Even now, a year after moving, everyone I meet asks me why I left CP+B to move to Amsterdam. Before this move, every other job interview, offer and acceptance had followed essentially the same pattern. A day trip from Boston to Richmond. Or Richmond to Boulder. Eight to ten meetings with planners, heads of client service, creative directors. Hurried lunches with three people trying to get a little food in your face. Scurrying off to the airport and back to the current job. Then a call a week or so later, always from an HR person with no authority to negotiate, pretending they do.
My offer letter from CP+B was truly something special though. It began:
The sun is out, the birds are singing and truly, it’s a great day. For today is the day we formally extend an offer for you to become a part of Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
We have accomplished a lot but we are by no means finished. We are still very much a work in progress. And we are giddy about the vast potential for contribution that you will bring. Everyone who works here is an agent of change. It is our hope and expectation that simply by joining us at this exciting time, you will in some way alter the destiny of CP+B.
Whoa, that’s deep.
Even though no doubt thousands of people have received that same letter, it still moved me. I felt really good about joining CP+B and loved my time there. But I went in knowing I wanted to live overseas. My boss there – Colin Drummond, head of planning – was a former group planning director at Mullen in Boston. So he hired me twice but he knew my aspirations and only asked that I give plenty of notice.
I do an annual, worldwide planner survey and one of the participants, Sean Chambers – who worked for Tribal DDB at the time – sent me an email asking if there was any chance of me moving to Amsterdam because they were looking for a planner. Before, I thought I’d be joining the peace corps or backpacking across South America to realize my dream of living abroad. All of a sudden, still being a planner and traveling all over Europe was the revised dream.
This interview started with a 10-hour flight – thankfully direct. Sean met me at my hotel that Sunday morning and then we took a walking tour of Amsterdam having leisurely cappuccinos on terraces then meeting his girlfriend for supper.
The next day was more standard filled with several interviews. The account director I would be working with warned me that the managing partner was known to make offers on the spot. I was meeting with him the next day, so I was prepared to hammer something out in the moment rather than the typical HR nonsense.
I rented a bike and rode to the office the second day so I knew what that would be like. DDB and Tribal are in the same building in Amstelveen, about a 30 minute bike ride south of the center of Amsterdam. It was fun and nostalgic to be riding a pedal brake bike, imagining a new life without a car.
Paul Blok, the managing partner, did make me that offer face to face. Dutch and direct go hand in hand, so it didn’t take long. That was it. I had another day to spend in the city to make sure I liked it and I really had only a vague notion of what I was stepping into. I arrived back in Miami where I was living on a Friday night knowing my days in the states were numbered but exceptionally optimistic that it was the right move for me.