I first saw this Berlin girl smiling at me as she exited the bathroom at work. I wondered if she was the new American the company had recently hired. She had a loose afro and looked Asian, black and Hispanic all at the same time. Being new she got the worst desk in the back corner behind walls of gray cubicle sound panels. Unless she rolled out of her hole on her chair, we never saw her. She was also the only person without a real phone. They had given her a Skype phone when real phones lay unplugged all around us. Two weeks without a real phone, earning exploitative pay, having read all of Jezebel and exasperated over a German supervisor discussing the right English word for ‘Abteilungsleiter’ and another German supervisor simply saying the word penis in German too much, she handed in her letter of resignation.
Like most artists, she was a quasi-visionary. She intuitively foresaw the future in a convincing manner although was at times wrong. She told me her forecast of our small-medium company, “they’re gonna flip and sell.” She baked, literally baked cupcakes for a job interview and espresso frosted her way into another start-up, one with the panache of celebrity funding. Her last words of advice as she handed me a copy of her resignation letter in German was that SoundCloud was hiring.
She would call every so often as she biked past my work place and I would listen for the span of around 30 minutes, as we snacked on food bought from Lidl, to the different world of working for a poster boy Berlin start-up. They had local farm-to-table food delivered to their office, retreats for bonding, the press calling every other month to inform them they had received yet another start-up award and they were photographed for an article in Wired magazine. Most importantly, she was not earning exploitative pay. She was the office manager. As the year went on, normal office problems started to arise. For example, none of her male colleagues could manage to bring their used coffee mugs back to the kitchen. Instead, they would come to the kitchen for a clean mug while three used ones were still on their desks and then ask her to buy more coffee mugs. Things like this drove her nuts. She would create easy to follow organizational systems with color-coded folders yet no one could remember what went where. A few weeks before she quit, she likened her job as that of the dead body cleaners in The Sopranos. Other people had all the fun shooting the bodies and then she had to clean up the mess. After she left, this Berlin start-up was sold in an acqui-hire.
She decided to start something of her own, a non-profit start-up. Her initial employees were unpaid but for a good cause.