With people from all over the world choosing Ireland as a place to live and work, we speak to those that have put down roots in the country. This time, we talk to Joke Verniers, a data analyst working at the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics.
Where are you from?
I’m from Lochristi, a suburb of Ghent, a city located in the Flemish part of Belgium and the capital of East Flanders. The city has 241,000 inhabitants and is the second biggest Flemish city. Lochristi itself has 22,000 inhabitants.
Growing up, our house was surrounded by fields where we used to play when we were younger, with friends from the neighbourhood. When I go home it always amazes me how quiet it is when sitting outside. The only noise you might hear are the cows or horses a few fields away, or one of the neighbours coming home. I just love this peace and quiet.
Public transport was available, but we had to go 2km to reach the nearest bus stop so, the moment I turned 18, I got my driver’s licence to get around.
How long have you been in Ireland?
I moved to Ireland just over a year ago, in January 2013.
Why did you move here?
Love! After being together with Stephen, my Irish boyfriend, for over three years, it was clear one of us had to move. Because he doesn’t speak Flemish (the Dutch dialect we speak in Flanders), it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to find a job in Flanders as a secondary school teacher. I gave up my job at KBC to move to Ireland and find a job in Dublin.
What work do you do?
I’m a data analyst on the broker and account executive team at the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA). My main responsibilities at the moment are creating long-term, automated broker executives’ reports, to help them create more business and follow up on KPIs.
How would you describe your working environment?
I loved working for KBC, but when I started working for ACIA I noticed immediately the difference in social contacts. I’m not sure if it is something typically Irish, but everyone is so friendly and open for a chat and, most importantly, you feel a part of the company and the whole team.
The ACIA is a young department of Aon founded in 2009, with a young workforce where everyone knows everyone. ACIA is growing and while it’s growing the management tries to listen to its workforce to improve the work-life balance, including well-being on the work floor. The working environment is, therefore, getting better every day – and it already was a great work environment!
What do you like most about your job?
I love the freedom to create new and innovative reports. Whenever mocking up a new report, you get freedom to let your creativity go. This lets you add a lot of personality in the reports.
Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Ireland?
Being from another European country, I didn’t find it hard to adjust. Also, I had visited Ireland a lot of times, so I knew what I was getting into. Of course, a couple of things needed some time to adjust to. For me, being more relaxed, driving on the other side of the road and using the immersion (I had no clue what this was when I moved over!) were the biggest things to adjust to.
What surprised you about moving to Ireland?
The rent and property prices! I had no clue how high they were and was stunned (and still am) when I see those prices. What surprised me in a good way is how compact Dublin is as a capital city. You can easily walk or cycle from one side of the city centre to the other in half an hour.
How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?
The ACIA has a sport and social club you can join for €6 a month. Every month a couple of after-work activities are organised which you can join, from trampoline dodge ball to Italian cooking courses.
Apart from this, the ACIA also organises a quarterly event for everyone working there, including a barbecue and a Christmas party. As a foreigner moving to Ireland, this is exactly what you need: socialising with colleagues, getting to know them better and even becoming friends.
What do you like most about your adopted home?
I love the Irish friendliness and hospitality, the lovely scenery in the country and, not to forget, the very tasty steaks, fish and chips.
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