Published 2015-03-10

Want to join Schibsted’s new tech adventure in London?

In this interview, Group CTO Rian Liebenberg tells us the who, what, why and where behind Schibsted’s massive recruitment within Products and Technology.

In the next year Schibsted Products and Technology’s ambition is to hire a vast amount of technologists. Recently, Schibsted’s new London hub organized an Open House for students and professionals interested in a career within Products and Technology.

CEO Rolv Erik Ryssdal introduced the event with an introduction to the history of Schibsted Media Group and the digital transformation journey that the company is in the middle of.

 Afterwards, Group CTO Rian Liebenberg, who heads the Group Technology teams, went into more detail with regards to Schibsted’s new products and technology setup and how we need to strengthen the company with new technical competencies in order to remain competitive and to continually innovate.

We have interviewed Rian Liebenberg about the ongoing recruitment process at the London hub and what kind of people, competencies and skills they are looking to hire.

Why has Schibsted set up an office in London?

The London office is a recent expansion of the SPT organization. In London we are going after the best and most relevant talent we can find in the area of Ads, which is mostly limited to only three locations in the world: London, New York and the Bay Area/San Francisco.

Currently, Schibsted is hiring in four locations that make up Products and Technology: London for Ads; Oslo and Stockholm for Media Platform, Data & Analytics, Infrastructure, Identity and User Experience (UX), and in Barcelona for Infrastructure & DevOps.

How big is the London hub now – and how will it grow in the near future?

We are currently 12 employees in London. We are just at the beginning of our growth phase, so we expect the London hub to grow to 50 employees at the end of 2015, and will likely continue growing in 2016 and beyond.

What kind of areas are you recruiting in?

We’re hiring different kinds of products and technology people. Within Ads, it is software engineers, User Experience, Interaction Designers, Product Managers, and possibly some Data Scientists. We will also have some supporting functions based out of London, with specialists in Talent Mmanagement, Career Development and Recruitment among our staff.

What are the most important traits of the perfect candidates that you are looking for?

We have detailed job descriptions for all the roles that we are hiring. In addition to fulfilling these, there are key traits that we are looking for in addition to relevant competence in their particular field, such as knowing different programming languages, problem solving and building products that work at scale. We also need people with raw intellectual and analytical capability not just to implement something, but also to find innovative ways to create differentiating products, and solve difficult problems.

Another aspect is culture. We are building a team that has to tie in with and operate with the rest of the Group. Therefore, the environment has to be collaborative, and our employees have to appreciate and share Schibsted’s core values and equally important respect and enjoy working with each other as a team.

A good candidate should also be able to show good leadership, in the sense that they know how to articulate their ideas and convince others about the right way to do something. You also have to be willing to show initiative and go ahead and solve problems as they appear. You will be expected to work across multiple different companies, both inside and outside Schibsted, and you will be an ambassador; both for the company you are working for, for the ads Engineering team, for SPT and also for Schibsted Media Group as a whole. You have to be able to adapt your style and messaging according to the target audience, whether it is customers, collaborators, advertisers or the industry at large.

We are also trying to create new and unique intellectual property that Schibsted will own. This means that we are trying to set the pace and standards within the industry, and therefore we have to be visible and vocal within the computer science industry, the media and publication industry and also in the advertising industry.

Why do we need more women in tech positions in Schibsted?

I believe it’s important to have a diverse workforce, because it encourages us to take multiple perspectives into our product design and that helps ensure that innovation will thrive. If we only hire one type of person, everyone will see the world the same way, and that’ll quickly result in boring/useless products and opportunity to innovate will likely also die.

Click to read the recent article “Schibsted wants tech women NOW!”

What makes it more interesting to work in Schibsted as opposed to in other tech companies?

First of all, we have an enormously interesting and unique baseline that we are operating from: We have more than 120 businesses across 40 markets that are from 18 months old to 175 years old in terms of maturity, with multiple different products. So the diversity of the problem space is enormous, and that gives us a unique opportunity to be innovative, differentiating and building disruptive and game changing products. Hence, the baseline we have is vast and very unique in that sense; it’s not one-dimensional..

The second part is that we are running very much like a startup within the context of a mature and grown-up setting, so we have all the benefits of being able to reach scale, both in terms of ambition and operation and distribution, and few of the downsides of the traditional startup, which is lack of access to capital and audiences. Those are traditional hindrances that ultimately cause startups with great ideas to fail. Even if they can find the cash, it’s still very hard to find the audiences. In Schibsted, we have very few of these downsides, but all the upsides of a unique environment where we are literally working from a blank sheet of paper, but with a baseline that has a very interesting value proposition. We are solving unique problems that will have a huge impact on society in terms of how users create and consume, and how people buy and sell from each other or other communities. There is significant impact on large parts of society or society as a whole within web which I think has an exceptionally unique value. Unlike other businesses, we’re not just building a game for entertainment value, but actually impacting the livelihood of people who are manufacturing and trying to distribute products online, which historically they have tried to sell from a physical market store or a physical retail shop. We are giving the tools and abilities to reach their audiences. We are also giving journalists the abilities to tell their stories in modern ways and to reach audiences in the social context of the web.

Hence, there is a societal impact, the startup benefit and the unique baseline. Those three make up a combination that is very unique and special. And of course, we are not short of ambition. The nature of the problems we are trying to solve are complex and difficult, and require a special type of individual and group to be able to accomplish. We are relentlessly focusing on ensuring that we are bringing the right people into the team to give us every chance of being successful. As a consequence, our new hires will get to work with other extremely gifted and smart people. That is often undervalued; but to surround oneself with people that you can learn from and interact with is a very strong value proposition that we really would like to highlight.

Will there be more recruitment events?

I think we will try lots of different variations, from super informal beer & pizza hackathons, to more formal meet-ups and open house events. We haven’t done this before at Schibsted, so this is an ongoing experiment,. However, what is clear to us is that Schibsted as a brand is not very well known; we have to make an effort to get the message out. In order to achieve that, we have to build relationships and reputation that we don’t have yet as a brand. The London Open House event was a good opportunity to start gathering recruitment data and feedback. We will run our recruitment events as a roadshow on a regular basis in Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona and in London. Even though our Norwegian and Swedish operations have the benefit of brands that our audience can associate with, people don’t necessarily know what Schibsted Media Group really is. Going forward, we will work a lot on improving that.

#WomenInTechNow: Bhavna Godhwani from the Canary Islands is soon to finish her Master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction at the City University of London.
“I am very interested in how Schibsted wants to merge technology with users’ needs,” she said.

“In Schibsted, we get to choose the smartest people and the greatest technologies, to create impactful products in a greenfield environment. That’s why I love Schibsted,”  VP Engineering Eugene Stipp confessed.

“We need more talented tech women in Schibsted now. Come join us,” said Ligia Amaral and Senior UX Researcher Ambreen Subzwari.

A group of talented engineers discussing the future for Schibsted Products and Technology.

A dazzling array of technical talent from across Europe, discussing the journey for the next four years.
Edoardo Jaccuci (VP Strategy & Data Analytics, right) eliciting delight from one of our attendees, while talking about our exciting plans with Data.