Henkel’s Simon Murphy took up a new role that brought him and his family from their countryside house in Kildare to an apartment in Düsseldorf.
Earlier this year, chemical and consumer goods manufacturer Henkel opened a new innovation centre for its adhesive technologies business at the company’s headquarters in Düsseldorf.
The company invested more than €130m in the new building, which brings its technical experts in Düsseldorf under one roof and offers a “customer experience journey”, allowing visitors to see the facility and meet the team. There are also project rooms, dialogue areas and open spaces on site, where Henkel plans to host networking events with universities, start-ups, research institutes and suppliers.
Simon Murphy is the project manager for this new centre in Germany, having moved from Ireland to take up the new role.
Murphy manages the communication process with senior management and works with the laboratory staff, helping them to prepare for their new working environment.
Murphy was raised in a small seaside village in Co Louth before moving to Dublin for college. His first job was in Galway but then he returned to Dublin to work for Henkel in 1997. When he got married, he moved to a small village in Co Kildare.
‘The Düsseldorfers have a great love of festivals’
– SIMON MURPHY
What prompted your decision to relocate?
My wife and I always had a desire to experience living in a different European country, so when three years ago Henkel offered me the opportunity to relocate to Düsseldorf to work on their new Inspiration Centre project, we jumped at the chance.
What do you like most about your job?
I love solving the problems that arise as part of a large-scale organisational change. I enjoy working with a diverse group of people, acknowledging their concerns and negotiating new ways of working in a shared environment. By facilitating a structured approach to decision making, I can increase stakeholder acceptance of the necessary changes.
What were the biggest challenges of relocating and how did you overcome them?
After living in our own home for more than 15 years, we had forgotten how time consuming setting up new bank accounts, utility accounts etc, can be. Add in the requirement to register your residence with the city authorities, organise local tradesmen to connect your kitchen and light fittings, and all this through a new language that you do not speak well, and the first few weeks could have been very stressful.
Luckily, we had the support of a professional relocation agency organised though Henkel to walk us through these activities, which greatly reduced the stress.
What were the major differences between your previous location and your new one?
In Ireland we lived in a house with a garden in the quiet of the countryside and needed to drive everywhere (for example, to the shops, school and work). Here, we live in an apartment in a dynamic city, have a supermarket at the end of the street and take the tram to work and school.
At the weekends – before Covid – there was always some sort of market or festival in the city centre that we could walk to and during December we had the famous Christmas markets.
Additionally, we are in the centre of Europe with easy train connections to many major cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam etc.
How does your working life and other supports help to make you feel at home there?
Henkel is an international company with a diverse workforce and there was a number of former Henkel Ireland employees in Düsseldorf who welcomed us to the city.
Additionally, my daughter attends an international school and my wife became actively involved in a number of parent groups supporting the school. These contacts helped us to quickly feel at home.
What do you like most about your adopted home?
The Düsseldorfers have a great love of festivals, most famously Karneval, but also book and food fairs and Christmas markets. There is also a strong sense of seasonality in the food, from the glut of asparagus in the spring to the Weckmann pastries, complete with little wooden pipes, in the autumn. Almost every week there is something new to see or do.
What advice would you give to others who are planning to relocate for work?
Even though many people speak English, the locals do appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language, so you should learn the new language as quickly as you can. It also makes everyday life, like grocery shopping, much easier.
Additionally, you will be busy in work and your children will have a full day in school, so it is important for your spouse, if they won’t be working, to be actively involved in some activity to help them keep busy and integrate.