When did you first come across the concept of the Scandinavian work model? Were you familiar with it before joining Schibsted?
Wojciech Bakłażec: Before joining Schibsted I had only a superficial knowledge of the subject. I heard vague reports that working in such companies is calmer and that there is a completely different rhythm, but I found that difficult to believe as I was chasing deadlines, focused on upcoming projects, and living at a completely different pace. So, I first came across the Scandinavian model in Schibsted.
Krzysztof Len: To be honest, the first time I heard about the Scandinavian work model was when I started working at Schibsted. However, I have always wanted to work in a company with such an approach. The friendly atmosphere, the investment in development, the flat organisation, and the focus on ecological activities all play an important role for me here.
What does this model mean to you? How do you find it? What do you think its benefits are?
Wojciech Bakłażec: In retrospect, I think the word ‘model’ is not appropriate. It is not a model that can be applied in every company or that will work anywhere. I consider it more in terms of mindset – namely a certain approach to work culture rather than the system itself. Scandinavian work culture is based on trust in colleagues and in business partners. This is extremely important in business and intra-company relationships. Mutual trust reduces the costs of cooperation, decreases stress levels, and builds future relationships. Unfortunately, in Poland we have a problem with trust – the CBOS poll indicates explicitly that the level of social trust is very low. This is why it is difficult for me to imagine a Polish company that implements the Scandinavian ‘model’. We have been learning this mutual trust in Schibsted from our northern partners. Work–life balance is another important element of this culture, and this is not just another slogan such as ‘young dynamic team’. Everyone writes about it, but the practice is very different. A new deadline comes along that you have to meet, or a new project, for example, and this magic barrier between company life and private life suddenly disappears, especially when working remotely. This is why it is so important to have a work culture where working overtime is not the norm, and where contributing to projects at night is perceived negatively rather than positively by teammates.
Krzysztof Len: The Scandinavian work model is primarily associated with a flat organisation; therefore, everyone can have an impact on what is happening in the company. All employees have an equal and important voice; thus many ideas and changes are often the fruit of discussions or meetings. An additional advantage is that people from wider management, such as the CEO, work among other employees, which makes the flat structure more evident, and increases the sense of belonging to the company and even being responsible for its future.
The Scandinavian work model is supposed to reduce the prevalence of burnout among employees, for example. Have you had any experience of this phenomenon?
Wojciech Bakłażec: I think that many of us experienced states related to professional burnout during the pandemic. The permanent tension, remote work, and lack of work–life balance certainly fostered such a state. When I noticed that I wasn’t enjoying my work any longer, that it was hard for me to focus on programming, and that my stress levels were reaching their peak, I decided it was time for change. In retrospect, I think that we, as programmers, should take a long-term view of our profession. Studies show that the average age of IT specialists in Poland is about 30. So, we have dozens of years of work ahead of us. How will we function if we get burned out professionally, for example, after five years of working? That is why, while looking for a new job, I took the company culture and the model in which it functions very much into consideration. The Scandinavian model turned out to be a perfect fit.
Krzysztof Len: Personally, it is hard for me to say whether I have ever experienced professional burnout but, at a certain stage of my career, I experienced such symptoms as unwillingness to work, decreased appetite, lack of motivation, and sluggishness. Fortunately, I managed to overcome all that, and the Scandinavian work model, which is based on a good work–life balance, certainly helped me to regain the will and motivation to continue working in my profession.
What do you appreciate most about Schibsted? How do you find it working there? Would you recommend it to job seekers and, if so, why?
Wojciech Bakłażec: I think the company culture, the atmosphere, and the opportunity to work with Norwegians and Swedes is what I appreciate the most. Working on projects in different countries creates a different dynamic. In my experience, Norwegians and Swedes are more relaxed and open. It is definitely easier to work and solve problems in such an atmosphere. Schibsted was recommended to me, and I can recommend the company in good conscience. Why? I think it is mainly because we don’t just hear empty slogans; the values that the company promotes are visible in its actions.
Krzysztof Len: I feel that the work culture here is definitely the best one. The much-used term work–life balance is actually respected here, so I can spend my free time on self-development and my passions. But of course, this is not the only important thing. I appreciate the people I work with very much, the development opportunities in collaboration with really experienced developers, and the package of benefits, which is very broad and not necessarily standard. I would personally recommend working here, and I even do so among friends; so, if you’re reading this, don’t hesitate.
Both of you work in the SEALS team. Tell us more about that.
Krzysztof Len: There are currently 21 people working in the SEALS team. SEALS focuses on special tasks; we operate on various levels of projects. We participate when a project starts, building, for example, the architecture. Sometimes a few SEALS members continue to work on a project with another team from the company. We all work on different internal projects and, depending on the requirements, there can be 2 to 3 people working on one project, or sometimes even more. The huge strength of the team is its synergy, and every SEALS member has a very wide range of skills, so we all learn from each other.
Wojciech Bakłażec: We are a team working by design. We work with all brands that are part of the Schibsted group. Our work is therefore similar to working in a software house, but without the pressure and requirements of an external client, because all our projects take place internally.
Schibsted has a lot of its own brands with which it collaborates. What does this cooperation look like? How does the implementation of the projects work from your point of view?
Wojciech Bakłażec: Yes, Schibsted’s portfolio includes a variety of brands, so we have the opportunity to work on projects that sometimes have nothing in common and require some flexibility. It is important to remember that the type of cooperation and the scope of activities for individual internal brands can vary. In the case of greenfield projects, we create solutions ranging from workshops to production implementation. We also join existing projects as a team extension, supporting various teams of the company. Our work involves many technologies, languages, and projects, so as a team we are used to change and continuous development.
Krzysztof Len: That’s right. All the projects we run are related to Schibsted brands, so you could say we have a permanent project base. As far as the type is concerned, it tends to be new start-up brands, but it can also be mature ones with a very broad scope. We (as SEALS members) implement projects from both these categories. When it comes to start-ups we participate in the whole process, often advising our partners on technology, functionality, or flow. But we are often part of larger teams that work permanently on a given project and we implement individual functionalities in those cases.
You are both enthusiasts of Flutter. What are its advantages?
Wojciech Bakłażec: Flutter is a framework that allows you to develop software for multiple environments. When I wrote my first Flutter applications, Flutter supported Android and iOS applications, and gradually it added support for web and desktop. I think that among various hybrid solutions, it is the closest to implementing the ‘WORA’ idea – write once, run anywhere. The technology enables us to efficiently develop solutions without the need to have teams that write naturally in, for example, Kotlin or Swift. From the customer’s point of view, this means a smaller team. I think it’s a great tool for start-ups due to the speed of iterating new ideas.
Krzysztof Len: I had the opportunity to work with mobile technologies in my previous job, where I used React Native, and I really liked the concept of creating applications without actually changing the technology stack. Then I heard about Flutter, which had a very similar concept, but it was based on a different language. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a chance and see how it works. And it was a very good decision as I enjoyed using Flutter, especially because it posed fewer problems than when using React Native. At Schibsted we managed, specifically with Wojtek, to carry out a project using this technology. It was a great success because it worked out really well, and further maintenance of the application is very easy.
Do you work remotely, in the office, or a hybrid solution at Schibsted?
Wojciech Bakłażec: We are currently starting a test version of a new approach at Schibsted with several models. Employees can choose between working 100 per cent in the office, a hybrid solution (40 per cent in the office and 60 per cent remotely) and working 100 per cent remotely. As many as 75 per cent of the employees at Schibsted chose hybrid working! I decided to work remotely, but only because my team is mostly located in another city.
Krzysztof Len: I chose the hybrid model. I come to the office several times a month, and this option suits me well. Why did I choose this model? Of course, it depends on many factors, but the possibility of working remotely during the autumn and winter is definitely a good option. I hear from my friends, too, that most have decided not to return to the office permanently, and some have even moved elsewhere, choosing to work entirely remotely.
What motivates you to work? Earnings, benefits, or maybe engaging projects?
Wojciech Bakłażec: Interesting projects that I can create with inspiring people motivate me to work, but it’s the company culture and climate that creates a good working atmosphere. Without adequate remuneration, you usually feel a certain injustice, or a mismatch with the role you play at work; on the other hand, I definitely wouldn’t want to work in a toxic environment, even with a much higher salary.
Krzysztof Len: Looking back, different things motivated me at different stages of my career. When I was in a junior position, I always put development and learning opportunities first. Now I look at it from a slightly different perspective and I appreciate stability, a good atmosphere, and the people I work with. I think everyone is motivated by different things and they should ask themselves what is important for them at their current stage of life; then they should find a job that meets their needs.
The interview was attended by:
Wojciech Bakłażec – full stack developer at Schibsted Tech Polska. He has been working in the IT industry for 5 years and is mainly associated with the development of start-ups at different levels of growth. His passion is creating digital solutions – from customer workshops to production deployment. He is a Flutter evangelist and an enthusiast of hybrid mobile frameworks, which he uses in his everyday work. In his free time, he cooks, sings in a choir, and designs lighting for plants.
Krzysztof Len – full stack developer, specialising primarily in technologies such as React, Node and Typescript. Active in mobile technologies, he is also a promoter of Flutter, a technology he likes to use in his projects. He pays a lot of attention to detail in code, is willing to share his knowledge and eager to do Code Review. He is the author of several blog articles and a speaker at dev.js. In his spare time, he enjoys playing drums, preparing for a triathlon, and painting.