 year old Dutch guy who is living in Sweden together with his family. Currently I live in the province of Dalarna together with my girlfriend Shella, 5 year old daughter Evy and my 3 year old son Sam.
In my home country The Netherlands I started working for ALTEN Nederland in June 2011 as an embedded software engineering consultant. During my study in The Netherlands at the University of Twente I specialized in embedded and real-time systems, with a big passion for anything software related. During my first 2.5 years at ALTEN in The Netherlands, I worked and moved between the Alten offices in Apeldoorn and Capelle aan den Ijssel, where I fulfilled many exciting and challenging software engineering assignments.
Currently I work as a software engineering consultant for ALTEN Sweden in Ludvika. In Sweden I started my working career in Stockholm, where after two years my first assignment ended. This triggered us to move towards another city to start investing into our future in Sweden. Then I was given the opportunity to move to the ALTEN Västerås office, with which we were very happy since it gave us the possibility to start living in Dalarna.
What was your first motivation to move abroad?
My first motivation to move abroad was the love for the country of Sweden. Since around 2006 I have visited the country multiple times with my family and we were always stunned by the beauty and culture of the country. This made us decide that we wanted to move and live in Sweden, a choice we have certainly not regretted.
How did you get this job opportunity?
When I was working for ALTEN in The Netherlands I have always been open about the fact that I was very interested in moving to Sweden. Since I was aware of ALTEN having multiple offices in Sweden I have discussed this openly with my managers in The Netherlands. This resulted in the opportunity to move to Sweden and come and work for ALTEN Sweden.
Since I was very happy with my job at ALTEN in The Netherlands, the most obvious and best option for me was to transfer within Alten towards an office in Sweden. This was there for the option I started to investigate myself within Alten.
How were the first 3 months in your new country and job?
During the first three months I remember seeing everything as a very big adventure, and sometimes it still is.
Apart from the fact that I was very happy for coming to Sweden, I was very lucky to get an interesting assignment within a few days after I started working for ALTEN in Sweden. This was a good way to get up and running professionally.
Privately I remember that it was just a lot of fun and new interesting things. You have to arrange a lot of administrative matters when moving to a different country. As long as you are prepared for that and accept it, that is perfectly fine. Also my managers and human resource colleagues at Alten in Sweden prepared most of the information for me and my family, which helped very much in getting started.
What are the main issues you had to cope with at the beginning?
For us the most challenging part of the move was getting started with the family. Getting into your daily routines, finding out how to get started in a completely new environment. Luckily we got a lot of help from our neighbors in Stockholm. They introduced us to the school for our daughter and explained a lot of practical matters to us, which were certainly not always obvious for us as newly Dutch in Sweden. I think this was very important for us and it is a good lesson in general, to be open in learning new things and don’t be too judgmental. We have prepared in many different ways for our move to Sweden, by reading and learning about the culture, but you can never really learn all the details from a book or the internet. Experiencing a country and its culture is the best way to learn and there sometimes will be surprises, but I think it is key to accept that things can be different in another country.
Do you feel now integrated in the company? In the country? How have you been welcomed?
Currently I feel quite integrated in ALTEN in Sweden, as the company was very open for accepting me. For that I am very thankful.
You will always remain the Dutch guy among the Swedes, because that is who you are. The Swedish people, both professionally and privately, have been very open and accepting towards me and my family. Sometimes even more than I expected, the Swedes keep surprising me in a positive way. Everybody is always very kind and very helpful.
Do you think that this opportunity will bring you more possibilities within the ALTEN Group?
For me as a consultant it made me better and more confident in several ways. You experience new cultures and companies outside of your home country, which is something that you can only see as a big benefit in your career. That is also what I personally love about being a consultant, meeting different people in different companies to grow in knowledge and experience. So as a consultant I have grown absolutely.
Also the opportunities given within ALTEN were very good and I can only be thankful for that. I am certainly hoping to grow within the company in the future.
Is an international career good for internal promotion (in general)?
Personally I think it definitely should be good for internal promotion, because it describes a person to some extent if he or she is willing to move towards another country and take that challenge. A company such as Alten should benefit from the knowledge and experience that colleagues with international careers bring. In my case I can see examples where exchanging information and personal experience between Alten Nederland an Alten Sweden can be beneficial to grow the company.
Is this step in your career was the best decision to make and why?
Moving to Sweden is in most ways very good for my career, but I can also see that it maybe takes you a step back in the beginning. When I had a working career in The Netherlands for several years, I got to know different colleagues within the same line of business. People you have worked with on assignments within companies, but also colleagues within Alten that you have met over the years. Of course the same principle exists in Sweden, but you more or less have to start over from scratch, since you are entering a complete new country. This is of course very exciting and challenging, but it can also feel as a step backwards. This works the other way around as well. All my new colleagues had to get to know me as well, as a new foreign colleague.
From an experience point of view it is the best thing I have done in my career. I have learned so many new things, new companies and people in Sweden that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That is absolutely a great addition in your working career. I think you can only learn and grow from that as a person and I think that can only be beneficial as a consultant.
What kind of advice would you give to people who are willing to work abroad?
My first advice would be: just do it! But…. also think twice. It is a big step to take and you really need to be convinced it is something you want. You are leaving behind a lot of things in your home country, which you might not realize in your enthusiasm. But if you’re convinced, I would really advise you to do it, because it is a great experience!
My other advice would be to be open about your ambitions and just discuss them with your manager. Investigate the opportunities and propose a plan, be assertive and pro-active.
Once you have made the step to move to a new country and start working there, try to be open minded. Try to learn how things are working in the new country and the new company. Even if you think you already know how it works, there will always be surprises.
What could be the next step for you in a medium term period?
My future plan is to definitely stay and live in Sweden and continue to work for Alten in Sweden. I am hoping to grow within Alten in the future in whatever challenging role or assignment that will become available. Where possible I am always willing to help improve the company and help the company grow in my Alten region. This is already happening at a vast pace, hopefully my knowledge and experience over the past few years can help with that.