Written by Christoph Schwaiger
As job opportunities increase in the North of the Netherlands, you might be considering moving there to take the next step in your career.
Make it in the North sat down with two professionals, one working as a software engineer and another as a conversation rate optimisation (CRO) specialist to learn the ins and outs about what it’s like to work in Groningen’s IT sector.
Ana Roman, from Romania, started working for a company while she was still studying in Groningen. The company liked her work ethic and was very happy to offer her a full-time position after she graduated. She admits that it took her a bit longer than her peers to finish her course because she was also juggling the job. However, she learned a lot and also earned some money along the way.
She now works as a software engineer.
When she first started working with the company around a year ago, Roman didn’t speak Dutch.
“The job is entirely in English. Everyone speaks English. The documentation that I need to read is also in English. People are very respectful, in the sense that whenever I join a group of people that are speaking Dutch, they always switch to English. I’m surprised and very humbled by this,” says Roman.
However, when she speaks with friends working in different fields, Roman points out that some of them have a harder time finding jobs that only require knowledge of English.
Asked about what kind of working culture she encountered, Roman said she was pleasantly surprised to see that there wasn’t such a strict hierarchy in the workplace. Her team leader sits opposite her desk and is very approachable. She also noticed that her colleagues were quite direct when they spoke.
“The way feedback is given could seem a bit harsh if you come from a culture that isn’t used to it. I think a way in which you can combat this is to detach yourself from the feedback and understand that what they’re saying is about your work and not about you as a person,” explains Roman.
Asked about what it’s like to work in Groningen, Roman says that people who come from bigger cities might find it a bit small. However, she comes from a city of roughly the same size so she found it very convenient to move there.
“Even though it’s a relatively small city there are quite a lot of companies and a lot of startups. It’s an international city with many international employees speaking English as the main language at work,” adds Roman. She explained that although it’s harder for internationals than for locals to find a job, they shouldn’t get discouraged. An opportunity will eventually turn up.
What about perks? Roman says this is definitely a thing and that companies try to compete with each other in terms of what they can offer employees. Some send their people to training sessions and offer opportunities for growth and learning.
Roman encourages job-seekers to be open to learning and discovering new things.
“If a potential candidate is super smart but they have a ‘know-it-all’ attitude that won’t look as good as someone with less experience that is eager to learn. This kind of mindset can take you far when looking for a job in the North,” advises Roman.
Asked about what her experience as a woman working in the North was, Roman explains that personally she never faced any issues in this regard. “It was always a matter of experience over gender. From my experience and point of view, I’ve never felt that I wasn’t listened to because I’m not a man,” says Roman.
Conversion rate optimization
Linn Helen Gundersen, from Norway, works as a conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist. This means that her job is to help people improve their websites. Her priority is to balance the needs of the users with the needs of the business she’s helping.
At first glance, her academic background in literature seems wildly different from the work she does now. However, she uses the research and critical thinking skills she developed and applies them to CRO.
She finds that the biggest challenge she faces is understanding what customers want. Sometimes they might say one thing, but after digging deeper she finds an answer that wasn’t so obvious.
Asked about working life in Groningen, Gundersen says there are many marketing companies in the region. This means that one isn’t forced to look for opportunities in the bigger Dutch cities only.
Her job requires her to speak Dutch, but learning it is not impossible.
“I think Scandinavians have an advantage when it comes to learning Dutch. Within a few months I could speak it almost fluently. After a year, people were surprised to hear I wasn’t Dutch! There are still words I don’t know. Sometimes I make grammatical mistakes but people understand me, so that’s the important part,” says Gundersen.
Gundersen did her utmost to surround herself with Dutch people when she first moved to the Netherlands. She also recommends attending startup weekends because they’re a fun way to meet a lot of new people and businesses.
Take the first step
If software engineering or being a CRO specialist in the North are job options you’re considering, start by having a look at which companies operate in the region. Check what they’re offering and also understand what you can bring to the table.
Didn’t spot a vacancy for the position you’re hunting for? Keep in mind that you can send an open application to a company you like – it’s a method which has proven successful for some!