Behind the Blinks: “My informal interview set the tone for my job at Blinkist”
Want to know what it’s like to work at Blinkist? Welcome to a new series where we talk to the people that make Blinkist a reality about their day-to-day experiences and working life. In this first installment, meet Alex…
The way I got to know Blinkist was very informal. I met Karl (senior iOS developer) at a Silicon Drinkabout, he recommended me to Tobi (CTO), me and Tobi had a very informal lunch and all of a sudden I had a job as a working student at Blinkist. I guess that set the tone for the rest of my time here. That’s how we do most things — it’s rather informal.Prost! Philipp and Alex get their beer on.
The main challenge for us at Blinkist was to figure out how we could engineer consistently, what to throw away, and how to build new stuff. So, how do we find the balance between making sure that what you have doesn’t break, and how to build and create new features. That’s what we are trying to do now: a pretty radical rebuild with structural refactoring and adopting new approaches, step-by-step. We allocate around 20% of our time to revisiting the old stuff and making sure to bring it to a better standard. We try to make sure that things are simple but not simplistic, and that they are consistent. And we are aware of the things that don’t meet this standard in the app and we are working on improving them.
I’m a working student but I feel like I have the same responsibilities as everyone else — but only 2 times a week. I’m involved in all the decisions and my work depends a lot on my own initiative. Karl and Elmar (senior iOS developers) never tell me to do something — it’s more collaborative, and I don’t feel like there is any specific hierarchy. I have worked for a bigger company before and there are so many people involved and so many stakeholders, so to get something going takes forever. Here, I can talk directly to the design and product management teams sitting a couple of tables behind me and collaborate with them to get ideas into motion. It’s a completely different way of working for me than when I had to write a bunch of emails and then wait for 2 weeks to get something going — and that’s if you were lucky! But it also means that you have to take the initiative and be proactive in your approach.
For me, it’s not so challenging to take initiative because the environment is supportive enough. In my previous companies, people were always very fixated on giving feedback when there was something wrong. At Blinkist, the atmosphere is a lot more positive, so we’re not afraid of giving some love and positive feedback as well. This really helps with motivation, and if you don’t understand something you simply ask — nobody will judge you. We also banned private tech messaging in our team, so everything tech-related goes into our collective chat to increase transparency.
Even though there are a lot of challenges, I believe the team is equipped to handle that. Nobody’s trying to impress anybody, we are all working towards a common goal, and having a lot of fun in the meantime.