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Monday, August 25, 2014

Life as a Londoner

Hello readers,

My name is Jack Ridgway and I am currently finishing up my 2-month internship with OpenTable Intl. in London, England. Sadly, this is my first and last contribution to this blog. I would have liked to be an active writer but my primary internet and computer source was at my Opentable office and desk. Unfortunately, being primarily a tech-company, Opentable places domain restrictions on your google access at work (with the hope of everyone staying on-task) and thus, I was unable to access this Google Blogger feature for the majority of my period here. So, I'm sitting here on a Bank Holiday Monday, in an extremely quiet Pret-a-Manger, using spotty wifi on my laptop, to write you this post. 

I'll try and keep things short and sweet here in my post. Because, as I've learned talking to friends from home, things that might seem of massive importance to me while I'm here, tend to be rather unimpressive to the average listener.

Why I'm here:

I was hired by a Michigan Alumnus through the International Internship Department at Michigan to be a Project Coordinator for OpenTable here in London. I was born near Newcastle so having a UK passport was extremely helpful through the whole process I must say. I'm sure, or rather I hope, that a few of you have heard of OpenTable before. Basically, OpenTable is company through which you can book reservations at all the best restaurants. OpenTable is very popular in the states and is based in San Francisco. I've actually found that mothers are generally the most knowledgeable of OpenTable and have the app on their I-phones (what does that say about chivalry, gentlemen?). A user can make a restaurant reservation and search for restaurants by cuisine type, location, price, etc.

As mentioned, Opentable is very strong in the US. Through their current expansion into Europe, they are working hard to penetrate new markets and get as many restaurants, and people, using the app/website as possible. This is where I come in!

As a project coordinator, everyday I interacted with new restaurants who our sales team has recruited to join the Opentable family. Once the restaurant agrees to pay for our services and allow us to help them get diners, Project Coordinators will organize what benefits they will recieve and how to optimize their intake of diners!

As a german speaker, I primarily dealt with german restaurants, with a strong focus on Berlin. Even more specifically, my task within the Project Coordination team of 8 people, was to get restaurants mobile-optimized. This means that you can view a website on your iphone and it is simple/easy to use without having to scroll down forever or zoom in to read tiny font. My task was to make it easier for diners throughout Germany to book restaurants from their cellphones. In order to do this, I designed and implemented the code of mobile websites and also contacted hundreds of restaurants with prototypes of their mobile-optimized website.

I could not speak highly enough about OpenTable and the fantastic work environment I enjoyed everyday. Download the app!

London life:

I apologize for boring you all with the work details but during my two month stint here, but outside of the office I had some enjoyable experiences too. Every Tuesday, I competed in a corporate softball league in Battersea park with some co-workers, and every Wednesday I played 5v5 football (soccer) with a different group of co-workers. Both teams were quite good actually and the Opentable teams won both leagues which was a blast for me. This is me at softball below:


Socially, I met and spent time with a group of people from Michigan State University (gross I know) who were taking part in a Study abroad program and lived quite close to me. They were an extremely kind and friendly group of girls and I have to thank them (should they so read this) for keeping me company and allowing me to have friends away from work. 

In terms of where I lived, I spent both months living in a University of London dormitory. My room was extremely small, but what I lacked in amenities, I had in city-location. Located very centrally, College Hall on Malet Street is an affordable and safe location for anyone to stay during the summer. The university rents out the rooms while the students are on summer holiday, and I would recommend College Hall to any Michigan students working in London in the near future. Not to mention the staff there were always helpful and accommodating.

So when I wasn't playing sports, spending time with spartans, or at the office, I tried to attend as many english football games as I could. As a die-hard Aston Villa supporter in the Premier League, I attended 5 games during my time here. The atmosphere at football games here is second to none and the fan culture is on a different level to any american sports. Aston Villa are also off to a good start this year so hopefully that will continue!

In summary:

These two months have been a fantastic experience for me and there is very little I can complain about. I did lose my phone and had to deal with getting a new one, which was a massive headache, but that was my own fault! I fly back in 4 days and I'm eager to get back to school despite the 5 hour time difference. It's particularly difficult to summarize my trip and write everything I did in one short blog post at the end of my time here. I did so much, met so many great people, while given the opportunity to work hard and enjoy life in a professional environment. If it were practical for me to write all my enjoyable experiences down here, I would. Please ask questions about anything you like, and I'll do my best to follow up in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Cheers,

Jack

3 comments:

  1. Jack,

    Again- I wrote a really thoughtful comment, pressed "publish" and then it disappeared. How frustrating! Anyway, it's great to hear from you! I was looking forward to hearing about the work you were doing. Honestly, I have never heard of OpenTable. I know, I know- I am probably out of the loop. Do you think that it is more popular on the West Coast? Or do you know people in A2 who use it? I just downloaded it to my phone. Although I don't go out to eat much, it will be interesting to see all of the restaurants I probably don't know about. The work you did is impressive, especially the part about mobile optimization for the websites (sounds high-tech!). Did you feel that your German language skills improved tremendously? Are you majoring in the "computer" field at UM? You sound like a great fit for this job!

    I'm glad that you were able to enjoy your time out of work. Softball is my favorite, so you had me there! It's a wonderful way to meet people and loosen up a bit. I'm sure your transition back to the U.S. will be just fine. Get some sleep and tune in to some soccer on t.v. You'll be fine!

    Best,
    Tammy

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Tammy. Opentable is extremely popular on the west coast yes, but also very well known in the midwest and east coast too. I actually have plenty of friends who knew about the app before I got the job this summer. It's free and extremely convenient so theres no harm in downloading it. But funnily enough, I don't study anything to do with programming/computer science. I am a PICS, German, and Economics major, so I was a little nervous about this opportunity initially. I still don't know much, but I picked up some stuff and I'm happy that I at least have some tech-experience moving forward in my career. My german on the other hand, probably stayed where it was before I came here. Speaking with colleagues and restaurants every day almost reminded me of class back at Michigan but I did over half of my work using English. Once again, thanks for the feedback and I appreciate everyone reading!

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