This week’s Day In The Life Interview comes with Christian Hillemeyer, Director of Communications at Berlin based Babbel. Babbel is the world’s first language learning app. A leader in the online language learning industry, Babbel is an international success with more than 1 million active subscribers and ranked as the world’s #1 innovative company in education.
1. First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
I am the Director of Communications at Babbel – the app that teaches you to speak a new language like you’ve always wanted to. In this role I’m responsible for our global PR and internal communications. We were founded in 2007 and have since become the market leader for app-based language learning and the top-grossing language app in app stores worldwide.
2. What brought you to this area?
Life, basically. I have been doing communications related work in Berlin’s tech scene for over a decade. About three years ago a former colleague brought Babbel to my attention and me to theirs. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I wanted to work for this company. To deal with such a positive topic as language learning is great for a communicator. I am still fascinated by the great product that we have and our vision to enable “everybody learning languages”. We have the potential to create something huge, something that makes a real impact.
3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
My day starts quite early, as I am a father of two. After everybody has had breakfast I drop the kids at school and usually arrive at work around 9am. First I work through my emails to empty my inbox. Then I work with the team on current projects, give feedback, or roam the office and chat to other teams. It is very important for me to meet with people and stay up to date with what is happening across the business. As Babbel now has 500 employees, this isn’t always easy. Of course my day also contains meetings, but I try to have them as rarely as possible. It is more important for me to be available than to lock myself in a meeting room.
4. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Quite a few. Our communications team covers Babbel’s global consumer and corporate communications from Berlin. This means we have to juggle various topics and local campaigns at the same time. Our current priorities are market education and basically making language learning sexy for a mainstream audience. Market education is very important to help consumers make an informed decision when deciding on a digital learning platform. Whereas making language learning sexy means to get rid of all the fear and frustration many of us experienced in our school days. Because, in fact, it can be fun and very rewarding to learn a new language.
5. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
Being recognized as the world’s most innovative company by Fast Company Magazine in 2016 is definitely up there. But I think having built a great team that I trust and enjoy working with every day is my greatest achievement.
6. What is the one app you could not live without?
Babbel of course… (Actually it is Shazam, but please don’t tell anyone).
7. What’s the best thing about working at your company?
The best thing is to promote a product that I am 100% behind. And to be able to make a change in people’s lives, in a way that is very personal and never negative.
8. Where is the after work hangout?
For most of the team it’s one of Berlin’s many bars. For me it’s the family table. Sounds boring, but believe me, it is quite exciting (and loud!).
9. Who is your professional role model?
10. What makes Berlin a good city for technology and startups?
The comparably still very cheap living cost and great international flair, attracting young talent from all over the world. And the parties, of course. Did I hear you think Berghain?
11. Which tech trends are you most excited about?
I think it is amazing what machine learning and AI does to medical research. So it has to be healthtech. I think more than just a trend, this is a real game changer
12. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Intelligence, passion, honesty. And laughing at my jokes is preferred.
13. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Try to solve real problems and don’t chase disruption as a vanity metric. People don’t care if something is disruptive or not. They care if it makes a difference.