Abhishek Sharma left his native country India five years ago to study in Paris. After doing two internships in Germany, he came to the Netherlands and started working for ICT Group. In his opinion, Holland is ‘the most liberal country in Europe’ and he is planning to stay for at least five or six years before returning to India, thus contributing to the economy that provided his education.
I was born in Kota in the north-western state of Rajasthan, the only region in India where you find desert and camels. In my youth I was already fascinated by physics and electronics so I chose to do a bachelor’s degree in engineering, electronics and communication. Afterwards, I started working in Mumbai, which was as much of a culture shock as my later move to Paris. Living in a very small country, Dutch people often find it hard to grasp that India is as diverse as Europe. Not just when it comes to languages, but also from a cultural perspective.
I had previously considered following a master’s course to gain more in-depth knowledge of embedded systems and, after a year working in Mumbai, I was sure this was the right step to take. Having friends already living in Paris and on finding an interesting course at the École Centrale d’Électronique, I applied for a scholarship, took a bank loan and left my native country to move to the French capital.
After Mumbai I was already used to living in a big, crowded city but Paris threw up some new challenges. Parisians hardly speak English or even have an aversion to speaking anything else but French. My master’s course was in English but simple things like going to a hairdresser proved to be harder than expected: I had to take a note with instructions in French to avoid getting some weird hairstyle. However, I had a good time in Paris. The city is great and I met a lot of international students, which was a new experience for me. In India you only meet students from your own country.
During the course I had to do two internships but in France it is nearly impossible to find a project if you don’t speak French. Therefore, I did both assignments at Infineon in Munich. In Germany, I had a different experience from Paris as people were willing to speak English, which was somewhat refreshing and made things a lot easier for me. Also, I was quite overwhelmed by the scenery in Southern Germany. As a child I would draw up fantasy landscapes, and in Bavaria they became a reality!
Move to the Netherlands
Following completion of two very successful assignments, Infineon offered me a position to obtain my PhD. I considered this option but decided not to accept the offer as I wanted to launch my career in industry. My first focus was to find the best possible job, and the second was finding the most pleasant country to live in. The Netherlands was at the top of my list due to its reputation for personal freedom.
I started searching Linkedin and found an interesting opportunity at ICT Group. As I had the impression that the Netherlands is very liberal – there is freedom of speech and you can pretty much do whatever you like – I had my mind set on finding a suitable position there. Moreover, the Eindhoven region is a hub of high tech industry, a sector I was really interested in working for. It is also a very international area and Dutch people are very capable of and willing to speak English, even more so than Germans.
Another major advantage of the Netherlands lies in the attractive (financial) regulations for highly skilled migrants like myself. With the help of my employer, I was granted eligibility for the 30 Percent Ruling, a tax advantage offering real financial benefits as well as giving me the option to simply exchange my Indian driver’s licence for a Dutch one. In other countries I would have had to take expensive driving lessons and pass a test before being able to drive a car.
Working in the Netherlands
Starting a new job is always exciting and challenging, let alone starting a new job in a country you just moved to. Before starting work at ICT Group, I had already found myself an apartment in Eindhoven, otherwise ICT would have offered me free accommodation during the first six months. After the general introduction period, I enrolled in a three month training scheme to learn about the required software engineering skills, technology, domain and software processes of the client on whose projects I would be working. This really prepared me for the job and also helped me understand the context of the project and the stakeholders.
Another positive aspect I have experienced is the role played by my manager in ICT. He accompanied me to the job introduction at the client but also has people management tasks. My manager supports me in my personal development and in making the most out of my talents.
I also really like the fact that there are a lot of social activities going on within ICT Group and also at my client. You get a lot of opportunities to meet up with your colleagues, ranging from skiing to bowling to a hackathon. It is a good thing to also get to know your colleagues in a more personal way and this can really help with working together as a team.
Our world is globalizing rapidly with people from various countries coming to the Netherlands to find new challenges in their professional life. In some cases, their families join them in this adventure but parents and siblings often stay behind in their native country.
Before I left for Europe my parents made me promise that we would see each other at least once a year. We managed to keep that promise since I left for France in 2011. Last year was the first time they came to the Netherlands to visit me. We travelled through Europe and they stayed with me for two months. They really liked being in the Netherlands, where everyone appeared cheerful and it is a well-organized country compared to India. The traffic situation in particular surprised my parents: no one was blowing the horn in their car like we constantly do back home. As I also wanted to give them an impression of my professional life, I took them to the ICT Group office and they met my managers. Now they have a better understanding of my work environment and why I made the choice to come to Europe. One of my sisters who is an engineer also followed my example and came to Germany to work in 2013. Of course I paid her a visit.
Over the years I have become more and more European. I don’t visit India during the summertime anymore. I just can’t stand the heat and I also have to get used to the spicy food again.
I have experienced different European countries over the past years. My advice to other immigrants would be: come to the Netherlands. There are a lot of very interesting jobs for people with an IT or technical background and you will get equal opportunities. The moment I enter a room with ten Dutch speaking people, they will immediately switch to English. This will never happen in France, not even if the numbers were the other way around. And if you are open to other people and their culture, you will easily be accepted.