Working as an expat at TOPIC – what is it like?

Thursday 16 November 2023

Moving abroad for work – it is quite an endeavor. At TOPIC, a number of colleagues made the bold move and shifted countries to join our company. What is that like? Software engineer Rihab Jouini (27) from Tunisia and Hardware engineer James Wright (29) from South Africa share their experiences. Number one advice? ‘Don’t forget your rain coat!’ 

When engineer James decided he was ready for an international adventure he wrote two options down: Australia (similar climate) and the Netherlands (similar time zone). He was smart enough to share those preferences on his LinkedIN profile and soon he was approached by a recruiter of TOPIC. ‘The first online call was incredibly brief; it was over in 10 minutes’, says James. ‘I thought I did a bad job. It turned out the Director I talked to was instantly convinced and let me through to the second round of interviews.’ Two interviews later, James received his contract and soon after got on a plane – his first trip abroad in his life.

Rihab made a few more stops on her journey. After her studies in Tunisia, she did an internship in Paris. ‘When talking about my future career, a friend recommended the Netherlands. She said people are friendly, projects are interesting and work-life balance is good.’ So, she followed suit. At first, she found a job at a small company. ‘After a year, I was approached by TOPIC, a larger and more international company. TOPIC was able to offer me what I was looking for in terms of company values and a good atmosphere. On top of that, they offered me a permanent contract, which is great as it saves me a lot of paperwork and allows me to focus on my career.’  

Assigned a buddy
When arriving in the Netherlands, James was quite disoriented. ‘I could not find the right train, I didn’t know where to go. But I eventually found my way and was welcomed by my manager who offered me my first “kapsalon” (a very local dish, fries with a lot of other food on top).’ It meant a warm welcome for James, who says that every new employee is assigned a buddy to help with whatever is needed. ‘The first month, I had no bank account access, and TOPIC covered all costs. I also lacked some engineering knowledge. Engineering here is engineering on steroids: it is more high speed and complex than I was used to. I needed to learn extra skills and got the help to do it.’     

Culture: a big family
The culture at TOPIC is like Rihab expected: ‘The core values are real. The company is like a big family, people are honest, friendly and very committed to their work. They always want to make sure that I am doing well and they are always willing to help, both in work and with other things. So, looking back at the recruitment process, working here is 100% as promised.’ James experiences the Dutch culture as direct but in a constructive way. ‘They don’t beat around the bush as they sometimes do in South Africa. They tell you how it is and to me that is helpful: you know where you stand.’ Having lived here for two years now, James recently bought an apartment with his wife who came over from South Africa. ‘She also managed to find a job, so that is great.’                    

‘Just do it’
Both Rihab and James are eager to stay in the Netherlands and to grow professionally; James’ aim is to become a hardware design engineer, Rihab’s goal is to become a senior developer. Rihab: ‘Every six weeks, I talk to my manager about how I am on track to reach my goals. We make adjustments when required and I get all the help I need to get ahead.’ If they could offer any advice to people considering moving to the Netherlands, they are both adamant: ‘Just go for it’, says Rihab. ‘You will learn so much.’ James: ‘And yes, it rains quite a lot, but I like to say: there is no bad weather, just bad clothes! I personally enjoy having all seasons, including proper snow. So get yourself a raincoat and you’ll be alright!’   

Picture: James & Rihab 

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