Thursday, February 26, 2009

To chase the dream?

The Cambridge University webmail service recently completed their voting on the question “Should you chase the dream or chase stability?”.  The results, from 227 voting members, were heartening, especially in these hard economic times:

Dream 1

As a pure left-right decision, starting from nothing, I think that the aspirational choice to ‘Chase the Dream’ is the obvious one, both individually and culturally.  But what if the question is rephrased as a conditional choice?

If you have stability, would you give it up to chase the dream?"

So, I have a good job doing worthwhile things with talented colleagues.  Still, there are things that I dream of doing that I am unable to do in my present position.  At this point, I really could chase that dream: there would likely be a couple of hard years getting going, and real risks of failure.  It would come at a cost of giving up the stability that I have with no turning back to my former position if I failed.

My wiser friends are split on the answer.  Some say that I’m at an age and stage in life where I have a window to do this project, and that if I hesitate it will be gone forever.  Others say that I am ‘sinking my own yacht’; giving up a gilded 80%-solution in fruitless pursuit of some will-‘o-the-wisp.

‘Just to further increase the tension:

If you might have stability, would you give it up to chase the dream?"

The memo arrived on Tuesday: “At this time, we don’t know exactly how many positions will be affected; however, reductions may impact a variety of businesses, geographies, levels and functions.”   Suppose there were a 5% chance of being among those affected, or that there might be incentives to leave.  Does the answer change?

The natural reaction is to lean towards stability, assuring an island to stand on as the storm passes.  In reality, it might provide added resources that facilitate pursuit of the dream, although not increasing the chance of success.

will_o_thewispReal life is never as pure and simple as “Should I chase my dream?”  Three years ago I met with a VC friend to discuss whether to pursue a new business proposition.  I went through the pro’s and con’s, balancing risks and benefits, and asked his advice.  He told me that unless I really believed in the goal, and consumingly desired it, I’d never achieve it.  I tried it part-time anyway, and failed: I see where he was right.

A “Dream Decision” requires sacrifices, risks, uncertainty, cost.  More importantly, it requires commitment: this isn’t something that can be done part-time or half-heartedly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Working across borders as an expatriate

I am an American expatriate working under a valid work permit in the Netherlands.  So here’s a simple question: can I work as an employee of a company in the UK?

No: Dutch work permits are not transferable outside of the Netherlands.

Now, under the same circumstances, I have a contractual relationship with a UK-based company (also, of necessity, approved by my current employer).  Is this work allowed?

The answer turns out to be much trickier, and I needed to consult a UK immigration attorney to sort it out.

So, today I wanted to share my experience to illustrate the potential complexity of this question.

DisclaimerI am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.  This is intended only as encouragement to engage legal advice before you begin any cross-border consulting as an expatriate.

As a business visitor, you must be careful not to enter into any professional or compensatory relationship where you might appear to be an employee of a UK company.  Additionally,

  • You must be based abroad, with no intention of transferring your base to the UK even temporarily and you must have intention to leave the UK at the end of your visit.
  • You must have funds to support yourself whilst in the UK and to pay for your outward journey from the UK
  • You will not receive any salary from a UK source, although reasonable expenses to cover the cost of travel and subsistence can be paid from a UK company.
  • You must not remain in the UK for a period longer than 6 months continuously, nor more than 6 months total in any 12-month period
  • You must not be involved in selling goods or services directly to members of the public.

As a business visitor, you are allowed to perform a limited range of activities subject to certain conditions.  You must be careful not to create "product" for delivery in the UK while you are physically in the UK.  This may include preparing plans, analyses, presentations, or reports, not just physical product.  Activities which are specifically permitted include,

  • Attending meetings or conferences
  • Arranging deals or negotiating or signing contracts
  • Undertaking fact finding missions
  • Conducting site visits
  • Speaking at conferences provided that the conference is organized on a not-for-profit basis and is a 'one-off'
  • Attending board meetings in the UK -- a company director is an "office holder' of the company of which he is a director, and may receive a fee and expenses for attending a board meeting.
The consequences of violating the rules can be severe; the client company can be hit for hiring you as an illegal alien, and you can be fined for working without a permit and barred from entering the UK.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winding up Carnivale


Yes, this was a serious party!

 'Het Mooswief' (the greengrocer woman) was run up the pole on Sunday morning, then King Carnivale led his (3-hour) parade through the Wyck, across the Stone Bridge, and into the Old City.IMG_6434  IMG_6467 Once ignited, his party ran through the streets and into the wee hours for the next three nights, culminating in the Fat Tuesday lowering of the Mooswief in Vrijthof Square at midnight.   The music and celebratory laughter echoed across the river, little bands of horns and drums rushed back and forth across the bridge, and all manner of costumed revelers ran along the Fietspad below the apartment.

The costumes were unbelievably good: people put incredible thought and subtle humor into them.  My favorites included:

Amy Winehouse, released too early from rehab

Carnivale Sunday 055


The Bob Ross artists teamCarnivale Sunday 095





A banker losing his head to the downturnCarnivale Sunday 106


Barak and Michelle on CNN Live

Carnivale Sunday 110

My favorite Dutch artifact was the ‘street urinals’ placed strategically around the old city.  It was especially helpful that they labeled them with a little “Male” icon in case there was any gender confusion over their use.

DSC06040 DSC06041

‘and a link to other pictures and a good account that I enjoyed on HollandRing

Monday, February 23, 2009

Carnivale Video

Two quick videos to give a bit of the dynamic of it all. The first it the band performing the Carnivale Song in Vrijthof Square on Saturday evening, the other is a typical street scene outside the pubs.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scenes from Carnivale Saturday

I’m convinced that everyone living in the Netherlands keeps a funny hat and an elaborate costume in the closet for special occasions.  The costumes at Carnivale vastly exceed the quantity and quality of what we see at Halloween in the US.

And my favorite clip from Crossroads

Inspectors of the Food and Consumer Products Safety Authority will dress up as merrymakers during carnival to check whether cafés and bars adhere to a recently introduced smoking ban for all cafés, bars, hotels and restaurants. The authorities fear the inspectors would be too conspicuous in their ordinary clothes.

Café and bar owners violating the ban will not receive their fines immediately to prevent drunken revellers assaulting the inspectors.

Carnivale Saturday 46 Carnivale Saturday 09Carnivale Saturday 02  Carnivale Saturday 24 Carnivale Saturday 48Carnivale Saturday 27 

 Carnivale Saturday 17 Carnivale Saturday 22