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On business culture, development and growth at *um: “Teamwork is a lot better when everyone gets what the others are doing”

Caroline Hahn has been the human resources manager at *um since February, and the 34-year-old is already a wise head in business. Just as familiar with corporate recruitment as with HR management in a start-up, she has international experience and has already worked as a coach. The support of our continuous growth and development is in safe hands. We spoke with Caroline about *um and her role.

TUM PM38 Interview CH

Hi Caroline. You have been at *um for five months now. Are you still enjoying it?

Still? (Skeptical look.) I like it more and more with each day! The staff are great, we have plenty to do, the work is effective and fun – just like everything at *um, actually.

What have been your tasks so far?

Apart from lots of donuts and Bionade – read here staff appraisals and company meetings –, I have participated in two larger projects so far: We have introduced a new onboarding program and completely switched our employee management onto a digital system.

OK, that really is "plenty to do".

Not a problem. (Laughs.) With over 100 employees, um* has now reached a considerable size. Our HR management had gradually developed too, but it was time for a specific team to manage the organization and development of the employers. There is so much to structure and existing processes and developed procedures need to be integrated.

What do you with your time when you are not developing *um?

I travel a lot. Alone, too, because my family is scattered around half of Europe. Apart from that I do sport, mostly dance, and sometimes help friends prepare for interviews. (Laughs.)

From culture to business culture, you could say. Why did you choose to go into HR management?

That is a good question. I actually wanted to be an A&R manager at a music label, since I enjoyed scouting new talent and wanted to work closely with people. But unfortunately the music industry barely looks for talent anymore; young artists are no longer being developed, really. Not like in HR management. (Laughs.) In the end a friend of mine got me into HR and I am still grateful to her for that.

And how did you end up here at *um?

I came to *um via a headhunter, a personnel consultant who was specifically assigned to find someone for the role.

Is that typical for your recruiting process?

Yes and no. Using headhunters cannot be avoided. It is one of the numerous recruiting channels we have here. That said, it is not typical for our recruiting, but primarily for the shortage of skilled labor in general. We do use headhunters but we are becoming an increasing presence at colleges. We welcome graduates, are investing more in our own up-and-coming talent, are developing trainees and have been educating our staff ourselves for a good two years. We have a lot to offer employees and newstarters right now. you can testify yourself.

Definitely. *um is a company with open, direct communication and – despite its current size – it still has an informal business culture. New employees get that right from the beginning.

Can you give an example?

There is the *umNewstarter, which is a monthly meeting in which the CEO Ravin Mehta takes the time to explain in person to the new employees what *um is all about. We have also introduced a buddy system, which partners each new employee with a mentor for the initial period of the contract.

These are just two examples. As I have already mentioned, *um supports this open business culture in general. Obviously I am comfortable with that, because it allows me to build up and mold my position. And I am not alone in that – everyone here has the opportunity to grow and develop.

The new office and space setup fits that philosophy well, doesn't it?

Yes. Our growth caused a few departments to be temporarily located elsewhere, but we have been all together in one building again since the spring. That obviously makes teamwork much easier, when everyone gets what the others are doing. There is also enough space in the building to accommodate our continued development.

Does that apply to the new *um location in Vienna, too?

Yes, absolutely. These development opportunities are not just limited to Berlin, but also apply to our new, additional location in Vienna. *um is continuing to grow at both locations – organically and healthily, but at a steady pace.

Speaking of which... what will the development look like in the near future? Who and what is *um looking for?

On the whole we are looking for experts, skilled people, for all the important internet technologies. More specifically we are currently looking for developers, system engineers and system architects, for example – in both Berlin and Vienna. It is always worth taking a look at our careers page.

The field of big data is obviously very important, since it is the basis for many of our projects and activities. We are also looking for suitable people who think outside the box, and even those who want to change career path. Equally important as expertise is also the ability to find solutions to challenges in unconventional ways.

So there is still plenty to do and plenty to develop.

Definitely. It should be interesting to continue this conversation in about a year's time.

OK, we will! We are looking forward to it.

Yes, I am too.

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