photo standing in front of a riverIn February of 2018, I was sitting in my cubicle in South Jordan, Utah at the Ivanti headquarters. I’d been at the company for less than a year and thought it would be a normal day like any other. Boy, was I wrong.

This was the day I was randomly called into the CMO’s office and asked if I’d be interested in a temporary assignment, allowing me to work abroad from Ivanti’s UK office. I’ll spare you the details of the next five months, which were full of visa paperwork, sorting logistics, and panic attacks. By the month of August, I was heading across the pond.

Fast-forward two years later. As I pack up my possessions, silently weep over international shipping rates, and prepare for the journey back, I can’t help but reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the experience, and luckily, they are the kind of souvenirs that don’t require exorbitant shipping prices.  

1. “Living the Dream” is Actually Possible

Ivanti’s Creative Director is famous for saying the phrase “Living the Dream” around the office. I never really understood exactly what that meant in practice until I moved to the UK. I think it’s pretty rare to know you’re living the dream while it’s actually happening. It seems like the sort of thing that usually happens with the benefit of at dinner

While living in the UK, I was able to explore the boroughs of London, see almost 30 different plays and musicals on the West End, visit the best museums in the world, and see historical sites firsthand. I got to be a tourist in my own backyard, visiting places in the UK like Oxford, Cambridge, the Lake District, Bath, Manchester, Brighton, Edinburgh, and the Scottish Highlands. I went on 23 international trips, 11 of which were to countries I’d never been to before. Experiences such as ringing in the new year along the group photo from cocktail hourThames listening to Big Ben chime to attending my first ‘football’ game came and went, but as each new experience happened, I knew in the moment to soak in every minute of it, because I was just lucky to be there, living the dream.

2. British Food is… Divisive

We all know I was slow to adopt British food (seriously, I just had my first sausage roll yesterday). I’ve been persecuted for my opinion that British food is mediocre at best, persecuted by a society that considers a “Chip Butty” a delicacy. (Just a reminder, chip butty = French fries in-between two pieces of bread.)

Early on, I ranked biscuits, making my distain for Jaffa Cakes known while singing the praises of Digestives and Hobnobs. The longer I’ve been here, my love for biscuits and tea keeps growing. In fact, I have an addition to my biscuit ranking that is my new favorite – the M&S brand Raspberry Cream Sandwich Fingers. Those will be my #1 missed food item.

I also ranked crisps, which led me to my opinion that the real reason for the Revolutionary War was over terrible crisps. I secretly think the Boston Tea Party was revolutionaries throwing crates of Monster Munch into Boston Harbor, not tea.

Sure, British food might not be full of the sugar levels, MSG, trans-fats, and sodium levels that ivanti employees at inerchange conferencegroup photous Americans know and love. But after two years in the UK, I’ll never turn down a Sunday roast, Indian takeaway, gin and tonic, or fish and chips by the seaside.

3. There is Definitely a Language Barrier

If you don’t believe that British English and American English are that different, go spend 20 minutes with Sara Coppock. You’ll find yourself stopping her multiple times to say, “Wait, I don’t know that word.” Let’s talk about some of my new favorite British phrases:

  • Knackered = Tired
  • That’s pants = That is not very good
  • He’s such a muppet = He’s an idiot
  • Having a proper chinwag = Having a gossip session or catch up
  • Faff about = Wasting time/not doing what you are supposed to be doing
  • I can’t be bothered = Not in the mood to do something or deal with it (it sounds like a more disrespectful phrase in the US, but in the UK, it seems more lighthearted)
  • Caught the lurgy = Someone caught a cold/flu
  • Pissed = Very drunk
  • Take the Mickey = Tease someone

I also learned a lot of fun new phrases at my first Chelsea game sitting near the Away section, but those don’t seem appropriate for a company blog. 

And after two years, the phrase I still hate:

  • “Are you alright?”  = This is the American equivalent of saying “How are you?” but it still stops me like a deer in the headlights every time, thinking “Of course I’m alright, don’t I look like I’m ok???”

4. Life is Short – Eat the Pack of Hobnobs

You never know when your life plans are going to be completely side-lined by a global pandemic. So eat the extra pack of hobnobs. Drink one more warm beer at the pub. Watch one more cricket game with your friends, pretending to know WTF is going on. Squeeze in a final trip somewhere random and exciting. Join in when Sue McGuire orders the next round, calling for “one for the road.” Enjoy it all, because you never know when it’s going to end.

5. Surround yourself with “Bloody Brilliant” Peoplegroup photo from interchange

The fact is, my experience in the UK would have been nothing without the lifelong friends I made. I met a lot of especially great people right in the Bracknell office. There is Dan Polisano, who was sure to pass by with a sarcastic (and good-hearted) dig at Americans. Or the office-wide emails from Sara Coppock to break up the day and put a smile on our faces. The office wouldn’t be the same without Jeremy Hawke, who will always stop by your desk for a chat on the way to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Don’t forget Stuart Robson-Frisby, who is always busy, but the moment you start talking about American-Football, he will suddenly have a clear calendar. There’s the genuine kindness of Sarah Lewis, the expertise and patience of June Dean, and the overall “Mary Poppins” aura of Sue McGuire. Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the friendship of Roisin Tims, who took me under her wing from Day One, giving me life advice, listening to me vent, taking care of me during the government lockdown, and more.

I’m missing a lot of wonderful people in my list; there were so many times I was overwhelmed in gratitude from Ivanti employees who offered to help me every step of the way. It truly made me understand the meaning of “Ivanti Family.”

Possibly my biggest takeaway is to work for a company that values you and sets you up for success. I’ll always be grateful to Ivanti for this experience and teaching me that a job can be way more than just a paycheck. I’ve learned that especially at a company like Ivanti, you never know what waits for you as you arrive to work each day. And honestly, that’s really exciting. I can’t wait to go back to the South Jordan office, sit at my cubicle, and see what comes next. Cheers!

Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible, including Steve Morton, McKay Allen, and the Ivanti HR team. And thank you to those in the Bracknell office and other EMEA offices who made each day special, especially the marketing and SDR teams. And lastly, thank you to those who helped facilitate the move home, including Jared Richardson and Melanie Karunaratne. I couldn’t have done any of this without these wonderful colleagues.