From New York to Milan: What It’s Like to Work for a Global Company

By Rus Ackner / 5 minutes

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Last week, I had the privilege of spending five days working from Cuebiq’s Milan office. After abating my jet lag with several espressos upon arrival, I was struck by how different some aspects of the Milan office culture are compared to New York. Read on to learn about my experience in Italy and what it’s like to work for a global company.

Diverse Perspectives and Talent

After the 30-second walk from my hotel to the Milan office — easily the best commute I’ll ever have — I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked in the door. From the moment I stepped inside, I was immediately welcomed with big grins from my Italian coworkers, some of whom I’d met at various company events, but many of whom I was meeting for the first time.

As I was given a tour around the office and introduced to more of the team, I quickly realized that the focus there was very different. At Cuebiq, the Milan office houses all R&D departments — product, business intelligence, data science, and engineering. Whereas our New York headquarters and other US offices include marketing, sales, operations, and finance departments, among others. Needless to say, the different business focuses attract diverse talent, leading to different perspectives across the company as a whole.

For example, during my time in Milan, I worked at a desk next to several Cuebiq data scientists. One afternoon, my desk neighbor asked what I was working on that day. I explained that I was writing an article about how location intelligence can help QSR marketers, which highlighted a recent white paper we released.

This sparked a really interesting conversation in which we talked about our respective day-to-day responsibilities, which could not have been more different. As you might guess, the role of a content marketer and a data scientist require completely different skill sets — yet they ultimately depend on the success of one another to support the business as a whole.

I had many more enlightening conversations while working in the Milan office, as I got the opportunity to interview some of my Italian colleagues about their work for a new content series coming up on our blog. It was fascinating to learn about everything that went into developing our platform from a product and engineering perspective, as it informs so much of what I do as a marketer.

Cultural Customs and Team Events

Of course, the business differences were not the only ones present — I immediately noticed the differences in Italian customs. For example, while the New York employees have a company lunch in the office every day, our Italian counterparts tend to go out to lunch more often.

The first day I was in Milan, one of Cuebiq’s founders took all the visiting team members, including myself, to a local pizza restaurant. We were greeted with hearty “Ciaos” — the Milan employees are clearly regulars there — before indulging in some of the best pizza I’ve had to date.

Dining at Milan restaurant with pizza and drinks

Continuing on the theme of food, the Milan team has a weekly happy hour, or “Aperitivo,” when everyone gathers around the kitchen. Members of all departments come together to chat and enjoy a beer from the office keg (yes, apparently beer is big in Italy, too!) While we have happy hours in the New York office as well, the Milan version boasts a delicious spread of charcuterie and cheese — in classic Italian fashion.

Bridging the Gap Between Milan and New York

Given the differences in business focuses and cultural customs, it’s crucial to communicate frequently and effectively between Milan and New York so that everyone is on the same page. Running a business in two countries with an ocean in the middle presents several challenges.

First, there are the different time zones. To work around this, several members of the Italian team operate on a US schedule, to communicate and collaborate more easily with employees overseas.

Another challenge is that Cuebiq employees speak different languages, although most business operations are run in English. To help with the language barrier, Cuebiq has teachers come to the Milan office every week to host English classes of all levels, so that Italian employees can refine their English and communicate more effectively at work.

Finally, a great way to bridge the gap between the offices is to have employees from Milan and New York meet each other in person. Cuebiq hosts quarterly sales summits and a company-wide retreat every year to encourage this. And of course, it’s a great help when US and Italian employees get the opportunity to visit each other’s offices and work together, as I was lucky to do.

While working at a global company poses some unique challenges, it offers some pretty great rewards. To me, benefiting from diverse perspectives and cultures at work is invaluable.

If you’re interested in working at Cuebiq, be sure to check out our current job openings in both Milan and NYC.

About the Author

Rus Ackner