The Pursuit of Happyness

Seeking the Audacious Harmony of Work, Life, Fulfillment, and Success —

I spent a whopping 26 years of my life in Italy, living in a small town between Padua and Venice. It was all pretty average, the typical routine — going out with my girlfriend, playing football with my friends, practicing boxing, and eating pizza at the same places.

No complaints. I felt so damn lucky!

Money 💶

I hopped on the work train pretty early, at the tender age of 15. I wanted to be indipendent.

Plus, let's face it, living in a provincial culture that thinks a uni degree is for losers doesn't really inspire one to pursue higher education.

Working in factories and construction sites left a mark on me and gave me the kick in the ass I needed to hit the books. The thought of spending my entire life on an assembly line made me cringe! I thought, why not get myself a fancy degree? I've always loved computers and video games, so it was a total no-brainer.

The day of my graduation arrived.

December 27, 2007, a freezing cold morning 🥶

After defending my thesis, Prof. Sperduti bestowed upon me the title of “Doctor of Computer Science”. Cue the applause from my friends and family. But things didn't go as smoothly as I hoped.

Finding a job wasn't difficult. After a few weeks, I start working as a junior dev for a B2PA consultancy company in Padua. The contract is as a metalworker, all because Italy couldn't even wrap its head around the concept of IT workers:

Permanent contract with a 3-year apprenticeship.
Salary: €948 (after taxes) per month.

While signing, they promise that they will shorten the apprenticeship period. Maybe by a year.

I knew I lacked experience, so I wasn't expecting bags of cash to rain down on me just yet. Besides, to comfort my fragile ego, none of my university buddies were making more than €1k a month. It was a real "The 1000 Euros Generation" movie moment!

A Decent Paycheck Can Wait 💔

Two long years went by, and thanks to some seniority raises, my monthly income skyrocketed to the dazzling amount of €1,049! Oh, and that apprenticeship I was promised would end early? Yeah, that turned out to be a “maturating” apprenticeship instead. They said they couldn't afford to pay me a full salary, but they were happy to enjoy those sweet government incentives until the end of my training. It's a win-win... for them!

That office started to feel like a straitjacket, and the projects? Yawn-inducing! 😴 It was time to break free and find something new and shiny.

So, off I went on a wild job-hunting adventure! I had interviews left and right, but what I found was a measly raise of €100 - €150 per month. That isn't enough when thinking about switching jobs.

The only perk I've got is this sweet routine I've got going. My work-life balance is as smooth as silk, and the pressure at work is practically non-existent. Most people would be satisfied, but nah, I'm not one to settle for average. I'm young, and it's prime time to chase a better-paying job.

A whole year flew by, and I was still on the hunt for a bigger paycheck. Guess what? Zilch! Nada! 😩 I was swimming in responsibilities at my current job playing superhero as I assisted clients, managed help desks, and implemented entire projects. Don't get me wrong, I was pretty darn proud of myself. But deep down, I couldn't shake off the feeling that my salary was incredibly low, and my efforts were being underappreciated.

I was trapped. Trapped like a squirrel in a maze. But then, a little spark ignited within me, and it whispered: "Hey, have you ever considered looking beyond these borders?" The magical land of well-paid programmers! 🤑

The Second Job 🥈

Enter Luca, a fellow compatriot who had set up a web agency in Lithuania. Our paths crossed, and we started collaborating in the moonlit hours. 🌙

And boy, oh boy, the magic happened! I started getting inquiries from the Netherlands, India, Germany, and the UK! It hit me like a bolt of lightning.

My English skills were a bit embarrassing. I mean, I could barely string a coherent sentence together! 🙈 The grass was greener on the other side, and by greener, I mean they paid buckets of cash!

I quickly realized that if I wanted to dive into this treasure trove of well-paying jobs, I needed to sharpen my English skills like a master swordsman!

"Du iú spich inglisc?" 🥴

Unfortunately, I was at a slight disadvantage here. Despite spending an eternity studying English in school, I couldn't conjure up a single meaningful sentence. 😅

But fear not, my friend! I wasn't about to give up. I dusted off my old high school books and raided my girlfriend's collection of language textbooks from her university days. I even dug up my dad's ancient audio cassette course and played it on repeat in my garden shed, the designated temple of knowledge. And let's not forget my trusty sidekick, Google Translate! Oh, the hours we spent together, bonding over wonky translations and hilarious misunderstandings! 🥰

Graffiti in Naples: 'the future is unwritten' (July 2012)

Something Unexpected Happens ✨

Chatting with my buddy Stefano, I stumble upon a startup in Amsterdam, they need a front-end developer.

He asks, "Wanna interview?" I'm like, "Hell yeah!"

It's June 2011. Front-end is just a newborn baby. We got jQuery, Mootools, and Handlebars libraries ruling the roost. AJAX revolution is becoming real, and Backbone.js is flipping the script on client-side organization. Everyone's babbling about MVC!

When we were young

I rocked CSS, nailed PHP, and kinda-sorta knew JavaScript, but boy, my English was still a hot mess.

That phone interview was an emotional rollercoaster! 😵

Later, my mom tells me she was flabbergasted by my English skills (she barely speaks it herself), but she never thought they'd hire me.

But guess what? After a week of remote trials, they send me the contract:

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.
Salary: €2249 (net) per month.

And there I am, lost in thoughts:

I quit my job on the spot. Netherlands, Hier ik kom!

The Dutch company covers my one-way flight, 2 weeks of fancy hotel stay (Hotel Casa Amsterdam), and hands me a shiny new MacBook Pro. It's a dream!

I'd never set foot in the Netherlands before. On July 31, 2011, I landed there, ready to embark on a year-long adventure! 🤯

Utrecht - Netherlands (2012)

The thrill didn't last long. Those early months were a struggle. I barely understood a word and stumbled over my own thoughts. The culture and customs felt like a foreign planet. I was a fish out of water, a total doofus. Plus, I caught more colds than a sneezing champion! 🤧

But hey, I didn't let it bring me down. In Amsterdam, English was the lingua franca. So, I decided to buckle up and finally conquer the language that haunted me for ages. I attended meetups, made new friends, took some courses, even joined Couch Surfing and hosted folks from Canada, the United States, Germany, Russia—you name it!

Cultural evening - Netherlands (2012)

Seems like everyone spoke fluent English except me. I convinced myself that by mingling with these fabulous people, their language prowess would rub off on me. And guess what? It worked! I had my fair share of embarrassing moments, but progress came with time and a whole lot of patience.

I poured my heart into work. But life had different plans. The development team got downsized. Most of my fellow programmers were let go. Start-up life, you know.

That was my first time getting the boot. Well, let's be honest, it was more like the company pushed me out to avoid paying severance.

Man, the world is full of wolves, ain't it? A valuable life lesson learned.

Panic Mode: Activated! 😱

After just 9 months, I found myself unemployed, far away from home, barely knowing a handful of people, and still not feeling super confident about my English skills.

I instinctively started browsing flights back to the homeland. But then, I had an epiphany—I can do this!

Resumes flew out, I hit up meetups like JavaScript, Frontend Developers, Hackers and Founders, hackathon, and whatnot. I was determined to turn the tide!

I meet awesome people, make killer connections, and let the Netherlands know that I exist and I'm rocking it in my craft.

Hey, Olanda, I'm here to stay!

Rockstart Accelerator - Olanda (2012)

Before my termination period even ends, a new opportunity knocks on my door. And it wasn't even that hard. I feel unstoppable, baby!

The rest is history in the making...

TL;DR ⚡️

Next time you feel like complaining about your job, think again! Italy is bursting with phenomenal developers.

Why settle for less? Why stay in a country that fails to recognize the awesomeness of IT?

In Italy, programmers are often treated like the bottom of the barrel. Just grunt workers. But in reality, we are artists, poets, creative geniuses!

If we toil away in uninspiring, soul-sucking environments, our spirits wither away. We lose our spark, passion, and curiosity. Sure, it can happen elsewhere too.

But here's the thing, my friend. If you're not vibing with your current project, just grab your lock, stock, and laptop, and quickly find something that really gets you excited. That way, you won't end up stuck in a gig where you can't stand your boss, coworkers, or even your own existence, with no way out. Go for an atmosphere that's buzzing, electric, and full of life."

In our field, the world is our oyster, thanks to the wonders of the internet. You don't have to jet off to Amsterdam, London, or Berlin to find your dream job. Just shoot off an email with your dazzling introduction and resume attached. Simple and doesn't cost a dime.

So, if you, like the old me, are dissatisfied with your job, feeling undervalued and taken for granted, remember this: in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, Scandinavia (and that's just scratching the surface), there are countless opportunities waiting to sweep you off your feet. Rediscover that giddy excitement and passion you had when you wrote your first "Hello, World!"

But this time, my friend, it'll be you, grinning from ear to ear, proudly proclaiming: "Hello World!"