#DefineExperience: Chase – The American Who Became a Digital Bulgarian

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5 May 2016

#DefineExperience is our new bimonthly campaign where we interview interesting and successful people about their experience. We ask them not only about their professional experience, but also about the more personal side of things.

It’s a pleasure to introduce to you our very first interviewee – Chase Thomas, the American who became a digital Bulgarian.

1. Hey Chase, what’s your story?

  • I’m from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Texas – home of Breaking Bad, looks exactly like in the show.
  • I went to college in California and stayed there for about 10 years before coming to live in Bulgaria, so my professional career has been in California.
  • When in college I was a barista in Malibu, so all these famous people came in… Reese Witherspoon was super super nice, Dick Van Dyke lived right around the corner.
  • I got married after college, me and my wife met while traveling, so at one point we felt like the States are nice, but maybe it’s not really for us. It’s too easy, too predictable I guess, so we wanted to move to Europe someday, and the job opportunity from XS Software came, so we said ‘why not’? Let’s do it now. We sold our stuff and moved down here. The timing was perfect. I’d been at Activision Blizzard for 4-5 years at that point, my wife’s situation was similar, so we were feeling like it was time for a change. It was more natural than you’d think.
  • We had done a lot of traveling, because we met while dating in Europe. And I had been to Turkey, Romania and Greece, but never in between (where Bulgaria is). So my first time here was the day before my first day at work!
  • At Activision Blizzard, I was in the Marketing department, retail marketing, which is their pricing promotions, their banners, anything that the consumer sees. So if you looked up a Blizzard game or an Activision game and you saw some banner, that would be the kind of thing that would cross my department. The biggest thing was a game called Skylanders, which was super big at that time, and it was like my bread and butter, this was the game I was focusing on. And I know it sounds nice when you say you work in video games, people think you’re just playing video games, but that’s not true. Before Activision, I worked at Dreamworks animation which sounds like big fun, but actually I was reviewing contracts and financial statements all day. Unlike here at XS Software all we do is play games all day. [laughing]
  • Right now I’m 3 months here, 3 months somewhere else. Because I want to and because of the VISA. Vasko says I’m pretty talented at finding places with weak Internet connection. But when that happens, I do everything possible to find a good connection, which of course, takes some more traveling and patience. I would travel to the cafe for 1 hour and then stay there for 6-7 hours. And my wife is a digital nomad full-time, she’s doing consulting, running social media and creating campaigns, so it’s working pretty well.

Enhancv #DefineExperience: Chase – The American Who Became a Digital Bulgarian

2. Chase, please define experience.

Work experience is more about if someone understands the job, rather than how long he’s been doing the job. If you understand the customer and your role and how to please everyone, then you have understood the experience of this work.

In a non-work way, I would say experience has got to be… It’s a very deep question, usually a 3 beers in question [laughing]. Experience is learning, the more that you’re learning, the more you are experiencing in life. I hope that’s a deep enough answer.

3. What do you consider as your most significant accomplishment in your career so far? What about outside of your career?

There’s a lot of things I’m really proud of. After graduating from college, my first job was in finance, but I didn’t like finance, spreadsheets and Excel all day, so eventually I was able to take a finance role and change it into something I did feel passionate about, which is marketing and it was something that even in college I’d wanted to get into, but it was kind of a black box breaking into that industry. I’m proud of the fact that I took something I hated and changed it into something that I really liked.

What I’m most proud of outside work, was when we moved to Bulgaria. A really landmark crazy decision. And we’ve never regretted it for an instant. That was almost 2 years ago. So there’s still time to regret it – the others add while laughing.

I didn’t know what to expect here. I mean I was talking to the guys from the company before moving and they told me it was nice, so… [laughing]. People here are really friendly, there’s a lot of outdoor activities to do and it’s easy to get out of the city. You have Rila Monastery, Plovdiv and many more amazing places to visit.

Last but not least, it’s very different because companies here aren’t trying to make your personal life a part of your job. On the contrary – companies in Bulgaria are trying to make your job a part of your personal life. My wife and I weren’t seeing each other except for 8-9 o’clock at night, we’d come home, get on our cellphones and on our laptops till midnight, then up in the morning, go to work and repeat. We just lived for two weeks of vacation once a year and that’s it.

4. Do you think failure is part of experience? What was your biggest failure?

Just don’t ask my wife the same question, she might have some different answers for me. [laughing]

Failure is absolutely necessary. I think you have to fail more times than you have to succeed in order to be good. What was that one phrase from Adventure Time? Failing at something is the first step towards being very good at something. Something like that. I hope to continue to fail at lots of things in order to succeed.

I think my biggest failure was when I was at Activision Blizzard, I was very ambitious, so I had a lot of things that I was trying to take on. I wanted to do everything. But I didn’t know my own limits. So I ended up just not being able to juggle all of the balls that I was trying to juggle and consequently dropping many of them. That was the hard lesson I think: not being able to do all of the things that I wanted to do, because I’m a human being.

Enhancv #DefineExperience: Chase – The American Who Became a Digital Bulgarian 5. What life-hack tips would you give to your 18-year-old self?

I think I would tell 18-year-old Chase if he’s somewhere out there “Don’t buy that second coffee.” What happened one time is I bought a second coffee and spilled it on my computer, got mad, bought a new computer, and updated my status on Facebook, which is something I almost never do, to a message to Chase 2 hours ago, saying “Don’t buy that second coffee.” It’s a trap. [laughing]

On a more serious note, I’d tell him that just because something isn’t directly related to work or school, if you find it interesting – pursue it. A good example is when I was doing finance, I learnt Photoshop on the side and that has been super helpful to my career. Or now I’ve learnt programming, not because I need to, but because I find it interesting, and that has been very helpful as well.

6. Would you do something differently if you had the chance?

Honestly no. Except for that second coffee. But I don’t really believe in regrets anyway. Even mistakes that I’ve made have always turned out to be something positive. Maybe I would have been less lazy in high school, but probably not, because I still ended having the jobs that I’ve wanted. Maybe I would have grown up in Europe, with an EU citizenship, that would’ve been nice.**

7. Starcraft or Diablo? This is not from the questions list.

Diablo. I play games to relax, not to think. And Starcraft is a thinking game, while Diablo is just clicking.

We want to thank Chase for sharing with us his story. It’s always very inspiring to learn about someone’s lessons and achievements. And we love having people like him in our country.

If you enjoyed reading our first #DefineExperience interview, then stay tuned, because we’re just getting started.

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