Back in the beginning of 2020, when the first mentions of COVID started hitting the media, Maria and I started discussing our plans for 2021.
When we moved to the US in early 2018, the original agreement was to move there for three years and reevaluate; but - with the US primarily being my dream, I had certain expectations that Maria would want to move back. The fact that we had become parents in September of 2019, only made the decission even clearer. As a result of this, I changed back to my original team in the US, as I knew the chances of bringing my position within the Xbox servers team (Project xCloud) with me, would be incredibly slim, as it involved working with prototype hardware. During my move, it was agreed that a move to Denmark would be supported by management, in case we decided to do so.
A few days after moving to the Azure DevTest Labs team, deaths due to COVID-19 were on the rise in Washington State, most of them occuring at the hospital our daughter was born, just a few kilometers from our townhouse in Redmond and Washington state.
A series of unfortunate events
Unfortunate events often occur in pairs and this was no exception. As COVID started closing down countries and international travel, no less than three people I knew in Denmark (my aunt, a former manager and a former class mate) died from Cancer within a span of 8 days. I knew, deep in my heart, I had no other option, but to fly home and participate in my aunts funeral and if possible, the other two.
It was 48 intense hours, trying to contact authorities across several nations to ensure we could board a plane and make it all the way; keep in mind, there are no direct flights between Seattle and Copenhagen, Denmark. To make matters even more 'interesting', my Daughter's Danish passport was still in Denmark as we didn't get to receive it in time, after being home during New Years, due to an error with the clerks office in a Church in Denmark. As a Danish national, you are supposed to always travel to Denmark and enter, on your Danish passport. After getting the green-light to travel and with expectations that we would be able to enter Denmark, the last question to answer was really, "should we do it? is it worth the risk?" - Traveling during a global pandemic, is pretty much how a pandemic spreads; what were we going to do when we arrived in Denmark? Could we quanrantine? what if we got sick on the way? All of those thoughts, with the added pressure of seeing country after country announce how they closed their borders; we eventually came to the conclusion that, it was important for me to be around my Family in times of hardship; so we booked our flights and went back home.
Stuck for a while
We arrived in Copenhagen on a fully booked flight, filled with Danes and Swedes who had been in North and South America.
We moved in with my in-laws, expecting to stay a few weeks while we quarantined and expecting to fly back within a month or two; after all - how bad could it all be? Little did we know, that everything closed down and travel bans starting to take effect ...
In the end, we were there for 4 months before returning to the US in late July.
Working from home
Throughout the 4 months in Denmark, I had been working from Maria's parents' caravan, mostly working hours with overlap with the timezones covering the Americas; this mean little to no sleep, limited time with family incl my daughter and less than ideal working conditions.
When flying back to the US, I went the office to grab some equipment out of my former office and established an actual home office, within our bedroom. Fast forward to february of this year, I had been working from home from our bedroom for more than 6 months; we were ready to move back to Denmark.
Reorgs, reorgs, reorgs
If there's one thing I have experienced at Microsoft in the US, it's reorgs every, single, summer. The summer of 2020 was no exception and my team was moved under a part of Developer Division - as a result, my skip-level managers' manager, had changed.
Developer Division within Microsoft had also put in a ban on transfers, unless following a few exceptions incl. issues with obtaining/renewing VISA; neither of the exceptions would fit my current situation; however they also allowed Microsoft Employess to temporarily work from their home countries for up six months, if the COVID situation would impact their ability to fly back to Redmond. As a result, in March, we flew to Denmark, with a hope that everything would get solved in due time.
In late August, I signed my new contract, returning to Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen, which I joined 10 years ago as a Student worker. I will keep reporting to the DevTest Labs team in Redmond, WA.
I'll miss the US
I'll definitely miss the US and Washington State; while there are things I fundamentally disagree with, especially the US' stance on "socialism", the Pacific Northwest has absolutely stunning nature and some of the kindest people I have ever met. All in all, it was a great place to be!
I have made quite a few friends during my tenure there and I hope to be back visiting, as soon as COVID allows - as well as bringing my Daughter when she gets old enought to understand that her story began in Bellevue, WA and Redmond, WA.
I wish you all the best, Ken! It was such a bad luck being there during the pandemic and having less option to explore Washington...