Four Years After CBS: “I prioritize what other people call ‘work’, very highly”
He isolated himself in an office in Amsterdam taking care of a fulltime job during the day and writing his master’s thesis at night. He then worked at one of the largest consulting companies in Copenhagen before sailing the blue seas around French Polynesia pondering his next career move. And now, four years after CBS, Anders Birk is Director of Growth at Goodiebox.
The sun is just casting its golden rays through the window on another morning at a pretty unusual time, to put it mildly.
Anders Birk, Director of Growth at Goodiebox, has just poured his first cup of coffee of the day and is ready to explain what he has been doing since he graduated from CBS, and how he ended up working for a company that provides over 150,000 subscribers with beauty products every month.
“No problem,” he says when I thank him for taking the time to talk to us at 8:00 a.m. in the morning.
“Both mornings and nights are quite blurred in these COVID-19 times, so it should be possible to find a slot within that time frame for an interview with you guys.”
Like most other employees, Anders Birk is working from home at the moment, but we can still chat on the phone at an appropriate distance without any danger of infection to discuss his career adventure and where he is now, four years after CBS.
Isolation in Amsterdam
Anders Birk takes a deep breath when asked what he has been doing for the last four years since leaving CBS. And there is a good reason for that. A reason he describes as a “full-speed focus on his career”.
The whole journey began way back when he was still a student at CBS. First, he gained a BSc in Business Administration and Service Management before moving on to take an MSc in International Marketing and Management.
While studying, he had no fewer than two student jobs – one of them at Goodiebox, where he works now. Back while studying, he attended a startup company presentation and became interested in joining the company’s entrepreneurial adventure. And shortly after the presentation, he was hired.
Although still studying for his master’s degree, he pulled up his roots in Copenhagen and moved to Amsterdam, where he worked for the startup fulltime while taking care of his studies on the side.
“Moving to another country to work and studying from a distance suited me well. Being able to surrender myself completely to my career and work for a startup was a very attractive offer that I couldn’t refuse,” Anders Birk says and continues:
“I therefore moved to Amsterdam and decided, very appropriately, to write my master’s thesis about the startup where I worked. So during the daytime I worked, and then wrote my thesis at night.”
This level of commitment and prioritization of his time meant that Anders Birk rarely came out of the office for a beer with friends or a stroll in the narrow streets by the canal in Holland’s picturesque capital city.
“Even though I lived in Amsterdam for almost 1½ years, I never really made any friends because I totally isolated myself in the office,” he says laughing. “But never mind. It was more important for me to focus on my career.”
From fine suits to plastic garbage in the oceans
Just as Anders Birk turned in his master’s thesis, money began to dry up in the startup company he worked for, and forty staff members were dismissed. Although he was offered the chance to stay with the firm, he wanted to expand his professional portfolio and moved back to Denmark, where he landed a job at a large advertising and consulting company in Copenhagen.
And once again, Anders Birk felt he had found the right place to be.
“It was a very professional place full of consultants in fine suits who worked day and night for all the biggest companies in Denmark. Everything had a rigid structure, with hierarchies and all the trimmings a business of that scale includes for better or for worse,” he says and goes on:
“That was a major upheaval for me. But at the same time, it was perfect because they worked extremely hard and were extremely dedicated, which I was used to and thrive on.”
Anders Birk worked for the company for 2½ years until his motivational fire burned out – or as he puts it himself, “I felt like I had done my military service”.
And for the first time, he quit his job without knowing what to do next or how to continue building his career.
He pulled the plug and traveled to French Polynesia to accompany his then girlfriend as she worked for Plastic Change, which sails around the world documenting plastic garbage in the oceans. Here, he could empty his head and contemplate what to do with his otherwise fast-growing career, which had now been put on a pause.
“There, in a boat at sea in French Polynesia, I discussed with my girlfriend what to do about my career. Should I change course and become a policeman? A schoolteacher? Or should I continue down the career path I had already made for myself?,” Anders Birk says and continues:
“And after two months in paradise down there, I began to get restless. I needed to return to work. So, I found a computer and a bad Wi-Fi connection and started activating my network on LinkedIn. That was when I regained contact with Rasmus Schmiegelow, CEO at Goodiebox, who’s now my boss.”
“I prioritize, what other people call ‘work’, very highly”
So now, four years after his career adventure began, Anders Birk is working as Director of Growth at Goodiebox – a Danish cosmetics company that supplies beauty products to more than 150,000 subscribers every month in both Denmark and other European countries.
As his job title indicates, he is responsible for securing the company’s growth in markets and countries where they are available.
The company’s product is the so called Goodiebox – a beauty box containing make-up for women, which is sold as a monthly subscription product. And since Anders Birk is not a woman and does not use make-up, it is not the product itself that he can relate to.
Rather, it is the working environment and the work ethics at the company that mirror his own approach to work.
“At Goodiebox, they put the customers first above all else. I know that’s a total cliché, but they really do. And that makes me, as an employee, extremely motivated to work as hard as I can to satisfy our customers,” Anders Birk says, adding:
“At the same time, there’s a great working environment with room for differences and personal opinions. That means if I am not satisfied with something, or I suddenly don’t feel the same motivation anymore, I can just say it out loud, and then things will be fixed,” he says.
“For instance, I have changed position within the company two times because I felt like doing something else, and that’s a perfect environment to work in. It makes me enjoy my job and it pushes me to pitch into the work.”
Clearly, Anders Birk is a hard-working guy. And as he says himself, his personal approach did not just emerge when he left Denmark and moved to Amsterdam four years ago. It was a passion that was ignited the moment he began studying at CBS.
“Ever since I started at CBS, hard work and free time have been the same to me. I prioritize what other people call ‘work’, very highly. And I will certainly continue to do so!”
Although he is very diligent and his work seems to mean everything to him, believe it or not, Anders Birk actually also has another interest. An interest that evolved while he was contemplating his career plans at sea in French Polynesia.
“Since then, I’ve become really fond of sailing. Out there on open water, the environment is very different than on land. Even if you’re sailing around the Swedish skerries, you might feel that you’re at the actual end of the world. And that’s very compelling to me,” he says.
According to Anders Birk, sailing stands in stark contrast to the hectic everyday life he leads at all other hours of his life.
“When working in very high gear all the time, I find sailing is a calming contrast. It kind of equalizes things and charges me up so I can work 24/7 again afterwards,” he says and continues:
“At the same time, it’s very important for me to remember taking a break from time to time. If not, my mind races on in a kind of work mode where I’m constantly thinking about projects and possibilities at work. So I need to be disturbed from that sometimes, and sailing is definitely a great disrupter.”
Ever since the coronavirus broke out, Anders Birk has been prevented from going out sailing. And right now, he’s crossing his fingers that the crises will be over by Easter. Because that is when his maritime skills will be put to the test.
“I really hope the COVID-19 crises ends soon. Because in April I’m going to earn my seafarer’s qualification, and then I’ll be able to launch a ship, go to sea by myself and empty my head so that I’m ready to toil and moil at work again,” he says.
Honestly, reading this story I realize it is quite sad. It show the prioritization of “work” at its best, which is not necessary a bad thing, but it also shows a great amount of isolation that this guy had.
I am asking myself as a fresh graduate from cbs, what makes him and many others so obsessed and so motivated with work. What is it exactly?
For what I understand the motivation is to work for somebody else and not even for your own little project .
On top of that: follow your “career” and forget everything else: your relationship, your emotions, oh well better hide your emotions and what’s left? Being a robot? Then you realize you have a “burn out”.
Redirect your career, start all over again, and have another burn out. I think we are missing something here. We need to redifine success! A new kind of success that must include something more than a merely capitalistic perspective of performing and being productive. A kind of success that doesn’t include the word “isolation” but includes developing relationships, listening to each other, balanceing our life and understanding that’s ok to let your emotions out and pause and breath for got sake.
To the one out there what makes us human is being human.