I've been reflecting on how I ended up in Germany. The obvious answer is that I'm married to a German but it's not that simple. It kind of evolved through a series of events.
Years ago I was an application developer, managing a small team responsible for designing and implemeting an HR solution for the Japanese market. About midway through the development cycle someone had the bright idea to split up the functional and technical teams, both of which I managed along with the QA team.
I resisted as long as I could and since my team was working on the biggest and most complex product requirements of the release I had a lot of say - until the release was over, that is, and then they calmly carried out their diabolical plan to make me specialize. Everyone else had already made the switch and I was the last hard core generalist standing.
Given the choice between functional work (i.e., defining requirements and designing solutions) and technical work (implementing solutions) I chose the functional path because it seemed to be the rarer skill, by which I mean that fewer people seemed to be good at it. Most of the people I worked with were either subject matter experts with no design skills or technical experts who designed like engineers - i.e., for other engineers. Few of them were what I considered great application designers so it seemed like a promising niche.
(For an example of engineer-driven design, go use gmail. I hope Google doesn't blow up my blog or delete all my contacts for saying that - and I'm thinking I won't be Blog of Note any time soon - but it needed to be said.)
Not long after I felt underchallenged in my new specialized role so I made a decision to leave the US and spend an exciting year or so abroad. Oh, and I also planned to marry Ralf, whom I'd met on the job, but I couldn't count on that happening so mostly I was inviting the universe to fall in with my ideas.
The tricky bit was finding a job in Europe when my only other languages were Japanese and Russian. I put my name 'out there' and was offered a job in the European sales team at the same company, which I eagerly accepted. Accordingly, I quit my job as functional analyst and put the paperwork in motion to move abroad.
Then disaster struck.
A couple of weeks before my planned departure date the offer was withdrawn! They decided to give the job to someone else already living in Europe, AFTER making me a formal offer. Rotten, I know, but believe it or not people pull crappy stunts like that all the time. Unfortunately, this particular crappy stunt left me jobless, homeless and with not much of a savings.
The good news is that I was also single, mobile and good at my job so I didn't despair. Much. And sure enough, about three days later I got a call from the manager of the German sales team with an offer. A bit less money but based in Germany. The only catch was that I had to learn German but they would pay for lessons.
What, am I stupid? I jumped at it! Ten days later I was in Munich struggling to learn German well enough to do a passable sales demo as well as learn a completely unfamiliar product area, because right after hiring me my manager was demoted to head up the financials product, rather than all products. Now, I'm a smart cookie, but there are limits to human ability and there was no way I'd be up to speed any time soon.
That's a fancy way of saying I sucked.
Meanwhile the manager of the consulting organization adopted the strange and offputting habit of coming to the door of the sales room to glare at me several times a day. We're talking resentful glares of hatred here and I really didn't understand what I'd done to offend him. My German manager soon clarified the matter: One of the key projects was dying a slow hideous death and they needed someone with my skills to save it - and meanwhile here I was wasting everyone's time trying to sell products I knew nothing about in a language I couldn't speak!
When he put it that way it kind of made sense. So, to make a long story short, I was soon after absorbed into the consulting group, helped save the project, got promoted to project manager (accompanied by more glares of hatred - I learned later it was his only expression), managed another project then joined the product strategy group. And married Ralf. Over time we had two kids and left our jobs to join a start up company.
Blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, my point is that some of these changes were planned by me, whereas others just kind of happened. And really, that's the way things go in life. You're never prepared for the sucker punches and you never know what will turn up when they happen. Also, there are a lot of great people out there, like my awesome German boss who offered to stand up for me and even get fired if I didn't want to change jobs.
(He has since emigrated to Ireland and is now a professional chef. Not because of me. Probably.)
You just never know. That's what faith is for.