my name is natalia. I am a Phd candidate at the radboud university nijmegen medical centre, nijmegen, the netherlands. in daily life, i do research in computational psychiatry. in free time, i go dancing, hiking, investing and blogging.

American dream

A visit to California is an eye-opener, as the Dutch job market could not be any more different from the American one. Namely, it is way easier to get funding in the Netherlands when your project or your company is eco-friendly, employee-friendly, and has a societal impact or just supports some minority. Therefore, high working culture and societal impact are an important part of any business pitch in the Netherlands. Here in the Silicon Valley on the other hand, I attended a few meetings for entrepreneurs, just because I was very curious how it all works up here, and I was surprised about to find out how much different the thinking is. ‘First make your customer happy, and then your workers will be happy too’ - this is how people use to think in the Valley. And they are right of course: no company will survive on the market for long without generating massive amounts of profit. And, in order to generate profits, it needs to provide with the best product which solves some real life problem on the customer’s side. And this solution to the problem and its market value should be the core of any business pitch. This is just a rational thinking, and I am rather surprised that no one yet enlightened me about it in the Netherlands. I wonder how a company based on Dutch labour but with an American attitude would perform on the market. This could be a good combination, since the Dutch are natural team workers, and they are rather efficient at work, whereas American working style is more individualistic and disorganised, but concentrates on generating profit much more clearly. 

The next thing I noticed during my stay in California is that when people encounter you, they tend to do two things. Firstly, they ask about your business card. And secondly, they are proactive in trying to find out who you are: they google your name, and search through all the records. When I was starting to blog twelve years ago, I haven’t had any particular plan to capitalise on my writing and to make friends in the Silicon Valley through this channel, but the reality is: yes, people will read everything they can find, and make their conclusions. Luckily for me, the conclusions are usually in my favour, yet still, it is sometimes embarrassing. And the truth is: these days, the whole package matters in both business and in science: from your sense of humour, through the design of your business card, your Instagram or twitter activity, to the content your personal website. The business plan alone is only the part of the game - the visibility online is equally important. Of course, this trend has its pros and cons: it generally helps people who have a natural talent for leadership, and a bright personality to stand out. On the other side though, you have to accept that you are becoming a public figure, and that you need to share information about your lifestyle to people whom you have never met before, or whom you have never met in person at all. So far, I did not experience any collateral pain related to networking and socialising. But I also know that one day, haters will inevitably appear, and that I need to develop a strong mental corpus for that occasion.

The last thing I would like to mention today is that I now better understand the idea of the American dream. In European culture, there are no shortcuts: if you want to become successful, you need to receive a good education, to work out a great idea, to develop a good businessplan, to find collaborators, to gain their trust over time, to develop a healthy working and personal relationship with them (which in the Netherlands takes ages, by the way), to find funding agencies, to gain their enthusiasm, to develop the product, to start selling it to the society, to slow achieve the society’s approval, to slowly gain their trust and make them buy the product etc. It is a slow process, and you cannot just cut through to the top just because you are brilliant. In American culture though, the dynamics is way higher. Everyone can be fired from job any time, but also hired any time, and sometimes, once you have a good idea, it is enough to find yourself in a good place at the right time, and the rest becomes a history. HR people and venture capitalists screen LinkedIn in search for good specialists all the time, and you are free to present your ideas to the heads of big investment funds at open meet ups. Essentially, even going out to the street in the morning can result in a contract, as people just start chatting to you for no reason. In Mountain View, I managed to make friends with so many people of different backgrounds within as little as one week that I wonder how my life would look like if I spent a few months here. Might be really interesting to try.

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