The Magical Land of OZ

By Sam Havas - March 23, 2018
4 mins read time
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I’ve had an incurable case of wanderlust for as long as I can remember. I’m constantly exploring, whether its my own city or somewhere new.

One of my priorities since joining Stackla, an Aussie- founded startup, was to visit OZ. I’d always been intrigued by Australia, and hearing the accents and hilarious slang around the office day in and day out only fueled my curiosity. So, I was ecstatic when I heard it would be possible to do a work-cation in Sydney.

The awesome thing about Stackla is that employees are encouraged to spend time in the overseas offices and get to know their coworkers around the world. There’s even a program, called Stackla Switch, that facilitates this by awarding top performers fully funded visits to other international offices, or even the opportunity to transfer to another Stackla office on a permanent basis.

I worked out a trip where I could work in the Sydney office for a month and then travel around the country for 3 weeks. I was particularly excited to meet my design mentor, Craig (whom I had been collaborating with online for about a year), as well as our Product Team. Fresh out of a 10- week UX Design bootcamp, I was really eager to see how UX is handled at Stackla and learn a thing or two. I’d also been operating as the only designer in the SF office so just having a design team accessible to bounce ideas off was big for me. I knew all of this would help me along in my career so it meant a lot to me that Stackla was supportive.

As exciting as this all was, I’m not going to lie, leaving my life in San Francisco for 2 months and stepping into a foreign city where I knew no one was a little nerve-racking. I’d spent few months abroad in college, but this was different; – this time I didn’t have my friends or the structure and familiarity of my university. As a shy teenager, I often let fear of change win over my craving for adventure, but as an adult I vowed to never let my nerves get in the way of anything I wanted to do.

Luckily, when I stepped into the Sydney office I felt immediately at home! It was amazing to put faces to names and finally meet my Aussie coworkers in person. I never once felt like an outsider, but more like honorary Australian — albeit one that couldn’t properly pronounce the names of many locations in Sydney.  In my defense, Woolloomooloo and Barangaroo are major tongue twisters. Also, who would expect that “Cairns” would be pronounced “Cans”? That was a curveball.

I never felt lonely (my biggest fear regarding solo travel) because I was welcomed into group activities, luncheons, and happy hours. My schedule was jam packed. My first week in Sydney I went to a marketing event, planned by my SF team. I often design slides, popup signage and collateral for events, so it was helpful to be able to see some of that in action. Post-event we paid a visit to the infamous Frankie’s Pizza, a place I’d been hearing stories about from one of the founders in SF. It was a great way to break the ice and get to know everyone.

Back in the office I found myself thrown into my coworker’s crazy workout routines. Every week they have a trainer come to the office and whip them into shape. To take it a few steps further, some people were also partaking in push up competitions at their desks every hour on the hour. If you were wondering how Australians stay so fit, I think I uncovered the secret.

I also got to experience another important part of Australian culture: swimming. As someone from the U.S. who hadn’t swam in years, I was surprised to see that many people in the office swim competitively and make it part of their weekly exercise routine. I tagged along with some coworkers to the iconic North Sydney Olympic Pool to test out my aquatic skills. As expected, I was terrible at swimming, but the view of the Harbour Bridge made it worth it.

I have so many happy memories of working in the Sydney office, like when Australia voted to legalize same-sex marriage and we all ate Golden Gay-Times, a popular Aussie ice cream sandwich, to celebrate.

Nothing beat trading SF winter gloom for a balmy Sydney summer. It was awesome to experience what it’s actually like to live in Sydney as opposed to visiting as a tourist on vacation. Living, working and even doing the mundane things like grocery shopping helped me completely immerse myself in the city’s culture.

Traveling the country solo was amazing as well. While the idea of it scared me at first, I found it to be extremely rewarding and liberating. It opened me up to new experiences, and I met so many more people than I would’ve if I’d had a travel companion.

I’m proud to be working for a company that supports employee growth in its many forms. Stackla encourages each individual to forge their own career path instead of forcing them to fit the mold. Even though Stackla is spread out across 5 offices around the world, it feels like one big family.  

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