Trams, canals and...eCommerce

A short interview with Maxwell Thomas, Digital Business Analyst at A.S. Watson eLab Milan.

Maxwell Thomas

Digital Business Analyst at eLab Tech Milan

Living in Milan

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been involved in eCommerce since leaving University. It’s a great industry as it takes the interesting parts of retail and mixes them with exciting digital technologies. I’m currently living in Milan as the resident English guy at eLab Technology.

Could you tell us about your A.S. Watson journey so far?

I started working for A.S. Watson over 3 years ago when eLab was just entering its infant stage. My team and I helped set up and launch 3 Marionnaud sites (Spain, Romania and Slovakia). Even though we were part of a massive global company, it felt like we were in a start-up because of the hands-on approach and ability to shape business processes. After a year and a half of getting to grips with Hybris, I was asked if I’d like to apply for a position with eLab Technology in the newly formed Change Management team. I use my knowledge of Hybris and other systems to analyse business requirements and introduce new features across several A.S. Watson websites.

You moved roles and countries with A.S. Watson – how are you finding this transition?

Moving to Milan has almost been a mirror image of my time in London. The office has expanded massively since I joined last year – the number of colleagues has doubled, the amount of projects we work on has grown and we even have a second office next door. The same growth happened when I was in London! We’re constantly working on new, exciting things and looking to the future. It’s great to be a part of.


eLab Tech Milan - team day Summer 2018

How is living and working in Italy?

It’s a different pace of life. Italians say that Milan is manic, but it’s nothing in comparison to London. I’ve had to adjust to the fact that everything revolves around food here. Now I find it strange coming home and seeing people eat a supermarket sandwich at their desk - in Milan we eat lunch together.

What was the hardest adjustment you experienced?

To be honest, it hasn’t been that difficult. I’ve lived abroad a few times before, so I was prepared for the move and what it would mean. Work has been smooth as well. A.S. Watson is a very international company, so I’d already had contact with most of the people in my new office, either face to face, via video chat or email. I still work with many of the same people I worked with from London.

What is the one thing you expected before moving to Italy that wasn’t actually true?

I used to live in Spain, so I was expecting everyone to give the kisses when they greeted each other. I got very confused when I would meet people for the first time and they just gave me a polite handshake.

Is there anything you wish you knew before moving to Milan?

Finding an apartment was more difficult than I expected. It would’ve been impossible to find somewhere to live before I arrived, but I definitely should have made it my number one priority at the beginning.

How is your Italian?

My Italian is pretty good – however sometimes I have to force myself to speak it. Everyone speaks English in the office, and it would be very easy to get by in Milan without Italian.

How did moving countries impact you professionally and personally? What did you learn?

A.S. Watson has a very international culture, so professionally speaking I think the bigger impact has been stepping into a new role rather than moving countries. On the other hand, my personal life has been impacted greatly as I can’t see my friends and family as much. Fortunately, it’s easy to keep in touch with Whatsapp, and it’s not too difficult to travel home or convince someone to visit. I’ve also managed to build a life for myself here, and I keep myself busy when I’m outside of work.


eLab Tech monthly team update

If ever travelling to Milan, what should one see/eat/experience?

Get out of Milan and visit any of the nearby lakes, especially in summer time. Taking a boat ride on Lake Como in the sun is guaranteed to wow anyone.

If you could describe Milan in three words what would they be?

Trams, canals and Italians!

What advice would you give to somebody who’s about to move abroad with work?

Don’t get stressed – things will happen differently to what you’re used to, whether it be opening a bank account, buying a bus ticket or ordering food at a restaurant. Just roll with it! Don’t prepare too much – be spontaneous, walk everywhere and ask lots of questions, these are the best ways to learn. Enjoy yourself and your new culture – things might be lonely at first, but whether it’s only temporary or permanent, try to soak in as much as you can, and you won’t get homesick.

What do you miss the most?

Italian food is great, but I miss English food. I love going home and pigging out with fry ups, curries and pub lunches.