My Journey at Mercedes-Benz.io – Unity and Multicultural Friendship
Thanh Hoang Nguyen •
September 20, 2023 •
This article was written by Hesam Sameni
I was born in Iran back in 1990, and while I studied architecture at university, my real passion was always technology. I loved all things tech since I was a kid. So, even though I started as an interior designer, I eventually quit that job to teach myself web development.
My first developer job brought me to the big city of Tehran, the capital of Iran. There, I worked for various companies but the work came with some challenges that most developers do not usually have to deal with. Such as not being able to use GitHub due to sanctions, always needing a VPN and excruciatingly slow internet. All of this made me think it was time for a big change, like moving to a different country where things were better.
Uplifting my life
After a lot of research looking into different places, I fell in love with Portugal. The weather was great, the coastline was stunning, and it felt safe so I decided to try my luck there. I found a job as a Frontend developer at a small startup and, in July 2021, I packed up and moved to Lisbon to join their team.
Moving from Iran to Lisbon was a major change for me. I was worried about fitting in since I did not know much Portuguese and the culture was new to me. However, as soon as I got here, I realized how much the Portuguese sense of humour matched mine. It felt like an instant connection and I easily made great friends right from the start. The friendships I formed back then are still strong and mean the world to me.
And along came Mercedes-Benz.io
After dealing with all the paperwork and finally becoming a resident of Portugal, I was looking forward to new challenges and ready to join a bigger company with more employees.
Around a year later, I spotted some job openings at Mercedes-Benz.io on LinkedIn, and I got excited! I loved the Mercedes brand since I was a kid, so the opportunity to join Mercedes-Benz.io sounded incredible to me.
Diversity at Mercedes-Benz.io
My journey at Mercedes-Benz.io has been really special all thanks to the mix of cultures and the fact that English is our main language. Everyone truly cares about you and takes an interest in getting to know you. For example, in Iran, we have different calendars and unique celebrations like Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. When my teammates heard of it they were immediately curious and wanted to know more.
It’s great to see how interested they are in learning from different cultures and I never felt left out. I can honestly say I made great friends and we all get along so well!
Another great example of how close we are as a tribe at Mercedes-Benz.io and how much we value our diversity is our yearly PitStop event. In 2022, all MB.ioneers from Portugal and Germany came together in the same location to celebrate our diverse backgrounds, skills and the tribe in general. It was two days of getting to know one another, seeing what everyone was doing in their daily work and having fun together. As a tribe.
But, of course, my team’s event in Stuttgart holds a special place in my heart, filled with cherished memories. It marked the first occasion I met half of my team face-to-face, and surprisingly, even for an introverted person like me, communication flowed effortlessly.
I truly believe that we’re a stronger team when we’re united, celebrating our differences and the richness of diversity. Looking ahead, I’m super excited about all the possibilities. We’re standing strong together, ready to create an even brighter future as equals.
Thanh Hoang Nguyen •
July 26, 2023 •
At a certain point in our careers, many of us feel stuck, lost, and lacking purpose. Taking the leap to make a change can be overwhelming, whether it involves switching roles within a company or embarking on an entirely new career path. In this article, we introduce Catarina Marques, a MB.ioneer who bet all her cards to become a Product designer.
A DIP INTO THE WORK LIFE
Catarina didn’t grow up wanting to be a designer. It was more of a happy coincidence. Despite graduating in renewable energy engineering science, she found herself working for a prominent international company based in Portugal. Beginning as an intern in the sustainability department, she was tasked with navigating complex legislation on safety, health, and environmental concerns for shopping centres.
Over time, her internship evolved into a full-time position spanning seven years. As part of her role, Catarina ensured that all shopping centres adhered to regulatory standards, covering aspects like risk assessments, safety, health, environment and green building certifications. A role that helped her practice dealing with people from all kinds of areas:
“We were the “mother” company and all the shopping centers were our stakeholders. We also visited these centres onsite in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Romania to see the actual action in place and to work closely with a lot of different people, such as the cleaning team, maintenance workers, managers etc.”
As many people can relate in their career, Catarina entered a phase where she was “just living life because you’re living it”. She realized that she had been merely going through the motions, doing what society expected of her without questioning her own happiness.
“Yes, I wanted to study, but it was also something that people are “meant” to do, and then I found a job in the area of my studies and I just kept doing it. You know, you’re doing it because it’s what you’re supposed to do. But I wasn’t really asking myself up to that point: Is this something that makes me really happy in the morning when I wake up?”
This realization led her to reflect on the dreams she had set aside and the importance of not letting life pass by without pursuing them.
Catarina’s first encounter with UX/UI design occurred when a friend introduced her to the field in 2019. Her initial thought was: “Hey, that’s actually really interesting. I never thought about how people were creating digital products and the importance of taking into consideration the users.” Intrigued by the idea of creating digital products while considering user experience, she delved deeper into the subject over the years. She extensively researched online resources and sought workshops and courses, until one day, she stumbled upon a boot camp that caught her attention.
However, she faced two significant challenges: the need to continue working full-time and the expensive costs of the boot camp. After much hesitation, Catarina made the courageous decision to fully commit to the course:
“I knew I had to commit to the course and do it full time, it would be too overwhelming doing it part-time after work.”
A lot of uncertainties arose during this period – how would she support herself financially? Was it wise to abandon her stable situation? What if she couldn’t find employment as a UX/UI designer? Is this where she really wants to go?
The insecurities gradually faded as she progressed through the nine-week boot camp, surrounded by individuals from around the world. Yet, upon receiving her course certificate, she experienced a “heavy bout of imposter syndrome”, causing her initial courage to waver. Still, she embarked on a series of unfamiliar interviews, involving technical conversations and design challenges. Finally, the breakthrough came after months when she secured a position at Mercedes-Benz.io.
A NEW HOME
With Mercedes-Benz.io, Catarina discovered a new professional home as a Product designer. What she truly values about the company is the accessibility and approachability of its people, regardless of their positions or roles. She appreciates the ease with which she can interact with fellow MB.ioneers, the freedom to express herself authentically, and how helpful everyone is around her.
“One of the things I love about working here is the supportive environment that allows me to be myself. It’s all these small, yet significant, layers that make navigating in this company much easier.”
Furthermore, Catarina really appreciates the remote working policy and the flexibility to allocate time for working on additional projects alongside her main responsibilities. Moreover, the company’s understanding of work-life balance allows her to adjust her working hours when she did some overtime, enabling her to maintain a healthy mindset.
WORDS OF ADVICE
When asked for advice on making life changes, Catarina emphasized the importance of taking action:
“Do it. Obviously, I don’t mean to get an idea and just change your life from one day to another. It was more like a process for me that was building up over time. I heard about the topic, searched for it, got into it, informed myself and then it started growing. There are a lot of situations in life where we’re not in a happy place and don’t recognize it. We just keep doing it until at some point we can’t stand it anymore. So my advice would be: Reflect & do it! Study about it, exchange with other people in that area, check Webinars, YouTube or Coursera.”
Although “doing it” may sound super easy, real-life implementation can be challenging. However, every journey begins with a single step. Change is a process, and sometimes, making small steps is the key to transforming one’s circumstances for the better.
Hi, there! Got curious about the title, did you? Let’s see if I can clarify it a bit.
In this article, I will try to use my own experience as part of the LGBTQIAPN+ community (maaan, is it me or does this acronym keep on getting bigger?!) and my not-so-clever humor, to let you in on a little secret. Hiding who we truly are behind what is apparently a more comfortable experience of life and avoiding the conflict is, besides a tremendous lack of respect towards ourselves, a way to perpetuate prejudice. Don’t know if you are aware of that, but I surely wasn’t for quite some time…
While this is my own process it can be a common experience. This is meant to be an honest sharing, hopefully, useful not just for the mentioned community but for everyone who reads it since this is about self-awareness and self-knowledge.
Where to start
When you are born, you are this immense whiteboard, full of possibilities. Eventually, you will start getting some drafts and paints, reflecting your context and the mainstream society you belong to, as expected. As a child, one of my most vivid memories is the passion and enthusiasm I felt watching Disney movies. It was so delightful how every story ended up just right, as long as the princess found her prince charming. For a major part of my existence up until that point, this was all I needed to believe in: as long as I’m the princess, my one goal should be to find my prince and live happily ever after.
As I grew older, my purpose became more and more obvious. Led by the hand of the family’s matriarchy, I learned that to attract the utopic prince I would need to know how to sew, how to cook, and how to iron his precious suit. It made sense, I mean, the guy is out there fighting dragons, and riding horses… his shirt and pants are doomed to failure unless his graceful princess takes care of it. And of course, me being the obedient little angel a good girl should be, I accepted my fate without questioning it and topped it off with the joyful ignorance only children can endure – lucky little bastards.
I made it my life’s goal to be a nice, sweet, obedient princess so that I could win over the heart of my perfect prince. Seemed easy enough. But somehow, no matter how hard I tried to fulfill others and my expectations at that time, something just seemed off.
The thing is, the more you grow and allow yourself to open your mind to live outside your little dome, the more you start to be aware of other realities and possibilities. During college, my once-perfect board, carefully drawn and painted inside the lines, could now gain the most vibrant colors and splashes of sparkles! This led me to question what before seemed so obvious and trustworthy since this was coming from my first leaders in life – my family members (and, let’s face it, Disney). But more important, at this time, instead of only pointing the finger at others’ beliefs – that I had so willingly taken as my own – I started questioning myself and my existence. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about boys and if they were actually all that charming. I was very confused about what gender identity and sexual preferences translated to (which led to a drastic haircut and some questionable fashion choices – but let’s not elaborate on that. All proof has been deleted, in case you are wondering). Above all, I was very lost in the whole concept of being myself and what that meant… Of course, in such a tormented moment I turned to those I trusted the most my whole life. They for sure would be able to help me untie this knot in my soul. But their own experience of the world – and this topic in particular – only allowed them to do the best they knew. To fill me up with a fear of the world and the beliefs of others, in such a matter that I and my aching soul were not able to dig ourselves out of that whole of constant self-judgment and inadequacy for a long time.
The art of misconception
Knowing that soon enough I would have to face the professional world, full of people and their own beliefs, ideologies, and questionable truths, there was only one possible thing to do: practice the art of misconception. A vague answer here, an inconclusive act there, and I would easily dodge the bullet of actually being myself. I was quite feminine and bubbly, I would indulge in some innocent flirting, or make some very heterosexual comment (to note: comments don’t actually have sexual preferences, this is only for dramatic effect, ok?) and for some time I kept up the facade.
In all the offices I set foot in I was what people would expect from a heterosexual woman and I obliged with all the stereotypes that even I believed to have to live by. I would feel this inexplicable need to look like my feminine peers around the office: hair and makeup on the flick, excruciating noticeable heels, uncomfortably trendy clothes,… Going deeper into any personal conversations my official statement was that I had a boyfriend, we were happy and that should suffice when it comes to you knowing anything about my romantic life.
The suffocating need to meet these imagined expectations got me so blinded, that in the presence of my male superiors, I would shoot myself in the foot and gladly shut up in the light of any arguments they would so eloquently spread upon my far less superior mind. Unknowingly I kept perpetuating the objectification of womanhood and spreading the gender norm misinformation. Not that my male colleagues – and some female colleagues, to be honest – needed any help with that.
Being oneself would simply have to wait, given the urgency I felt to fit in all these little boxes – the ones where everyone fits others to make sense of the world. It took me a while before I felt like a character at my workplace and faced the fact that I was extremely unhappy living that way. After all, as I would discover later in life, all these boxes are nothing but invented concepts from the still-evolving minds of one’s species. But I would eventually find out there is only so much you can take when you are tricking yourself.
In this game of misconception, it’s relevant to point out the importance of the companion you have on your side, if you have one. Yes, I’m talking about that “other half”. I wanted to be loved, just like anyone else, independent of gender or sexual preferences. Let me tell you that when your significant other is quite comfortable living in this facade, deliberately avoiding any complications derived from actually living a truthful life, and mastering the art of misconception, it becomes easier for you to keep feeding the fear and depression inside you. And yes, you got it right, that’s a red flag. But can one really identify a big-flashy-pompous red flag when one is simply trying to survive their misplaced fears and find love?
Unpleasant (but necessary) awareness
When I joined MB.io, I was still deeply buried in confusion. Thick darkness would fall over me after a long day of pretending. I would look in the mirror, face washed out, drowned in my tears, completely oblivious to the cause of my pain. Living a double life can be quite exhausting. You need to carefully curate the content of the life you want to project on all fronts. You need to prepare your speech when inquired about your “other half” during lunchtime gossip – because God forbid you could suffice for yourself. And there’s, of course, the continuous perfecting of the always popular excuse for distant relatives that had known no boyfriend of yours (tip: always point the finger at your career and long working hours. That’s always a big hit).
Somehow, something started to feel different around this new group of people called MB.ioneers. These were people led not by their irreproachable truths, nor fed by their insecurities, but they thrived in this unconventionally heterogeneous environment, full of potential and risks. They actively looked for failure so they could iterate, try again, and evolve in the process. And they did it all with welcoming open arms to difference – in points of view, in experiences, in nationalities, in religions… – disarming any trail of conformed thinking. I wanted so badly to be a part of this new plot and leave my character in the past where it belonged.
The immense power of choice
The good news is that you can break this cycle at any time, because none of it depends on your lover, on the overly male chauvinist company you work for, or the family that raised you.
Facing the risk of sounding too much like one of those self-help books on the shelf of a convenience store, your well-being and psychological safety depend on you. You have more control over your own life than you care to imagine. Of course, it would be great to have the advantage of being super well received as you are, wherever you go. Of course, it would be amazing to not have to deal with homophobic comments because everyone is engaging in the motto “live and let live”. It can’t hurt to have the right work environment or the support of your loved ones. Sometimes even professional help is needed (therapy is not just for crazy people in case you didn’t know).
YOU are the one controlling your actions when that great-great-great-aunt asks you for the millionth time about that non-existent boyfriend of yours. You are in control of your narrative when a colleague makes a gay joke – which is an insult in a very cheap disguise, by the way. You are in charge of being your own person whoever you choose to be. Remember yourself and others that you are more than your gender, your age, your religion, or your sexual preferences. You are all that and so much more that makes you unique. That is so worth fighting for, even when you need to fight against your own discouraging beliefs. You can’t control the actions and minds of others, but you can choose to act differently when facing injustice and prejudice.
It will hurt, it will be hard to manage and at times can have bigger consequences than what you anticipated, but that’s also part of the change. In you, and others.
Thanh Hoang Nguyen •
June 22, 2023 •
Lisbon, Berlin, Stuttgart, and Braga – at Mercedes-Benz.io, we have people working at different locations and offices across Germany and Portugal. Some people are moving to a new place to start their job. Other MB.ioneers decide at some point in their journey to change locations and begin a new life. We talked with MB.ioneer Débora Vicente who made the switch to understand her motivations and how she is adjusting to a new environment.
Why did you move to Berlin?
When I realized that moving to Germany could be a possibility, I knew it needed to be in Berlin. Berlin is a city full of diversity and energy, and young professionals from all over the world. I knew that if I wanted an easier adaption and meet new people – Berlin would be the perfect city.
I chose to leave my beautiful country for this season because of two main reasons: my professional career and my personal life. I thought that having this opportunity in a completely different country and culture, especially in Germany – the motherland of Mercedes-Benz – would add a lot to my career. I was sure this change would contribute to my growth as an HR professional and as a person in general.
Relocating to Berlin is helping me to experience different ways of working, to develop and to work on my cultural awareness by working and getting to know people from all over the world and even gaining new perspectives in my life, by stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things. Also personally, I knew that I needed this change. I needed something new in my life. I needed a fresh start! And here I am!
What did you experience and like so far in your new home city?
So many things! I’ve been experiencing a very young and vibrant city, full of things and places to discover. I’ve been meeting people from so many different countries and with so many different stories. It has been an amazing and so unique experience. What I like the most about this city is the richness in diversity and the nature around the city. Riding a scooter all around Berlin has been something very simple but special as well.
Name us your three favorite spots!
Zeit für Brot! The best place in Berlin to have a cinnamon roll. I also love to stop at Coffee Fellows to have an amazing coffee while I start my working day. And finally, I love to go to Tiergarten park and just enjoy nature around me and have a quiet time.
Any advice for people who want to make a change?
Embrace and be ready for new and challenging things in your life. Be positive, patient, and open to learn from the new experiences you might face. Try to understand the history and people’s backgrounds. But also, keep truthful and faithful to yourself. Keep the things you’ve always liked to do. Keep your routine and be mindful to yourself and your needs. Embrace your uniqueness as well and the things you bring with you. At the end of the day, it’s all about balance and enjoying the ride in your life.
JUMPING FROM PLANNING TO PARENTING: Alissa Kiemann
Thanh Hoang Nguyen •
May 5, 2023 •
BEING AGILE AS A SCRUM MASTER & MOTHER.
Alissa is a care-taker. Someone who loves to unite people and tries to stay positive – no matter how chaotic the situation is. Her way of organizing, aligning, and planning serves as a powerful skill for her work and personal life. In this article, you will read about how she uses leave benefits to spend more time with her family and how she navigates through work life while being a mother of two during and after the pandemic.
After graduating in business administration in Munich, her first career steps started at different digital agencies that build products like websites or apps for clients. In her role as a traditional Project Manager, she was in charge of clarifying the scope, staffing different teams for various projects, and being the main responsible person if anything was unclear or went wrong.
“Sometimes I was just a firefighter because if a project is not going well, I must jump in. It can be really challenging because when you start working with a new company or team, you don’t know the people and you immediately have to adjust. But this was actually also the point I liked most about the job.”
Alissa is a people person. Someone who gets along easily with new people from various backgrounds and areas. Something that can be rooted in her bubbly and open personality.
THE START AT MERCEDES-BENZ.IO
After freelancing for seven years, and already having one foot in the tech industry, she decided to take the next step and prepared herself for becoming a scrum master.
“Doing a Scrum Master certificate only takes two days of learning and training, but you don’t really have the experience of doing it. The role brings various challenges for different teams. So, there’s not a real blueprint for it.”
In 2018, she started working at Mercedes-Benz.io in Berlin and she quickly realized that contrary to a Project Manager, she sometimes needs to give people more space and enable them to work by themselves – rather than intervening and taking over tasks too early.
During her first year as a Scrum Master, Alissa got pregnant with her second child. As she was already a mother, she was aware of the upcoming challenges, so she decided to take a one-year maternity leave break. In Germany, parents are allowed to take up to three years of maternity leave together. And it’s up to them how they want to split up the leave time.
“I think company-wise, it’s really, really nice how Mercedes-Benz.io handled the maternity leave and how flexible the company is. We immediately looked for another scrum master who would take over my job to keep the transition smooth. It’s something I really appreciate.”
COMING BACK FROM MATERNITY TO A NEW WORLD
As it happens, the first day back at work with her new team after the maternity leave was also the day when the Corona lockdown has been officially announced in Germany – leading to one of the most demanding times in her career.
“It was challenging for everyone, but I assume especially for my young developers in Portugal as they had a really hard lockdown. As a Scrum Master, you would like to take care of the team and do sanity/health checks from time to time.”
While she has been adjusting to the pandemic situation with her partner and two kids at home on her own, Alissa has been trying to keep the team together and enhance the positive mood by organizing multiple remote team events, online breakfasts, and regular check-ins.
“Since the pandemic started and the kindergarten was closed, my partner and I were working without any breaks. You couldn’t separate personal and work life and then you come into situations where your children, for example, are constantly screaming and crying and you’re in the middle of a presentation.”
For Alissa and many others, the pandemic was an adjustment on various levels. The switch from office to home, having fewer personal scrum meetings, and taking care of her two very young children with her partner who also has to work from home. It’s an experience that can be stressful and exhausting after 1 1/2 years.
And that’s when she decided to have another one-year parental leave to have time for her kids, partner, and most importantly for herself.
CLEAR TRANSPARENCY & RESPONSIBILITIES
In the last months, Alissa has been returning to work for 25 hours per week – approaching the work with new agile habits and a different mindset for good.
“I started to do meditation every morning and it helps me to be more grounded and to adapt to changes way better. My husband and I are also having more clear responsibilities now – from who’s bringing the kids to school or who’s taking care of the dinner. We even divide the weeks into mother/father or babysitter days. It’s important to have transparency and to have regular check-ins because things can change easily when someone is for example sick in the family.”
To Alissa, Mercedes-Benz.io provided a helpful environment for her family and made it easy to take breaks or transition back to work slowly in the last five years. With the company benefit Flextime, she’s also able to schedule and balance her working hours in the way she needs it. If she for example can’t join a meeting due to the sickness of her children or if she needs to pick them up from kindergarten, she can catch up on the working hours at a different time and day.
Even though there are some parallels in how she approaches work and parenting now, it’s obvious that these are still different pairs of shoes:
“If you’re going to be a parent, there’s no certificate or onboarding on this. Almost everything is learning by doing and you have to keep understanding the kids and adapt to them. My partner and I even did parent coaching, which is recommendable if you want to understand even more what it means to be a parent and how to get a sense of your kids in different ways.”
Alissa is a mother. Someone who cares about her family and tries to make things right. While her skill is to know how to shift priorities constantly, it’s quite clear that her number one priority will always be her family.
Thanh Hoang Nguyen •
March 16, 2023 •
Berlin-based MB.ioneer Mile GrnCarov pulls back the curtain on his journey since 2019.
Testing out new things can be adventurous, but Mile doesn’t shy away from that – whether it’s on a personal or professional level. In 2019 at the age of 22, he moved from Bulgaria to Berlin to start a new job and a new life at Mercedes-Benz.io.
The beginnings as an intern
“While I was in university, I knew that I wanted to work in tech, mainly in marketing but I was open to try anything via an internship, so I applied to Mercedes-Benz.io,” he says. “I started as a growth and marketing intern, working with the Bertha team – a product that helps users to find the best gas station and enables them to pay for their gas from the app.”
Mile describes the move from Bulgaria to Germany, especially Berlin as quite a change. But after graduating in Business Administration and Political Science at an international university with a busy environment, starting at MB.io felt like a continuation of the journey he was already on.
“I never felt out of place here. I remember one of the first meetings that I ever went into, I heard so many ideas flying around from everybody, people showing what they’ve done over the sprints and everyone immediately taking action on specific tasks. And I thought: This is the atmosphere that would be cool to spend a lot of time in.”
“I quickly realized that this role was not just traditional marketing, but also data insights, UI/UX, and product development and we got to do everything from scratch.” In the eight-month internship, Mile created big marketing campaigns and developed product strategies to improve the retention rate or general user flow with a lot of data experimentation. He implemented new tools and tested out different acquisition channels for the product – from Instagram, and YouTube to even outdoor car cinemas.
“One thing I like about Mercedes-Benz.io is that you get entrusted with so many different responsibilities from the beginning. That helped my transition from being a young professional or an intern to working full-time. The responsibilities were already given to me and I was allowed to run small and big projects by myself”.
Becoming a Product Owner
After working as a Growth Specialist for the Bertha and Mercedes me Service app, becoming a product owner for Fuel & Pay in 2021 felt like a natural progression for him. Fuel & Pay is a product for the Mercedes Me app, allowing Mercedes drivers to pay for gas with the app and the Headunit system in the car. “Everything that I was doing before, was in a way leading me to this new role. In my growth role, I was already trying to organize new initiatives and trying to get different team members to move together to create something. Being a product owner seemed at the beginning something that’s a larger scale of what I was already doing.”
Following the mentorship of other MB.ioneers, who were sending him all sorts of books, articles, and YouTube videos to prepare for his Scrum.org exams, Mile admits that: “Nothing really got me as prepared as actually starting to do the role itself.” He started shadowing other Product Owners at the company, joined meetings, and looked through their documentation to understand the dynamics and impact of the role in practice.
When asking him what he specifically likes about being a Product Owner, he refers to the fact that: “It feels like every sprint you get to start a fresh page and try and do it better this time or try it at least differently. So it’s like a constant iteration of the work we do together.”
Exploring things & being inspired
One of his passions outside of work is producing visual content for himself. It ranges from work-related topics such as explaining new marketing tools to simple things in life he enjoys like making coffee – something that keeps him inspired to explore new things:
“It’s a culmination of experiences and content I consume every day and it drives me in my daily work life too. I don’t like to separate work and life too much. The two areas are more supportive than balancing each other out.”
Testing out new things can be adventurous but for many like Mile, it can lead to finding purposes, and arriving at new homes on a professional but also a personal level. In the end, it always feels like a mind-broadening experience.