Berlin is the only European city renowned for being ‘free-spirited’, ‘laid-back’ and ‘hipstery’. A city that promotes freedom and accepts diversity, its start-up scene is not any different. I heard from many people, how traditional big European companies are rigidly structured. I was never up for such big corporations and its lifeless rigidity. I wanted to work at an organization where cultural diversity, individuality and finally youthful energy will be appreciated. And what better place is there to find all this at once than a Berlin start-up! Since the beginning of 2015, I have been working with Carmudi, a Rocket Internet backed online car classified operating in 20 different countries including Bangladesh. And yes, my experience is way too unique than I expected!
The first day I came to work, I was not happy about the open-office arrangement of Carmudi workplace, though Carmudi office implemented all open office requirements, a big open room filled with natural sunlight, fresh air and reasonable distance (2 feet) from colleagues. I asked myself like any serious professional with strong work ethics would do, how could I use Facebook here if one of the co-founders is sitting right behind me and could look at my screen anytime! Same thing applies for my new colleagues, sitting just 2 feet away from me.
I can proudly say, I am an old fashioned person, and I believe in working in peace, serenity and under discipline. In my opinion, an open workspace is something opposite of all those things and you spend time chatting and laughing with your colleagues. I am glad that I could not be more wrong. I went through two weeks of personal training for my work, but I learned the most from my colleagues sitting next to me. I’ll credit this to the open office arrangement.
As per as discipline, your boss will never take a look at you whether you are facebooking, chatting or working. You have two weekly meetings, where you and your team present what you did the whole week. And trust me, you don’t want to be the one doing the least work in your team and be embarrassed! So you work for your own performance and you discipline yourself.
Another perk of working here is getting to know people of different countries. Even in my team, there are no two colleagues with the same nationality. You will meet really talented people who are fun to hang out with even outside work. I see how people claim working in a start-up is a lot of fun, for me it’s the colleagues who make the work interesting and enjoyable.
Few other nice things that make other company’s employees jealous (because I brag about these so much): free coke, juice, milk, cereal, fruits and pizza (I know! right?). If you are a non-German speaker, the company offers your German courses. If you are interested in any professional certifications, the company hosts classes that anyone can join.
For me, start-up is young people’s game. The average employee age range is 22 to 29 years. In my team, the eldest person is 32 years old, and he is my boss running a team of 15 people. If you are a 40+ year old person and consider yourself 20 something by your heart, then maybe you can give the start-up a try.
As far as I know, German people put a lot of emphasis on balancing their work and family life. In a startup, it might not be always possible. Though your official contract says you have a 40 hour/week job. In reality, every one of your colleagues works themselves into the ground, and you will feel bad being the first person to leave work. You work really long hours here, and don’t find any time after work to do anything: let alone practicing a hobby, learning something new in your free time or attending networking events.
I learned that when Carmudi was a ‘baby’ (seed stage) company in 2013, they used to have their office at the Rocket internet and used to ‘cowork’ or share office space with another Rocket Internet Venture Lamudi (an online classified for real estates, also operates in Bangladesh). I heard stories from my ‘elderly’ how their work was not only confined within Carmudi, but helping out their co-workers’ at Lamudi, and vice versa.
From my senior colleagues’ experience and also in my opinion, coworking is a great way to keep your employees motivated during the uncertain, stressful phase of a startup. Coworking is the reasons why Carmudi and Lamudi’s senior employees are still grateful to each other as: