Jobbatical Stories: From Minnesota to Estonia
Back in January, Björn Lapakko moved to Estonia to work as a growth hacker for Funderbeam. Take a look at how his Baltic adventure is playing out!
What made you want to take a jobbatical?
Why not?! Develop your professional skills, get involved in the booming FinTech startup industry, and move to Europe? How does one not leap at that opportunity? Needless to say, the appeal was blatantly obvious to me.
What did you expect before you moved, and how are you finding it so far?
I have Finnish family living in Helsinki and originally I am from St. Louis Park, Minnesota so, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a weather and culture perspective. To me, the winter here is quite nice but the people have been incredible. From the locals to the other expats, I’ve had an amazing time making new friends and colleagues.
Was there anything that surprised you about Estonia?
So this may sound strange but I’ve been surprised at all the really great product branding and design I’ve seen. From beer labels to posters, there is a lot of artistic marketing and advertising talent in Tallinn.
What are some things you like about Tallinn, and what are some challenges you’ve faced there?
I love your füüsal (ground cherries) and astelpaju (sea buckthorn)! I’m also really enjoying all the walking I’ve been doing in town. Everything is within an hour-long walk for me and it’s been a great way to discover Tallinn.
As far as challenges, I think the biggest adjustment for any American in Europe may be figuring out how to use doors to leave places. For me, I’m used to always using an obvious and large door handle but y’all have these tiny switch-like handles and I’m constantly looking like a tourist by running into doors. I’m also told that I shut doors like a “tractor driver.” So, in short, doors, I’m challenged by doors!
What are some things you’ve learned from your colleagues, and some things you’ve introduced to them?
I’ve learned a great deal about blockchain technology and how it is revolutionizing global finance as well as being thrown into the fire of a fast-paced startup. I’ve also been introduced to swimming in the Baltic Sea which is fantastic. I’m not terribly confident as to what I’ve introduced them to besides explaining how similar Minnesota is to Estonia. It’s crazy how much they resemble one another.
What’s different about this experience compared to other work experiences you’ve had?
It’s probably the most difficult and pressure packed position I’ve ever had. I’m learning a new continent, country, culture, currency, measurement system, language, industry, technology, and how to adjust without my friends and family. It’s a lot of change to adapt to but it’s the exciting kind of change you know will really positively affect you as you grind it out and get better at your job everyday.
How has the experience changed you as a person?
It has made my dream of working in an environment outside of the U.S. a reality. As a result, it has made me much more optimistic about the verifiable possibilities available to me for personal as well as professional development. In my experience, whenever I’ve expressed an interest in working in another country I’ve received a lot of negative pushback. Do you know the language? Are you the best in the industry at what you do? Do you know how difficult it is to get a work visa where you want to go? Mainly, people want to throw barriers in front of you because they’re too scared to do what you dream of doing.
To me it has reinforced my commitment to pursuing what I want to accomplish and take little regard for those who don’t want to help me achieve those goals.
What advice would you give to someone considering a jobbatical?
APPLY! APPLY AGAIN! AND AGAIN! When someone sends you an offer just say yes and enjoy the ride.
Speaking of applying, we’re hiring! And so are companies around the world!