California Life Part 2 - Caz
For the 2nd in the series on California Life, I talked to Caroline Dowling (aka Caz) who's been working at Google for 10 years. I joined Caz's team when I started in 2007, so it was really nice to catch up on my last week, and chat about life, work, food and San Francisco.
Google Inc HQ, Mountain View
I joined Google Ireland in 2003 and left in 2008 to travel with John, my husband. I never ruled out coming back to Google, and when we came home a year later I rejoined the Dublin office. A few years later, I had itchy feet again and was looking out for the next move or new experience. Travel is a big part of that for me, and John and I moved here in January 2012.
I did my J1 in San Diego, and had done regular trips to the Mountain View office when I was based in Dublin. I also did a 3 month rotation to the office here in 2006 and lived in San Francisco. I loved it and always wanted to come back. Because I'd lived here I was familiar with the city and had a really good sense of the place, so it was an easy transition for me. It was a bit harder for my husband as it was only his second trip here when we moved, so he had to figure out where to work, and it was all a new experience for him.
How was it different living here, as opposed to visiting?
Mainly I was conscious of asking my husband to move, and I really wanted him to settle and enjoy living here. Setting up our finances was challenging - like bank accounts/credit cards etc.. we went from owning a house at home to renting, so figuring that out too. The hardest thing has been understanding the US taxation process, and how much tax is owed by the end of the year! Also I took on a new team and responsibilities when I moved here so that was a transition.
Do you find the Google culture here different to home?
Dublin has a really centralized energy and buzz and I had a smaller team there. It's so much bigger here and you need to build new relationships. Being in Mountain View really feels like being in Headquarters. I've seen the Beach Boys play here, and Sully Sullenberger when visited, it's exciting.
How do you manage work-life balance here, any different to home?
When I was in Dublin I cycled to work which was really nice so the biggest change for me is the commute from San Francisco to Mountain View. It's a much bigger surface area to cover here, but I was prepared for it. At home traveling 40 miles to work is practically unheard of. But I knew what I was getting into and have worked it into my day, it can be nice to have quiet time on the bus to get work done or read. My daily schedule is actually easier here. I used to do late meetings in Dublin, sometimes working until 7 or 8pm. Work-life balance was actually one of the biggest drivers for me to move here, and it's definitely worked out well.
What do you love most about San Francisco?
It's the most beautiful city in the world!! I love that I can be somewhere completely different within a few hours - the beach, Redwood forests, skiing in Tahoe, visiting wineries. The city itself is small in terms of American cities, you can cycle and walk around easily. Every Saturday, I cycle down to a trampoline class and pass the Golden Gate bridge, it feels like a new experience for me every time which I love! I get motivated by these kinds of experiences.
Golden Gate Bridge
Has your lifestyle changed being here?
I've always played sports and been active, I played field hockey at home. I think that's been accentuated by being here. I've lost weight and feel better from the lifestyle. I've got into running, the weather is perfect for being outside and active. Trampolining is something I started here that was completely new. Maybe it's an Irish guilt thing - we feel we should always be out taking advantage of the sun.
It's amazing how the San Francisco food scene has changed in the past few years, I see new places opening every week. The culture here is very conducive to eating out. You can eat well cheaply, or spend money. There's a lot of diversity and opportunities to try everything. In California there's a huge amount of pride in how food is prepared, from a $6 burrito to a $60 steak and they use really good quality ingredients. There's a lot of attention and care taken with the quality of ingredients and flavours used. San Francisco has a reputation as a culinary center, and it's exploded in the last five years.
I miss proper bread from home, like McCambridges, the bread here has a lot of sugar. We take advantage of the shops here that sell Irish food like Ballymaloe relish, proper crisps and the Cadbury's chocolate that actually comes from Coolock!
When you move here at our age you already have established networks at home, so it can be hard to make the same kind of friendships here. When you're transplanted to somewhere new you don't have the same connections. But maybe that's just what it's like making new friends in your 30's. Here, people are more spread out than in Dublin, and people are more used to having their friends live further away for college or work, so people tend to meet up less.
I think in the Bay Area people tend to keep their personal lives separate from work. There isn't the same after-work drinks culture that we have at home. That's a big thing for Irish people, it's part of the bonding process with your colleagues and a nice way to get to know each other, and decompress after work.
We're really lucky to have some friends here that I already knew from Google. And of course there's always the Irish-Google contingent here which is always fun!
(l to r) Joanna, Caz, Paul, John, Katrina
How do you find living away from home?
I love to travel, so I'm comfortable with being away from home. The experiences that I gain from being away are equally as valuable to me as living at home. Technology like Whatsapp, video calls etc...make it so much easier to keep in touch with home. At this point in our lives everyone is so busy. A lot of friends might not have seen each other in months, or since the last time I was at home! I've been lucky to get home every few months, but a lot of my friends aren't living at home anymore they're all over the world. You do worry that if something happens you're so far away, but a supportive family really helps. They support everything I want to do, and I'm lucky to have the freedom to be able to explore somewhere else.
We've recently got our Green Cards and have no plans to leave. I'm starting a new job here in Google in September and hopefully there'll be more opportunities in the next few years. W'ere really happy here - physically, emotionally and mentally happy. Although having a direct flight to Dublin to Aer Lingus definitely makes it easier!
I feel passionately about doing as much as you can in your life. For me, my passion is travel and exploration, and my ideal career would be travel writing. We'll all have to work for a long time, there's no such thing as getting a job in one place anymore. Being here in California there's encouragement to try and fail, and it's ok to fail. I don't think we've traditionally had that mentality in Ireland, but it's becoming more engrained.
Great stuff, thanks Caz!