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CPL web developer Spiros Aliprantis reflects on the personal and geographical journey he has taken over the past five years
I read once that when a situation is out of your hands, it is better to move on. Life is too short. That might not sound good. But think about a situation where you can’t change things. Is it better to keep fighting or just move on?
Let’s take a step back. A few years ago I was in Greece, planning my future. Technology, particularly software, was one of my favourite sectors. It offered endless applications and great potential growth – surely a sector where I could easily find a job?
I soon realised my country wasn’t that keen on embracing new technologies, and then – a few years after my graduation – the economic crisis came along to finish off the job market. Funnily enough, Greece has many potential jobs in this sector, but no-one is willing to invest and create jobs. After a few years struggling, with my mental health at stake, my father stepped in. He convinced me, and supported me financially, to take the decision to try for a job in London.
Within two months, I already had my first job as a junior web developer! I finally felt useful and capable. I saw that there was still hope and I could finally chase my ambitions. Having gained a couple of years’ experience, I was already looking for the next challenge. Which landed me here in Cambridge at CPL.
Having a job is one thing; having a family when you are alone in a foreign country is something beautiful and unique. That is CPL. A batch of friends improving one another, collaborating to complete fun projects – and, as a bonus, they get paid for it!
To me, that mindset was unheard of. In Greece, most employers expect you to know everything. They don’t believe in knowledge sharing and self-improvement. It took me a while to get used to this new way of working – the CPL way.
Improvement does not happen by magic. You need to confront challenges and take risks. It’s not easy moving to a different country; you need to be absolutely ready, both mentally and physically. It is not easy to accept that the way you used to live – and the places and faces you know – will become a distant memory. You need to learn how to live again: create new happy memories; new friends; and find new places to go to. Speaking a different language is mentally draining. Even after five years in the UK, if I drink much more than a pint of beer, I start to mix up my Greek and my English and end up hardly being able to speak at all!
Most people will find a thousand excuses not to venture outside their comfort zones. The truth is, go with the flow and embrace the unknown. This is what a proper developer needs to do. Knowledge is important, but it is useless if you hesitate to make good use of it. I didn’t want to be yet another graduate working in a coffee shop. I wanted to apply my knowledge, improve and offer solutions, while learning even more.
What I appreciate the most is that CPL didn’t care much about my skill level or my certificates. Its focus was on my ambition and willingness to learn. And I’ve learned a lot: from coding best practice to being a better colleague; and from business development to having fun with your colleagues during and after work hours. All of the above is unthinkable for a typical business in Greece. And I haven’t even mentioned the constant supply of fruit, the “beer run” on a Friday and the fact the core working day is limited to 7.5 hours. All this care builds loyalty, and the employer-employee relationship transforms a business into a family, a work family.
The choice is to either stay in your box, or take the plunge and move on. In theory, these are simple decisions, but they have a huge impact in real life. I will never go back and choose to stay in my box. Humans have always made progress because it is in our nature to explore. My advice? Embrace that attitude and don’t go against it.