In this month’s The World is my Office interview, we hear from Julia, an accountant for Unilever who travelled away from her home in Germany many years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. Living and working in a foreign country, Julia shows that travel and a high-flying career can go firmly hand in hand. Since I first interviewed Julia, she has proven to everyone just how seriously she takes the travel aspect of her working life by moving to Unilever’s Mumbai office – now that’s what I call a global citizen…
Julia, tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m Julia, originally from Germany but have lived in various places across Europe over the last 10 years (and Australia for a bit). 5 years ago, I moved to London to start working and although I never wanted to stay longer than the London Olympics, I’m still here. In my free time, I try to enjoy all the amazing things London has to offer like theatre, sport events and restaurants. I also make sure I travel back to Germany regularly to see my family and friends and love to go on holiday – I usually try to go skiing in Europe in the winter and then a bigger trip abroad in the summer.
How did you get into your line of work?
I’m an accountant which might sound boring at first but I really like my job. I work for Unilever on the Tesco account, so work closely with our sales managers on our commercial plans for products like Dove, Ben & Jerrys and Hellmans. It’s lots of responsibility in a fun team and you work with products people all over the world use every day.
How often do you travel with work, and where do you tend to go?
I don’t travel a lot with work on a day-to-day basis but try to make the most of living in a different country by seeing different parts of the UK when I can – the last couple of weekends I spent some time in the Cotswolds and Cornwall. It’s such a beautiful country so it’s sometimes easy to forget that you don’t have to get on a plane to see and explore new places. At the same time, I go back to Germany regularly and Unilever is great on flexible working so I can go on a Thursday and work from home on a Friday which means I can see my family more without having to use up my holiday.
What does a normal working week look like for you?
No week is the same but most weeks start in a similar way with Monday being all about performance in the month – understanding how we are tracking versus our forecast and getting a view on how the month will develop. The rest of the week is quite unpredictable and a lot of the work I do is ad hoc depending on where issues or opportunities are. I work across all products so one day I might be looking at shower gel sales and the next day at PG Tips profitability. Unilever has 3 offices in the London area so I also try and mix it up a bit and work from different places from time to time.
What’s your favourite part of what you do?
One of the things I really like about my job is seeing the products I work on all over the world. It’s quite fun (and geeky) to go into a supermarket in Japan or Italy and seeing Unilever products on shelves.
What are the lower points of your job which people don’t necessarily see or realise?
Every job has low points but I can’t think of anything specific. I’m lucky because I work in a really nice and fun team so even if you are having a bad day, someone is always there to cheer you up.
Where in the world is “home”, and what do you miss the most when you’re away from it?
That’s a tricky question – Germany will always be home and my parents have more or less kept my room in our house which is lovely but London has also become home after 5 years of living here. I always refer to Germany as “home home” while London is “home”. I miss German bread and warmer summers (particularly after living in southern France) but if I lived in Germany, I would miss the great variety and buzz London has any day of the year.
Banksy and beers in London
Where’s the best place your job has taken you?
My boyfriend moved to Italy with work shortly after we met. Unilever has an office in Rome and I managed to get a few trips organised where I could work from there and spend some long weekends exploring Rome which was lovely. One trip even was paid for which was an extra bonus.
Enjoying the perks of travelling with work
What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you whilst travelling with work?
The most unexpected thing was probably staying in the UK for 5 years. I always thought I would move back to Germany or to a new place after 2-3 years… However, the itchy feet have finally taking over and the next move is on the cards – most likely India.
*Edit* – Julia’s itchy feet have since been scratched and she’s now working in India. You can read about her time abroad here.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar career?
Choose an industry you are interested in, choose a company that has a culture you can identify with and be clear about your dreams – they won’t come true if they are just in your head.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what 5 things would you have in your survival pack?
A photo of my parents and my sister (I’m assuming my boyfriend would be stranded with me!) – I miss them every day and always carry a picture in my wallet
My kindle – I never thought I would be a kindle convert as I love reading “proper” books but I got one last Christmas and I have to say they are quite handy. But always make sure you have downloaded at least 10 back up books in case you do get stranded on a desert island
A bag of Haribo – I’m a bit of a sweets addict and Haribo are the best (although the range in Germany is much better than in the UK)
A ball – there’s nothing better to keep you entertained on a beach
Address book – just in case I found some postcards and a post box! It’s a bit of a tradition in my family to send postcards from holidays and everyone loves getting them
‘The World is my Office’ is a series of interviews with inspiring people which are designed to showcase the many and varied ways you can incorporate travel into your working life. If you travel as part of your career – whether you live abroad or whether you travel as part of your full-time job – and you’d like to be featured in the series, please get in touch.