Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Munich, Westwing is one of the leading Home & Living eCommerce businesses in Europe.
We spoke to Andreas Wixler, Head of Software Development Consumer Products, and Miriam Rabung, HR Business Partner, about Company Culture, Employer Branding, and why they are not worried about investing in talents that might leave the company one day.
Wixler: Our biggest advantage is that we are a tech company at the core. All of our department heads in tech have had the career path of a developer - even our CTO Adam. This means that the top management knows what they are talking about and is super hands-on. Technology will always be a top priority for us. It is important to us to pioneer new technologies and to give our team the opportunity to try out new things without fear of failure.
Rabung: I think another distinguishing factor is our unique company culture. Westwing offers the opportunity to work in a fast and agile environment where every single person can contribute to the company’s development. New approaches are being supported and new ideas are always appreciated. Moreover, Westwing is known for a great team spirit and it’s always nice to watch colleagues become friends over time. As leaders, it’s up to us to create the space for colleagues to get to know one another on a personal level during lunches, regular team events and meetups or Westwing parties.
Wixler: I think a lot of companies worry about things like their retention rate. I think the better approach is to not be a stranger to the people who move on. If you invested in the development of a developer and you send them into the world with fond memories of that time, it can only be beneficial to you. We’ve seen some people come back to our company after moving on to different opportunities. Others will continue on their path. Someday they become an internationally recognized talent. If we’re on their CV as a previous employer, how could this not be great for us?
“If you invested in the development of a developer and you send them into the world with fond memories of that time, it can only be beneficial to you.” Andreas Wixler, Head of Software Development Consumer Products
Moreover, it is important for us that career paths are not carved in stone - interests and priorities change, you have to be able to try new things and challenge yourself. If someone wants to learn something new or would prefer to focus on a different technology, we’re open to moving them into a new role in a different team, rather than losing that person to another company.
Wixler: Culture is something you have to constantly live by example. Occasionally, it comes easily to some leaders, but in most instances, it’s incredibly difficult. Creating teams that work together well is a two-sided equation. For candidates, I think it’s key to take your time when picking your new colleagues. For us as an employer, we need to ensure that the right people are doing the interviews. It’s only fair to both sides. We can see if the candidate has the relevant experience, and they have someone who is involved enough to answer all their specific questions about the day-to-day work here.
Rabung: We believe that in order to achieve great results, we need to build an awesome team. And an awesome team consists of awesome people. That’s why we take hiring very seriously. We know that strong technical skills are important, but we don’t focus only on them. The so-called soft-skills are even more important in our day-to-day work in order to build a team that actually creates an environment in which people like to work. Thus, we worked hard to remove any pressure to fill roles immediately, so we can take our time to find the perfect match.
“At Westwing diversity grows very naturally - you can’t force it, it’s gotta develop on its own.” Miriam Rabung, HR Business Partner
Rabung: We do make sure each developer’s career growth within the company is clear. This also means, we have a good sense of who might be ready to step up to leadership responsibilities one day. We always recruit for Tech Lead positions internally before we expand our search. But we want to avoid putting too much pressure on someone to take the manager role, even though they might have been happier in a coding role. That’s why we offer early on training for anyone who’s even interested in a Tech Lead role, without asking them to make any decisions upfront. This gives both sides the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of moving that person into a lead role - leadership is not the right thing for everyone.
Rabung: At Westwing diversity grows very naturally - you can't force it, it's gotta develop on its own. We are proud to work in a diverse and international environment. In fact, our tech team comes from more than 40 different countries. Being an international company and having English as the business language, it is a huge advantage for us. It means we can hire great developers - no matter where they come from. The same is true for men and women on the team - we hire the best engineers, regardless of their gender.
Wixler: Exactly! Approximately 90% of our customers are women. It’s impossible to think that we could develop this product without a great deal of female tech employees. Westwing currently has 32 female employees in Technology (20%), and we are trying to increase this number. This isn’t something that we set as a concrete goal, but it’s something the whole team is dedicated to.
“Approximately 90% of our customers are women. It’s impossible to think that we could develop this product without a great deal of female tech employees” Andreas Wixler, Head of Software Development Consumer Products
Wixler: Everything we work on is open and transparent throughout the whole company. For us, this means that code isn’t owned by just one developer or group of developers. One month, a team might be working on a specific aspect of an application. The following month, an entirely different group could take over.
Rabung: Moreover, we promote this exchange of knowledge as a company philosophy. Once a month, there is an All Hands meeting during which all Technology employees can learn what the individual teams are currently working on. We also offer so called Friday Talks, where people present challenges they are facing. Transparency is key - achievements are recognized, successes are celebrated, but also failures are discussed openly.
Wixler: Besides, we can advise every person individually as we are very close to every single employee in Tech - here the exchange of HR and Tech Management is incredibly important. Thus, we can update our developers about interesting projects or new technologies and tools we are using.
“Transparency is key - achievements are recognized, successes are celebrated, but also failures are openly discussed.” Miriam Rabung, HR Business Partner
Wixler: One example is our pilot project in augmented reality. A lot of people talk about it, but we're putting it into practice!
Rabung: According to our customers, checking the dimensions is especially hard when buying online. Our products are bulky and of course we want to reduce the number of returns. That's why we are exploring AR.
Wixler: We are aware that our target group does not play computer games every day - so this is a huge challenge for us. If we can introduce them to AR, we win! ARKit 2.0 is an excellent technology stack, and we already have 500 models available in our iOS app.
Rabung: The AR project is also a good example that we at Westwing simply try things out and implement new ideas, even if this means taking a risk at times - if you don't dare, you don't win. Only yesterday we hosted an iOS Meetup and the developers were thrilled to hear that we are already working with this technology. We have a pioneering spirit and we will keep it!
Read the German interview on our German Hiring Blog >>