Once upon a time, 10 years ago...
It’s hard to believe, but we are celebrating our tenth anniversary. How does that feel? A bit of disbelief, although we’ve always believed in it, very exciting and of course enormously proud. Proud of what's behind us and what we've put together up to this year. But read for yourself and let us take you on a journey with Dominic (agile lead) and Jöran (managing director thomann.io).
Hi Domi and Jöran, could you briefly introduce yourselves?
Domi: Hi, I’m Domi. I’m the Lead Agile Coach at Thomann.io. I started working in this position just last week, but I’ve been working at the Thomann GmbH headquarters in Treppendorf for more than three years.
Jöran: Hi, I’m Jöran. I’m the Managing Director of Thomann.io. I worked for Thomann Codes & Cookies factory in Berlin for six years; three of which I have been the Managing Director as well.
Jöran, what is your job as a Managing Director?
Jöran: In the past, the job mostly consisted of administrative tasks, especially regarding the coexistence of our offices in Erlangen and Berlin. Meike, our Accounting Lead, is now taking care of a lot of the administrative side which I’m very thankful for. I would describe my job as split into two parts: as a Managing Director I represent the company on the inside. I stay in close contact with our headquarters in Treppendorf, which I visit quite regularly to keep up the communication with various departments. I explain what we’re working on and how we work. These connections with the different departments are important. I would like to work together even closer in the future. Besides that, I am also responsible for our Company Backlog. This is the first time in the history of the entire company that all strategic projects across different departments get checked and prioritized together, based on their synergies and dependencies. What do the developers need to work on? Are there any unexpected events? Which projects are urgent?
Can you tell us a little bit about the merger of Code & Cookie Factory to Thomann.io?
Jöran: Sure. Back then, Code & Cookie Factory was one of two Thomann related companies responsible for developing the mobile web shop and the app. We were a small team in Berlin, consisting of around 20 developers, designers and project managers. The other subsidiary, Bits & Beats GmbH was located in Erlangen. They were responsible for the operations sid. Two months ago, we merged these two smaller companies into one bigger company called Thomann.io. Around 45 people are now working for Thomann.io from Berlin, Erlangen, Treppendorf and remotely wherever they want to work from.
What are the biggest changes in the last years that you have noticed?
Domi: During the three years I’ve been at Thomann, I’ve noticed a lot of changes. Especially within the company culture, the structure and the way of working.
Jöran: For me, the differences over the last few years are massive. Back when I started, the Berlin Office was not yet located at the Rosenthaler Platz, but at the Schiffbauerdamm. It was a tiny, dark office space with only three people working there. The former managing director, two developers and a UX designer. I was one of the first Project Managers for digital matters there. My first job was changing the overall project management structure. At the same time, I started pushing the recruitment process. Our team grew from around four to ten people. We moved to the bigger office at Rosenthaler Platz shortly after. That was a big milestone for us.
What have been some of the biggest challenges following this change process?
Jöran: One of the biggest challenges at the beginning was connecting the different development teams. The Berlin office was working on the mobile website and the app. The team in Treppendorf was working on the desktop version of Thomann.de. Back then it somehow made sense and just came naturally over the years. But we saw back then that this was not at all future oriented. Every single tiny shop change needed to be executed 2.5 times. Once for the desktop version and then again for the mobile version and the app. The overall way of working and perception of company culture was also visibly different between Berlin and Treppendorf.
How did you overcome these cultural differences?
Jöran: We made some radical changes. The split teams of Thomann.de and the mobile teams were merged cross platform into new teams. At first there were some disagreements and discrepancies as the team members were just thrown into this situation, but it eventually worked out in the end. Though we did not want to just connect the different Thomann.io offices. Thomann.io was supposed to establish itself as its own Thomann department through transparent structures to no longer be seen as a separate world. Thomann.io is a part of Thomann the same way logistics, the store and the hotlines are a part of Thomann.
Domi: I came to Thomann right at the height of this change. Looking back, Thomann.io’s essence became connecting teams from different locations through a homogeneous corporate culture. There is no mental separation between the teams, everyone is working together. Thomann.io really has the ambition to connect people.
The Berlin office really has its own character as an office location. What makes the Berlin office special to you?
Jöran: Even though we usually work entirely remotely following the Covid situation, it’s still nice to have a place to meet colleagues. Catching up, having lunch together, to simply connect. I would say, the essence of the Berlin office is not mainly to work, but mostly to offer a space for the team to meet up. Colleagues from the other offices visit Berlin regularly, which is always nice. The Thomann marketing department came by, for example. Hans Thomann, the Thomann CEO, uses our office for meetings with external partners as well.
Domi: I don’t live in a big city myself, so the office in the centre of Berlin is just a cool place to be for me personally. It offers a good contrast, even just for a few days. And the restaurants and bars around the office are amazing. In my experience, meeting in person has a whole different quality now, especially after working fully remotely for this long. You simply don’t work next to each other, you work with each other. Through these occasional connections, a whole different dynamic is created within the team. The members grow closer together when they get the opportunity to connect at our office locations. This strengthens the teams immensely. The Berlin office is the go-to place for Thomann GmbH and Thomann.io employees, especially for workshops. I held a workshop which our Product Owners and Coaches from Strasbourg, Amsterdam and different German locations attended; very international. I think that is very cool.
Let’s take a look into the future. What does the near future hold for Thomann.io and the Berlin office?
Jöran: We want to fill the partially empty office space again. Forcing people back into the office doesn’t make any sense, so we want to create convincing and interesting incentives. This doesn’t mean setting up table soccer, we already have that and nobody uses it. It means setting up regular formats to inspire an appealing form of community. We also want to offer the office space to other Thomann departments as well, for example to the international hotlines. The office is supposed to be a place of gathering.
Domi: Interesting offers are extremely important. To simply redesign the space won’t do. We need practical and well adjusted opportunities and the right infrastructure to get people to visit the office. Generally speaking, even though there are many different change processes going on, Thomann gives a lot of security to its employees. Starting from Hans Thomann in Treppendorf, who is just so passionate about the product and the employees, which is really motivating. And it doesn’t stop there. Thomann.io prioritizes the nearness to the customers and the tools that customers use on a regular basis. We try to see everything in relation to the end user. So I’m really excited for what the future holds.
Why do you think that a fully remote working concept is relevant, even after Covid?
Jöran: Because it works. It worked, and it still works. We trust our employees. There is no reason to force people back into an office if their entire work is done on a laptop anyways. Mandatory attendance is just not attractive on the market, especially for developers. You can spend a lot of time discussing if you want to allow working remotely or not. Or you can just invest this time in efficient work to build cool new features. I think this is the better solution.
Domi: It is not reasonable to be bound to working hours and locations if you are working creatively. Flexibility is really important for our employees and I’m glad that we can offer it to this extent. You don’t have to travel to work every day, which is also an important financial factor. This year we held an Open Space in Frankfurt, where around 50 of our team members came together to attend workshops, Each 1 Teach 1’s and spend some real quality time together. For me, this event was way more influential than normal everyday office coffee time and put a lot of things into focus. Keeping a good connection to your colleagues and working together is possible even across great distances.
Let’s talk about recruiting. Why is Thomann.io attractive for new employees, especially the Berlin office?
Jöran: Thomann.io is an attractive employer for all of Europe. Every employee has the opportunity to work from wherever they want to. The offices in Berlin, Treppendorf and Erlangen are available at all times. I think it’s the combination of the two, the possibility to choose that makes Thomann.io attractive. Modern ways of working and constant progression are important to us. Even if you are working from home, you are closely connected to your team. Most of our employees are musicians, or at least interested in music gear and our assortment. This kind of passion and interest connects people and is really special here at Thomann.
Domi: Music is our passion. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Most musicians make music for their whole life. Here at Thomann you have the opportunity to connect your work with what you are personally interested in. Berlin itself has its own character and the office developed to be a place of voluntary gathering for the employees. We work independently from the office, but still put the office into focus. It really is a great benefit to travel to different places and meet new people regularly.
Sounds amazing. Where can I apply?
Jöran: Simply go to your browser and type thomann.io. The whole work atmosphere is great and the colleagues are very nice. I am really happy with recent developments and the constant growth and success that Thomann shows. If I didn’t work here already, I would apply right away.
Any final words?
Jöran: Thomann has changed a lot within the last few years. Thomann.io, as the digital heart of the company, now has around 50 employees in Berlin and all over central Europe. The Berlin office is like a constant in this ever changing and revolutionary organization. Working with our cool and productive teams is just fun. I cannot describe it any other way. I’m looking forward to the next years here at Thomann.io. I recommend you join us on our journey, too. ;)
Domi: There is not much to add to that. Especially as a coach I ask myself regularly: How much positive change is possible? If everything keeps on developing this smoothly, I don’t see why I should ever leave. The company is flexible and willing to change, yet balanced in itself. Still, you can feel the change. We focus on what’s important and right for us and especially for our customers. Authenticity is very important to us within our teams. Come as you are.