A year in Kiwi.com: culture shocked

Posted on 16/12/2020, Jan Kubicek

A year in Kiwi.com: culture shocked

A story of our Director of Security, Jan Kubíček


It’s January 2nd 2020 and it’s my first day at Kiwi.com, in the role of the Director of Security. I’m a 40+ guy, who spent his entire professional career in large corporations; my last position was in a bank. I actually enjoy wearing a suit (I guess it’s an acquired habit, + my wife says I look good in it). Since I’m coming from a totally different world, I’m really curious about how I will adapt to the startup culture.

First impressions: coffee, dogs and no one is wearing a shirt

I went through the new employee orientation. The average age of the company employee is 28, and I am the only one wearing a shirt! I feel ancient immediately. The orientation is surprisingly brief and motivating…and the coffee is good! After lunch, I make my way to my desk and my team. There are _so_many_ dogs in the office. I’m relieved I’m not allergic, and they seem well behaved; but I’m still more of a cat person!


Tools shock: where is my Outlook?

I opened my company-issued Windows laptop (I never liked Macs, unlike the majority of the people here, obviously). It’s brand new and top of the line. But, where is my Outlook? Where is Excel? These are the tools that were faithful companions of my corporate workdays! I feel a rush of panic. Then I realized: oh, we use Google docs here. That should be very similar, they say. It’s not! Within 30 minutes, I have about 70 open tabs in my Chrome.

Abandoning this quest for now, I turn to face Slack. I have used it previously, but in Kiwi.com this is the main communication tool for almost 2000 people. The fact that everyone has the liberty to use any avatar does not help me at this moment. And, the amount of abbreviations…I started writing the terms down in a doc, but cannot find the tab in Chrome now. Oh joy! I realized I won’t be missing Outlook after all – an email is a rare sighting here. Everything happens in Slack, including various application integrations, alerts, triggers and all that jazz.

Tomorrow is another day

By the time evening comes, I manage to get this information overload under control (sort of) without doing any actual work, and I feel exhausted.

I tell myself: tomorrow is another day, and I let future Jan worry about that. As I make my way to the building’s exit (Slack beeping every odd minute on my mobile phone), I make a promise to myself not to get crazy, keep on wearing a shirt and stick with it.

What happens after a year?

I’m still here. And let me tell you, this old dog has certainly learned a few new tricks. The shock and sense of overload of the first day quickly waned. The main reason is that everyone in Kiwi.com is unusually approachable and helpful, despite being busy.

Changes happen FAST around here because if something makes sense, it gets adopted almost overnight. I rely less on my corporate red tape fighting kung-fu skills, as there is very little red tape to be found. Instead, I get to offer a valued perspective about what has been done elsewhere (and works). I learn new things every day, either from very smart people or diving my head into a new problem. I like it a lot – even if it means being overloaded with new stuff at times.

In the end, I broke the promise I gave – I stopped wearing a shirt, and adopted a more casual attire. It hasn’t changed me! Also, when a dog approaches me in the office, I have to pet it, no way around it – that’s my new rule.