Working in Denmark as an American expat: "It has been really, really rewarding"
Switching industries and continents to make an impact.
Charlotte Searle is a senior data analyst at Too Good To Go, a Danish company that strives to reduce food waste globally through the Too Good To Go app, which enables its users to purchase surplus food and groceries from local businesses. Upon securing the job at the Danish company, Charlotte Searle, born and raised in America, moved to Denmark to start her new position.
Searle has a BSc in mathematics and an MSc in business analytics from the University of Virginia. During her undergraduate programme, she discovered the field of data science. This new-found interest led her to begin to broaden her theoretical knowledge of mathematics to a more applied level, aiming to bridge people’s understanding of how they can use technologies.
Having started her career working with data analytics and data science at a digital marketing firm, the first lockdown of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 made her reconsider her career path. She had always wanted her work to be centred around people – work that energised her. But more importantly, she started to rethink where she would be able to make the greatest impact through her work:"I have always been motivated by impact, and I was really interested in greentech and sustainability. I was driven by an aim of going all in on understanding how I could apply my skillset in data science and analytics to the greentech movement. I felt a really strong connection to the mission of Too Good To Go and thought it was aligned with my personal career interests."
Switching industries from business analytics to greentech in the pursuit of increasing her impact on the world led her across the Atlantic Ocean to a small speck on the map: Denmark.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW WORK-LIFE BALANCE Expecting her co-workers to be in full activity, Searle showed up at work on her first morning at 8:30, only to find an empty office. At her former workplace in the U.S., there would have been many activities going on at that time of the morning. To Searle, this was the first sign that she was in a completely different working environment to the one she was used to: "There is very much this emphasis on not working too late and not feeling too much pressure to get things done tomorrow no matter the cost."
Denmark is well-known for its favourable work-life balance, which is one of the components of the working environment according to a recent report published by Boston Consulting Group (1). In the OECD Better Life Index, Denmark is placed third among OECD countries when it comes to work-life balance (2). The prospect of this different approach to work-life balance initially worried Searle. She thought it might translate to people not being engaged in their work – a concern that clashed with her decision to move across the globe to work for a mission she deeply cared about.
However, these worries were quickly put to rest:"People take work very seriously in my office, but it does not translate into needing to spend all of your hours of the day [at work], which I think is actually very good for your productivity and effectiveness overall. That was part of why I wanted to come, too."
A SMALL COUNTRY WITH A BIG IMPACT ON THE WORLD Being driven by the desire to make an impact through her work, Searle does not hesitate to recognise the influence of the Danish greentech industry worldwide: "There is a lot happening in Denmark that is getting attention elsewhere. Denmark is small, but the ambitions are high and there is a lot of impact happening on a much grander scale from what is happening in the greentech space here. That is true for Too Good To Go, but it is also true for many other companies."
Despite having only been employed in the greentech industry for a few months, Searle already sees a lot of potential within the industry, as well as a future for herself working in greentech: "There is so much variety in the types of solutions in greentech. In my mind, there is no chance of being bored in this industry. And [...] it is something I care deeply about. I don’t really see any reason why I would switch to another industry at this point."
NOT BEING AFRAID TO TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH Searle points to two key lessons when asked what advice she would give others in her position. First, she finds it important to know what your career ambitions are. Understanding her own career goals led her to switching industries and continents.
Second, Searle emphasises the importance of not being afraid to reach out to people to make your ambitions come to life: "Tap into the communities that exist around whatever it is that you are interested in. I spent a lot of time joining different Slack networks and just reaching out to people. [...] If I had not sent that one LinkedIn message to my new boss ... If I had felt a little bit of fear in that moment and not gotten the guts to do it, then I would not have gotten this great opportunity."
(1) Report by Boston Consulting Group in collaboration with Digital Hub Denmark. (2) http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/work-life-balance/