Alison Simpson explains how she went from player to community manager at a German studio

Coming to Hamburg: Emigrating for a job in games

In Develop‘s July 2013 issue, we wrote about immigration and how its affecting developers in the UK and abroad.

Here, Alison Simpson shares why she left Britain to take up a job as lead community manager at InnoGames in Hamburg, Germany.

“I first heard about InnoGames last year, while still living in the UK, as a player. I always enjoyed playing online browser games, especially MMOs, because the diversity of people playing. It was through exploring a variety of games over a long period of time that I eventually came into contact with InnoGames’ Tribal Wars, and I was hooked from day one. I became more and more involved in the community and running of the game, and that’s what led me to InnoGames.

“Before moving to Germany, I worked from the UK as an external community manager. I applied for that position with a CV and covering letter, and my interview was held over Skype. Some of the interview questions were quite tough, but no more so that you would expect in any interview process in the UK. However, I had heard that a highly detailed CV was advisable in Germany. That’s what I sent and it paid off with the interview.

“Later on, after working externally for a while since February, I expressed an interest in moving to Hamburg to work from the office, which led to me being offered a position as a lead community manager. It didn’t take long to get the wheels in motion. I had a further Skype call to meet my would-be product manager, and then came to Hamburg for a week to meet with the team and discuss duties.

“As the UK is a member of the European Union, I didn’t have to do anything special as a Brit to work in Hamburg. I needed to fill in a form which was supplied by the company to get a tax ID and to register my employment, and that was it.

“I expected the whole process to be far more complicated than it was in reality. InnoGames is used to bringing in new employees from all over the world, so there were already processes in place to make the transition easier. My start date was flexible, based on when I would be able to arrive in Hamburg. All I needed to do was provide a date and time my plane would be landing. Then, in May 2012, I was met at the airport by a few friendly faces, and helped with my bags over to my temporary home.

“In Hamburg, accommodation is notoriously difficult to arrange – the competition for an apartment can be fierce. But InnoGames made it really easy for me by providing a company apartment for the first few weeks after my arrival. InnoGames has a couple of apartments within walking distance of the office, which are on standby for new international arrivals to make those first few weeks a bit less stressful.

“Once I got settled into the job, InnoGames enrolled me into German lessons with a teacher who comes into the office every week to give private tuition. Though InnoGames uses English as an official language for communication, learning German is still important for cultural reasons – and it makes it easier to order lunch, too.

“I’d love to say the weather is better here, but it really isn’t. I’m not sure if it boils down to working in the software industry, but the flexibility and good working environment are most noticeable differences between living in the UK and here for me. The hours are flexible, there are toiletries in the bathrooms, fresh fruit in the dining area, and InnoGames arranges and part-pays for employee travelcards just to mention a few of the small touches that make it a great place to work.

“As a resident in Germany, you’re required to register when you move into a new apartment, and while most people are now in the internet age, the registration office isn’t quite there yet. The registration process can take hours of sitting in a waiting room, so not everything is easier here.

“In my department we have colleagues from six different countries, speaking five different languages. You get used to hearing multiple languages being spoken in the space in just a few minutes. It’s great working with such a diverse group of people from different parts of the world, and really opens your eyes to other cultures without even needing to leave the office.”

You can read more about the state of immigration for UK developers here

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