As the COVID-19 crisis also had a strong impact on parents around the world, we began a segment on our blog to feature stories of employees of FREE NOW who are parents. Here we will dive into questions surrounding how they juggle their careers and parental life.
This time we are featuring Krzysztof Urban, our General Manager in Poland, who has been working with us since 2012. He is a proud father of a 3,5-year-old daughter. Together with his partner, they are raising Marysia in Warsaw. Krzysztof is originally from Wroclaw, where he studied Economics and later pursued a career in Finance & Tech. He is very passionate about sports — triathlon in particular, and tries his very best to compete in the Ironman races every year.
Read on to find out what Krzysztof has to say about raising his 3,5 year old daughter all while working in a leadership role at FREE NOW
Why did you choose to pursue a career within the mobility industry?
When I joined mytaxi 8 years ago, this industry was nothing like it is today, it is constantly changing. I found this rapid change to be particularly interesting and wanted to be part of its development in Poland. Now, it is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting industries in the world. You can clearly see this in the development of our company and how it has gone from a start-up operating in Hamburg, through multiple acquisitions, additions of new cities and features, to becoming a part of YOUR NOW — the mobility joint venture of BMW and Daimler. It often feels like I work in a completely new company every year. We operate in a market where we do not grow by a typical 5 to 15 percent, but at a rate of 100 percent each year.
What is a typical day for you like?
I start my day by checking my calendar for upcoming calls and meetings I have planned for the day. Then, my partner and I take my daughter to kindergarten. During the lockdown, a nanny helped us take care of Marysia during work hours. I also train (swim or cycling) before going to work, or, if the weather is alright, I bike to the FREE NOW office. After work, I spend time with my family.
Now during the summer, I go to the park with my daughter, where she bikes while I run. She is super proud that she can bike as fast as I run. And I’m proud that my almost 4-year-old child is able to bike even 6–9 kilometers, only with short breaks to stop at the playground or for pineapple ice cream (our favorite).
How do you balance your time between your work life and being a parent?
I believe in a “work-life integration” approach, rather than “work-life balance”. Thanks to technology we have tools to combine work and private life virtually. Of course, when I’m in the office, it’s not possible to spend quality time with my daughter, but I’m there for her if she needs to call me while she is with the nanny for example. I can also use the time after she goes to bed to catch up with some emails. This work-life integration approach helped me during the lockdown when I sometimes needed to take care of my daughter during a workday. Because Marysia has seen me working at home, she now associates the laptop with work and often in the evening brings me my computer and says “Dad, would you like to work on your laptop while I watch my cartoons?”. This proves to me that even when I’m working she appreciates the fact that we can do our businesses together :-)
What are some challenges that you face while working from home fulltime and being a parent?
I think that finding my own space was the biggest challenge. There is never enough space for two adults working from home and a small kid that demands attention and isn’t yet aware that closed doors mean that someone might be in a virtual meeting. This obviously has led to special moments when she enters the call and says “helloooo” to my team or Senior Management, even while we were discussing serious topics like budget or the company situation during COVID-19. Now, I also know how it is like to lead the Polish FREE NOW operations from a child’s room (as my partner was already using the other room), with my desk being Marysia’s small drawing table. It’s not that bad and you can get used to it!
For my daughter, the hardest thing to accept was the fact that for a while she was not able to play with other kids, go to the playground or visit her grandparents. However, we found alternative ways to keep her entertained: we took care of flowers on our balcony and were practicing biking around our block– as this was the only ‘outdoor’ activity we could do. During the pandemic, she managed to learn to bike on her own, and, as I said, now she can be my companion for training!
Today she asked me: “when is coronavirus going to be over?” because she has had enough of washing her hands all the time ;-)
What were some challenges you found during the lockdown as a leader at FREE NOW?
Obviously this was a new thing for the entire team and we needed to learn how to cooperate effectively while working from home. It turns out that there are many tools that are helpful and we were able to work as efficiently as before and with the same full engagement of the team. The challenge was that you couldn’t see how people interacted with each other and their reactions to certain topics. That’s why we introduced a Poland team sync 3 times a week to discuss actual topics and answer pressing questions. Also, the Officevibe tool which we use at FREE NOW helped us identify what may be potential problems within the team.
Another aspect is that we feel responsible for the drivers as well. As the COVID-19 crisis also affected them directly, we were motivated to find alternative jobs for them (e.g. setting up grocery deliveries, healthcare staff rides), provide them with information on how to get support from the government and distributed thousands of protective screens which were installed in their cars.
Has your perspective on being a parent changed in the last months?
When you spend more time with such a young child, you are definitely able to experience more together and track her progress in learning new things or you can teach her something by yourself. Earlier, we just assumed that when she learned something new (which was a surprise for us) it happened in the kindergarten.
As a parent working in a tech company, how do you approach parenting when it comes to technology?
I think you always need to find a balance between quality time with your child and letting them learn new things on their own. As technology is surrounding us, I don’t see a reason why we should ban them from using tablets or smartphones, but it’s on us (adults) to show them ways to do it reasonably and wisely. I’m sure that our kids could become better UX testers of our app, than ourselves :D
Do you have any advice for other fathers who are contemplating a career in tech?
Due to the fact that the tech industry has a modern approach when it comes to working culture and flexibility, it has become easier to combine your family time with work. And you will probably be seen as a cool dad in your kid’s eyes if you do something connected with tech. So go for it!
Liked this article? Stay tuned for our upcoming feature of Sarah Sellner, a Senior PR Manager based in our HQ in Hamburg.