One of the perks of working for an agency that is part of a global network is that you can potentially work at any of their offices abroad. For someone like me who loves getting to know new places, people, and cultures, this naturally was too good a chance to pass on. So I set out to make it happen and suddenly there I was, joining OMD UK as a Senior Marketing Manager and moving from Germany to London for five months on a “secondment” (the proper legal term for my adventure).
In the beginning, finding my way around a city I’d so far only known as a tourist, speaking a language that wasn’t my mother’s (or my father’s for that matter), and starting a new job – all at the same time – felt rather daunting and a bit less like that exciting adventure I’d always pictured it to be. Luckily, after just a few days the vague feeling of “Oh my God, what was I thinking?!?” subsided and I took to London life like a duck to water.
Differences and similarities
Part of this was definitely due to the fact that I immediately felt at home at OMD UK. Everyone was so very lovely and open and although it was clear that I was only going to be part of the team for a limited period of time, I felt like a permanent, valued employee, in it for the long haul. It didn’t take long and I’d grown very fond of everyone, especially, of course, the lovely New Biz & Marketing team I was part of. Right from the start, I was involved in lots of fascinating projects like planning OMD UK’s annual “Innovation Week” event and setting up the marketing for the next exciting research pieces that were to kick off under the “Future of Britain” umbrella.
It was interesting to see that although many things at OMD UK were different to OMD Germany, there were actually quite a lot of similarities and common challenges – which enabled me to bring in my previous expertise and share experience and best practices with the UK team. On the other hand, it gave me tons of interesting thoughts, observations, and ideas to take back home.
Leaving your comfort zone can teach you some of the most valuable lessons you will learn
Agreed, it takes a bit of courage to leave the comfort and predictability of both a job and a life you know quite well and exchange it for almost completely uncharted territory. However, all the things you’ll experience after you’ve stepped out of that safe place are more than worth it. It’s just like that drawing of the circle which represents your comfort zone and the arrow pointing to a place outside of it saying “This is where the magic happens”. I couldn’t agree more.
I didn’t do it for the money (living in London is considerably more expensive than living in Dusseldorf) and I didn’t do it to climb up the career ladder. In fact, I even took a step down – and I wouldn’t miss it for the world! At home, I head up a department and lead a team of six people. The role I took at OMD UK meant that I was part of a team with no specific management function whatsoever. Which actually taught me a lot about leadership. To be on “that other side” again made me realise how maybe I hadn’t always met my team’s needs at home and it became clearer to me, what they might be expecting of me and how I could (and should) be helping them to do their jobs even better. My boss at OMD UK was amazing and I learned a lot from her about inspiring a team, and, most of all, enabling and trusting people so they can grow and rise up to their challenges.
I can’t thank everyone I met and worked with at OMD UK enough for all that they’ve shared with me, be it actual knowledge or a kind word over a cuppa in the kitchen. I am just as thankful to my team at OMD Germany who agreed to make do without me for five months, giving me that opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally. I will return full of ideas and inspiration while at the same time hoping to have left my mark on OMD UK as well.
So can I recommend a secondment? I most definitely can! It’s definitely been an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.