mastering remote work

I have always loved working at the office and enjoyed the routine of having a place to go to, interacting with my colleagues, collaborating and developing ideas that I continue working with. So, working remotely without a physical location hasn’t been easy for me. I was hit by a challenge for which I felt not prepared at all. What did the result look like? Constant adaption! 

Lockdown presented many different challenges, so productivity often felt like the last thing I wanted to think about. Staying connected with my team and using all communication tools hasn’t been a big challenge, but I wanted to motivate myself to stay productive. Little did I know – the coming months would prove to become a period of innovation and adaption for me, in which I would learn a lot about myself and my ability to work remotely and productively

Recently, my company has taken further measures to support all colleagues working remotely and we are actively adapting our culture and communication to it. Mercedes-Benz.io is continuously providing insights on the topics of mental and physical well-being, podcasts, videos and articles, guides for meditation and we are supported by ergonomic tips and tricks for home office. But at the start of the lockdown, the currently available tools and measures weren’t fully in place. Therefore, I invested some time into research and found out how to work from home more efficiently, which I want to share with you.  

Surprisingly, today remote work no longer scares me. In fact, it has become the exact opposite! I can see a lot of benefits to remote work and I have adapted my lifestyle to it – as well as possible. Along with a personal ‘survival guide’, a few other things helped me making the remote office situation productive and fun. So, before going through my personal recommendations, here is a quick list of the tools that supported me working remotely:

  • Location screens & ergonomic working posture
    One of the most excellent perks of working at Mercedes-Benz.io is that you are well cared for as an employee. We even got our screen delivered to our doorstep! Having access to the best working conditions with e. g. an additional screen has helped me a lot. Sounds easy – it’s the simple things that make the difference.
  • Tribe Space
    Well, Mondays used to be my weekly highlight at Mercedes-Benz.io. Our Tribe Space is designed to bring MB.ioneers from 3 different locations (Stuttgart, Berlin, Lisbon) together and exchange company updates, changes and upcoming goals. The idea of replicating Tribe Space with a fully online and digital only version, at first, seemed a little astonishing to me. Today I have to admit that transforming our Tribe Space from a physical to a solely online event was, indeed, the best thing ever that could have happened! The new Tribe Space format brought all employees even closer together, it became something similar to a TV show that I look forward to participating in. The meeting format has surely been improved tremendously. Now, really everyone can attend the event, even from home and also on the road. Last but not least, we recorded an increase in participation and our meeting format is continuously being developed further by several colleagues.
  • Weekly tacticals
    Weekly meetings with my team members help me to maintain an efficient workflow. Our tactical is held once a week over Microsoft Teams and allows me to gain needed transparency about what the team has accomplished and to plan upcoming tasks and goals. Another tool we are using to organize our circle meetings is Glassfrog. These meetings, the tools and internal alignment help me focus on most important topics and using the available working time and energy wisely.
  • Slack activities
    Slack is a center of the company’s communication. There is something for everyone, with tons of channels for different circles and fun groups dedicated to MB.io dogs, women of MB.io, music, movies, photography etc. At Mercedes-Benz.io there exists tons of slack activities one can get involved with. My personal favorite is #randomcoffee. MB.io Slack connects you with a random teammate you mostly haven’t talked to, and you get to know each other over an online coffee meeting. Isn’t this a fun way to network?
  • Social Media
    I simply love our social media channels! From social activities to fun dog posts, you can find a diversity of creative content online. My all-time favorite is the #remotainment post on our Insta channel, where MB.ioneers have shown up with creative ways to survive the home office situation.

    By the way – beside the Insta channel you find our Facebook channel here, and our LinkedIn channel here. Let’s stay in touch!

    Effective communication and team activities have helped strengthen our tribe spirit, especially during the start of the critical home-office situation. But apart from this, I struggled with productivity, staying motivated and have been particularly anxious about retaining a positive state of mind. My concerns were valid, but after working on each of them with these tools and my ‘survival guide,’ I no longer worry about spending hours in the home office. Nowadays, the longer I spend working remotely, the more I can see the benefits. I even have the feeling that companies will actually get a lot more out of the home-office situation in the near future, in terms of and for their employees.

My personal survival guide for being productive in home-office:

  • Practice planning

    Writing all the tasks down may sound time-consuming, but it saves a lot of time during execution. And with time, creating lists and prioritizing tasks becomes a habit and doesn’t need additional time. One of the techniques that revolve around this is ‘Eat that Frog’where you deal with the most demanding task and then deal with the rest of the tasks.

    That technique made me quicker, led to more efficient results, less fatigue, and a stronger sense of accomplishment than finishing simple tasks. This technique makes prioritizing easier but is also impact-driven. Achieving little tasks energizes and motivates me and helps me gliding through the rest of the day since I am now finishing the most difficult tasks at first.
  • Take strategic breaks
    Meeting deadlines and being productive at the same time has been very challenging for me, especially during the lockdown when you are locked in the same room and have nowhere else to go. Having a feeling that I have endless time to get things done, I sometimes spent precious work hours on distractions. But at some point the necessary duty of care luckily caught up with me after all and I found an efficient way to tackle my never-ending to-do list. 

  • Dive into the Pomodoro Technique
    As tasty as it sounds, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management system and helps people to work with the time they have – rather than against it. This technique works by dividing the workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks.

    And the five-minute intervals are known as Pomodoros. After about four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of about15 to 20 minutes. This technique helps me achieving my tasks within the given deadline by instilling a sense of urgency. Additionally, the breaks cured the burnt-out feeling I had towards the end of the day. Try it out for yourself, it actually works!
  • Decorate your home-office
    I loved working at the Mercedes-Benz.io Berlin office. Large windows, open spaces, sunlight, green plants in the office space always helped me being productive and induced a sense of relief at the same time. During the lockdown, I made sure that I bring the same feeling to my home office. I tried to define a work area. I moved my desk next to the windows as brighter atmospheres help induce analytical and evaluative thinking. Also, decorating my work area with green plants helped me recover from demanding activities and brought aesthetic appreciation and a sense of calmness.  

I’m so looking forward to getting back to the office! But I also view this time working from home, as a learning experience and a challenge. The lockdown, the last year and the recent months were characterized by constant adaptation for us all. We keep on kickstarting new ways of working and transforming Mercedes-Benz with customer-centricity and agility. We keep on translating input from our customers into outputs of digital experiences, such as the Mercedes-Benz worldwide website – currently we do this completely from home.

For me – the global pandemic is nothing less than a constant journey of adaption and innovation. At Mercedes-Benz.io I learned to say: ‘SCREW IT, LET’S DO IT! 

Want to experience new ways of adaption and innovation?
Visit our job portal and …

APPLY NOW

The .io Cook Off

It all started a month ago. We were asked to keep an eye out for a special delivery. The next few days packages came flying in to make sure we were fully equipped for the experience. It was the 3rd Anniversary of Mercedes-Benz.io as well as the first time we had to cope with an all-remote setting, which as you’ll see didn’t stop us from having an unforgettable evening.

The Cook Off

An event from MB.ioneers for MB.ioneers.

Here’s what happened: every MB.ioneer received the necessities they needed to participate in the #ioCookOff through the mail. Throughout the evening, we tuned in to the kitchens of our colleagues, listened to their home office stories and achievements from the last 7 months and watched a compilation of bloopers from our remote meetings.

Our digital guests dialed into the livestream from 315 devices. Additionally, we were connected through our internal messenger which had an impressive activity including 742 posts with 6902 reactions.

The Hosts of the Evening

The evening was hosted by our fellow colleagues Abu and Filipa, live from our office in Lisbon. It would be wonderful to share the whole experience, but that would involve a 2-hour show… Anyway, here’s a little sneak peak of our intro for you to get a taste of the spirit.

Did you know we have some colleagues who joined forces and started a band?

Over the last 1,5 years Rock.io has established quite a fanbase so of course we selected them as our special guests. The 15 minute concert ended with a smashing encore of the German version of 99 red balloons. If there were an MB.ioneers choice award, they would definitely win it!

The Results

Our recommended dishes included options for every taste: from chicken piri piri and a vegetarian broccoli pesto to a vegan pumpkin risotto. Sounds delicious, right? Well, wait until you see the pictures…

We are so proud to have pulled off the whole evening solely with our internal resources. Once again we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who contributed and our amazing guests. It was definitely a night to remember!

do you Want to celebrate our 4th anniversary with us?

APPLY NOW

How I became aware of unconscious biases in recruiting

“I’d love to work with them” I thought to myself when I was looking at the application of a candidate a couple of weeks ago, “maybe we could even become friends!”. I was already excited about filling this role because it was in an HR-related field and I would potentially get to work closely with the person we would ultimately hire. And the resume I was looking at made me even more excited – the applicant was from Hamburg, Germany, the same city that I was born and raised in.

But not only did we share the same hometown, we also both lived abroad in the same country for a while (Canada’s nice, eh?). The fact that she lived in Calgary reminded me of a wonderful snowy vacation in the Rocky Mountains a few years ago. This had to be a sign, it couldn’t only be coincidence! 


With great excitement I looked at the feedback from the hiring manager, who pointed out a few concerns about the application that seemed completely valid. Despite having looked through the application multiple times, I hadn’t noticed any of these. That’s when I paused for a moment and realized I had just experienced something that is called affinity bias, which describes the reason for why I unconsciously favored the applicant because we had things in common and despite a lack of skills. 

Back then, I only knew I had to be especially mindful with this application while I learned more about the cognitive process that could have easily impacted the hiring decision if I hadn’t paid attention. 

Uncovering unconscious biases

When I started my internship in recruiting at Mercedes-Benz.io I only had a bit of practical recruiting experience from my previous job. I had heard about unconscious biases in university, but never considered it that complex or difficult to become aware of in the hiring process – until that day I described previously. Here’s what I learned since then: 

Everyone processes information with a set of unconscious biases. There’s a limit to how many of the millions of pieces of information we’re exposed to our brain can process consciously. We build a set of assumptions which are influenced by our own ideals, perceptions, personal experiences, cultural environments and background to help us process information unconsciously. 

These shortcuts are natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but they pose a huge risk in the recruitment process, because they make the hiring decisions subjective and unfair. They may lead to teams that aren’t diverse, the dismissal of qualified candidates and the recruitment of unqualified candidates, because candidates aren’t objectively evaluated based on their skills and qualifications. 



We’re so alike: the affinity bias

One of those unconscious processes is called Affinity bias and describes the tendency to favour someone who’s like us either on a personal or professional level. Someone who we can relate to, with whom we share the same experiences or commonalities, because it’s much easier and more comfortable to be around people who seem familiar. Take my experience, for example: The simple fact that the candidate lived in some of the same places that I did had such a big influence on me that I would have probably selected her for the next round without screening the profile any further. 

When you’re looking at numerous resumes in a week, it’s crucial to be aware of the shortcuts that your brain may take. If you don’t, you may end up with a team of people that get along very well but isn’t very diverse. It’s especially important to pay attention to the affinity bias in times where culture fit is considered a very important factor in hiring decisions – you can still aim to hire people who are a culture fit of course, as long as you’re not hiring them only because you went to the same school, have common interests or just get along really well. 

There’s a lot more to be aware of

In addition to the affinity bias, there are a lot more unconscious biases to be aware of in the recruiting process. While I won’t cover all of them, these are the few that stood out to me as particularly important: 

  • Confirmation bias: When you choose and prioritize information to meet your prior expectations. For example: you receive a referral from a colleague for “a really great developer and even better leader”, and throughout the interview process you favor information confirming this expectation and neglect information disproving it.
  • Halo effect: When one positive attribute outshines potential red flags and creates a “positive glow” around the candidate. For example: The designer you’re interviewing has won many awards with personal projects, but has only ever stayed with the same company for a maximum of six months. Despite that red flag you recommend to move forward with the candidate because of the awards she has won. 
  • Horn effect: The opposite of the halo effect is when you judge someone too quickly based on only one negative attribute that may not even be related to the job. For example: When you talk about the dog policy in the office, the candidate mentions that she dislikes dogs, not knowing that you’re a huge dog lover yourself. Even though you know this is unrelated, you let it cloud your judgement and impact the hiring decision.
  • Conformity bias: When you’re not the only one interviewing a candidate and change your opinion to conform with the opinions of others. For example: you have good reasons to think that a particular candidate wouldn’t be a good culture fit, but all the other interviewers want to hire her. You end up changing your opinion and hire the candidate.
  • Contrast effect: When you’re comparing candidates to each other instead of judging them objectively based on the needs of the role. For example: You’re trying to find an office coordinator. You immediately reject the first two candidates because of their lack of experience, and end up hiring the third candidate because she at least has some experience despite that being way less than the requirements originally called for. 


Managing biases in the recruiting process

By reading this you’ve already taken the first and most important step towards managing biases in your recruiting process: you’re now aware that those biases exist. To help with your next steps, here are four practical tips you can start applying tomorrow. 

  • Prepare: Being prepared throughout the recruiting process can go a long way towards reducing the impact that biases can have on it. Make sure you know the exact requirements and skills to look for, prepare an interview guideline which you adhere to, and take some time to understand what skills, behavior and criteria you want to see, why you want to see them and what questions you can ask you find out more about them. Think about this before every step of the process, for example when you start screening applicants or before you go into an interview. Being prepared can prevent your thoughts and conversations from derailing because of biases. 
  • Standardize: To give candidates the same chance of standing out, think about ways that can help to standardize the recruiting process. Prepare a list of questions that you can stick to and make sure that every question is answered, avoid too many off-the-cuff questions. Think about concepts like scorecards to help with a standardized way of evaluating candidates. 
  • Reflect: Frequently check in with yourself and take time to reflect. How are you feeling? Is anything on your mind that may affect how you screen candidates or interview? Has anything in the interview influenced how you perceived the candidate? Being under time pressure or having had a bad night’s sleep can have a huge impact on how you perceive someone, so make sure to acknowledge how you feel. Reflect on the candidates on your own before you discuss them with others. 
  • Take notes: Rigorously document the entire interview process, not only the red flags or things that stand out. For example, you may want to document the similarities of candidates with yourself. Reviewing notes may help you to spot biases, and allow you to adjust and clarify why you had certain feelings about a candidate. 

Of course, this isn’t everything you can do to improve how biases affect the recruiting process – unconscious biases are complex, and even if you’re aware of them you might catch yourself being affected by them from time to time. But I hope that by reading about these biases you can start taking steps towards being more aware of them yourself, and reduce how much they affect your recruiting process. 

Want to see how unbiased we are? Visit our job portal and …

APPLY NOW







Cultures of Mercedes-Benz.io – How I found my roots

Diversity Diaries – Chapter 1: Jessi

With approximately 330 employees in our three locations in Stuttgart, Berlin and Lisbon, it is obvious that our tribe is full of many different cultures and nationalities, all working together under one roof. Our tribe is not only German and Portuguese, but also harbors other European countries as well as Asian, African, Arabian, Indian and many more cultures as well.

But employing people from many nationalities is not what makes our tribe special. It is embracing each of those cultures and learning from each other to enable ourselves to be open to many different environments and ways of thinking. Taking a deep dive into all the different kinds of cultures of our tribe is not something we feel obliged to do. It is more a daily experience that automatically happens during as well as after working hours.

I myself had the pleasure of joining this crazy tribe and learning about the importance of other cultures as well as finding my own culture within my work.

My story

I started working here about a year ago as a receptionist and working student. I wasn’t expecting much at all, just a nice student job to earn enough money to get me through the month and pay my student fees. Little did I know, I would end up not only finding my work drive as well as a perfect working environment, but also finding my roots.

The past

I have been living in Germany for most of my life but was born and raised in South Africa until age 12. After moving to Germany, I felt lost in a totally different place and it took me a while to “fit in”. But as it always goes, time takes care of everything and it didn’t take long for me to feel right at home. Later I moved from my little town in the middle of nowhere to Stuttgart and found myself a new home with new opportunities. I worked for a law firm as a para-legal, had my friends and family and never thought about my past. Why should I? I knew where I came from and knew where I was and that was that.

After working for a law firm for a few years I decided to turn it all around and start studying and try something new and more creative. The worst thing you can ever do, is spend your life doing something you DON’T love!

What happened next

Shortly after starting my studies, I found my way to Mercedes-Benz.io after I applied for a job as a part time receptionist. I will never forget the call back saying: “How would you like to work for Mercedes-Benz.io?” Like anyone ever said “no” to that!

I ended up starting a week later and after meeting only two people who work here, I knew this was going to be something great. But what I didn’t know, is that I would be finding my way back home…

Finding the family

As a receptionist, you are the first face that is seen when you walk in, which is great when you are new. You meet everyone on a daily basis and quickly get to know your colleagues and other newbies. The first person I met was Rahwa. She, as well, is also a working student and receptionist and guided me through my first few weeks here. Rahwa might be the first person you see walking in the office, but she also stays on your mind long after. But more importantly, she and I had something in common: FOOD! Seeing as though she is from Eritrea, she loves spicy foods and having a meal is more of a cultural act than just filling your stomach. I could relate to that, seeing as though I was brought up like that as well. We spent so much time talking about our traditions and cultures, just to find out that our roots are so similar and special. Well, that was it for me! We were so different in so many ways, but we were one at heart.

Rahwa and I, one at heart

A few months later Frederick started working at Mercedes-Benz.io as a working student in the Agility Circle. After exchanging a few words, we quickly got into a conversation about our accents, only to find out that we, as well, share a continent. His Ghanaian roots were similar to mine and allowed us to share the same kind of humor. But not only our humor is alike, his light-hearted, sunny side up attitude is exactly what you want to see when you step into the office on a Monday morning. So again, I found another African soul, that reminded me of where I come from and how important it is to have a smile on your face and a real African skip in your walk. He might be from Ghana, but the well-known Swahili words “Hakuna matata” are definitely not foreign to him. If you were ever to ask Fred, there really are “no troubles”.

Hakuna Matata, Fred

My African Mercedes-Benz.io

Shortly after that things went crazy. I met so many more people from all over the world and found so many other fellow Africans.

Maha, who comes from Egypt, joined our Design Team at Mercedes-Benz.io and immediately I saw her as a driven and passionate woman, who embraces new obstacles and adapted so easily to different fields of work. I spent time with her talking about so many things, both work-related as well as personal and cultural. I found Maha’s African soul in her creative mind and family values, that reminded me of my own family. They might be far away but at work and through Maha, I can find the feeling of “home”.

Maha, the African soul

And still – believe it not – there are many more to mention: Jeffrey (Project Manager) is from Nigeria, Mohammed (Product Owner as well as Maha’s husband) from Egypt, Hakim (IT-Systemadministrator) as well as Rashid and Abdellah (Software Developers) are from Morocco and who knows…maybe there are even more that I have yet to meet! They all have become my home away from home.

The diversity of cultures is CRAAAZY…. Being in a company that has so many different voices, traditions and nationalities is something that I didn’t even know I missed – I had forgotten how wonderful the world can be, even at work. I don’t need to go on holiday to find and get to know different foods, colors, ideals and cultures. I just go to work.

A lunch with Maha, a coffee break with Fred and Jeff, a quick chat with Rahwa and my African heart is at home.

My home away from home

To Africa and beyond

I moved from the front desk to our Communications Team during my time at Mercedes-Benz.io and am now creating great things and sharing them with people who embrace a diverse way of working and thinking.

Not only have I found my African roots here but also met many others with other roots and backgrounds: a touch of Persian, a hint of Chinese, a dash of Brazilian, a bunch of Portuguese and to top it off, a whole lot of German. All working in different fields with different expertise but mixed together in one working environment. Now that’s what I call Mercedes-Benz.io’s secret recipe to diversity.

And that’s what I call home.

About Diversity Diaries: Let’s get personal! At Mercedes-Benz.io we believe in the power of diversity and inclusion. In this series we encourage our fellow MB.ioneers to share their differing perspectives on the topic. We aim to create a transparent dialogue as we establish our own values.

Looking for a working environment that simply feels like home?

Building Turtle Pens – A Photo Story

Volunteering when you are a full-time employee is extremely time consuming, that’s why we implemented #ContributionFriday at Mercedes-Benz.io. Once per quarter we are allowed to decide whether we want to go to work regularly or volunteer at a local facility. We kicked off the event on one of the hottest days of the year at Germany’s oldest animal shelter in Stuttgart. Since one of the 15 participants is also one of our best photographers, we decided to not write, but show how the day went in pictures.

We started the day with a tour through the whole facility. The shelter holds round about 600-700 animals, including dogs and cats, but also goats, bunnies, birds and many more.

With our VIP access to all the areas of the shelter we were even allowed in the reptile house…

… where we didn’t only see lots of turtles but also lizards and snakes.

Still smiling: this picture was taken before this group of MB.ioneers went to get a truck full of gravel.

Daniela from Customer and Data Insights was weeding the future turtle pens so we could place the cages and rocks.

Our UX twins Max and Moritz were distributing gravel to make the pens safe.

Next to the gardening we also built the cages that protect the turtles from the weather, as you can see our Managing Director Sophie doing.

Screw it let’s do it! Jessi’s attitude doesn’t only apply to her daily work as Content Creator, but also operating a screw driver.

This is one of the two finished pens: the many hiding places are great, especially for male turtles who like to have some space for themselves. Different kinds of gravel keep the turtles entertained and give them opportunities to explore.

Product Owner Marc helped the turtles to move in…

Besides building turtle homes we spent our breaks in the senior dog house and got to know the older residents of the shelter. Our Product Owner Katharina befriended Bonnie.

Will our favorite good boy become Mercedes-Benz.io’s next office dog?

The shelter just came across a case of animal hoarding and over 100 mice had to be accomodated. No problem for Kim, Kathi and Jörg, who spontaneously agreed on building a rodent pen as well.

Not only did we build new homes for the turtles and mice of the shelter, we also learned a lot about animal welfare in general and had a great time offsite with people from all kinds of departments. It’s probably safe to say: our first #ContributionFriday was a success.

In case you didn’t get enough – here are some more pictures:

Saving turtles and driving digital future for Mercedes-Benz sounds like something you could picture yourself doing?

Failing on Steroids

How do you fail at work?

When I started to think about a good topic for our official blog, my mind instantly pondered about technical content. In which unique way we addressed structural problems within the code, what tools to use, how our development process works and so on. None of them being anywhere near satisfying. Overly complicated, too techy. Ultimately, I shut my computer (admittedly a little harder than usual) and asked myself: “What is the question, this company gave me the best answer to?” Apparently “what are your employee perks” is insufficient according to our social media crew. Therefore we have to stick with “How do you typically fail at work?”. A straightforward question, the response is incredibly fundamental, and yet most of us lack an answer.

Hi, I’m Kai, a Frontend Developer and in this article, I want to shed some light on self-organised decision-making and how failing at Mercedes-Benz.io works!  

Self-organised decision making   

Being self-organized and professional

from the listing of every Mercedes-Benz.io member’s accountabilities  

Before heading to the failing part of that essay, it’s necessary to explain how we decide accurately. A wrongly taken decision is no more than a failure. Alternatively, the other way around, without a proper fail culture, you can not expect people to make critical choices. To work self-organised means to ‘just decide’. Well, a lot more than that but it represents quite a significant part. Instead of discussing, we do something. This approach may sound anarchic being typically used to traditional work environments but allow me to set it this way: if you align with five people there’ll most probably be five opinions or personal truths, and every single one of them can be wrong thus lead to failure. Having the decision taken single-handedly results in a considerably faster process while not being any riskier. Nevertheless, you should still consult people for valuable information.

Also, this is only legitimate for the ones you are entitled to take. You never define anything not being within the particular scope of your job’s accountabilities. Naturally implying, however, that there need to be strict role descriptions in the first place (which we have and which is fantastic, but that’s another topic).  

Failing at Mercedes-Benz.io

So what happens if you decide wrongly? In case of apparent failure. What do we respond to the initial question? In a nutshell, ‘failing’ at Mercedes-Benz.io rocks!

When all the safety measures did not pounce, and finally something is broken, we solely take it as the novel situation. The new present state, not being any different from succeeding, despite one remarkable thing, carefully checking whether it is necessary to take action to avoid the flaw in the future. Directly following the familiar slogan “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”. Nothing more is left to be done. There is no practical sense in figuring out whom to hold accountable. There is no sufficient reason to finger-point or seek a scapegoat. This wastes resources. Nothing more. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Think about it. No matter how big the mess-up was, you don’t gain the smallest thing from comprehending that someone or who is responsible. We establish a proper mindset of merely accepting the altered state and move on. There are typically a few notable exceptions, however. Needless to say, if it is your job to expose someone to hold liable, let’s say for example a police officer 👮‍♀️, you don’t follow the given advice.

“Mindset” is indeed a convenient phrase. All this behaviour in a vaster sense is more or less just how you culture-wise deal with acknowledged failure — genuinely having this figured out results in positive vibes consistently developing a drive to do, learn and be active instead of gossiping. Scribbling it down without working collaboratively on the culture doesn’t make sense. You will end up pretending. The goal is, of course, to actually not give a hang.  

Me and my assistant Auri failing at taking a photo

A story about misconfigured development tools

Let me tell you a story from my early days at Mercedes-Benz.io. Just as a prime example of how all of this works. In our product team, the developers usually use so-called git hooks.

In case you are a little lost now, a short explanation of what git-hooks are: you can set up a program to run before you add your modifications to the codebase. Here it executes a few scripts to apply our guidelines and ensure that there is nothing unnecessary left. Compare it to a chef observing you while cooking. They provided a recipe and allowed to alter any ingredients. The only crux is that with each modification the originator got to explain everything to them. When pleased, they let you go on. In any other case, well, not. This annoyingly judgy cook is the git-hook-script.

When I was onboarded, I somehow managed to have them not configured properly ending up sending code not being verified. Regardless of this, it always follows a mandatory QA step, the so-called Pull Request. Developers review the uploaded changes and can block or approve making them eventually part of the product. I will never forget what happened next: my first real Mercedes-Benz.io moment and it was so wholesome! When I started work the next day, I recognised several private messages on Slack, our internal messenger. All of them providing tons of links, scripts and other stuff to help me out. They were all positive: no blaming at all, no finger-pointing, just genuine offers to help. Still, I was quite shocked since I was new to the company and thought I messed up. Opening up the Pull Request in like no time made me realise that it merged already. A quick look at the history revealed that people just did the missing git-hook-step manually! My colleagues have accepted the bad request as well as my misconfigured setup as the new state. It was the present situation now. They reacted to it just like to any other point in time. A fellow frontend-dev came to my desk that day. He helped me figure what was wrong. We programmed my environment correctly, and as he stood up, the whole topic was history. It was not mentioned a single time again. Not that people only avoid to talk about it, they don’t bother. It’s not a big deal whatsoever.

However, we do not stop there, do we? Remember the bit about taking action to avoid the failure in the future? What happens when a new joiner has the same problem than me? At the time of writing this article, we switched our system to husky. It’s the same but kind of server-driven. The developers don’t have to configure anything on their clients anymore, but rather all the former git-hook scripts are getting executed fully automatic, completely avoiding this exact issue from happening again.

That’s my story of how I failed and how all the great peeps just made it an all positive experience. We learned and grew without creating a single frustrating moment! This rocks, doesn’t it?  

Conclusion

Next time you face failure at work, ask yourself whether you are currently actually being productive or just trying to figure out who’s responsible. Don’t waste resources. Just rock on no matter what! If you evangelise and foster this philosophy, you can easily have the needed impact to establish something similar profoundly also in your work environment.

I hope you enjoyed my article about fail-culture at Mercedes-Benz.io and that I could give some further insights on how all of these great minds work together. See you next time! Stay positive, Kai.


Or TL;DR in Michael Jordan’s words: “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

My experience of mentoring at the world’s leading entrepreneurship program

This summer in Cascais, Portugal, I mentored students at the European Innovation Academy. While I was mainly there to guide startups about their product, I also got to see some inspiring talks, meet some interesting people, and learn more about entrepreneurship. Read on to find out more about my experience.

What’s EIA? 🤔

Final day of EIA Portugal 2018.

The European Innovation Academy is a non-profit, educational program developed through joint partnerships with professionals from the world’s top institutions; to include Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley, and Google. The program takes students through the real-life process of building a startup from concept to launch and gives them the know-how to make it happen.

That’s me on the right and Roman Vasjoho on the left, another product mentor and member of the Mercedes-Benz.io team.

Who are you? 🧐

I’m Adam, a 23-year-old, DIT graduate from Dublin, who was also a participant of EIA last year. Our startup, Tiger Time made it to the Top 10 of EIA and we went on to join the Lisbon Challenge, one of Europe’s best accelerators, run by Beta-i. I recently joined Mercedes-Benz.io, a young company responsible for driving Daimler’s digital transformation and a key player in Lisbon’s tech scene.

How did you become a mentor?

Aside from what I learnt from previously attending EIA, being a Lisbon Challenge alum, and the highs and lows of having a startup, I found I actually took a lot of valuable knowledge from podcasts and YouTube. By just consuming the right content in my spare time, I was able to learn a wealth of information with what I would consider to be very little effort for no cost at all. There’s nothing stopping you from doing this too. Regarding podcasts, I recommend listening to The Tim Ferriss Show and Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman. I use Spotify for podcasts, but you can find these on Apple Podcasts or YouTube if you prefer. On YouTube, I recommend checking out How to Start a Startup and this video by Tim Ferriss also. Basically, just do everything Tim Ferriss says and you’ll be fine.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Then, you can write a Medium piece about whatever you learn and show it off on LinkedIn. This lets you actually test, reinforce, and prove your knowledge.

Cool, so what did you do at EIA?

A normal day at EIA can be broken down into 3 parts: learning from speakers in the morning, putting knowledge into practice with mentoring in the afternoon, and social events in the evenings. Each of the 5 product mentors were assigned about 15 teams to mentor with 45 minutes for each team over the 3 days.

Numbers!

How did you help the startups?

Aside from some very specific problems with React-Native or hosting on Heroku, something I noticed was that a lot of my teams had common issues. One such example was that some teams hadn’t clearly defined their customer or were just trying to please everyone.

I recommended that before they dive into building their product, they need to have a better idea of who exactly they’re building it for. You’ll find it’s a lot easier to craft a user experience around one specific type of customer because you’re less likely to get conflicting feedback due to different needs. At least in the early stages, your aim should be to make a small number of people love your product, rather than have loads of people that just kind of like it. As an added bonus, you’re likely to find that your 1000 true fans will end up doing a lot of your marketing for you.

Did you learn anything from the experience?

There were a lot of things that I had learnt previously that were reinforced by mentoring this year. For example, I had heard that about 30% of startup knowledge is generally applicable between all startups. As previously mentioned, a lot of my teams had common issues, so I was really able to see that in practice. I also didn’t realise how much I learnt just from listening to podcasts. It’s such an easy thing to do while chilling in the park or taking the metro to work that provides so much value.

Same

But the most valuable thing I learnt was that most people will help you if they can, you just have to ask. By being on the other side of EIA, I realised that I really wanted to share my knowledge and help in any way I could. I just had to be asked. I think one of the biggest keys to succeeding in life is overcoming the fear of being told no. There are various ways to do this but one interesting way that I recommend is trying “comfort challenges”. For example, next time you buy coffee, ask for a 10% discount. You might get rejected, but you’ll find that it’s really not as bad as you made it out to be in your head. Or you might just get cheaper coffee. Either way, there’s really nothing to lose. You can find more comfort challenges here.

Thanks for reading and feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if you need anything.