In her book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recalls a piece of career advice Eric Schmidt, Google’s then CEO, gave to her in 2001: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.” Fast growth, he told her, was the most important factor when considering her next career move because fast-growing companies afford their employees ample opportunities. Fast growth also happens to be one of the reasons Ulrica Falkenberg, Trustly’s Head of People Operations, joined the team back in July.
At Trustly, the growth is staggering: Our revenues grew by 85% in 2015 and we expect to double the number of employees—from 130 to 250—in the next year. As exciting as it is, growth presents many challenges. In this article, Ulrica shares her ideas on how to strengthen company culture, turn challenges into opportunities and ace an interview at Trustly.
Hej, Ulrica! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What did you do before joining Trustly?
I started my career in international sales at Max Mara, a fashion company. I realized that even when working in sales, it’s ultimately all about people. Since then, I’ve devoted a lot of my professional life to learning how to improve companies and how to help them excel.
Most recently, I was working as Deputy CEO at Sweden’s largest wine company. It was a very entrepreneurial company in a similar stage as Trustly. Before that, I was a Managing Director in Norway doing a complete turnaround of a company. I spent a total of 10 years with a consultant group called Alumni and Harvey Nash working with organizational changes, leadership development and headhunting.
What do you do as Head of People Operations at Trustly?
I am here to ensure together with Management Team that we build a highly professional organization and make sure we have the best working environment possible so our talents can grow and develop.
Upon joining Trustly, the first thing I did was an analysis of the company: Where are we right now? Where are we going? What are the goals and vision of the company? Then I looked at what was needed in order to achieve that. So I’ve created a strategic plan to get us there in the next two to three years.
Currently, I’m trying to instate certain routines to ensure efficiency while also making sure that we fuel the entrepreneurial mindset. We do that by making sure every individual is focused on doing what he or she does best. And not only do we want to recruit, but we want to retain our talents so it’s important that everyone is challenged and has room to grow, whether that’s in their current role or growing into a new role, department or office.
Trustly prides itself on being a truly international company. Does that pose any specific challenges for HR?
Being an international company is such a great thing. At Trustly, we come from more than 23 different countries. I don’t think of it as a challenge; it’s an asset. It’s part of our strategy, but from a talent perspective, it’s also more inspiring. It’s great to work at a diverse place where people come from different backgrounds and have different views on how to approach a situation.
Of course it also raises some questions, especially since we have offices across Europe, like how do we ensure that we include everyone in the group? It’s important that we emanate the Trustly culture in all offices, but also foster the local culture. We don’t want to have a Swedish culture in the UK office; we want to have a UK culture integrated in the Trustly culture. So how do we match those two? To me, that’s one of the most interesting tasks.
It’s also worth mentioning that Swedish management style is very attractive internationally. We have a flat hierarchy and give freedom along with greater responsibility. We don’t micromanage because we trust in the person and expect prompt delivery. Many prospective employees find this structure refreshing and that helps us attract people from other countries.
Culture seems to be key at Trustly. How would you describe our culture in 3 words?
Trustworthy, professional, entrepreneurial.
What do you look for in a candidate? What’s the interview process like at Trustly?
We start by asking: What type of personality do we seek? What qualifications are we looking for? What can we train them in and what type of skills to they need to already have? Ultimately, we are looking for people who intuitively fit into Trustly’s culture and who reflect our values. They are highly professional, ambitious and trustworthy people who are willing to go the extra mile.
We are quite deliberate when it comes to who we take in. We have a very genuine process with multiple interviews, personality tests, analytical and problem-solving tests. We take references, we do credit checks and we conduct background checks. But we try to be creative in our recruiting methods so the process could look different for everyone, depending on whether you applied through the website, attended a recruiting event or were referred by someone. And we believe good people know good people, so we have a strong employee referral program. In fact, almost one-third of the talents hired are referrals.
Trustly is constantly on the hunt for more developers. Do you think it’s tough to find the right talent considering how competitive it is to be a tech company in Stockholm?
Trustly has an interesting technical environment and innovative technical solutions, so I think compared with many companies, we stand pretty strong. The people we take into our engineering recruitment processes are the best talents in the market. And not only do good people know good people, but good people want to work with good people. Here we can ensure that you will work with other intelligent, inspiring professionals. Of course it’s competitive out there, but I truly think we can offer that something extra. It’s also worth noting that while the Tech team is growing fast, it’s actually the Sales team that will be growing the most in the next year!
And the recruitment doesn’t end once the contract is signed; it continues through the onboarding process. Our onboarding process is very welcoming. You’ll learn about our culture and values and everyone meets with each CXO to understand the various department—how does Expansion work and what does the Legal team do, for instance?
What advice would you give to someone applying to Trustly?
Prepare yourself. Think of an interview like preparing for a sales pitch. Structure yourself so you can present what you’ve been doing, why you’ve been doing it and what kind of results you can show. Think about how you want to present yourself and live your brand.
Great advice, Ulrica! Thanks for your time and see you around.