Table of Content

A year of growth at byrd

An Ex-Pat’s Story


We all have our own particular career paths and I have mine. I started my career in New York City’s first big tech boom in the mid-’90s. I was a bit of a fanatic and was convinced that the Internet would completely transform society and commerce. For better or worse, it did exactly that. At that time, I led Sales at two pioneering web agencies, Site Specific and Avalanche Solutions. After some wild years, I went to business school at NYU and spent the next 15 years in Commercial Leadership and Strategy roles at two leading research firms, Nielsen and GfK. At GfK I was offered a multi-year ex-pat contract in Nürnberg, Germany. After 20+ years in NYC, it was a great opportunity to take my career in a new direction. Then after 4 years in Nürnberg, my wife and I felt Berlin beckoning, specifically the hyper-active start-up scene.

Understand what you have to offer. If you have had a successful career in the US or elsewhere, you have already learned a lot. Package that and sell it. It is rarer, and more valuable, than you think.

Connecting with byrd

After years of experience at both start-ups and large companies, I felt that I had an interesting mix of skills and experiences to offer to the right start-up. Important start-up criteria were: 1) transformation potential, 2) growth potential and 3) smart and good-natured founders. That was all! It should be easy, right? Early on in my search, I connected with byrd and we spent several weeks getting to know each other. From my side, it was a perfect match.


Getting started at byrd. In a Pandemic

Under normal circumstances, starting in the new role would be a major challenge. Byrd had very substantial revenue growth commitments in the business plan. I would need to ramp up sales quickly, begin hiring new team members and re-organize the team for maximum scalability. And of course, build-out for international expansion. My start date roughly coincided with the start of the first Corona lock-down. I was on-boarded remotely and spent the first couple of months working with my teams in our respective home offices. For a brief moment, I thought this could be tough. However, everyone worked with the situation, coordinated closely with each other, and pushed ahead. We worked with the constraints and exceeded our sales plan for 2020.

Driving Sales Growth at byrd

From the beginning, we took several big steps to facilitate rapid sales growth. We organized the group around achieving goals and managing time. All sorts of large, medium, and small steps were involved: organizing teams around practice areas, automating sales processes, applying basic time management tactics, placing an outsized focus on meeting sales targets, and delighting clients. Nothing more complicated than clearing away obstacles to sales and freeing up the individual team members to do their best. Alongside everything, we had to pay special attention to the well-being of our people. The pandemic placed extraordinary mental and physical burdens on our team, the company and everyone else in the world. Accordingly, we worked to ensure that everyone had the support they needed to manage well in the crisis.

Advice for Ex-Pat Executives in Berlin

It seems as if thousands of smart younger people from around the globe want to come to Berlin and build their careers. I am less sure about people in their 40’s and 50’s. It is a considerable change in every imaginable way. But for those who are up for the challenge and the adventure, I have a couple of ideas:  

  • Understand what you offer. If you have had a successful career in the US or elsewhere, you have already learned a lot. Package that and sell it. It is rarer, and more valuable, than you think. 
  • Be prepared to act fast. You can forget spending 3 months “listening” and developing a five-point plan. You will be expected to make changes and move forward quickly, whatever you are doing. If you are coming from a big company, understand that you can implement things quickly in a start-up, although you might not have the resources you have become accustomed to. You’ll manage. 
  • Things are different. I remember sitting down with a junior financial analyst in Nürnberg. It was around 4:00 PM. I said, “Look, we need to get this model done tonight. I can order a pizza and we will work until it’s done.” He politely stepped out and returned with HR. I learned that I was not in NYC anymore. The attitude towards work is very different here. People work incredibly hard. But evenings and weekends are for self and family. There are lots of little differences like this. Be open to differences and be flexible. 
  • Everyone speaks English, but learn the damned language. I arrived in Nürnberg with some exchange-program German from 1989. Otherwise, I could order in a restaurant. I found a tutor and spent time every day trying to improve. At this point, I have a sketchy accent, but I generally manage my teams in German. You can get by in English, but it is a lot better if you learn some German. Sadly, it will happen neither automatically nor quickly. Work every day towards the following goals: 1) Follow along in a meeting, 2) Participate in a meeting, 3) Lead a meeting. You will make progress after much awkwardness and good humor. 

The Sales team at byrd is looking back on a great 2020, despite the global situation. While we are still in lock-down, we are growing faster than ever.

Hungry for more? Explore other stories here.


About the author

David has been a commercial leader and strategist for over 20 years in New York City and Germany. After leading Sales at two pioneering NYC Internet start-ups in the 1990’s, he earned his MBA at NYU Stern School of Business. For the next 15 years, he led commercial teams and drove strategic initiatives at two leading global Research companies. He has recently resettled in Berlin with his wife, Tracy, to lead Sales at byrd technologies. David finds meaning in books and fulfillment in strength training, SCUBA diving and travel.


Interested in joining byrd?

Would you like to join us in revolutionizing the logistics industry? We are always looking for passionate team players, free spirits, and creative dissenters. Check out our vacant positions below.

Explore careers at byrd