Ahead of the Curve: Berlin’s Britelings on Leading the Way in Germany
Eventbrite’s mission — bringing people together through live experiences — goes well beyond words for the team at our growing office in Berlin, Germany.
“Our technology enables concerts and festivals, but also movements and political change,” says Annett Polaszewski-Plath, General Manager in the Berlin office. At the recent March for Our Lives, for example, many of the millions of people who gathered to protest gun violence in Berlin; Washington, D.C.; and around the world connected through Eventbrite. “It really is changing the world. That’s what gives me goosebumps.”
And as an international city and the nightlife capital of the world, Berlin is the perfect setting to help Eventbrite build that global perspective, Annett and her colleagues say. As they learn to balance the demands of a worldwide market with the nuances of their home city, it helps that many members of the team have close ties to the creative community — like Strategic Account Manager Zusan Yousif, who also works as a DJ and producer three days each week.
“My job here is directly connected to my passion.”—Zusan
“My job here is directly connected to my passion,” Zusan says. “I get to help people who are doing the same things I am, and you wouldn’t believe how many people ask about Eventbrite in the clubs when I’m DJing. It’s almost every night.”
Ahead of the curve
Eventbrite’s platform is more advanced than its competitors in the German market. “A lot of our competitors simply sell tickets; we give organisers the data and tools to take control of their destinies and grow their businesses over time,” explains Sandro Spiess, Marketing Director for the Berlin office. “We’re a technology company first, and ticketing is just one of the areas we solve for our organisers using this tech.”
That difference, says Annett, is a critical advantage: “We’re seeing the momentum, and the market is moving in our direction. We have the opportunity to lead it through this transition.”
A long-term benefit can also present short-term challenges. Credit cards aren’t popular in Germany, and trends such as RFID and mobile ticketing were nearly unheard of a few years ago. Event organisers and their customers are just beginning to adapt. In the meantime, the Berlin team is striking a balance by offering paper tickets to meet customers where they are, while helping new clients embrace the efficiency of a more modern approach.
“Eventbrite really is changing the world. That gives me goosebumps.” — Annett
It’s an exciting prospect for Senior Field Operations Manager Philip Schudy, who joined the team when Eventbrite acquired his previous employer, Ticketscript, last year.
“We have a chance to make a difference in this market,” Philip says. “Eventbrite is a more sophisticated platform; the self-service approach really simplifies things. It’s making events more accessible to a lot of people.”
For the Britelings of the Berlin office, the best-in-class product isn’t the only thing that drew them to Eventbrite. There’s also the company culture.
“Eventbrite is not your typical office job,” says Zusan. “You get to be yourself, you get to be creative. That’s what I love about it — you don’t have to pretend to be someone else.”
“We’re empowered to be creative, and to look for new solutions.” — Philip
Recently, Zusan decided being her creative self meant making a significant change. She shifted her schedule from five days per week to four, to allow more time for her music career — a move Annett not only allowed, but encouraged.
“She said, ‘If you’re thinking about your clients’ problems all day every day, you won’t be as creative. Maybe you should work one day less,’” Zusan explains. “And it’s been perfect. I really couldn’t imagine anything better.”
Annett agrees. “It gave her so much energy and motivation. She’s like a different Zusan! I truly believe having time to follow a passion brings out the best in people, and that’s best for the company, too. If we can support that, I’m all for it.”
The same goes for family life, says Sandro. He’s planning an eight-week, fully paid paternity leave this summer, which Eventbrite offers on top of the 14-month, partially paid parental leave supported by the German government. That’s an option very few companies in Germany provide for new fathers.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being able to spend those eight weeks with my family, knowing that it’s all taken care of financially,” he says. “It’s amazing.”
“You get to be yourself, to be creative. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else.” — Zusan
A mother herself, Annett says she was concerned about work-life balance before joining Eventbrite last year — until a conversation with CEO Julia Hartz set her mind at ease. “She said, ‘Annett, we support families. This is who we are as a company.’ And it’s absolutely true. I can leave the office early and pick up my work again after my daughter goes to bed. I can schedule meetings around family time, and everybody’s okay with that.”
Putting people first, the Berlin team says, also means being open about the challenges they face — and taking opportunities to grow.
“‘Make it happen’ is part of our culture, and you do get the chance to be proactive,” Philip explains. “When you have an idea, you can talk to your manager, or even another department, and start your own project. We’re empowered to be creative, and to look for new solutions and new ways to communicate.” Despite Eventbrite’s size (more than 900 employees worldwide), he says the company has stayed true to its startup roots.
Zusan agrees: “We talk a lot about taking ownership. You get to learn things for yourself — talk to different departments, different countries, and find out what they’re doing. And if you think there’s a better way, you can introduce it.”
As the team’s leader, Annett says supporting growth is “my main purpose here. I want to empower people to be successful and grow in their roles — and with that, grow Eventbrite in this market.”
Growth, of course, requires flexibility — a particular challenge for the Berlin team over the past year, after the acquisition of Ticketscript doubled their size. The office culture is still evolving, Sandro says, as they work to merge two distinct cultures and platforms.
“We’re constantly thinking about what we can do to help people develop, and especially give them the freedom to try new things and make mistakes,” he says. “I think that’s so important.”
Transparency is also key, and Sandro says Eventbrite’s CEO is setting a strong example, with regular “Heart to Hartz” Q&A sessions where she answers employees’ questions — anything from “What are the main expansion threats in Europe?” to “How was your vacation?”
“Even being here in Germany, the company makes an effort to keep us informed, and makes sure we know how the business is doing,” he says. “I can feel it every day.”
The effort to stay connected, Zusan says, extends to Britelings around the world.
“It’s amazing how often I have meetings with American colleagues,” she says. “Even with the time difference, it’s still easy to talk when it’s afternoon for us and morning for them. It’s pretty cool how well it works.”
“We give people the freedom to try new things and make mistakes.” — Sandro
The team in Berlin is especially close with their fellow Britelings in Europe, with whom they chat regularly via Slack and Google Hangouts. When Zusan joined, for example, she was paired up with a teammate in London through the Eventbrite buddy system. “She taught me everything I know about Eventbrite!”
Philip also connects daily with his fellow field operations managers in Spain, the U.K., Belgium, and the Netherlands, and they travel to Amsterdam or London each quarter to meet in person. He sees Eventbrite’s international community as both a professional and personal perk: “It’s great to get insight into different cultures, and different clients.”
Sandro says his team also stays in close contact with their global counterparts, but notes the Berlin Britelings are empowered to chart their own path. Their experience in Germany, he says, has served as a model for the rest of the company, as Eventbrite learns to “localise” and adapt to the different cultures of each market.
“We have the freedom to create our own version of Eventbrite,” he says. “And it’s so important that we establish that identity, because we’re growing fast.”