If you snuck up on the Chatterbug team at lunchtime, you would often hear Megan, our Head of Community, describing herself as “very competitive”. She comes from a very athletic family and both her parents were coaches, so it’s no surprise that she began playing soccer at 4, softball when she turned 7, and then moved on to volleyball at age 13.
She tells us that one year, her mom even created the “Cape cup” and whoever between her and her two brothers scored the most goals by the end of the soccer season, would win a day at an amusement park. Her little brother won the coveted prize and to this day, Megan believes that the game was rigged!
You already worked as a community manager before Chatterbug and you’ve been channeling that experience here as well. So why community management?
Community Management is still somewhat of a new concept and companies are starting to realize now more than ever how important community is. So now companies are hiring and looking to hire a Community Manager, but no one knows exactly what this role entails. This makes it super interesting because I have been able to shape it into what I want and what I think will most benefit our company and community. There are also so many different types of communities, from online communities to expat communities to startup communities, etc.
Before starting at Chatterbug, I ran a tech and startup community here in Berlin, which has given me a lot of knowledge about the ins and outs of the startup scene in Berlin, as well as a big network. I did meet our founders through it, after all. 😉
You’ve built quite the social presence for our company here in Berlin organizing some really fun events. Any funny anecdotes from those meet-ups you would like to share?
Lol. We have had some pretty great events and parties so far. One that sticks out in my mind is the Tech Open Air (TOA) satellite after-party we threw at a rooftop in Kreuzberg. It began with a boat ride from the TOA festival to Kreuzberg, but we had WAY more people show up than actually RSVP’d so we did not have the capacity to take them all on the boats in one trip, but of course, we didn’t want to turn anyone away. So we decided to take 2 trips (which still was not enough), but the actual boat trip was longer than expected. When the drivers arrived back to the TOA docks, people were pushing their ways onto the boat as if it was a life or death situation. We started buying everyone beers to keep them happy and in the end hiring cabs to take the remaining attendees. Once the party finally was getting going, the cops arrived! I guess it didn’t help that we hired the djs from TOA and they were BLASTING music from their subwoofers. It was echoing throughout Kreuzberg and probably to Neukölln and Friedrichshain. It was an epic party while it lasted!
You have quite some stories about your first years in Berlin. Busking, organizing pub crawls, etc. How did you get into such a bohemian lifestyle and how much German did you need for that?
Oh man. Yeah, those were different times back then. When I first arrived in Berlin, I literally did not know a single person, nor did I know much about the city. I also wasn’t planning on staying very long, as it was more of a ‘I want to experience living abroad’ type of trip so I thought I’d be here, maybe a year. The startup scene was also quite young at the time and like I said, I did not have a network so I needed to be scrappy in order to make money and slowly build up my network in Berlin. So I did whatever came to me from teaching English to pub crawls - I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty! For these types of gigs, I did not need any German, at all. Even when I moved here 6 years ago, there were still plenty of expats!
You moved from California to Berlin 6 years ago, how has this city changed you?
I don’t think Berlin changed me exactly, but living outside of the US definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things. When you are able to get outside of your home country, you are able to look back on it from an outside perspective. You start to see the things that you maybe don’t agree with and that are not working so well, but you also appreciate other aspects of your own culture.
For my first couple of years in Berlin, I remember feeling so ashamed of being American. I was constantly questioning the American ways and the attitudes of the people, that I was almost suppressing who I was. But after living here as long as I have and getting to know people from so many different backgrounds, I realized that everyone has their own insecurities about their culture, and that no culture is perfect so why hide who I am and where I come from.
What would you recommend to other Californians planning to move to Berlin?
My one advice to Californians moving to Berlin - pack warm clothes, but don’t buy them in California, that jacket is not as warm as you think.
You often complain about how impossible it is to find good Californian wine in Berlin. So what’s the one thing that’s different about Californian wine?
Tbh I love Californian wine because I know it somewhat well. When living in San Francisco, my friends and I took weekend trips to Sonoma County all the time to go wine tasting, and my parents recently retired on the central coast of California, which is blissfully placed in between several wine regions. So California wine is more nostalgic for me, but I am slowly learning more about European wines, and started to dig those Spanish wines - ole’!
There is a stereotype that native English speakers don’t really need to learn other languages because they already speak the world’s Lingua Franca. What do you say to that?
Ooo, this is tough. I don’t necessarily think that English natives should not learn other languages, BUT I do think it is a lot easier for us to get by with only our mother tongue since so many people around the world know at least a bit of English. Also, from my own experience, I find it VERY difficult to practice my German around Berlin. As soon as a German catches a glimpse of that strong (but gracious 😉 ) American accent, they immediately switch to English. I know they are just trying to be helpful, but I am actually trying to practice. I have now gotten to the point where I just continue answering them in German, so now we have an American speaking German to a German speaking English.
Before you go, can you give us a top 3 of Netflix shows we should absolutely watch?
I am a big documentary watcher. Anytime a new documentary comes out on Netflix, I watch it almost immediately. One of my faves is “Hip Hop Evolution” because I am really into 90’s hip hop music. I also enjoy true crime docs, such as “Staircase” and “Making a Murderer”, autobiography docs, and docs about specific events. Also, “Wild Wild Country” blew my mind! I can also spend an entire Sunday watching “Ru Paul’s Drag Race”.