An Amsterdam Koosje having the Lisbon office experience

Reading time
7 min read

Date
Aug 05, 2021

One of Koos’ special features is sharing the passion about Service Design throughout our two offices in Amsterdam and in Lisbon.

When it comes to Service Design, both our offices face different challenges in distinct contexts and approaches. However, who wouldn’t want the best of both worlds? Tulips and surf, stroopwafels and pastéis de nata?

One Koosje made a decision that would make him win the award of ‘Most adventurous’. A year ago, Joost was packing his bags and preparing to move from Amsterdam to Lisbon, to support the Lisbon team.

How it all started

How did this idea of going to Koos Lisbon start?

I was working at Koos for not even a year when the question was popped to me. Kasper, who founded Koos Lisbon 3 years ago, was coming back to the Netherlands, and we needed someone to keep up the good work over there. At that time, I had been working for 3 years and I saw it as an interesting opportunity as I didn’t want to end up in a typical career path just yet. 

So I had some talks with Jules, RJ, Kasper and the team in Portugal to understand a bit more about the Portuguese culture.

 

Can you describe the moment when you made the definite decision to go? 

You don’t make this decision overnight, it’s a journey in itself.  So I took some time to reflect,  made a list with some pros and cons which also involved my personal life and asked myself: “What do I want?”. I figured that if I wanted to do it, I had to do it for myself. The primary driver for me should be ‘I want to be in Lisbon, to live in Lisbon’. At some point I even dropped out. But when the offer became more about being a service design lead instead of the full time entrepreneur, I was convinced and decided to go. 

 

What were your biggest challenges when moving to our Lisbon office?

Well, I was dating this girl before going to Lisbon, and we fell in love and, right after, I stepped on the plane. That was kind of a challenge… But it all turned out well, we are still together, and she came to visit me in Portugal. I like to say we won Corona! Her family has a house in the countryside of Portugal, in the middle of nature. We thought we were going to be together for 1 month and then ended up to be 4 months. The view was amazing, so the first part of Corona wasn’t that bad.

 

What were your expectations or prejudices about working in Lisbon?

Expectations for Portugal would be that it’s slightly more laid back. I was expecting hierarchy and challenges with communication and finding common ground. I heard a lot about Portuguese punctuality. I also had this expectation for myself that I was going to learn the language, which in the end I didn’t.

Experience in Lisbon

What has been most surprising about working in Lisbon?

I was really surprised with the increased amount of sunlight. Going to work and coming back home, in the sunlight, even during winter, is crazy!

In a way, that made me more energetic, with much less cold, for sure. So I walked around 1h30 a day, in sunlight and without a jacket. So even though it was winter, it constantly felt like a cold summer day in Holland. And that made things more open, more playful.

Covid-19 surprised me! I was going to be there until March and then in February we decided that I would stay until August. Those would end up being Covid-19 months.

 

What are the main differences between Amsterdam and Lisbon office work and dynamic?

I think the way Koos works in Lisbon by design is way different from Amsterdam, being a team of 3-4 when I started. In Amsterdam, we are very personal, we are far from a formal company (of 30 people). But the difference between 3 and 30 – well, it’s 27! – it is huge. Going to work every day, being in the office together… in the 1st month you already developed personal relationships. You do projects always with those same people – there are some people in Amsterdam whom I still haven’t worked with directly. In Lisbon, you always do projects together. Everyone is joining sales meetings, looking out for new projects in a more existential way than in Amsterdam.

Really enjoyed the personal angle in the team, working for 8 months, we really became a team. We grew stronger and I appreciated that.

 

What are the similarities between both offices and how do you work together? 

Every Koosje is very empathetic, wants the best for everyone, comes from the same type of interest in people (asking why and with no judgments)… this is something that happens in both offices and why we work together so well. We are doing things in similar ways, we are the same company in the end, this builds on each other very well.

More women in Lisbon, more women in Amsterdam, that’s a similarity! 🙂 That comes with the empathic, intuitive side I guess.

How did you manage the language when working in Lisbon?

Being Dutch and feeling comfortable with English, at some point, I realised that it was a disadvantage for the clients. After this reality check, I always said: ‘I’m the one with the handicap because I can’t speak Portuguese. So if you want to, go for it!’. I wanted to reduce the pressure of talking in English every time. But in general, I was very impressed with the English level of our clients! 

But personally on the streets, Google Translate was quite handy. Sometimes, the lady at the bakery didn’t know how to speak English, so I had to find a way to communicate!

 

Your name, ‘Joost’, is it easy for Portuguese people to pronounce?

Not at the start. The ‘oo’ was strange, because you don’t see it that often in Portuguese. So I would say ‘it’s like yoghurt’.

 

What was the coolest project you worked on in Lisbon?

We did so many! 

We redesigned the office of a big startup, Unbabel. One of the coolest things was turning SD to Architecture and being able to go all out – trampolines, a surf bar with volleyball nets outside… Everyone was super stoked! Everyone was saying ‘yes we need to have this!’. Even though we didn’t see it live, we saw some pictures of the office. And they did it!! We designed a cool office based on their needs.

Although I ended up not surfing that much myself during my stay, I had the great opportunity to work together with a wetsuit brand! This cool project for Deeply was about understanding how they could expand their collection to France and Spain. It was a really cool project, and I was able to work with really lovely people.

Looking back…

If you could take one thing from the Lisbon office/work to Amsterdam what would it be?

The team of course! I really enjoyed working with a small team, the way everything evolved over the months, doing projects together, going out together, doing fitness together, going for walks in the mountain and growing together the way we did. It was one nice experience I haven’t had for a while. I do want to take the feeling of closeness to the Amsterdam office.

 

How are you applying these learnings from this experience in your daily life now?

I try to be more open, honest and vulnerable when it comes to working together. I tried in Amsterdam and tried in Lisbon – it was a little personal experience – to create teams instead of co-workers or work arrangements.

Creating a personal connection with everyone (Covid-19 times make it harder)  makes work more fun and better. Knowing that you can lean on someone, it’s something that’s valuable to make good work. Doing that in Lisbon, inspired me to make it happen here in Amsterdam.

 

What would you say to the next adventurous Koosje that does an office exchange?

Do it!  I encourage Koosjes to do it, if it’s something that you want to do! It makes you look at things from a different perspective. I know it’s a cliché travelling thing to say, but it’s true. 

It’s a great opportunity to get to know yourself and to step out of your familiar Service Design comfort zone. Once you are there, I can assure you that you will actually realize that a lot of what you’re doing it’s exactly the same in another place. There will be a lot of new things but also a lot of familiar ones. Service Design works the same in Lisbon, Shanghai, NY… There’s always this common language that you can speak.

You want to get to know the other koosjes? Give us a call!

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