The Road to Athens

Part I

Deutsche Version

So – here’s the story for those who haven’t heard about it yet… Short version: I’ll be moving to Greece for the next two years.

In case you just went “Huh? What?”… that’s still my reaction even though my departure is now less than three weeks away. So, here’s the long version:

On March 18th, 2019, I received an e-mail from my boss. It was a forwarded mail from his boss saying “anybody in your team interested?” with a job advert: “Publication of a Call for Expression of Interest for Seconded National Experts (SNEs) at ENISA”. Wait… ENISA… yes, that rang a bell. The same week, I mentioned ENISA (originally the “European Network and Information Security Agency”, now simply the “European Agency for Cybersecurity”) in a class I was teaching. I remember telling my students that this was one of the big players in the field and – jokingly – that if they were to offer me a job, the students would have to find a new lecturer. I disseminated the information to my teammates and thought to myself that this would be an interesting experience indeed. That evening, I went to pick up my wife at a friends house and told her over an impromptu dinner there that I’d seen this interesting job offer, but wasn’t going to apply for it, as it would mean relocating to Athens for two years. She mulled it over for a moment and said “Well, why don’t you apply? You have my blessing”.

The next day, I looked at the letter again. Well… why didn’t I apply indeed? My profile seemed to fit what they were looking for. One thing struck me though: The deadline for applications was March 20th. Not much time to translate my CV into English, change it into Europass format and write a cover letter – but hey, it was doable. On March 18th, I sent my application to the Swiss Mission to the EU with a request to forward it to ENISA and patted myself on the back for having made the deadline.

Yes, the deadline… which, as I reread the mail again, was March 20th 2020. I had applied with just over a year to spare. First thoughts of “They must have got the year wrong, nobody publicises jobs that far in advance” were quickly laid to rest when I noticed that the deadline was the same everywhere. In the letter, on ENISAs website, on the jobs page of the European Commission… Anyway. Better too early than too late. I fully expected not to hear from anybody about my application for a year or so.

Cut to September 2019. I had just interviewed for a new management position in our organisation and was fully expecting to get the post, having the most extensive network of the three applicants and having served as deputy head of department for three years. I didn’t, for reasons that were never made quite clear to me – I do have my theories, but this is not the place for them. Consequently, it wasn’t the best month for me. I had already announced that I would probably leave the company, but that I was waiting until April to see if my application with ENISA came through. To my surprise, I received an e-mail out of the blue on October 7th, requesting that I sit a job interview with them. The interview was scheduled, web conferencing software was tested and arrangements were made. On the day, I connected to the conferencing session, wearing a suit and tie as I always do in job interviews, only to be greeted by a conference room with people in t-shirts and hoodies. Well – better than the other way around. The interview was scheduled to take 45 minutes, although I was advised it could be shorter. Still, I didn’t expect it to be over after twenty minutes already. I had absolutely no idea how I did, except for one of the interviewers saying “excellent” at some stage to himself while he took notes. Following my last unsuccessful interview, I refused to try and gauge my chances. Every now and then I was tempted to check the accomodation market or the weather situation in Athens, usually followed by a virtual slap of my hand and an admonition of “Don’t get your hopes up, you don’t have the job yet and there’s probably loads of better applicants out there anyway.”

Three weeks later… I had just come out of the weekly meeting with our CSIRT, my boss had made me an offer that made me reconsider my decision to leave, and I was waiting for a tram to go back to the office. Idly checking my mail, I caught a glimpse of a message preview addressed to “Your Excellency”. “More Spam” I thought… it wasn’t addressed to me though, but to the Swiss Ambassador to the EU, saying “Your Excellency, please find enclosed the appointment letter addressed to you in order to request the secondment of Mr Baumann. Desired starting date as soon as possible”.

I don’t remember much else from that day, except calling my wife and just saying “holy sh… – I’m going to Greece”. The rest is a blur, but true to what I said in March, I did call my school to tell them they needed to find a new lecturer.


27 January 2020

The Office2
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