Everything to consider when making a transatlantic career move

The US flag and UK flag shown together, with one on top of another
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“If you go back to Britain, you'll be another Brit in Britain, working in London. And this whole thing – this three months – won’t have happened. If you stay in America, you will always stand out as being not quite from here. And if you like that feeling of being different, and being able to be your own person, then you'll enjoy staying here.”


These are the words spoken to Adam Sandman, founder and CEO of Inflectra Corporation, by his cousin, more than 20 years ago as he weighed up whether to make his move to the US permanent. 

The journey, which began as a student program and then working for a small firm, culminated in Sandman starting his own company in the software lifecycle space. Coming from Wales and having been a programmer since he was a child, Sandman, a Welshman who had been programming since he was a child, graduated from Oxford with a degree in physics and the baggage of classism from his peers. He was offered a job in London, but had other plans. 

“In America, no one knows who you are, you can basically have a blank slate to reinvent yourself,” he tells ITPro. “That was really something I was looking for when I came here.”

Why do people make an international career move, and what are the benefits?

While he may have been an early adopter, more and more IT workers are considering switching roles, and some decisions involve making significant moves – even in the age of remote working. And many IT workers in the UK, too, are consciously looking for roles across the Atlantic.

There are a multitude of barriers, including finding a company that will sponsor a visa, but a move across the ocean can be especially alluring. For one, US tech salaries continue to outpace those of their British counterparts and this isn’t a new trend.

There are a few things you need to get sorted before you pack your bags, though, beyond just housing and food, says Karoli Hindricks, co-founder and CEO of employee relocation provider Jobbatical.

“As well as the obvious logistical, professional and financial considerations, moving country requires you to step away from the people and places you know and take a big leap into the unknown,” she tells ITPro.

Never drink wine at lunch – I learned that the first week!

Adam Sandman, founder and CEO of Inflect

Hindricks, who advises companies and employees on large international moves, says that making that move via an internal role switch can help lessen the load. “Moving with a company for an internal role overseas is an excellent opportunity which makes this process easier. As well as having support with the visa and immigration process, and the costs associated, you also have an existing professional and social network to build from.” 

It’s a route Melanie Siao-Si, vice president of international care and services at GoDaddy, decided to make in 2022, albeit in the other direction. She’s no stranger to international collaboration, having led teams based in Asia, North America, and Europe, but the shift didn’t come without its challenges once she left Austin, Texas. 

“I didn’t have many surprises, because I knew what I was walking into, having worked with my UK team since 2019,” she explains. “A pleasant benefit that I’ve found is how personal connections and face-to-face interactions help accelerate delivery of key initiatives. However, more often than I care to admit, the British slang words/expressions still stump me.” 


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And on the flipside, Sandman says there were a few Britishisms he had to shake in order to fit in. “Never drink wine at lunch – I learned that the first week!” 

This hints at something Hindricks also points to: know where you’re moving to and what the expectations are. “Whilst the UK and the US may not seem wildly different on the surface, there are certainly big differences that will become apparent as time goes on,” she explains. “Building relationships with colleagues from different backgrounds, embracing collaboration, and being respectful and adaptable, are key to overcoming any cultural gaps.”

Adapting to a new way of working and living when moving across the Atlantic

For Siao-Si some procedural stumbling blocks come to mind when it comes to moving abroad. “I wish I knew how very challenging – not impossible – but cumbersome it would be to establish a bank account and utilities,” she says.

Practicality was the main reason Siao-Si moved, living and working in the UK allowed for easier collaboration as part of her role, but she says you need to think long and hard about why the move may or may not be right for you.

“I think it’s important to be grounded on why you want to make the shift,” she adds. “From a practical standpoint, it makes sense if there’s a clear business reason for your move. If your job is International in nature, and you work with teams from all over the world, then it makes sense to be in a ‘central’ time zone because you can be effective and have work-life balance.”  

If it’s purely a personal decision? “However, if your reasons are purely personal, and you work with teams that are mostly US-based, then I'd make sure you're prepared to work nights/odd hours to be effective.”

Still, it’s not all sunshine and roses. There will be things you miss and your work approach may have to shift, Sandman points out. “You won't see your friends, you’ll miss birthdays, you'll miss weddings, inevitably. And you have to be okay with that. too. And on the work side, in America, people will expect you to be much more self-promoting. Americans value that in the way the British despise that.”

He also says factors like the cost of living, healthcare, and salary also have to be balanced with where you’d actually like to live. For example, if your prospective job in the energy sector would take you to Houston, but the idea of living there fills you with dread, then perhaps it’s best to look elsewhere. “If you go back to Britain, it will be as if it never happened, like a vacation that you went and came back from,” he says. “Are you excited by the idea or does that make you feel sad? Do you want to take the blue pill or the red pill?”

John Loeppky is a British-Canadian disabled freelance writer based in Regina, Saskatchewan. His work has appeared for the CBC, FiveThirtyEight, Defector, and a multitude of others. John most often writes about disability, sport, media, technology, and art. His goal in life is to have an entertaining obituary to read.