“Thanks for your offer, but I don’t want to relocate…” Oh, are you sure what you’re missing?
I don’t know how many of recruiters maintain contact with developers they helped to hire and relocate, but I do. One of them is Gianluca Bargelli,
a Software Engineer at Algolia, a French-American startup built by developers for developers focusing on improving search experience on websites and mobile apps, as perfectly described by Marion.
On the picture from the left: Marion (Recruiter), Ola (Bee Talent’s CEO), Sylvain (VP of Engineering), Olivier (Solutions Engineer), Michael (Solutions Engineer), Chris (Director of Recruiting), me, Julien (Solutions Engineer) and Gianluca.
Gianluca moved with his girlfriend from Rome (!) to Paris to join Algolia’s team in October 2015; at that time the team was roughly around 25 people. During my visit to Paris and Algolia last week I asked him if we could talk about how this decision influenced their life and what his reflections are.
I hope that after reading this, the subject of relocation will sound a bit more familiar to you.
Kasia: Gianluca, what exactly do you do at Algolia?
Gianluca: I’m in charge of Algolia’s dashboards — a very complex product that we continue to improve. Since I joined my main role went from handling the website, through working on the architecture to improving
the actual product. We had to deal with load balancers, servers, and database, so it was really a full-stack position. Initially, I worked with Sylvain who introduced me to existing technology. One month after, I had the first teammate. We had a lot of autonomy in choosing architecture and technology. We knew the issues and challenges and we built the foundations for the current infrastructure. I was used to working for companies where you’re responsible only for one part and here we made a lot of improvements about everything. As we grew, we’ve become more specialized. Now, I have a broad expertise from the core API product to customer support and I like sharing it while onboarding newcomers.
K: That sounds really amazing! You definitely have many challenges here. Let’s go back to the past a bit. Can you recollect what made you go out of your comfort zone, leave Rome, convince your girlfriend and move to Paris?
G: 1.5 years ago I didn’t have any idea of what the company was, until
the very onsite visit (when you’re invited to Paris and you spend a whole day with the team). Skype interviews were cool, I liked the product, I could test my technical knowledge and that was fine. I was interviewing for the other companies at the same time if you remember. But when I spoke with Nicolas and Julien (the founders) who told me: “We’re 25 as of now and we need to improve the product. It’s not going to be easy. Are you up for this challenge?”
I got really excited. And I’m still as it’s not over. It’s very interesting to see how we grow in terms of scaling our culture up, for example hiring people smarter than us. I met passionate guys who’re not only tech savvies but also models to follow as they go out of their comfort zone. One of our Solutions Engineer converted to a Technical Content Writer. It’s great to see this entrepreneurial minds’ development.
K: You’re scaling a lot. Why are you not afraid of that? How do you know your culture will be still so great if you grow?
G: If we’re not aware of the people we’re hiring and if we’re not able to spread our culture while we grow, then we’re going to lose. We need to be on the same page on what needs to be done to be successful. For me,
it means following the story of our founders. Our five values were born right after I joined, so, as for today, I feel this is my company as well. I feel like every choice I make counts a lot. I want to translate the same excitement, not fear.
K: Gianluca, many engineers have families, jobs and thus they don’t want to relocate. Sometimes they think it will be forever. Therefore,
I need to ask you this question: Weren’t you afraid of leaving everything and moving to a totally foreign country? How did you convince your girlfriend? And, above all, would you do it again?
G: I would definitely do it again, career-wise and for my private life. I’m happy in Paris now but of course, I didn’t know that then. I had to overcome the fear of the unknown. For me, the selling point was going to Paris and meeting the team, who really sold me the vision and the product. Moreover, I was in love with the tech stack, so I was excited to join. At that time, there was no corporate apartment. Now there’s one in Paris and two in SF. You can use them temporarily before you find yours. Back then I was airbnb-ing. That was hard, but I don’t regret it. I needed a change as I was tired of doing just one thing for a couple of years. I was looking for a challenge. Of course, it wasn’t only my decision. Relocation is always a tricky topic for a couple. You can’t just say: “Hey I want to move because the company wants me”. With my girlfriend, we took a couple of days off to think about it and talk about all pros and cons. She was really supportive and it was our common decision. We said: “We’re doing it together and if we don’t try it we will never know”. We packed our things, took a plane and arrived here. She found
a job at the same time (then she was freelancing). For sure it was an intense time. It’s true that France is different cultural-wise. At Algolia we speak English (we don’t speak French in the office) but it’s not so obvious everywhere. We had to learn and get into a new culture, but that was exciting as well. Now we’re used to this lifestyle.
K: How many nationalities are the currently at Algolia?
You know, I once counted them on my tweet. I’d say 15 plus and I’m counting people with double nationalities. When I joined I was the third foreign guy with Adam from the Czech Republic and Alex the U.S.
K: Do you know roughly how many people relocated?
G: We have teammates from Europe and outside (who needed VISA). I’d say it’s about 8-10 people. Also, we have French employees who took American VISA and moved to the U.S. office. These are Solution Engineers and Sales Reps. It’s great that the company is so open to letting you experiment a new country.
K: That sounds really cool. What piece of advice would you give to someone who’s interested in Algolia but isn’t sure about relocation?
We’re scaling up very fast and there’s a lot of ownership to take on projects. That’s the key for me and for other developers as well. We want to contribute, give our ideas and learn from each other and that isn’t obvious in every startup up in Europe. This wouldn’t be possible with full remote positions. We’re having many newcomers and to onboard them wisely we need to have them here, in Paris. I’m talking about engineers, of course. There’s one person who works fully remotely — a Developers’ Advocate —
he travels a lot in the U.S. because he takes part in many conferences and meetups. We’re working towards that, but for now, we’re not big enough
and we need to be on the same page culture-wise. We want to do that
and I’m sure it will allow us to get access to more talent from all around
the world. To overcome this fear of relocating, we allow you to work up to three weeks from home. We require to sync up with the team, but that’s pretty easy as every squad uses Trello boards or GitHub issues.
K: That sounds like a perfect solution. And travels-wise, last year you were in Poznań on PolyConf, right?
G: Yes. Last year Algolia was one of the sponsors of PolyConf. They gave us
a slot for workshops and I proposed myself. We want our developers to travel and speak at conferences and the company pays for public speaking classes, so is a great place to master these skills, especially for developers. Everyone is encouraged to participate in workshops and meetups.
For example, Marie (@mlthuret) was at the React Conference 2017 in San Francisco (the biggest React Conference in the world) — she had a 30 minutes talk yesterday and that was amazing! I find it super attractive.
In Paris, we hold a lot of meetups and we want to expand in Europe
and the U.S. I’m definitely going to keep doing that.
K: Are you going again to PolyConf?
G: Yes, I think it will be in June or July. I love the conference as it’s about many different programming languages. At Algolia, we have experts in various languages so it’s interesting for all of us. I’ll be there as an attendee to listen to topics. But for sure there will be other people from our team as well. It’d be great if you come and say “Hi”.
Guys, I hope the word “relocation” doesn’t sound so scary to you now :)
As mentioned, there are at least eight people who relocated to Paris,
so if you have any questions, all of them would be happy to talk to you.
Also, Algolia provides a relocation package up to 6K EUR.
Did I mention Algolia’s hiring for many various roles? For example: Ruby Fullstack Developer or Solutions Engineer. However, if you feel like joining and you have a different stack, ping me on LinkedIn or email me at: email@example.com. I’ll be more than happy to talk to you.