I reinstalled Timehop just over a year ago; the infamous app that lets you relive past triumphs, miseries, and WTFs all in one handy place on your phone.
It recently reminded me that it had been two years since we opened our office in Paris – it’s gone now, replaced by the acquisition – and I felt like doing some rambling reminiscing on the matter.
The Paris buildout came at a very odd time of my life. Earlier in the year I’d moved out of the flat in which I cohabited with my ex-girlfriend and found a place to live at the last-gasp attempt in East London. I’m not going to say that I was unhappy, but neither was I exactly happy. I was still trying to find my place in the world again, as well as having started a new role in the company that left me more isolated than my previous job.
I wasn’t much involved at first with the build, coming to it a little later once job requirements – and curiosity – caught up with me and I hopped on board. After a couple of weeks in France at the end of October, we went back at the end of November to finish the job and open up at the beginning of December, 2015.
There is something about those last few weeks that, to this day, I still really miss. Oddly the sense of nostalgia has been far stronger over the last couple of years than anything I’ve felt for home since moving. I’ve never really been able to figure out the ‘why’. I suppose it was the apex of the Demandware experience; doing good work with some truly great people, staying in amazing hotels and eating incredible food. It was a job that offered a smorgasbord of superlatives at every turn, and the Paris job was the pinnacle of it all, I think.
The lead up to that point in time was muddied by being new and learning how everything worked, a well as being over-awed by some of the adventure. Mix in a chaotic and destructive personal life and general unhappiness, and the first year and a half of the job brought elation and depression in waves. After the Paris job we would begin the London build, but it wouldn’t be long until the company was bought out and we ceased being what we were.
So Paris was the perfect time. I was, apparently, carefree enough to just enjoy every single part of it and really savor the experiences. The food was, of course, stunning. Somehow the Parisians make bagels better than anyone else. Hell they even make better toast. I don’t know how.
The build ran behind – Parisian builders man – and even on the opening day there were some issues that really shouldn’t have been there, but our little team were all in it together, supporting one another and just getting shit done. We were effective, and we had fun doing it.
There are a number of us who still pine for the truly great days at that company, because every day was an adventure. You rarely ran into red tape because if there was a process that needed following, changes were that we had written it ourselves. There was a trust and acknowledgement from our peers that we would be given the tools and capacity to get the job done, and we had the capability to do it.
Moving into a much, much larger company you do lose a tremendous amount of that – regardless of the PR. The old adage of going from being a big fish in a small pond to being a big fish in a sea of sharks isn’t necessarily entirely accurate, but the concept remains valid.
One day I’ll shake off these feelings and look back on these experiences as just more building blocks. But not today.