“Coffee talk” with our Head of People Christoph

We sat together with our Head of People, a cup of coffee on our Smartlane sofa and asked him about Smartlane as an employer, personal successes and milestones, a normal day as Head of People and his hidden talents. Find out about the simplicity of “listening”, playground meetings and why he compares Smartlane employees to a “herd of elephants” in the interview.

How did you get into the people field (including Smartlane)?

I studied business administration and the most interesting lecture in my studies was “Human Resource Management” (grinning). After that, I decided to do a master’s degree in business psychology and fortunately I quickly had the chance to enter the HR field. 

I came to Smartlane primarily through Monja, of course, who is already something special in the startup world as a female CEO, but with whom it was also an immediate personal fit. I was also inspired by the idea of making a lasting change in the transportation industry by optimizing and developing a meaningful, useful product.

What do you like most about your work at Smartlane?

It’s super diverse and the people I work with are the most important thing to me. On the one hand, I’m very operational and talk to employees, but on the other hand, I’m just as close to the founders and the strategy team and can help shape Smartlane’s development especially in terms of corporate culture, collaboration and the values we represent as a company. With a startup, you still have a lot of freedom to create and try out new things.. My people team is particularly cool about Smartlane 😄. The diversity is also exciting, everyone works together on a solution and on a product that provides a real benefit, which I find very nice. And the “kicker” is also fun, of course (laughing).

What appeals to you about working at a startup like Smartlane?

Managing employees in a startup is always exciting. Everyone is motivated and wants to learn and grow with the company. There are a lot of things happening at the same time and new challenges are constantly being added due to the growth. I have an insane amount of fun putting together a team that tackles tasks together and shapes the culture of Smartlane so intensely.

What I can’t have at all is political “bickering” just because I want some title or position. I like the creative environment. Everyone, whether fresh out of university, senior developer or founder – with us, everyone can contribute their ideas. The ideas are then discussed and tested. In my opinion, it is important to “try things out”, fail and try again until you have found a solution. I find this aspect in particular very exciting in the HR area, that you don’t work according to an “0815” scheme, but rather respond to the individual needs of the employees. 

In addition, I’m attracted by the pace of the company. I think it’s cool to make quick decisions, not to have to wait two months for a budget to be approved, but to be allowed to take a risk. In particular, to bear decisions, even if you might then make mistakes – but it moves forward quickly.

What is your “secret talent” as Head of People?

I don’t know why, but people like to tell me a lot. You don’t have to do much except listen well. That’s it – just listen.

What does an absolutely average day at Smartlane look like for a Head of People?

I ride my bike to the office in the morning, make myself a coffee first and try to walk through the entire office and have a quick chat with all the employees. I simply love the personal exchange, which is why I really enjoy being in the office. You can immediately recognize the mood of the employees, you can exchange ideas and also chat about private topics. In my opinion, this aspect is very important – showing interest. After that, I work on my emails and Slack messages and attend meetings scattered throughout the day. I always try to schedule it so that half of the day I’m in conversations and the other half I can do focused work. Lately, I’ve also been doing regular “coffee talks” with remote employees to keep in touch and know how things are going in each department. This is actually where I pull out most of the ideas on what to implement next in the People Team. 

Which book did you read last?

“A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, a really great book. I got a lot of ideas and thoughts for my tasks at Smartlane. One chapter in particular fascinated me here. 

As Head of People with 30h/week, you exemplify “family and career”, “new work” and “work life balance” – how do you manage to reconcile family and a management position?

On the one hand, my boss, Monja, is a super supportive person who shows a lot of understanding when, for example, I have to pick up my little daughter from daycare at short notice and a meeting has to be postponed. Just the fact that I can work from anywhere makes family life a lot easier. For example, I’ve already dialed in on a meeting at the playground. With Smartlane, you have such flexibility, it’s super convenient. Of course, I watch the hours to make sure everything stays at a healthy level, but I also sometimes have the option of working two hours more or less a week. I rarely find the work stressful, because it’s also fun.

If you had to describe Smartlane in three to four sentences, what would they be?

When many people hear the word startup, they imagine a wild bee hive of activity where everyone is buzzing around and everything is super hectic. I would see Smartlane as more like a herd of elephants, mainly because there is a lot of looking out for each other – it’s really a trusting collaboration. Smartlane is not “wild”, but we are steadily going in one direction, know what we want and persistently pursue our goals. Not everything is discarded overnight and decisions are well weighed.


Are you interested in what applicants and employees have to say about us?
Then feel free to click through our Kununu reviews

Do you have any questions about applying for a job, entry and application opportunities or your professional development at Smartlane? Feel free to contact us – our team is always at your disposal. 

We look forward to your inquiry at jobs@smartlane.ai