amw (amw) wrote,

culture shock

As i mentioned in my near-hysterical sleep-deprived post the other day, work has been particularly stressful the last week or two. It's been a bit of a perfect storm of things that has left our team pummelled, and although it may not affect the guys as much, i feel like i am taking on the stress of everyone. In reality i am taking on the stress voluntarily, since i could just walk out at 6pm and not give two shits till 9.30 the next morning, but yeah. Work is one of my oholics.

What completely floored me the other day was receiving an email from my boss boss asking if any "Indians/Asians" on my team could benefit from "cultural training". Reading the course outline, it was specifically aimed at Indians. I could barely believe what i was reading. One choice session, "the most important German values, in comparison to India". I mean, seriously. After having a private chat with a fellow team lead i wrote a long reply back to my boss boss expressing my discomfort with the whole thing.

I'm not opposed to providing structured support for new immigrants who may be having difficulties settling in their new home, but it made me sick to the stomach to think that the (all-German) team leads were being encouraged to pick out underlings of a specific ethnic group for targeted education. I have been an immigrant almost my entire life, so it hits close to home. As i wrote in my email, it is precisely my job as a team lead to hold 1-on-1s with my guys and make sure they feel comfortable and happy in their role. And when a new guy starts - no matter where he is from - it is important that the whole team works together to bring him into the fold so we can all create great software together. Singling out individuals of a particular ethnicity for "cultural training" is just increasing whatever divide might already be there.

Fortunately, my team gels well and we are happy together. Yeah, there are no "Indians/Asians", but we come from several different countries on three different continents and a bunch of us have had our own challenges moving to Berlin. I suggested to my boss boss that the company could perhaps improve its HR support for ALL new guys, regardless of their background. I got a very diplomatic reply, and i don't hold it against my boss boss in particular, since he just forwarded the email from the head of another department altogether, but it was a bit of a wake-up call. As multicultural as Berlin is, Europe is still white as all fuck. The traditional approach to encouraging multiculturalism and assimilation here is years behind how things were in Toronto, for example. There isn't as much out-and-out racism as in Australia or Canada, but there is a lot more well-intentioned ignorance, which in some ways is just as bad.

But, eh, life goes on. I was thinking the other day how stressed i am at my job and how hard it is for me to even just find the time to have a coffee or lunch with friends of mine outside of the colleagues i see every day... And i get another headhunting offer from a friend at a different company who says less stress, more pay, cooler tech... But then i realized with all the shit going on, i still care about my guys and want to help THEM succeed. And they're not there yet, i haven't brought them all up to the level i would like them to be. My team has come so far in the last 6 months (management says "you've created the model team here, something we should all be aiming for"), but i can bring them further and i don't want to leave them behind.

I did a few job interviews this week and was surprised to see some of these junior/mid-level guys are asking for the same as or more than what i earn, so i know the company got me cheap, but it's not a factor. I have enough money for my own little studio apartment in a decent part of town and i never need to worry about ordering in or buying cigarettes or drunkenly ordering too many cocktails on the weekend. I don't have a car or a bike or any clothes or furniture, but i am happy with my lot. When i learned how little QA guys on my own team make, and knowing other guys who work as waitstaff and busk on the streets for extra cash, i am doing quite okay. As comfortably middle-class as i am, at least i'm not part of the truly epic gentrifiers who pay 700€ for a studio apartment in a building with an elevator that doesn't have graffiti all through the lobby.

But i have to keep thinking about this, because work is basically 5/7ths of my life. It shouldn't be - we get 5 weeks vacation a year here and we are strongly discouraged from taking work home or doing excessive overtime. But it is, because, well, it's me. So when so much of my life is sunk into this stressful shit that has never really been my true passion i do wonder why the fuck i bother. But my life is okay. Work is okay. It's not a dream job, it's not how i would live if i were independently wealthy, but it's okay. Just as long as i get to dance.
Tags: career

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