Life Abroad in Lisbon, Portugal

By Jennifer Long

The best part of working at Venturi is the chance to work abroad with our team. Prior to my work abroad experience, I’ve never been away from Canada for more than two weeks, let alone for a whole month—not to mention it was paid for by Venturi! When you’re on a vacation, the pace is a lot more hectic considering you have to pack in so many activities over the course of just a few days. But during the work abroad program, you really feel like you can experience a new culture at your own pace, without feeling rushed. Because we were there for a full month and were still working regular business hours, it really felt like we were living in a new country rather than just visiting. And I’m thrilled to share my experience working abroad with the Venturi team in Portugal.

Of course, the best part of working abroad is being abroad. Experiencing a new culture, trying new foods, and getting to have an adventure with coworkers is an unforgettable bonding experience. It’s created stories and memories that we still bring up all the time today. It still feels like yesterday when we visited a part of Lisbon that has a lot of Nepalese restaurants where we tried momos for the first time, a steamed dumpling filled with either meat or vegetables. They were so delicious that we once ordered 80 in one meal! My video shares another food highlight from my experience, but needless to say, the cuisine was a huge part of my experience in Portugal.

Living in another country definitely has a learning curve though. The obvious one is the language barrier, and that became the most apparent when we were trying to use transit. Without a tour guide, it can be difficult to find things and communicate with locals. It was definitely stressful at times, but I think that it’s all a part of the fun! There are also a lot of culture differences that you need to adjust to and respect. Coffee especially was an interesting one—you won’t get your caffeine as instantly as you would expect in a Tim Horton’s in Canada, so you really need to exercise patience when you are getting your morning brew!

So you might be wondering—what is it like to work abroad? Well, considering Venturi is a remote work company, it was eye opening for me to work in person with my colleagues. I have been doing fully remote work since I started at Venturi a year and half ago, so I had never worked in person with my coworkers before.  Along with that, we used a co-working office space, which comes with its own unique opportunities and challenges. We didn’t have access to the comforts and gadgets of our home offices, instead having to pack our laptops and monitors for the trip – definitely made airport security interesting. But the benefit was that we could also just quickly ask a question to someone sitting next to use instead of sending an email or scheduling a Teams meeting. The biggest challenge was definitely the time zone difference. As we were on Portugal time while our clients and other colleagues were in North American time, we did have to schedule meetings and work in the evening to sync up with theirs. There were really only three hours of overlap during the work hours of the two time zones, so we really had to make the most of our time and operate very efficiently in the hours we had. Some days, it felt like I was passing a baton to my colleagues when I was signing off for the day and they were just beginning theirs.

While there may be challenges while working abroad, I also think it pushed me to grow as a professional. The main takeaway I had from the experience is how to work effectively when I didn’t have full access to my team. With the time zone challenges, I knew I had to work on my communication skills and to stay organized. To set myself up for success, I made sure to proactively reach out to teammates to support when I knew a potential blocker was coming up in a project. And if it meant working some odd hours to accommodate others on my project, that was a worthwhile sacrifice to make. Outside of that, the biggest skill I developed during this time was actually not on the job. During one of our weekends in Portugal, we decided to take a day trip to Sintra. What we quickly found was that Sintra had a staggering number of places to sees, and that one day was not enough to take it all in. We were quickly overwhelmed with options. As a team, we decided that we had to break down our challenge into smaller steps, by listing off all the attractions we felt were must-sees. From there, we created a map from the train station to the furthest destination, creating a hitlist of all the hot spots along the way. We ended up accomplishing so much in just one day, including Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and the National Palace of Sintra. The Venturi crew took a potentially stressful situation and put our heads together to create an amazing day. I still think of that adventure when I’m faced with a big obstacle in my job and remember that no problem is too big if you remain calm and break it down into smaller steps to tackle.

Overall, if you ever get a chance to work abroad (whether with Venturi or elsewhere!), I would 100% recommend you take that opportunity. I felt so much closer to my Venturi team after the trip, and the memories will last a lifetime. I felt like I grew up so much as a professional and as a person. It’s not without its challenges, but the experience is so worth it, and I can’t imagine many organizations would give me an opportunity to travel like this on company dollar like Venturi. It’s one of the best perks working here and I can’t wait for the next work abroad trip!

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