2019 Grateful 18: Talented friends

There was a time in my life when I mistakenly believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness, of not being able to cope, of not being in control. If it had to be done, I had to do it.  If there wasn’t enough time in the working day to do everything I had to do, I’d sacrifice my sleep. And if you know me at all, you’ll know how much I need my sleep. Those were bad years. Nightmare years. Stressful years. Read more


I have only been fired once. My then boss had a litany of reasons for wanting rid of me that she had wrapped up in a bow-shaped accusation that I was bringing down the morale of the team. We’d just had a major success. Everyone else was jumping up and down with excitement, breaking out the bubbly. Me? I reacted in true Irish fashion with a quiet ‘That’s grand. Now, about that budget…’  Months of simmering antipathy boiled over and I was fired. It felt good.

I’ve never been really attached to work. I see it more as a means to travel, a reason to go somewhere else. While others were settling down with their careers, I was proving to be an unboxable nightmare for the various recruitment agencies I signed up with. What ambitions I have are personal. My half-hearted flirtation with the corporate ladder gave me soul splinters. I spent six months once trying to find a voluntary posting overseas with an aid agency – any aid agency – but no one would have me. I had nothing they needed. It felt bad.

That was twenty-something years ago. Twenty-something years of moving around, exploring new fields, studying new disciplines, and I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. This week, though, I discovered something that got my heart pounding a little. And loathe though I am to admit it, I can feel some tentative excitement tiptoeing through my veins for the first time in quite a while.

(c) Anu Hammer

(c) Anu Hammer

Enter Karoli Hindriks, a 31-year-old Estonian, who started her first company at the age of 16. A graduate of the NASA-partnered Singularity University in Silicon Valley – a benefit corporation that provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a start-up accelerator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand cutting-edge technologies, and how to utilize these technologies to positively impact billions of people – Hindriks is doing her bit to make the world a better place.

The brain behind, her mission is to match the wealth of professional expertise that has itchy feet with global start-ups who could benefit from their international experience. Her marketing goal is to get the word Jobbatical into the dictionary. With the intention of building the programme sector by sector, Hindriks is initially concentrating on techies. Say you’re a graphic designer or a Java programmer with 5-10 years of experience of working in Hungary. And you want to move, to say, Singapore. You could move over on spec, and see what jobs you could find once you’re there. Or you could sign up to and troll through the classifieds to see if there’s a match. Perhaps a start-up in Singapore is in need your talents.

JObbatical 1 (800x607)

Or you’re a Hungarian start-up and you would like to get someone with international experience to come work in Budapest.  Simply post your call to action and see who’s out there. Currently in its Beta version, already has 6000 followers and 92 teams in 36 countries looking for your help, start-ups who have the potential to go global but have little or no access to international skills and expertise. And they are willing to pay. These are not unpaid internships or voluntary programmes. They’re proper jobs, with proper salaries, and proper benefits.

And it’s not just for the young ones. Admittedly 80% of those on the books are in the 25-35 age range, but a solid fifth are over 35. Are you in a rut, bored, and want to make a difference while continuing to pay off your mortgage? Do you have years of experience to share and want to travel somewhere different? could well be your answer.

First published in the Budapest Times  5 June 2015

Top talent on Thursdays

How the various expatriates living in Budapest engage with this city is a source of constant amusement … for me. I know some who rarely venture outside established expat circles. I know others who will go to great lengths to avoid expats altogether. Me? I ebb and flow.

Some friends returned to Budapest earlier this month, having lived here for a year a while ago. Both were taken aback at how even after their 12 months of active exploration, the city as still coughing up new sights. It’s as if it is constantly morphing into something new; circumstances contrive to entice you into an area you’ve never ventured into before; and even old haunts offer up something unexpected.

I was in Jack Doyle’s last week, an Irish pub on the corner of Pilvax and Varoshaz utca. There’s a regular music session on a Thursday night where two of my favourite Hungarian men – Attila and Csaba, collectively known as The Jookers – entertain the punters and create a welcoming space for those who want to sing or play themselves. It’s one of the many times where I find myself wishing I could hold a tune for longer than two seconds.

Top talent on ThursdaysI’m familiar with the concept of open mic nights and have yet to be disappointed in a Thursday night at JD’s. When I have visitors in town, it’s on my list of places to go. But what I hadn’t fully appreciated is the wealth of talent this town has to offer. There’s no denying that the two boys are brilliant musicians in their own right and that the regulars who get up and entertain are gifted themselves. But the drop-ins, the random acts that pass through – that’s what adds spice to the evening. You never know what you’ll get to hear.

One after the other, they sang their hearts out last Thursday night. Hailing from Ireland, England, Australia, Scotland, America, France, and everywhere in between, they sang covers and their own songs, too. We had it all – from the Mountains to Mourne to La Boheme; from Tracy Chapman to Mary Black. Everything worked. My goose bumps were plumping.

If you’re at a loose end on a Thursday night, you could do worse that popping into Jack Doyle’s after 10pm. There are no guarantees though. I can’t promise that every night will be as good as last Thursday … next week might be even better.

First published in the Budapest Times 29 November 2013