Monday, 13 October 2014

I don't think we're in Karlsruhe anymore...

We mostly spent the past weeks here getting our apartment set up: Multiple trips to IKEA for picking, buying and returning furniture (-parts), multiple trips to the hardware store and carpet/flooring shops, and many hours of my dear flatmate torturing me with possible apartment layouts, furniture arrangements and flooring options – we both aren't naturals or in any way talented at interior design, but while I myself seem to have come to terms with that and don't mind unprofessional furniture arrangements, he spent a lot of time with an interior design program trying out different options. He also seemed to be incredibly keen on laying out laminate himself in our living room and eventually he got what he wanted: 27m² of laminate are now lying downstairs, waiting to be unpacked. I do really appreciate his efforts though – we have an amazing apartment (in a quiet street just off Prinsengracht! With garden and balcony!) for an incredibly cheap price considering we are in Amsterdam and it would be a pity if we didn't furnish it nicely. Did I mention that the apartment comes with a fish pond, visiting cats, and a huge shower? I also really love that one of the tourist horse carriages, with a driver wearing a tailcoat and a top hat, drives through our street from time to time. The first time I saw it through our historically accurate window I thought I was dreaming...

Why, Mr Darcy, OF COURSE I want to come to the ball!
O hai!

Settling in from an administration point of view is also yet to be completed: I don't know if it is because things here just don't work as well as they do in Germany, or if it is because we are expats: Everything. Seems. To. Take. Ages.
I already mentioned the famous BSN in an earlier post, which is a tax/social security/citizen identy number. In order to get it you need a valid rental contract – which might take some time to get considering the housing market in Amsterdam. Then you need to get an appointment at the Gemeente for getting a BSN. Students like me can just show up, hand in their documents, and get their BSN within one week by mail. My Significant Other however spent 45 minutes on the phone talking to various clerks in various offices, just to get an appointment for handing in his documents some time in mid-November. It remains questionable how long he will have to wait after this appointment.
Without a BSN, it is not possible to open a bank account – or so I was told. In the end I did not need it at the bank, but it did take more than 10 days until I got the letter that I could pick up my PIN, which had not been sent to the bank branch where I had opened the account, but to a completely different branch further away. Ugh!
This bank account was necessary for signing up for gas and electricity, for getting a mobile phone contract, and most importantly for signing up for internet! Our internet connection will already be enabled „within 3 to 6 weeks“, possibly on November 3rd. How the hell am I supposed to procrastinate without internet?!

University is quite demanding as well – yes, I do have 2 days off every week at the moment, but trust me, I'm still not getting bored, since my courses are laid out in a way that we theoretically have to work around 40h every week. In practice, I had assignments due every thursday evening and every 2 weeks on friday, and since all of them were team assignments a lot of evenings during the week and most part of my „days off“ was spent coordinating and working with my teammates. I am still not sure whether or not to like the amount of teamwork we have to do here. One of my courses' grade is solely based on those group assignments, so it definitely sort of sucks to have others partly responsible for your grade. And there were definitely times when I had the feeling that I could have done the work faster and better on my own (ironically, that was for my Multithreading course – talk about synchronization overhead!). Then again: We can divide the work so I don't have to do the parts that I don't like (I'm completely fine with writing long text, but please don't have me do any diagrams!). And it does give me the opportunity to learn more about group dynamics, motivating others, etc. pp., all things which I might need when I'm grown up and want to manage projects. Haha.
At the moment I'm preparing, or rather: should be preparing, for the exam in said Multithreading course. The Dutch university system is a little different from the one we know in Germany (or at least: the one youknow; I've never attended a regular German university!): there are 2 semesters per year, both of them divided into 3 periods of 8, 8 and 4 weeks length. Typically students take 2 courses in the long periods, and 1 course in the short period, exams are at the end of each period. There is no real break between the periods and none between the semesters: only July and August are „free“, and 2 weeks around christmas and New Years.
Now, don't dare calling me a lazy student again!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Amsterdam Girl Geek Dinner - Definitely Does Compute

One thing I had been looking forward to a lot about moving to Amsterdam was the fact that here exist several networking events for women in technical companies/technical professions, i.e. mostly in IT. A lot of them seem to be organised via Twitter or Meetup (a platform whose benefits I'm only just now starting to discover! Ah, the possibilities!) So far I've discovered the PythonLadies, the RailsGirls, the PHPWomen and, less technology-specific: Girls in Tech and the Girl Geek Dinner.

Considering that Karlsruhe, where I've lived before, is also considered a somewhat big technology and innovation hub, it's a little sad to see how few girls' networking events take place there: virtually none. I guess it's just a different culture here. Or there really aren't enough women in tech back home.

So, as soon as the date for the September edition of the Girl Geek Dinner here was announced, I just had to sign up! The Girl Geek Dinners are a world wide organisation who promote women in technology. In Germany they seem to be a bit underdeveloped, unfortunately, thats why I only came across the organisation when I moved here.
The dinners usually feature one or several speakers for varied topics, usually women, and a buffet style dinner. Men are allowed to attend as well, but only as long as they're invited by a woman - every woman can invite one man, like this women will never be outnumbered by men.

The topic for September's  GGD in Amsterdam was "Start-ups" and was hosted in the beautiful premises of Rockstart on Herengracht. The evening started out with drinks and socializing and me being a little shy, but I soon got into conversation with some other first-time attendees. And there were really only women! No men! And all of those women were working in technology!

The talks were rather impressive as well - especially since at least 2 speakers were a lot younger than me. At 22, I was still way too clueless to be even remotely thinking about founding a company (and I probably still am).
Oh, and of course there was food! Catering was provided by VanChefs, one of the presenting startups: Light salad, lentils, garlic bread, veggies.....and dessert cream with macarons! I would love to post some pictures, but my phone battery died at some point, but can assure that it looked and tasted delicious :-)

All in all I met a lot of intelligent, interesting and inspiring women at the GGD - I'm already looking forward to the next event in december and might even bring my significant other :)