The adventures of a born-and-raised-in-Michigan girl (OK, woman) who's moved to Bavaria with her husband, kids, and dog.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year, New (brace yourself)...


For Martin, that is, not me. ;-)

As shocking as that probably sounds, considering he is leaving the job that took us all across the ocean just over a year ago, it is utterly true. And the kicker is that since we live in a "company town" not an "industry town" (like Detroit), that also means we're moving. Sort of. Well, we are, but later. Except for Martin, who moves now since the new job starts February 1st.

I guess I'd better back up a bit. You may have wondered how the new job has been going (many of you have asked, and I have started a blog entry about it more than once but never posted it). From the first day, everyone knew it wasn't a perfect fit. But they all (including the HR director orchestrating the recruitment and overseas move) said, "just work yourself into the current project and we will change things later on."

As in any large organization with a big project already well underway, Martin has been just a tiny piece in the overall scheme of things. A tiny piece trying to catch up and grab both the power and responsibility that should have been his from the beginning in his position. With the ambiguous title of "Technical Specialist" within the testing group, it was management's hope that he would be the liaison between testing and design, and review and oversee (i.e. veto the errors) in all designs, before the mistakes came into testing. (Why test a bad design when you can fix it and test a good one instead?)

All well and good, except that the ideal world and the actual world function a little differently. Many people have taken Martin's advice, appreciate it, and seek him out regularly. Others have shrugged it off and gone their own way... as Martin is not a manager, he has no real power in their eyes. Some months he has felt like he has made a large impact there. Some months he has felt like a broken record in the corner that everyone ignores. He has had many tempting opportunities to gloat in that "I told you so" kind of way, as things have unfolded (but of course he hasn't).

As it happens, for the past six months his two managers have been working very hard to change things for him, even exploring lateral moves, etc., when he did some patentable work for another department on the side. Thankfully the people he works with have all been fantastic, making the whole situation pleasantly bearable. Many have become close friends, which makes the change all the harder for us.

The job interview was with a British consulting company's German subsidiary, about two hours west of here in Schwäbisch Gmünd (say that three times fast, I just dare you). They are a well-established, well-known consulting company (probably number three worldwide for transmissions, although they also do engine development). In their 300-person German subsidiary (50 Brits, 250 Germs) they have handed previous transmission projects that come in over to their British HQ. Currently they have two new projects and have decided to build an in-house group instead.

Martin will head up the new transmission design group, just two hops away on the organization chart from the top guy for the subsidiary. Initially, he will have sales and project management support, and borrowed design staff, but the idea is that the area would evolve over time. It is a substantial salary increase with a semi-annual bonus payment as well, all of which means that we can make a few adjustments in our lifestyle (increasing the travel budget, for one).

The rest of the story played out as you would imagine... he went to his current bosses with the news and they worked for a week to try to resolve the situation with multiple meetings, exploratory transfers, etc. ("Don't even bother to try to match the money, you can't," he told them... "but I would consider staying if I had more responsibility or challenge.").

The start date is February 1, and the plan is for Martin to take a room in the 60,000 person town of Schwäbisch Gmünd, and work on the permanent housing plan (don't know if we will buy new, renovate old, build custom, or what at this point). The kids, dog, and I will stay here for the next 12 to 18 months, only because Nicholas is just on the verge of starting at his new "therapeutic" Kindergarten, which A) doesn't exist in the smaller town of S.G., and B) we wouldn't have a chance of getting an open spot, fully paid for, with all the red tape in place within the next year (or ever) even if it did.

So we will be entering a commuting phase of our marriage, where Martin comes home every Friday night and leaves on Sunday evenings. Bummer in the short run, but the best arrangement we could work out, to go for the longer range plan. In a way, it makes such a big change easier to think about, as I don't have to pack up an entire household and move it in the month of January, I only have to pack up Martin's weekday basics.

As Nicholas' new Kindergarten is an all-day affair, from 8:15 to 4:00, and he has recently given up naps, I'm pushing up his bedtime to 7:00 p.m. So I will be a single parent of two for exactly three hours every weekday, which I think I can manage OK. The hard part, I think, will be being motivated enough to actually cook and eat real meals; I think I will tend to whip up the toddler food and a bowl of Corn Flakes for myself.

We also haven't decided whether to sell or rent the house here in Etting, come 2008/9. It is very rentable, particularly after the renovations we've put in, and since it is less than a mile from the Technical Development Center, and Etting is a sweet little town of 3,500 (within the city of Ingolstadt proper, pop. 120,000). Things to figure out later, I guess.

Schwäbisch Gmünd, although only half the size of Ingolstadt, is nicely situated (20-30 minutes drive) from both Stuttgart and Ulm. Stuttgart has an international school, a Montessori school, and an English playgroup of 25 years with 60 families strong. So with a bit more time in the car, a lot more is within reach, which makes up for the smaller city size, I think.

We have decided one thing about Schwäbisch Gmünd housing: we do not have the energy to survive another year of "do-it-yourself-major-renovations." If we decide to buy an older house and change it... we would hire it out instead.

I told you it was big news.

And that, my friends, is how the story of 2006 ends for us. Capped off tonight with an evening of appetizers, friends, and Silvester fireworks (a German tradition, everyone takes to the streets at 11:45 and shoots off modest items picked up at the grocery store) planned at home. If we had satellite TV installed, no doubt we would watch the New Year's Eve classic (since 1972) here, a BBC skit titled "Dinner for One."

Pigs are big good luck symbols for the new year here, I guess you were lucky if your family had a pig to take you through winter. Little stuffed swine are sold everywhere, even bundled with champagne splits at the drug store:

So I wish you all a "guten Rutsch" (good slide) into the new year, and "Schwein gehabt" (good luck, colloquially, and "pig had" literally). And a chicken in every pot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin, Catherine, Nicholas, Stephanie, and Bella

Congratulations on the new job!!
We wish you all the best.

Uncle Peter and Aunt Regina

4:12 PM

Anonymous Roland Stauber said...

Hello Martin and Catherine, and kids!

Hope things go well with the new job. Hey, you forgot to mention that Schwäbisch Gmünd is only a couple of hours away from Friedrichshafen, so hopefully somewhere down the line, we'll be able to meet again.

All the best,

2:32 PM


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