01/02/2016

The story of a Belgian in the USA. How it all started.

My story begins the very first week I joined Delaware Consulting in the Kortrijk offices (Belgium). Just like everyone starting his first job right out of college, I had no idea what to expect. Other than a few weeks working as an intern at an accounting firm, filing VAT returns and booking invoices, I had no real-world experience. When you are in such a position, you make crazy decisions without realizing it. Decisions which may impact the next years, and perhaps even the remainder of your career and life. This is one of those stories. The story of a Belgian somehow ending up far away from home, in the United States of America.

Pushed beyond my comfort zone

One of the first days at the office, our team lead sat down with me, and asked if I was OK with traveling for work. Up to that point, I had never traveled outside of Belgium for longer than a day. It was just something my parents and friends never did. Obviously, I was caught off guard, and answered I would love to travel. I didn’t really know what ‘travel’ meant back then, but I got staffed on a project involving a decent amount of international work.

Everyone had failed to tell me that, as an SAP FICO consultant, I mostly would have to travel when my colleagues were either done or finishing up. So I ended up staying in a hotel for the first time, alone. Figuring out how airports work and flying for the first time, alone. Ordering a taxi for the first time in a language that did not come close to any language I speak, alone. While all of that may sound ridiculous or funny now, these were some of the most scary experiences for me than anything else I had ever done up to that point in my life.

But the result was clear: I found out I like traveling, and visiting new places. Putting myself beyond my comfort zone was something I tried to do more, and Delaware Consulting gave me those opportunities with the type of projects I was getting staffed on. Traveling through Europe, and a one-off time to the USA and Canada, was fun and challenging, but over the years I was growing eager for some real change.

‘I want to move.’

One day, while I was packing up to go home after work, I noticed there was still light in the HR office. I decided to walk in, and without much preparation I told the HR director that ‘I want to move.’ ‘Move where?’, he asked. To which I replied: ‘Anywhere, out of Belgium.’ ‘Ok, let’s discuss it and we’ll make that happen’, he said. And without really realizing what I had just started, I left.

Some weeks later, the HR director talked to me about some possibilities. It would take some time (months) to finalize things, but it seemed like there were some interesting paths for me. Word travels within the Delaware Consulting organization, and I received a message from our USA offices in Alpharetta (Atlanta, GA), that they could use my SAP FICO skills in the organization, if I would be interested in moving to the USA. I had thought about the USA, without really recognizing it as a real possibility. I knew it would be very hard to get a work visa from the US government and I talked with our US colleagues about the specific challenges. Nevertheless, we agreed to go ahead and see how it would go. My lawyer contacted me and together with the HR offices in both Belgium and the USA, we started a procedure that would create piles of paperwork and consume hundreds of hours from people on both sides of the ocean.

It would be the start of an incredible story. The story of me, Nigel, a Belgian in the USA since 2013.

Stay tuned, as this is the 1st article in a series of 4!

 

Author: Nigel Grillet. You can connect with Nigel on LinkedIn.