What’s it Like to Work for InterNations?

by Dea Martinjonis March 07, 2019
InterNations, community

InterNations, like all good things, was born out of personal pain. Two of the three founders had experienced expat life first hand. Both had to find their bearings in a new city while also trying to network, make new friends, and learn all about a new culture. It turned out to be incredibly stressful and time-consuming. There had to be something they could do to make it easier…

InterNations, founders, men, suits

InterNations founders & co-CEO’s Philipp von Plato and Malte Zeeck are still hands-on in the company today.

The three co-founders wanted to create something that would allow people to easily connect with other expats from both their own country and other countries across the globe. They understood the struggles of life as an expat and felt that having a support system, no matter where you go, is very necessary. And it seems they nailed it by founding InterNations in April 2007.

The largest global network in the world

By September of the same year, the company’s website was up and running. This allowed expats to quickly rebuild their social and professional networks, and things got even better when official events were introduced. The first ones were held in Munich, Zurich, and Madrid. It was there that the role of InterNations Ambassador — a volunteer who dedicates their time to supporting members as they adjust to life abroad — was also established. 2013 proved to be a huge milestone for InterNations as they reached 1 million members and gained a presence in 390 different cities across the globe.

team, summer, sea, Greece, InterNations

InterNations people enjoying their team building in Greece.

Today there are 3.4 million members in 420 communities worldwide: many of them take advantage of the company’s „Albatross” premium membership model that gives them various benefits, there are also Country and City Guides and the Expat Magazine, not to mention a handy mobile app that was launched three years ago.

Top 5 communities

London
Dubai
Paris
Singapore
Munich

Top 5 countries

USA
Germany
UK
Spain
France

Making expat life a great experience

InterNations is on a mission to make expat life a great experience. The company aims to connect all expatriates and global minds worldwide and be THE platform where expats socialize, network, and find reliable information and services all around the world. By the way, in order to become a member, you’ll need to be approved. InterNations takes the safety of its members very seriously and ensures that any offensive content is removed and members creating such content will be given a warning or, in the worst cases, have their membership revoked.

Hiring internationally = wooing the local authorities

To keep something so big up, running, and growing, you really need a kick-ass and diverse team. We talked with the company’s HR Team Lead Christa Fellner about the challenges of modern hiring — from talent shortage to talent retention. Turns out InterNations doesn’t differ from all other companies trying to master the game of recruiting, and like most companies, they, too, find it especially hard to hire good engineers.

table football, team, diversity, InterNations

A little table football with the team.

Christa joined InterNations eight years ago when it was still a small startup: “We had twenty permanent employees, a couple of interns, and I joined as a team assistant who was doing a mix of recruiting, accounting, and office management. I would have never thought we would be growing so much, I mean in startups anything can happen…But we saw such sustainable growth from the start, so two years later we had grown from 20 to 40 team members. And this is when I asked the founders to be the HR person in our company. Today I’m leading a team of three.”

130 people, 45 different nationalities

One of the biggest challenges had to do with the nature of InterNations. It’s such an international product and, naturally, has a very international team — 130 people, 45 different nationalities — and the biggest obstacle was at first the local authorities in Munich, where the company’s HQ is located.

Engineers, software developers, developers, InterNations

The engineering team.

The authorities couldn’t quite grasp why there is a need to hire foreigners instead of Germans. “So, we needed to start building a relationship with the local authorities in order to guarantee work visas and make sure we’ll comply with all the requirements, etc. It’s not only about knowing what’s written on the official website but also about gaining experience and getting a feeling for how things actually work,” Christa says.

Working at InterNations

Christa praises the flat organizational structure at the company that leaves a lot of room to pursue one’s own ideas. “We have a weekly team breakfast to get our creative juices going with a free flow of coffee. There’s also a regular lunch lottery, language tandems, and annual team-building activities, such as climbing parks, mountain hikes, or alpaca walks. If you’re a working parent, you’ll also find the flexibility you need to support your work-life balance.”

team, diversity, InterNations, people, rooftop

Some rooftop fun.

Everybody at the company gets 28 paid vacation days plus additional paid leave on special occasions (e.g. if you get married or move into a new apartment), Albatross Membership for the employees themselves and their partners, XING Premium membership, regular training sessions, in-house yoga and German classes, plus discounts for a few selected gyms and a taekwondo studio.

yoga, women, team

InterNations offers a lot of cool things to their employees: in-house yoga is one of them.

Listen and say what you mean

There is one thing Christa wants to emphasize: “We have an open feedback culture. Everyone is encouraged to speak up and to raise any issues early on before frustration is piling up. Our motto is: listen and say what you mean. Our two founders Malte and Philipp also live up to this and listen to feedback, take it seriously, and continuously strive to improve the organization.”

meeting, man, woman, laptop
Last year InterNations was acquired by Xing and opened an office in Porto, Portugal. This also led to the launch of InterNations Go that helps expats with all relocation services — you can conveniently find different service providers on the platform and compare them, from moving services to finding housing, etc.

A company that has never laid off people

“We’ve never been in a situation where we had to lay off people since I joined InterNations eight years ago,” says the company’s HR Team Lead, Christa Fellner. “We’ve been growing in a sustainable way and never had to let anyone go. But like many companies, our biggest and most pressing need is engineering. In engineering, the market is so tight, and engineers can choose any position they want. Everyone wants them, everyone offers them all kinds of perks. We have managed to build a team of twenty engineers, which is good, but whenever one leaves, you have to fill that position again, and it is really hard.”

Smart engineers want to work with other smart people

But luckily there are many things that help InterNations to attract engineers. “We have a product they can easily identify with, due to a lot of them being expats themselves,” Christa says.

InterNations, engineering team, developers

“And second, they are all smart people who are independent, motivated and like to have a mission, and our open feedback culture and coding in peers seem intriguing to them. It’s not uncommon that your colleagues will criticize you and say that the code you have written is not working, it’s shit. Smart engineers value that — they want to work with other smart people.”

Hit the sales targets, go on a beach holiday

If the company hits its sales targets, they take the whole team on a short small beach holiday somewhere around the Mediterranean. They’ve been to Greece and Spain so far, and there are already plans for another trip to Sicily in July 2019.

Like all modern employers, InterNations also offers the opportunity to work more flexibly. “Our people come from abroad and they would like to spend more time in their home countries, so we try to take that into account. We want to offer the infrastructure and the chance for them to spend some time at home and also work remotely.”

Another cool initiative that was kicked off by Christa four years ago is called Long Live Learning: brief after-work sessions that are offered to the team members on a regular basis — every second Tuesday of the month. During the two-hour workshop, all kinds of topics such as work-life balance, resilience, stress management, conflict management, or time management are taught and discussed.


If you’re a Senior Back-End Developer, you should definitely hurry and apply for this job at InterNations available now.  

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