Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Farewell to Vlaams

So I have less than 24 hours remaining in the Netherlands. To say it's been a quick 12 weeks would be an understatement the size of Museumplein, and it's most certainly been a wonderful learning experience, in terms of both business and personal growth. I've met some incredible people from all over the world, and can honestly say that I have learned more in these last 3 months than I had at 3 years of university. I guess before I go into something of a reminiscence of the past few months, I'll briefly summarize the 2 weeks or so since my last blog post-

Company sailing trip was last week. My goal going into the thing was to not fall off the boat, which I succeeded at, with flying colors. We had 4 sailboats going around a chain of lakes near Leiden, and it turned out to be a very nice afternoon of sailing. Francois (our boat's captain) even let me captain our boat (albeit briefly), and I managed to not capsize the thing. So that was a success. Afterwards we had a few drinks by the water before heading back to our respective homes.

The weekend trip to Paris ended in terrific failure. Brief summary: I was to print out the ticket for the train, and I intended on doing that at the office, but it simply slipped my mind in the bustle that was my 2nd to last week at SES. I realized at the house Friday night that I'd forgotten to print off the ticket, so I attempted to print it off on the printer they have here, but I was unable to install it on my laptop. So I decided it would probably be alright to just show up in Rotterdam Saturday morning with my credit card I'd paid with, my passport, etc., and be alright. Rookie error, that. Turns out it wasn't sufficient, and I ended up not being able to catch that train to Paris. Not wanting to pay a king's ransom for a same-day trip to Paris, I decided to head to Brussels for 31.70 euros R/T. Brussels was... interesting. It was a nice city with some cool buildings and wonderful museums (including one with a special exhibit about trade between Europe and Asia over the past 2 millennia). It also had, however, arguably the highest per-capita beggar/gypsy population of any city I've seen. Absolutely mind-boggling, the number of people who were asking me for money for having done absolutely nothing of value to society. Get jobs, people. It's not THAT hard. And if you're not going to get a job, and going to ask me for money on the street, learn to play an instrument, juggle, etc. Don't just sit there looking like a degenerate asking for a handout. Seriously. I was able to buy a decently intriguing book in Belgium as well, about the C.I.A.'s covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. So far it's been good. Headed home from Brussels late Saturday evening. Sunday I mulled around, read a bit, etc. Standard.

This week was my last one at SES. All things considered it was pretty boring. I finished my report on Tuesday evening. In total it was 59 pages, 18,000+ words, and just a general novel about our European customer base. Hopefully more people have the patience to read that entire thing than this blog. Anyway- So yeah Tuesday finished the report, so Wednesday and Thursday I just sort of hung out at the office trying not to raise too much hell, which was exceedingly difficult. Friday was excellent. In the morning I gave a final presentation to about 15-20 or so people, lasted about 35 minutes. I was reasonably satisfied with the presentation, but more so, I was very, very pleased to see that some good conversation happened during the presentation (i.e. when I brought up some point about some market segment, that segment's Sales Director would chime in with their knowledge, and it seemed as though it was a good learning environment, anyway). So it was good to see that my presentation led to some good conversation between the sales directors, strategic marketing people, etc. The last lunch at SES was pretty typical, and in the afternoon we had my farewell drinks at about 4:30. Henning provided some wine, and his wife (on about 6 hours notice, no less) arranged for a few pies to be delivered, so that was a really great way to be seen off. I also got a ton of free SES WORLD SKIES stuff, and consequently the awareness of SES at Illinois State next fall should increase at least infinity-fold. Will be repping the blue and yellow with pride, most certainly. And any time I'm at a party and the satellite TV goes out due to rain... I'll slink into a corner and keep my mouth shut. So yeah, it really was a wonderful atmosphere at the farewell drinks, and I'll certainly miss all the people around the office that I've met these last few months. After my going away drinks, there were celebratory drinks (absolutely flabbergasting, I know, having DRINKS?!?! at SES WORLD SKIES?!?!?! unheard-of!) for Nihar's completion of his 11th masters degree, this one from Georgetown in their Masters of World Domination program. But seriously, yeah the man has 2 masters and has said repeatedly he's now finally overcome his crippling addiction to diplomas, and will consequently find a hobby (my money is on salsa dancing). Friday night I went out to Schevinengen with some people from the office and we watched some International Fireworks Display or something on the beach. I don't entirely understand the concept of having countries "compete" against each other for fireworks excellence, but I guess in a country without baseball they need a way to take up their time.

So yeah, I've just been packing the last couple of days. Turns out I have a lot of stuff, so I'm looking forward to paying some absurd amount to the Leprechauns at Aer Lingus for being able to bring like 120lbs of luggage onto their airplane. I'll be hanging out with the family at O'Hare for a few hours, as I said, then heading onward to Colombia. Should shorten my life expectancy substantially.

Anyway, now comes the time where I should write a meaningful goodbye to SES WORLD SKIES, so I guess I'll do that. As I've said exactly three bazillion times this summer, I've learned so much here, and can't say enough what a great opportunity it's been. I can honestly say I couldn't believe how international the company really is, which was best exemplified when my Grammy asked me a few weeks ago if I've learned any Dutch here. I said that, at the office, I hear more of the following languages than Dutch: Russian, Spanish, French, German, and English. It really is incredible. I'll certainly never forget the good times had at World Skies (notice the lack of capitalization, take THAT marketing! Now that I no longer work there I'm no longer in your clutches!) and can't say enough how welcome I felt every single morning upon walking into that office. It was a perfect first office job to have, though in a way it's a bit of a negative, because I'm 100% certain that my first real job out of university will not be able to hold a candle to the experience I've had here and the general office atmosphere. In fact, it will probably be a thoroughly soul-crushing experience to work in an office that isn't SES World Skies. If nothing else, I've still got some time until that day comes, so we'll just take it one day at a time for now. I felt before I came here that I'd likely make a bit of a unique impression on the place with my generally eccentric behavior, and I feel like I probably did that. So that's a win, in a manner of speaking. I can honestly say that the only thing I will not miss about this job is riding home 8-9km in the pouring rain on occasion. That was not fun. But other than that, my goodness was this just an awesome, awesome (Henning, if you're by some chance reading this, that 2nd awesome was for you) work and life experience. The once-weekly goodbye/celebratory/summer/wednesday drinks didn't hurt either. I'm starting to ramble, so I guess let's close with something like I wish each and everyone one of you the best of luck in your future careers and lives, and hope that my work helps to contribute in some way (preferably positive) to SES World Skies. It's truly been a pleasure working with each and every one of you, there are more characters in that office than should be allowed, for Chrissakes, but I feel like that's what makes SES what it is. So again, a big thank you to everyone, especially Henning Horst, my brilliant and equally eccentric mentor throughout this entire project. Not only did you attempt to teach me the art of keeping it brief (I say attempt because it may just be a terminal illness that I suffer), but you taught me a ton about satellites, marketing, strategy, etc. It's been great. Also a huge thank-you to the entire Sprague family for their truly absurd hospitality. I would have never been able to come here had it not been for you guys, so thank you, thank you, thank you for letting a complete stranger come live in your house for 3 months. I can't tell you how much that means to me. Signing off for the last time in the Netherlands, for those who have read all this, I extend you a big thank you and a hearty tip-of-the-hat. It's you guys that I write this for (who am I kidding, it's really just for my own ego, but eh). More to come from Bogota, it's been real, folks.

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