Back to the States… Again. Mozilla-style!
As I hinted in my last post, I’ll be moving to California this month. It is almost hilariously ironic that pretty much exactly two years ago I did this exact same move. Back then I moved to the Bay Area, stayed with a friend for a few months while looking for work, only to find a job back in Munich. So now I’ve been in Munich again since mid-2008 with my wife and we’ve decided that although living here is nice, it isn’t really where we want to spend our future. Life as an expatriate can be fun, but it can also be difficult. One can’t really compare the different cultures to each other as there are so many differences, yet so many similarities. It pretty much comes down to how you like your day to day life. Sure it has been great living two blocks away from the Oktoberfest, but that only comes around once a year. Yeah, it is awesome to be able to head on down to the Hofbräuhaus after work and drink with the locals, or get authentic Italian food and great Indian food on pretty much every street corner. These are some of the things that make Munich a great place to live. But it is the day-to-day life of paying too much rent for a small apartment, waiting for the bus that is never on time, getting dirty looks from old ladies on the bus, people shoving you off the subway when you aren’t walking fast enough for them and people never apologizing when they run into you. Getting to work and trying to fit in is always awkward. The strange social norms here are quite comical at first, but after a while you just kind of want to kick the next person you see wearing a scarf indoors “because of a sore throat”. Germans are deathly afraid of abrupt temperature changes, air conditioning, and in some cases heating. I actually heard someone complain recently that the train they took to work had the heater on when it was below freezing outside. It’s great for the hour train ride, but once they get off the train at the destination, the cold air outside will instantly send their body into shock and only if they are extremely lucky will they avoid instant death. I know. It sounds funny at first, but seriously I don’t think I can take it anymore.
Ok, so to shorten this long rant I will get to my point. Late last year my wife and I decided that we would start considering the possibility of moving back to the US. I casually applied for some jobs here and there with no real hopes. Then I found my holy grail. I noticed that Mozilla was looking for a Systems Administrator. This had kind of been my dream job ever since I was in college. Back then, we’ll say 2005 or 2006, I was just starting to get into open source software and linux and servers and really becoming a computer geek. Anyway a good friend of mine got an internship at Mozilla in Mountain View and after he moved there from Oregon, I decided to go visit him. While I was there, Mozilla was hosting an open house of some sort and I got invited to go check out the company behind everyone’s favorite browser. I was truly amazed when I got there. The people were all really friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about open source and making the web a better place. I had no idea that anything like this existed. Everyone I met seemed extremely happy, everyone loved their job. I thought I had a good job at the time, but never had I seen everyone at my place of employment be genuinely happy to be at work every day. I got the feeling that there was no such thing as a disgruntled Mozillian. I was impressed. Unfortunately I didn’t see myself ever getting to work there, because they already had desktop support people, and that was pretty much the extent of my experience at the time. They were still a pretty small company and were mainly focused on hiring developers and such. I wrote it off as a dream that would never come true and always hoped that someday I would find a place to work with such energetic colleagues. Well to date this hadn’t happened. I graduated college, entered the real world, got a job at a small tech firm which seemed like a good place to work, but once I got there I realized that there is no such thing as a “fun” place to work. Yeah, you have good days and bad days and you have fun with what you are working on, but I haven’t encountered anything like what I saw at Mozilla. So once I saw that they were looking for a Sysadmin and the job description pretty much matched my experience exactly, I applied for it. I couldn’t reasonably think that I would be so lucky to get an interview, but I could dream. Things that good just don’t happen to me. Plus it all seemed to perfect to really work out. The timing was right. They were looking for someone, just as I was getting disgruntled with my current job. My wife and I decided we would love to move to Northern California if the opportunity ever presented itself. But again, we didn’t really think I would get this job, it was just simply too good to be true.
Well, after two months of phone interviews, a trip to California and back, pleasant experiences all the way around, I was offered the job and of course I accepted it. It took some negotiating with my old company to let me leave in a reasonable amount of time (normally you have to give 3 months notice to quit a job in Germany), and I have to stick around long enough to train my replacement, but in less than a month I’ll be starting my dream job in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Now the stress of moving is starting to hit me. Gotta pack everything, plan everything, cancel cell phone contracts, utilities, apartment, find a new apartment, figure out how to move cats internationally, figure out how to get my car from Oregon (it has been sitting for two years), etc., etc.