I had less than a week to plan the whole trip. I needed to book two flights to London and an hotel. And all of that was on my expense.
That’s the paradigm of the world we live in. If the interview was for another soulless multinational corporation, I would get everything setup for me and as best as money can buy. Been there, I know. I mean, taxi from and to the airport, plane tickets and a nice hotel. But since I want to work to an organization that, FYI, as save the world at least once when it discovered a massive hole in the ozone layer just above Antarctica, I had to pay just to try. Capitalism at its best…
Anyway, whatever the outcome of the interview may be, at least it was worth it, if not just to check out Cambridge and what not.
I continued to keep the secrecy around the whole process as usual. From my previous company side, they were just three more vacations days that I needed to take. Not that I feared any repercussions from that end. Truth is, capitalism has to work both ways. I just had decided that I would only reveal my plans once I got sure that I would get the contract. Otherwise I would be creating unnecessary speculation and that was something that I was already doing so well by myself. No need to involve others I said.
My mom was the only person that had a small clue about what I was doing around that time and she only knew that I was going on a trip to the U.K for an interview and nothing else. For me, speculation is pretty much like ticks. The fewer the better.
I left Lisbon on a Sunday morning. It was a pain to get a taxi at 6 AM. It was too early for the subway and all taxis in the city were channeled to Algés, where the Alive festival was going strong throughout the whole weekend. Fortunately one of my neighbors went there and I was able to get its taxi when he was dropped off, just outside of my building door and seconds before he had collapsed drunk and hit his head on the curb. Though luck buddy…
The rest of the trip was surprisingly simple: got to the airplane, then subway, then train and 7 hours later I was arriving at a Cambridge hotel.
Next day I woke up almost three hours before the interview. After spending two monthly paychecks on two last minute plane tickets to the UK and three days on a Cambridge hotel, from all the places, last thing I needed was to arrive late because I overslept while watching an endless loop of cat videos on Youtube. Damn you free Internet! I left the hotel so early because I was already counting on getting lost. Cambridge by itself is not that big and I had the city map well present in my mind, but if I learned something along these years is to never underestimate my ability to get disoriented.
The interview went quite well. Even though I got to BAS headquarters ridiculously early, everyone was really nice to me and I never felt truly nervous at any point. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was easy or without any hiccups, but considering that I was away from any hands on electronics for a good amount of time and for the past two years I’ve been dealing with some really obscure software technologies, it went pleasantly smooth. I did needed a good couple of minutes to get a decent answer out of my rusty brain, but as soon as it was out, it sounded good to me.
The interview ended with a couple of informal conversations in the cafeteria, with people that today are my work colleagues. What really surprised me was how excited they were when they told me about their winter in Antarctica. Its not a rule but the majority of people that works at BAS has spend a season away south and a chosen few did spend a winter too. I really got the feeling that, to get there, you really need to want it.
Next day I woke up early again because I had to take my return flight from London and I was still in Cambridge. I got back home on Tuesday evening and two days later (I still had another vacation day after that) I got back to work as nothing had happened. Productivity after that point? Absolutely none! Until getting a final answer from the interview, good or bad, all I could think about was the prospect of spending a whole year on the other side of the planet.
This time I had no chance to get stresses about nothing. I had my interview on a Monday. Got back to Portugal following Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I was chatting with BAS Human Resources on my phone.
They were offering me a position as Wintering Electronics Engineer for next year at Halley VI Research station…