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G’day Spotify – A 14,000km journey

This is a post I wrote for the internal Spotify blog, it describes my journey from Sydney, Australia to Stockholm, Sweden.

meanwhile_in_australia_640_45-300x238Hej Spotify, my name is Brendan and I’ve recently moved to Stockholm to work for Spotify as an Agile Coach in the Infrastructure / Operations tribe. I was born & raised in Perth, Western Australia and I moved here recently from Sydney, New South Wales. After my bootcamp (team uranus) concluded, People Operations asked if someone could write about their experience as a new staff member. This is my story 🙂

Around late last year, I read an article from Henrik Kniberg & Anders Ivarsson – “Scaling Agile @ Spotify“. At the time, I was working hard at transforming my organisation to be more agile, to shift from a Scrum shop to a greater appreciation of what it means to be agile, both as a way of thinking, a way of doing & a way of being. I was reading books that have had an influence on Spotify’s agile culture, such as The Lean Startup & Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. At the time, this article was inspiring & interesting, but nothing more (yet).

A few months later, I was listening to Spotify (ad-supported) and I heard an advertisement… “Come and work for Spotify” it said. This subconsciously stuck in the back of my mind, but I didn’t act on it. A few weeks later, I started thinking about where I want to be in my career in 1 year. I decided that I want to work for a company that not only understood Agile, but put their money where their mouth is & put in the effort needed to foster an agile culture. I wanted to work on a product that I liked, used & advocated. I wanted to work for the BEST company in the world when it comes to the agile way of being & building an amazing product. And then it happened, the Spotify advertisement played in my head & I remembered the article. It was obvious what I needed to do next.

I dusted the cobwebs off my resume and took the plunge; I had never been to Europe, let alone Sweden. I knew almost nothing about Sweden, but I knew that I wanted to work for Spotify. (And living/travelling in Europe was definitely a plus) So I applied and got a response back fairly quickly. The interview process however, was SLOW (I applied in Feb!), which is definitely something I am not used to. One thing I did appreciate was that I was being interviewed by Agile Coaches – they speak my language! (not ‘managers’) The interviews were great, they were open discussions, there was no right or wrong answer & everything I said was “interesting”… What did this mean!?!? Did this mean I was left of field? Was this their polite way of saying “pfft he’s full of crap”? But somehow I kept getting asked back for interviews, so it couldn’t have been all bad!

So after a good 5 months or so of solid anticipation, Skype interviews, some time zone misunderstandings & some Skype interviews that just didn’t work (Gotta love Australia’s internet), I was asked to come to Sweden for my final, half day interview… I did what I felt was the right thing, I told my employer the honest truth & asked for some time off, which I got. My flights were booked (British Airways with a short lay-over in London).

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Probably the most interesting thing at Beijing Airport

Unfortunately this didn’t go according to plan, my interview was pushed back and my flights went from a manageable short layover in London with British Airways, to Air China and 8 hours of layover hell in Beijing. Don’t speak Chinese? Bad luck. Want to buy something simple like a toothbrush? Pfft forget it.

Although the interview went well & was enjoyable, the flights & layovers (totalling more time than the actual time spent in Stockholm) was not. We’re a very flexible business, but our policies towards travel & relocation, particularly in atypical circumstances, feel too stringent. I was exhausted & very ill by the time I got home, I could have been happy, excited & looking to the future! But I digress.

So I went home, worked my notice period of 4 weeks & spent 3 weeks in sunny Perth, Western Australia. (It was summer in Stockholm & winter in Perth, however the temperature in both was the same…) I eventually made it here and spent a week exploring Stockholm, getting over jetlag and settling in – the weather was fantastic! As the week went on I started to get a bit bored, but Martin (my Spotify ‘Buddy’) called me up and invited me to lunch on the Thursday & AW (after-work) beers on the Friday, which was awesome as I was really hanging out to meet some people! After the AW, a group of developers invited me out to Karaoke, which was an awesome icebreaker. Also in this week, I went to the Tax Office and was told that I don’t exist, that was fun.

My first week at Spotify was awesome. I buddied up with Martin to coach the bootcamp & soaked in my surroundings. A few observations about my first week:

  • Trust is a major talking point in the onboarding process & we do a great job instilling this to new employees – We trust you, no one will tell you what to do here.
  • The scaling agile article was true! We really do operate in such an autonomous, agile way 🙂
  • We’re always trying new things, even having an Agile Coach attend the boot camp was new for the company (as far as I know)
  • The induction process is almost non-existent. For example, it would have been nice to know how NOT to set off the emergency alarm.
  • Oh you’re new to Spotify? Welcome to EMAIL HELL! I setup my email and was surprised to find over 400 emails waiting for me. Would be awesome if subscribing to a Google Group automatically setup a folder / rules so as to segment the group emails from the ‘I need your attention’ emails. I found a great article by Anders Ivarsson helpful in wrangling my email bison.
  • People are really friendly & there is such a lack of ego / authority – I love it!
  • We get given GREAT equipment. It felt like Christmas when I arrived.

The next few weeks were fun, challenging & tiresome. In 3 weeks, I’ve:

  • Been involved in a major re-organisation
  • Been involved in the splitting of 1 squad into 3
  • Found an apartment and moved in (My stuff hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m literally camping in an empty apartment on a blow up mattress)
  • Taken a weekend trip to Norway to see my Aunty, Uncle & their adorable kids.
  • Been out and about with fellow Spotifiers a bunch of times

Stuff changes here a LOT, but we all think (hope) it’s for the best. And if it doesn’t work out? Then we change it again. (We Agile Coaches call this Continuous Improvement). I thought I was going to be bored and have a hard time meeting people. I was wrong. Thanks everyone for being so welcoming & see you all later for a bear or two.