I am in the lucky position to be working on a relocation to California with Grant Thornton and after months of planning, the first step in moving our lives came around very quickly. We booked flights on Friday for the following Monday, packed up our lives, said our goodbyes and headed for the airport with 6 suitcases and a set of golf clubs.
We didn’t know San Francisco and the sum total of our research in advance was downloading the Uber app and looking at SF food Instagram posts! Inadvertently we had hooked on two key parts of life in San Francisco – shared car services and good food!
After a few days of settling in, opening bank accounts (where the bank manager offered to bring us shooting guns) and hitting a few tourist spots, we were starting to get a feel for the city. San Francisco feels small and accessible – the city itself is only 7X7 miles – and for an Irish person it doesn’t feel as vast as other US cities or even London can. What struck me most was the proximity of the outdoors to the city.
Parks, beaches and the Bay Area environs are part of everyday life in San Francisco and as a country girl this was a nice surprise. We hired bikes to cycle over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito in the sunshine – a great experience and one of those moments where it hit home how exciting the next chapter of our lives would be.
Having worked with international companies establishing operations in Ireland for almost 10 years, I am in San Francisco to establish an Irish desk here and build on the existing US Irish Business Group within Grant Thornton which was established in NYC in 2013 by Dara Kelly. The Grant Thornton office on California Street in the city is in the heart of the business district.
The people certainly epitomise Californian culture - a laid back and can do attitude. It is always good to have another Irish person flying the flag and Niall Fagan works in Grant Thornton audit team out here, having transferred from our Irish office over 5 years ago. Over a margarita or two, he agreed we would turn the Grant Thornton West Coast office’s green, metaphorically speaking!
The Irish connection really is the strongest asset we have when we travel and work internationally. We got extremely lucky to find a lovely place to live for the next few months through our friend’s brother. Another friend connected us with an Irish business community here, the Irish Network Bay Area group, INBA. The Irish Network Bay Area group is an informal thriving business networking group for Irish expats which runs various events, including a “1st Thursday Drinks” which we headed to during our first week in San Francisco.
The fact that our Uber driver that night was from Arklow, County Wicklow was not lost on us! The broader Irish business network out here has been incredibly welcoming, which is a great comfort to me both professionally and personally as I adjust to my new surroundings! With so many of the tech companies who are headquartered in San Francisco having a European presence in Ireland, there is a strong sense of pride within the Irish community here that Ireland is recognised as a great place to do business and an amazing place to live.
The ability for me to connect and work with my colleagues in all of the Grant Thornton offices on the West Coast and wider US region is a fantastic advantage of being here. Domestic travel in the US is hassle free and the trip from SFO to LAX is akin to heading to our Newbridge office for a meeting!
I joined some of my colleagues from our LA office and attended an event this week in West Hollywood ran by the Irish Film Board and IDA Ireland which celebrated both the success of Irish films, like Brooklyn and Room, and the pool of talent that Ireland offers.
The Irish Ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson, was an inspiring speaker at the event and does a great job representing Ireland in the States. A great Irish female role model. I will be working closely with John Gleeson and our Media and Entertainment team in Ireland, helping them service their client base here in the West Coast and there certainly is a buzz around Ireland and its film industry. It was also great to see Brie Larson win an Oscar for Room, John and his team in Grant Thornton Ireland were involved in its financing.
Until next time