We have 3 Hackweeks per year, in which our teams go beyond their day-to-day business and explore new projects, ideas or technologies. 13 different projects were initiated this Hackweek#2 2020.
Hackweeks at kununu are internal hackathons that last an entire working week. We use these hackathons for learning, connecting with each other and sharing our ideas and thoughts. We take the opportunity to have some workshops and try out new technologies. Some of the ideas are pursued even after the Hackweek and become part of our product.
These are a few project examples of Hackweek#2 2020:
Mitchell, Backend Developer at kununu in Porto, worked on a gamification idea for kununu’s company values. As part of kununu's Culture Club he wants to actively shape the culture of kununu. With his project he wants to foster communication and collaboration between locations and colleagues.
Daniel, QA Engineer at kununu in Porto, worked on visual regression testing with webdriver.io. With his project he wants to avoid visual rendering issues in production. This should make sure that users have always the best UI & UX experience.
Stefan, Senior Backend Developer at kununu in Vienna, analyzed log data to expose microservice interconnections. This should help every developer maintain an overview in a growing microservice environment and understand who & what consumes their services endpoints.
Hélder joined kununu more than 2 years ago as Vice President of Technology. Since then he has shaped kununu not only on the engineering side, but also on the strategic level. In this interview he shares insights about his career, big challenges and how he tackles them. Hélder explains also why he values diversity in teams and how he responded to the crisis with a positive mindset.
Portrait of Hélder
Q: Hélder, you have been kununu’s VP Technology for two years and leading engineering in Porto and Vienna. Can you summarize your career for us? How did you get to where you are now?
I’ve started my career as an independent software developer while I was studying at the University. At some point (around 1998) the government decided to task my University to develop the first generation of e-government solutions and I was lucky enough to be hired for that project. It was a game changer for me as I quickly fell in love with developing software at scale and being part of a team of highly skilled people with different backgrounds.
Then, during my senior year, I started a company with 2 other partners. While my initial focus was purely on software development, as the company grew I was naturally drawn to coordination, planning and leadership tasks. The move towards a management career wasn’t a conscious or planned decision but rather something that I started to do because there was a need for it and I was enjoying it.
Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have had leadership roles in three other companies, and work on diverse projects and industries like banking, healthcare, sports betting and ,more recently, HR tech.
Q: If you could go back in time, what would you do differently? What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I would explain to my younger self how important it is to balance work and personal life. I think I was a workaholic during a big part of my 20s but I managed to change that. And I am more productive now than when I was working crazy hours and I think I am also a better father and husband but my opinion might be biased...
Q: What are you most proud of?
At the top of my mind, I can think about two things that make me proud: The first one is that I am able to look back and see the positive impact that the work I did had on people’s lives. Knowing that people got better healthcare, better financial solutions, had more fun betting on sports events and are able to choose their next job in a more informed way because of the work I did makes me very proud.
The second thing was to see a company I was managing at the time winning a national award as the Best Place to Work For in 2017.
Q: I noticed on your Social Media profile that you choose this quote to describe yourself “I believe failing-fast is the only way to fail.” What was a screw-up you wanted to share?
Regarding the “failing fast” quote, in my personal view that is more related to ego than to screw-up. Failing fast means putting our egos aside when assessing the success or failure of a project and deciding based on what's best for our users and business. Sometimes our ego can get in the way of taking the hard decision to pivot in a different direction or even kill a project just because it’s our pet project.
This is probably not my biggest screw-up but is one that I remember often: While rolling out a new version of a software at a hospital, we inadvertently broke the communications between several systems, which caused a disruption in some of the hospital services, one of them being the emergency room. We were able to fix it within minutes and fortunately no harm was done but it seemed like it took hours because I was feeling really bad for the impact it was having on patients and doctors.
kununu in Porto and current tech-challenges
Q: What is your current job about? What is your typical working day like?
kununu’s mission is to provide job seekers with authentic workplace insights that can help them find their dream employer and help employers with getting better applicants and building their employer brand with our Employer Branding Profiles.
kununu is a 100% digital company so all of our products run on top of a technology stack that is developed internally by our awesome Engineering team. My job is to coordinate and support this team in the best way possible so that we keep on delivering new and improved features to our users with high quality and high availability. I also have the pleasure to coordinate our Community Support team that takes care of all the back office and customer support tasks.
I am also a big fan of agile principles and continuous improvement so I also invest time in finding new ways of optimizing the way we work at kununu.
Q: You’ve been with kununu for 2,5 years. What challenges did you face? And on the contrary, what accomplishments did you celebrate?
I am driven by challenges and one of the things that attracted me to kununu was the challenge of rebuilding kununu’s entire tech stack. As always, we approached this challenge with a user centric perspective and decided to put our users first. This means that on top of the technical complexity of migrating from a monolithic architecture to a microservices architecture, we gave ourselves the additional challenge of continuing to release new features and brand new products while doing it, which means dealing with bi-directional data synching of millions of data points.
In terms of accomplishments, I am quite happy with how things are progressing. In order to overcome this challenge we couldn’t just simply approach it as an Engineering problem, the whole company needed to get behind it. In the last two years, we introduced new ways of working in the company, adopted OKRs, forced ourselves to prioritise what really adds value for our users. It paved the way for us to release three completely new products (Salary, Culture, engage) and allowed for being almost half way through our technical migration.
Q: Where would you like to see kununu heading in terms of technology?
I see kununu making use of the best practices and technologies to build the best products on the market that deliver great value to our users and customers. My personal opinion is that the satisfaction and pride of an engineer (in our case software) is to see something that they built being used by other people.
Q: kununu’s services are not yet available in Portugal. Can you explain why there is an office in Porto?
During the last few years Porto has been trending as an important tech hub in Europe. This is mainly due to the fact that Porto is a great talent pool when it comes to software engineering.
New Work SE, our mother company, and kununu wanted to grow their Engineering teams and decided to tap into Porto’s talent pool and build a shared office here. This has proven to be a success, the number of people in the Porto office has been steadily growing since then and we’re even about to open a new office space that we will soon move into.
Q: Speaking of the team. Can you explain the team setup in the Porto office? What are the strengths of the teams in Porto?
Currently there are five feature teams and one devops team working in our Porto office, including the Agile Coach and Product Owner functions. All of our teams, independent of where they are located, bring something different to the table and I believe this diversity is also a strength. Regarding the Porto teams specifically, I would highlight the ability to quickly adapt to new scenarios as one of their strengths.
Q: Everybody wants to grow. Can you tell us what the growth opportunities are for engineers?
When it comes to growth opportunities, we try to create a personal development plan for each of our employees and support them in the best way that we can, with formal training, coaching, mentoring or on the job training, through that journey. Also, before we hire from outside, we always look at our internal talent pool first and try to hire internally.
COVID-19 and collaboration at kununu
Q: The Covid-19 pandemic is shaking the world. How have you experienced the crisis yourself? Also, people are seeking stability. How did you guide and support your teams in the last months?
Our first reaction to the pandemic was to do everything within our reach to ensure everyone was safe, so we decided to send everyone home and close the Porto office a few days ahead of the lockdown. Since remote work was already something common at kununu, we managed to adapt to the new reality fairly quickly and I’m very happy with how productive we continued to be during lockdown.
During August we started to slowly get back to the offices, but everyone is still allowed to work fully remote. If the pandemic allows for it, from November onwards we are planning to be on a 50/50 split between home and office work.
After the lockdown, and to fight the fatigue of working from home for such a long period of time without physically meeting with your colleagues, we organise regular team picnics, always in small groups and in compliance with all the safety guidelines.
Q: Being a company that lives its culture through connections between colleagues and community, what do you think can be implications of this remote setup for the corporate culture and how can we overcome it?
Moving to a fully remote setup, especially during a pandemic, is definitely a challenge for a company with a proximity culture like ours. Dealing with it starts with having a positive mindset and not letting ourselves get depressed. When we went into lockdown, we committed to not letting the pandemic be an excuse for not doing things as well as we normally do, and I think that mindset helps us a lot to overcome the challenges of a remote setup with a positive attitude. Teams are finding new and innovative ways of collaborating in a remote setup (new tools, virtual group meals, new ways of running meetings, etc.) and once they find something that works well, they share it with everyone else, which also ends up contributing to communication and collaboration.
Q: Speaking of collaboration: What are the challenges of cross-country collaboration? How do you manage cross-functional communication?
I personally consider that diversity makes us stronger, so I don’t see it as a challenge but rather an opportunity for improvement. What I observe is that when you task a group of people with different backgrounds and cultures to solve a problem, you usually end up with more creative solutions than when the group is less diverse.
At the same time we acknowledge that the more diverse and geographically scattered that group is, the more difficult and noisy the process can be and that’s why we’ve introduced Golden Meeting Rules and OKRs into our ways of working. While the Golden Meeting Rules provide guidelines on how to make meetings more collaborative and productive, OKRs are a good framework for documenting the different goals each team has agreed upon and make them transparent across different functions.
For many people, the first time they encountered any implications of the Coronavirus crisis was in their workplace. And while the virus’ impact on our home lives is certainly undeniable, the way that the Coronavirus pandemic so quickly changed the way we all work and that it has generated so much insecurity for employees and employers was something we at kununu couldn’t ignore. With our Corona Employer Transparency Ticker (CETT) we aimed to make transparent how employees perceived their employers’ response to the pandemic and to share best practices that other companies could benefit from. Here we provide you insights to our way of working on the initiative and the most exciting results.
The media repeatedly compared the crisis to a marathon. In many countries, the first wave of infections has been overcome, but there are warnings that the second wave is about to hit the shore and that the second half of the marathon is still ahead of us. The Coronavirus pandemic has changed all of our lives and in a previous article we reflected on how we at kununu experienced the first months and summarized our main learnings. Now we want to take a look at other companies and how kununu supported the public discussion with workplace data.
Once we realised what was going to happen, we wanted to make a contribution to the public debate and support both employers and employees during these challenging times. For many people it was their workplace where they first got in direct contact with the implications of the crisis and its crisis management. This is where we put our spotlight: First, we wanted to highlight how employees perceived their employers’ reactions to the crisis and second, we wanted to give employers an opportunity to share how they dealt with the crisis, so that employers could learn from others' solutions. We aimed to create transparency on the one side and show solidarity with employers which really made an effort to support their employees on the other side. We are sure that job seekers will be looking at how employers dealt with the crisis when looking for a job. Employers who acted as a role model in these difficult times will stand out for that even after the crisis is over.
How we combined forces to make this happen
Facing the new situation, working from home and with time constraints made building the Corona Employer Transparency Ticker and cross-departmental collaboration a challenge - yet a challenge we were excited to take on. Teams from Marketing, PR, Business Analytics, Product, Content and Engineering worked together on the planning, execution, implementation and communication. We created our own slack groups, Kanban boards and had daily stand-ups to align ideas and discuss roadblocks. In accommodating the new situation we also introduced daily video calls to discuss ideas and roadblocks. At the same time, we also wanted owners of workstreams to be able to move as quickly as possible, so the individual workstream owners took their own decisions without lengthy alignments or consultations. Being motivated by our mission to create transparency, all teams pulled together on getting this out to the people as soon as possible. As everyone was certain about how important and urgent this topic was, we prioritized the Coronavirus project first over other day-to-day business that we knew could wait. We are proud of what we achieved in such a short time and under the given circumstances – it was a great cross-department success.
Results of our Corona Employer Transparency Ticker
The Transparency Ticker was kununu's first public dashboard that showed how employers coped with the crisis and what was perceived by the employees that were affected. The Live Ticker included dimensions such as family friendliness of measures, communication of crisis-related measures, safety at work, satisfaction with the measures and the speed with which the measures were implemented.
After 60 days in service, almost 50,000 people provided us with insights from their workplace and more than 70,000 visitors directly visited the dashboard. We could clearly see that the people were mostly satisfied; three out of four users stated they were very satisfied with the measures taken by their employer. What stood out was that the speed of implementation was the highest-rated dimension. Regardless of whether the measures were satisfactory or not, 78 percent said on average that their management reacted quickly enough. This shows that people at least had the feeling that someone cares, it's not just a situation of panic with uncontrolled actions. Users had the feeling that there was a deliberate reaction to what was happening around them. That gave them a degree of security and gave them a framework with which they could also work.
In addition to the Corona Employer Transparency Ticker, we started a Coronavirus campaign with the aim of sharing best practices. We directed the campaign not only to our users but also towards companies that likely still needed suggestions on how to deal with the crisis. We have opened our own platform to enable employers to share their experiences and companies used it to exchange ideas e.g. how to support their teams, deal with labour related legal changes, etc. Our marketing and PR team led the communication of the results and the findings. In addition to other marketing and PR initiatives, we used the available insights to publish a full range of data-driven articles on our kununu Blog.
We are still in the middle of the crisis and it is difficult to predict the challenges ahead. Especially in a crisis that is having such a drastic impact on our working life, we see ourselves as a platform that provides insights into the ever-changing world of work.
We are Helen & Chesran!
Helen joined kununu one year ago and is kununu’s Digital Campaign Manager. In her role she is planning, coordinating, and implementing Marketing & Brand Campaigns.
Chesran joined kununu more than one year ago and is kununu’s Head of B2B. Her mission is to enable employers to use kununu’s workplace insights to attract and retain the right talent.
Want to know more about Helen and Chesran? Visit their job profiles on kununu.com
3. Improve products and services
It's been five months now since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown that followed it has changed the way we live and work. The school year is over and many parents can now breathe a sigh of relief, because homeschooling is paused until fall. It is therefore a good time to take a moment to reflect on the crisis and make an assessment of the measures we have taken so far. Since the pandemic is not over yet and will remain a tough challenge for the foreseeable future, a review of the main learnings can be valuable for the coming season.
If you think back to February we were vigilantly watching what was happening in other countries from afar, rather than imagining how quickly and drastically the corona virus could spread to even our own cities and eventually become a global pandemic. A lot has changed since then. Like many other companies we closed our offices and all of our employees started working remotely from their homes. Working completely from home brought up new challenges, especially to those with children. “I expected it to be a lot easier. I thought we’d have more family time to spend with our kids. However, they quickly started to become tired of being at home and started to be more and more impatient. Soon they were less willing to do their work and exercises their teachers had for them which eventually made our work much more difficult”, remembers Pedro, Team Lead Engineering in Porto and father of two young children. Abruptly adjusting to working from home while homeschooling, parents had multiple roles to take on.
It was clear from the beginning that we had to give extra support to those employees who faced this challenge. Being part of the NEW WORK SE group, we benefited enormously from their broad-based crisis management. NEW WORK SE very quickly initiated the basic measures that brought rapid improvements to all employees. For example, parents' vacation days were increased by an additional two weeks and best practices for working at home were quickly and regularly shared across the organization. The benefit of being a smaller-sized tech company is our adaptability for new processes. This allowed us to find solutions on an individual level in addition to the general measures from the group. We empowered our managers to enable individual solutions in their teams as well and HR was in direct contact with all working parents to assure reliability in finding solutions tailored to the different needs.
One particularly effective solution was to make working hours more flexible, so that employees were able to adapt the rhythm of work to that of family life. Working parents adapted their calendars, carved out family time and used their status in messaging apps to inform their colleagues when they were available. And the organization adapted accordingly. Everyone showed empathy when calls and meetings were interrupted or children burst into the meetings. Yenia, our Director Global Communications and Brand, and mother of two young children remembers when her kids set out to interrupt meeting: “At first I felt super stressed. At some point tough I came to terms with my kids interrupting meetings and I even got positive feedback because others got to see me from a different, more personal perspective. They felt this was a positive thing”. And once the office partly reopened in mid-May we ensured that parents who wanted to come back to the office were able to.
The school year is over now and so is the time of homeschooling. From the current point of view, the end of the crisis does not seem to be in sight and the relaxation that can now be seen in some parents is probably only temporary. After all, a new school year begins in the fall and the challenges will come up again. Therefore it is a perfect time to reflect on the measures we have taken to identify what worked well.
These are our learnings:
1. The crisis can be a tremendous source of stress, especially to parents. Mental health at work is important, even more so during a pandemic. Therefore it is our leadership team’s job to provide emotional support and demonstrate reliability.
2. Open communication with each other and sharing experiences fosters trust and sympathy for the different circumstances. Additionally it enables better collaboration within teams and cross-department.
3. Flexibility is particularly important to balance family and work.
4. Solutions are most helpful and have full effect if they are tailored to the individual needs. The challenges that our working parents were facing varied. An open dialogue with people managers and HR helped parents find individual solutions.
These measures have proven themselves to be extremely valuable and effective for us in the last five months and we received a lot of positive responses from our workforce on how we have been handling the situation so far. kununu is very well positioned with our strong partners of the NEW WORK SE group and our smaller company size, which enables our agility to react quickly and individually to changes. We will continue to vigilantly monitor the crisis in order to adapt our measures accordingly in due time. This way we can support our employees now and in the future in dealing with the crisis in the best possible way.
I’m Lena. I joined kununu more than 4 years ago and I am HR Business Partner. I am responsible for On- and Offboarding at kununu. Furthermore I support Learning & Development and Performance Management among other topics. During the Corona Crisis I took over the coordination of the crisis management at kununu – one of the biggest challenges in my career so far.
User Focus has become an integral part of kununu's corporate identity. It is key to know and understand your user in order to develop a product that adds value to our users’ lives. Our user insights come from user research, but also from within our organization: team members within different departments who have direct experience and contact with users and customers bring priceless insight as well. From engineering to sales, all departments are involved in the development of user-centered products.
A new product idea or feature for us always starts with the user, specifically with a vision that aims to solve a user problem. kununu's vision is to empower people to choose the right place to work and create a better workplace for all. Our product helps job seekers find the right employer by providing insights into a company's culture, salaries or employer reviews. At the same time, we also have customers who use our profile to position their Employer Brand to attract potential job seekers.
Before we start developing a new feature, we set out to deeply understand who our users are, what their needs are and what behavior can be derived from their needs. We start with user research in our product team and here’s how that process looks like.
Sandra is UX designer at kununu and it is her role to conduct user research. She uses various methods such as surveys on kununu.com, focus groups, direct interviews and usability tests to get to the heart of what our user wants most. While Sandra is able to uncover information through these methods, the product team constantly receives valuable insights about our users from various teams within kununu. For example through our business analytics team, which helps us to extract user insights from large amounts of data. Additionally we get firsthand feedback from the Community Support Team, the Social Media Team or the Sales Team at XING. We work hard to ensure that we have constant cross-functional information flow and that we prevent silos within all departments right from the start.
Clearly our product designers and developers play a key role, because it is they who translate our ideas into the real product. It is very important that they fully grasp the user's perspective, step into the users’ shoes and do not claim to know what's best for the user without knowing their pains and needs. This way they can identify and highlight inconsistencies and potential obstacles. Eventually, once a new feature is ready to be released, the communication and marketing teams come into play as they coordinate their efforts to introduce the new feature to the market. They close the loop by informing our users and customers about the upcoming enhancement of our product.
To be a truly user-centric company there has to be a lot of cross-functional collaboration in the organization – user insights are often not symmetrically distributed across all departments and therefore there needs to be good cooperation with colleagues from almost all departments. What we have also learned by focusing on the user is that a user-centric approach to building new products also increases our company’s motivation. Everybody knows that they are part of the development process for a feature that helps job seekers and employers find each other. User focus has therefore become an integral part of our corporate identity, which is ingrained in every nook and cranny of our corporate culture. Focus on Users also became a corporate value to which we all try to live up to. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once said, "if your focus is on customers, you keep improving."
I’m Johannes. I joined kununu more than 4 years ago and I am Head of Product at kununu. I am working with the product team on our product that empowers people to find the right place to work. You want to know more about me and kununu? Visit my job profile on kununu.com
In Zeiten wie diesen wollen und müssen wir Solidarität zeigen. Der Coronavirus beschäftigt uns alle und es liegt nun an jedem von uns, eine weitere unkontrollierte Verbreitung so gut es geht einzudämmen. Seit Mitte März wurden bei kununu daher Maßnahmen eingeführt, um dieses Vorhaben zu unterstützen. Jetzt geht es vor allem um Zusammenhalt und darum gemeinsam unser Bestes zu geben, unsere Mitmenschen und vor allem die schwächeren Mitglieder unserer Gesellschaft zu schützen. Nicht nur unsere Kollegen aus Wien, sondern auch Berlin, Hamburg, Porto und Boston sind bis auf weiteres im Homeoffice. Für uns gilt: #StayHome
Ihr wollt wissen, wie wir bei kununu mit der aktuellen Situation umgehen? Hier bekommt ihr dazu Insights.
kununu hat sich in den letzten zwei Jahren sehr stark verändert: Wir sind größer geworden – gemessen an der Mitarbeiterzahl, aber auch an unserer Produktvielfalt und den User Zahlen. Jeder kununu ist Teil unserer Identität und hat Impact auf unsere Organisationskultur. Aus diesem Grund haben wir 2019 ein partizipatives Projekt gestartet um unsere Unternehmenswerte neu zu definieren. 11 Mitarbeiter aus allen vier Locations haben sich als so genannten Culture Club zusammengetan und die Ergebnisse mehrerer Umfragen und Workshops vereint zu unseren neuen Unternehmenswerten:
Focus on Users
Mehr Infos zu unseren Werten findest du in unserem Unternehmensprofil. P.S.: Am Foto seht ihr unseren Culture Club bei der Vorbereitung der Präsentation unserer neuen Werte.
Paella, Agua de Valencia und viel Team Spirit: New Work SE Kick Off 2020!
Das gesamte New Work SE Team startete ins neue Jahr 2020 mit einem großen Treffen in Valencia. Die kununus haben die Zeit intensiv genutzt um über das erfolgreiche “Year of the Wins” - 2019 zu reflektieren, motiviert in die Zukunft zu blicken und an zahlreichen Aktivitäten teilzunehmen.
Wir freuen uns nun auf die Weihnachtsferien mit unseren Liebsten und tanken viel Energie für die kommende Zeit!