Why Brussels Should Be the Next Step in Your (Tech) Career
The Belgian capital will surprise you with its international vibe. But don’t just take our word for it—our friends at Real Impact Analytics have the lowdown.
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Douglas Adams’ comedy science fiction masterpiece, Belgium is revealed to be the rudest word in the entire Universe, “completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they don’t know what it means.”
Welcome to the part of the Galaxy where we don’t just think Belgium is a country—we think it’s a damn fine one!
Jobbatical recently began a talent-seeking cooperation with Real Impact Analytics. Launched in Brussels, Belgium, in 2009, RIA is transforming data into action by “appifying” big data. When they say Real Impact, they really mean it—among other things, their work helps development agencies and governments fight Ebola epidemics, improve mobility in large cities on the African continent, and be able to predict, and therefore address, food crises.
Mona Lazar, Global Talent Development & Recruitment Manager, told us what team RIA loves the most about living and working in Brussels.
Welcome to Europe’s capital of diversity
With 62% of its residents foreign-born, Brussels is home to the world’s second-most diverse population (after Dubai), according to the World Migration Report 2015.
“Brussels is one of the most international hubs, with lots of people from around the globe,” Mona says. “This is what gives the city’s amazing vibe: you can find anything here. From authentic Colombian street food and Sardinian cuisine to the best Abbey beers in the world, Brussels has it all.”
The team at RIA is a microcosm of that staggering diversity. “People come from different places with very diverse interests,” says Mona. “We enjoy spending time together and debating interesting topics, from beekeeping in Tanzania to naming and borders conventions on Google Maps.”
“Working in such an international environment makes people much more perceptive, more tolerant, more open. It gives them a completely different level of understanding of their peers and the world around them.”
Everyone on the team has their own unique reasons for loving life in Brussels. “Marcel, our DevOps Engineer from Brazil, enjoys having four seasons and a diverse climate,” Mona says. “He also saw snow for the first time in Brussels. Svitlana, our QA Engineer from Ukraine, appreciates the fact that Brussels is a very green place, people are more positive, and there are lots of places that can be reached on foot.”
Mona herself, originally from Romania, was (pleasantly) surprised that it’s considered socially acceptable in Belgium to drink beer before lunch, even early in the morning.
Big city glamour with a homey touch
What are every visitor’s must-dos in the city? “Brussels has many attractions,” says Mona. “The #1 touristy thing to do would be taking a stroll in and around Grand Place, visiting Manneken Pis, and ending your day in the Delirium Café, where more than 2000 types of beer await you.”
Being as international as it is, Brussels is inevitably full of amazing places to eat. “If I were to chose just one, I must go with Frit Flagey, a fries booth in one of Brussels’ most iconic squares,” Mona recommends. “These are traditional Belgian fries and the best in Brussels.”
While Brussels no doubt caters to the tourist crowd, it also has oodles of long-term charm that makes it an eminently liveable city. Mona has plenty of examples up her sleeve: Brussels is home to the world’s second-deepest diving pool (34.5 meters), many beautiful markets (like the one at the Brussels-South train station or at Jeu de Balle, for antiques “and all kinds of crazy things”), as well as “free markets” (marches gratuits), where people give away their extra stuff for free.
Perhaps Brussels’ biggest appeal, however, is its comfortable balance between cosmopolitan and cosy. “Brussels has the advantages and glamour of a big city combined with the ease of living in a smaller city,” Mona says. Residents have access to world-class concerts, events, museums, international cuisine, cool bars, and big parks, while still being able to easily get from one point to another and become part of close-knit communities.
With multiculturalism woven into the very fabric of the city, Brussels is an easy place to feel at home, wherever you’re from. While Mona has observed that Belgians are not necessarily your typical easy-chit-chat, one-night friends, they tend to form deep relationships in time. “They are also very open and welcoming with foreigners,” Mona says.
That openness, too, is reflected in RIA’s internal culture. Founded by two best friends, the company is still strongly driven by that sense of camaraderie. “People form meaningful friendships at work,” Mona enthuses. Monthly board game nights, weekly yoga, Friday runs, after-hour drinks — RIA goes all in when it comes to team building. Once a year, they all pack their bags and take off for a big team event.
The team is now hiring in Europe’s capital of diversity. Their promise: You’ll learn a lot, grow, impact big decisions, and have the time of your life while doing it.
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