Four years ago, Sam Castaneda packed his bags with his spouse and two kids and swapped Floridian summers for Tallinn winters. Why did he decide to do it and how has it worked out for him?
Sam’s decision to move was motivated by several reasons.
The notorious Florida heat had gotten a little too much for the entire family. Secondly, healthcare provision was problematic in the US — with huge bills arriving despite the family having health insurance. Also, there had been mass shootings near to where Sam was living with his family.
All these reasons (plus the fact that Sam’s spouse is Estonian) made Tallinn the perfect choice to relocate to. A few years after making the move, Sam joined Bolt as a Senior Software Engineer.
Beginning a new life in Tallinn
Leaving his family and three cats behind was always the biggest challenge of moving. But ultimately, the new job and city have been the right choice for Sam and his family.
Sam is happy that his kids have adjusted so well to their new routine. Tallinn offers a child-friendly and safe environment. “An important sign of this is that you often see small children walking to and from school — this isn’t something that you’d see so much in America,” says Sam.
He appreciates how technologically advanced Estonia is — it’s easy to do your banking online and sign documents electronically. “And to top it off, if you live in the city, public transport is free! That’s buses, trains and trams, so your commute to the office is covered,” Sam adds.
Estonian people have been friendly and welcoming, and Tallinn also has a large expat community that reach out to each other for advice on their Facebook group.
Fast growth at Bolt
After discussions with his then manager, they both found that Sam could get more involved in managing people. Less than two years after joining Bolt, he transitioned to the role of Engineering Manager.
What does an engineering manager at Bolt do?
A typical workday for Sam usually involves discussing project requirements with product managers, implementation with developers, and sometimes even writing some code himself.
With Bolt’s fast-growing user base, the engineering team regularly faces new and exciting challenges to scale our system to meet this increased demand. And given how fast the Bolt team is growing, Sam has had the opportunity to develop and hone his leadership skills during this time.
Adjusting to the northern European weather
It’s impossible to talk about Estonia without mentioning the weather — after all, it’s a common discussion topic here.
Getting used to Estonia’s white summer nights and dark winters (and their effect on your body and mood) can take some getting used to.
“One period I found slightly trickier is between autumn and winter when the leaves have disappeared, but before the snow falls. This is an important time to dose up on vitamin D,” Sam says.
Luckily, in winter, snowman building, snowball fights, light festivals, and strolling around Tallinn Old Town’s award-winning Christmas market are enough to counter the darkness for Sam.
He enjoys exploring all the places that Estonia has to offer — most recently, he visited the Pakri Lighthouse with its 272 steps and slightly scary cliff views.
Sam is happy with his choice and has decided to stay in Estonia and at Bolt.
When the family first moved, they always thought: “Let’s try it, and if we don’t like it, we can just go back”. Four years later, they’re still here — so it looks like it was the right decision!
Interested in joining us on our mission to build cities for people, not for cars?
Visit our careers page to find out more. If you don’t live in Estonia yet, our relocation team is here to help relocate new joiners. And if you’re hired, remember to pack some gloves for the winter!