How I worked remotely in an IT company from Switzerland and why I eventually quit

The photo is not mine, but from the website of the Badrutts Palace hotel
The photo is not mine, but from the website of the Badrutts Palace hotel

The first thing that people imagine when it comes to Switzerland is breathtaking views of the mountains with pragmatically harmoniously inscribed architecture, probably the way it is, but I didn’t have a chance to see this, since the whole story took place in 2021 during the epidemic. So, first things first. There was another COVID wave, everyone was sitting at a distance and the idea of ​​​​working and traveling did not leave my inquisitive engineering mind.

Current place of work in a major Russian green bank, imposed restrictions on movement and remote work, up to reporting a home address, monitoring payroll card transactions (purchases within walking distance from home at lunch), monitoring the IP address used to connect to the office network. It seems to me that there was a slight inflection in the direction of control, but these are all solvable nuances – you can withdraw cash, buy a VPN with a node in Russia, tell the IP address of the mobile operator – but there are always risks of getting pierced, and in addition, there has always been a possibility of an urgent exit to the office, so, being somewhere in sunny Thailand, promptly appearing at the office in the morning would be a big problem.

It was all this control, plus the absence of serious tasks as such (a period of another tearing up of teams and projects) that affected my decision to look for a new job. I was looking, like most on hh.ru, without looking to find anything abroad, but definitely with the condition of full remote work, without visiting the office. And then at one fine moment, a girl from hr contacted me from a company that had never been heard before. After a little searching for information on the Internet, I realized that the company is registered in Switzerland and does not work on the Russian market, here is their website – spitch.ai.

After briefly discussing the details with her, she asked permission to give my contacts to the engineers and arrange an interview meeting. To my surprise, only Russian names and surnames appeared in the invitation =) As a result, it turned out that there were two employees at the interview who spoke excellent Russian, but had been working abroad for a long time, and citizens from our country were also involved in the founding of the company . As it turned out later, my very good friend worked in the same company, who then helped me a lot in adapting and was already one foot in relocation to Switzerland, if this had not happened, I would have left the company even earlier.

Within an hour or two, we settled all the details on the money, the working conditions seemed ideal – complete remote work, work on foreign projects, minimal control – the main tasks were completed and, as I have long wanted an international team. The main language of communication in the company at meetings, and even more so with customers, was of course English, as it turned out later in Russia, I was almost the only employee, the main team was dispersed throughout Europe, there were also Russian-speaking analysts and engineers, but they all had long lived outside of Russia.

Before that, I had the experience of interviewing in foreign IT companies, but it always somehow didn’t work out, then the moment was not suitable for changing jobs, and I refused, then HR was immediately refused because of the level of knowledge of the language, then relocation was required over time, for which I was not ready for family reasons.

Looking ahead, I’ll say that I worked in the company for only 9 months, then returned to the Russian one, and of course there were reasons for that. I will not be able to accurately and in detail describe the projects and their specifics due to the NDA signed by me (non-disclosure agreement) for a period of three years.

During the period of work, I made a lot of discoveries for myself, it always seemed that they have everything there, everything is different from ours – right, a different atmosphere, colleagues treat each other differently. In part, it turned out that way, but not in the way I imagined it.

Some of the insights that I discovered during my work

  • in Europe, just like in our country in most cases, no one turns on the camera at meetings, no matter what format it is. Yes, I have worked with clients from England, India, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and in none of these meetings did people turn on the cameras. There were funny situations when there was a certain coming-out, let’s say, at the next meeting, in order to defuse the situation, someone said, we have been doing the project for half a year and no one has seen each other in person, let’s all turn on the cameras! Then all of them turned on for a short period of time, laughed out loud, made jokes about teddy bears in the background, and turned off again.

  • people value their time, and are not ready to be recycled. In my practice, there have been many cases when, working with an engineer at the site via remote communication, at exactly 18:00 (local time) without any warning, a person says to you: “I have to go to Kinder Garden (kindergarten), pick up the children “He just gets up and leaves. None of your objections that literally 5 minutes more and everything will be ready are not accepted. And this is normal in most cases, in our country it would be perceived as disrespectful.

  • appointing meeting and inviting colleagues indecently her cancel or transfer. This causes misunderstanding and irritation, often they simply refuse to transfer, you have to adjust. Our mentality is such that a person can reschedule a meeting 2-3 times, changing the time in the calendar – he created it and therefore can do whatever he wants.

  • working on projects in different countries, you have to organize your work in such a way that holidays in each of the locations, while sometimes you have to work on Russian holidays. Often this is quite unexpected and one must not forget to lay in the planning of work.

  • the language barrier – it doesn’t exist, if you can communicate tolerably in English, in my case also Japanese, then in general you will not have problems communicating with colleagues from any country. Usually, when these same small-talks go before a meeting, many people ask where you are from, and react very positively to Russia, ask some things that worry them, mostly about the cold in winter for some reason, they never asked about bears =) Positive they perceive when in letters you write some simple words in the local language, thank you there, or good afternoon. In response, you can get something in Russian.

There was a funny case when the management asked me to change my photo in the corporate messenger (Slack), used not only for internal communication, but also with clients. To my reasonable question why?! I received a very funny comment – you are from Russia and you have a photograph in military uniform (the photo was from a paintball), customers may not understand clearly, everyone laughed, but then I still changed the photo.

While working, given the closed borders, I managed to travel within the country, implement some of my long-planned plans for which I didn’t have enough time, and perfectly combine this with the current workload at my new job.

We managed to climb Elbrus:

Somewhere on the way to the top in August
Somewhere on the way to the top in August

Make a monthly trip to our south and Crimea:

trail Golitsyn
trail Golitsyn

Build a building that acts as a bathhouse in the country:

Follow the white jack russell
Follow the white jack russell

Visit Dagestan:

Reservoir somewhere in the mountains
Reservoir somewhere in the mountains

Visit Baikal:

Unforgettable types of ice
Unforgettable types of ice

Run the RFAR 2021 race:

Some kind of river in Karelia
Some kind of river in Karelia

Freely travel to other cities with weekend capture and work from there. And it’s very cool when your work depends on the tasks performed and no one controls your presence, you can work at night or at a time that is convenient and comfortable for you.

Why did I end up quitting?

There are several reasons and the main reason, as it is not paradoxical – remote work. With all its pluses at the beginning of the journey, after some time, I began to feel the minuses. Namely, the lack of live communication with colleagues affected the involvement in work. There was a feeling that you were texting and talking with non-existent people who meant nothing to you, but you had never seen them and there were not many prospects to see them with closed borders. Of course, it all depends on your psychotype, it’s normal for someone to sit quietly in their apartment, not to communicate with anyone, to do what they love, but I sharply began to miss external live communication. Like it or not, we are all members of society and live communication is very important, no matter what anyone says!

This is how I imagined how my colleagues look, it does not look too rosy:

Just at this time, the wave of restrictions subsides, everyone went to the offices, and you, like a restless person, sit at home and entertain yourself with jogging – it became a little annoying.

The second reason, lies in the fact that I have never worked in small companies (with less than 100 employees), at first it seems cool, everyone knows each other, such a homely warm lamp company, with a start-up and smoothie atmosphere. But as it turns out, in such a structure, the responsibilities of employees begin to be strongly blurred in all directions. And sometimes on projects you need to deal with tasks that are completely uncharacteristic of you – on things like these:

  • organize the sending of sim cards to different countries, including paperwork and ordering DHL couriers (by the way, sending sim cards by mail is prohibited);

  • organize the work of contractors, prepare documents and acts for their work;

  • participate in pre-sales of a commercial nature together with the sales department;

  • deal with the signing of documents with an electronic European signature, collect printed signed documents and organize their sending to the central office;

  • participate in SCRUM ceremonies with customers, plan sprints together with them (hello Agile);

All this is not very compatible with the work of an engineer, whose main responsibility is still technical tasks. Over time – let’s call them “administrative tasks” began to prevail and turn into a complete mess, partly because I tried to delegate some of them, but the rest of the people who seemed to be supposed to help simply ignored their implementation. By the way, this often happened with other tasks, the employee could simply refer to the workload or simply say that he did not want to deal with this task and this was not his job (again, the nuances of a small company). I could not afford this for myself, with my instilled sense of responsibility, and at some point it became another red marker.

In the end, sitting at work in another free coworking space, I met an old friend who told me about an interesting project launching space tugs into space in a large FinTech company, promising good pay and a cool office, without thinking twice, I agreed, and the story quickly ended there.

As a result, I do not regret a bit that I managed to gain such invaluable experience, work with really interesting people, see how projects are being carried out outside of Russia, and improve my level of spoken English. It was a very valuable time, there were many interesting and not interesting tasks, and it is also a great experience that I took with me. As they usually say: would you get a job there if you knew all the nuances in advance?!

And the answer here is unequivocal – definitely yes! 🙂

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