• Dafne Sartorio

I quit my safe job at a bank to join a startup: How has it been so far?

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Intro: The move

After 1,5 years at a stable job in a big and well-known organization, I felt like it was time for a(n) (unexpected) move: I took the decision to join an innovation agency called oneUp, based in Amsterdam.

And more than that, after 2 years in Brussels, I accepted the challenge to once more move to a new country: The Netherlands.

I still remember when I started telling my former colleagues and also some relatives about this move. I heard a lot of "wows" and got some great support. However, I also heard quite a few "Why are you doing this?" and even some "I feel like you are making a mistake".

By the way, small recommendation if you have a friend/colleague who made such a decision: even if you think they are making a mistake, don't tell them. That doesn't help at all, when you already have so many uncertainties in your life.

The truth is, the reason why I decided to move jobs was because I wanted ramp up my learning by working on different projects and different industries, and I was looking for specific experiences connected to sustainability.

So there I was, one month ago, getting started with this great adventure!

How has it been like?

I have decided to share this article on a diary style: I will take you through what has happened at my job, week by week, and will wrap up this article with my key learnings.

Week 0: Onboarding

Part of my "onboarding package"
Part of my "onboarding package" at oneUp

One week before my actual starting date, I traveled to the office in Amsterdam for my onboarding. I had a full agenda, from 9 to 5, that included different points, such as:

- Setting up all devices

- Getting to know the CEO and having a chat about the vision of the company

- Having different chats with Operations, HR, Business Development about performance management, sales pipeline, etc

- Getting to know the methodologies and processes from the company (startup thinking)

- Having a nice lunch together with the colleagues

The onboarding itself was amazing, and it certainly helped me to get started! It was also great to get to know so many people before I even started, as for the next weeks I would be quite involved with my client on a new project, and not as much at the office.

Week 1 - "Decompression"

My first week of work started directly at the my new client: a big multinational company working on a new solution for the market.

This week consisted on a 4 day workshop, where we understood the context, the industry, and also defined the journey together.

That included our research plan and which kind of experiments we would run for the next weeks. Yes, you got that right: we had one week to become "experts" on the field and to start adding value to the company.

By the end of week 1, I was dead👌. However, I must say, there is nothing better than starting a new role with a lot of responsibility and lots to learn as well.

Week 2: Know your Customer... and colleagues

After the kick-off at our new client, we started to run customer interviews, where the aim was to understand our key customers' pains. Our goal for the whole 4 weeks of project was to run around 30 customer interviews.

For this reason, I spent quite some days in front of my computer, listening and asking questions. This is something I personally love to do. Listening to people and understanding what drives them generates a lot of empathy, and you can get great insights on it.

I was also at the office for the "traditional" Wednesday lunch, where a chef comes over and always cooks some delicious meal. This week was the time for Moroccan lunch - sorry, it was so good that we actually forgot to take pictures :)

I staid over in Amsterdam for a couple of days, as I am still in process of moving from Belgium to Netherlands.

We also started an internal capacity building with focus on Service Design.

The service design course consists of 4 "classes" of 3 hours, where we solve real cases for two different organizations.

On the left side, you can see a picture of the first week of course, where we learned about different ways you can start the process of research.

Week 3: Parallel projects and Prototyping

Week 3 was even more diverse!

To start with, I was at the office once more and could work together with our "Head of Validation" on a potential Summer course, and also on some research on trends that are upcoming and how we can stay a step ahead.

Some days later, we went back to our client in Belgium to do a debrief on the interview round, and to prepare for the next phase: solutioning.

Apart from spending the whole day with the project team, Thursday and Friday consisted of designing prototypes, getting feedback on them, and building a new interview guide.

Week 4: Interviews, interviews, interviews... and some fun

Last but not least, Week 4 was not only about running interviews for solution and testing our prototypes with customers, but also about enjoying a bit the people at our company.

We had a "Ladies Night" taking place at one of our colleague's home, and had lots of fun.

It was a great space to interact on a more personal level with our colleagues, and I loved the fact that she opened her home to us. That was the highlight of my week.

Apart from that, we also had the second class of our Service Design course, where we started to get ready for a co-creation session with actual users, that will take place in a couple of weeks from now.

And of course, the solution workshop with our client was very hands-on, and we got great insights, which we shared with the senior sponsors on Friday.

And the cherry on top of the cake is...

the fun part about getting lost in Amsterdam: the views!
The fun part about getting lost in Amsterdam: Canals!

Oh, apart from a lot of commuting from Belgium to The Netherlands, there was also something that happened every single week: getting lost in the Amsterdam canals by bike.

Am I the only one who finds it really difficult to navigate across the city? :D

I guess it will take me a couple of months to get used to the amount of canals and learn what's the right way to go.

Woooof... that sounds like a lot, right? It actually was!

Summing up: What have I learned?

If I could summarise my key learnings, they would be:

  • Learning #1: You gotta move fast

At this job, projects are moving way faster than average: we fail fast, we learn fast.

In the end, if we believe in the Lean Startup movement, we have to practice what we preach, right?

  • Learning #2: You are responsible for your job description

When you work for a startup, there are many opportunities for improvement and so many ways in which you can contribute. However, don't expect people to come and tell you what to do.

If you raise your hand, you will get more than enough things to do - and you can actually generate a huge impact on the way.

You are responsible for shaping your job description around what you want to learn and contribute. It's up to you to make it happen.

  • Learning #3: Embrace Uncertainty

Since our projects change quite a lot, planning your life way ahead can get challenging, or nearly impossible.

Since my current project is finishing this week, and we still have some answers to get from key stakeholders, I literally don’t know where I’ll be next week: it could be an NGO, it could be a bank, it could be a food company, or it could be the same company as before.

I really don't know. All I know is that it will be full of opportunities.

  • Learning #4: Trust is a foundation

Since I joined oneUp, I got a lot of responsibility. Be that for the project I am currently allocated for, or for parallel projects I am working on, I always felt like I was 100% trusted, even though I was completely new at the company. Trust is seen as a foundation, and it honestly feels amazing.


So if you ask me, "How has it been to move from a bank in Belgium to a startup in The Netherlands?"

Well, all I know is that so far it has been more than worth it, and I am grateful for every single experience I've had.

Even after only one month, I already feel at home.

My advice for you?

If something tells you to jump for it, just go. I don't believe in wrong choices, I believe we are the ones who create our destinies and we choose how we see our realities. As someone famous once said, the glass can always be half empty or half full, it's up to you.

Thanks to everyone who has made this past month a blast, and I am looking forward to what's coming next. Also, thank you for reading this far!

By the way, in case you are interested in careers at oneUp, send me a message - we're hiring!

If you are interested in hearing more details about the methodologies and processes we use, feel free to let me know, or follow me on instagram.

See you around :)

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