Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

An IT job with a twist in Berlin

‘I do coding for the website of an upmarket online sex shop – to my surprise my older relatives get a giggle out of it’

Thomas Ryan in Berlin. Photograph: Alberto Ferrero

Fri, Aug 2, 2013, 00:01


Thomas Ryan

When most young Irish people consider emigrating, they think first of Australia, Canada or the UK. They are all great places I’m sure, but I wanted to do something different, to challenge myself and live somewhere that encourages innovation. I chose Berlin.

I had been working with a mobile phone company in Limerick for a few months after graduating when I began to look abroad. With a degree in business and a postgraduate qualification in computers, I was particularly interested in IT jobs with young businesses in Europe.

I thought I would go to Holland, but applied for a few positions in other countries too, including one in Berlin. It wasn’t until my interview over Skype that I found out the company was an upmarket online sex shop, Amorelie. I was surprised but intrigued, and when they offered me the job it seemed like an exciting opportunity.

I do coding for the website, which only went live at the beginning of this year. My colleagues are all under 30, and women considerably outnumber men. The products and shopping environment are a lot more tasteful than our competitors’, and the staff are generally representative of our customers. It is a young and fun place to work.

My friends thought it was hilarious; it certainly isn’t your average IT job. I thought my older relatives might react differently but they all get a giggle out of it.

The start-up scene is thriving in Berlin, people really encourage each other to start businesses and create jobs for themselves. Most people I meet are involved in small enterprise, or are artists or musicians. It would be rare to meet someone working for a multinational. It is very different to Ireland that way.

I’ve been to some great networking events for start-ups. Everyone mingles over a drink afterwards, getting to know new people and to sharing ideas and advice. There are a lot of young people at these events too.

Being surrounded by so many enthusiastic businesspeople has been encouraging and I’d love to run my own company some day. Myself and a friend are researching the possibility of developing an online sales platform for businesses to market themselves online. It is early days, but the prospect is exciting.

Through the connections I’ve made, I’ve helped two people I knew from Ireland to secure interviews. There’s a lot of work in Berlin for web developers and I’m happy to connect Irish jobseekers to employers.

Most of my new friends are German. They all speak good English, which has really highlighted to me how poor Irish people are at languages. I had no German when I arrived but I am trying my best to learn.

I’m on a two-year contract, but because it is a start-up anything could happen. The company is doing well and might expand to other countries. I love Berlin, but would like to try living somewhere like China or Brazil where the culture would be completely different. It could also be a good business opportunity to make contacts most other Irish or European people wouldn’t have.

I think I would have moved abroad for a while regardless of the economic circumstances, but it might have taken me longer if there had been better employment opportunities at home. The lack of prospects for young people in Ireland at the moment has killed any ideas I would have had of living there in the short-term at least.

Whatever happens in the future, I will always be glad I was given that push to move away. It has made my life a lot more colourful, and given me a hunger to experience more new places.

In conversation with Ciara Kenny.

Irish developers interested in working in Berlin can contact Thomas at