How a Music Startup Based in Helsinki Hires Internationally

by Gonzalo June 05, 2018

Location: Helsinki

Positions Hired: 1 Recruiter, 1 Product Manager, 1 Full-stack Developer

Who was hired: Rob Pappas from Oakland to Helsinki as a Recruiter, Loic Masson from Lyon to Helsinki as a Full-stack Web Developer, and Sagar from New York to Helsinki as a Product Manager.

Imagine being able to replace a costly music teacher with your iPad and learn while you jam along B̶a̶b̶y̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶J̶u̶s̶t̶i̶n̶ ̶B̶i̶e̶b̶e̶r̶ Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses. Well, imagine no more — the future is here thanks to Yousician.

Yousician is a Finnish startup on a mission to make musicality as common as literacy. With step by step tutorials, real-time feedback and a simple way to track your progress, their software is the easiest way to learn how to play guitar, bass, piano or ukulele.

Just play along with one of those instruments while Yousician listens to you play and gives instant feedback on accuracy and timing. Whether you are an expert or a beginner, they have a tutorial for you so in no time you’ll be jamming along with your favorite songs.

Yousician, which was founded six years ago by a Swiss and a Finn who met at the Tampere University of Technology, is the largest and fastest-growing music education company in the world, with millions of users worldwide.

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Yousician’s team is composed of over ninety people from around the world and they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The Yousician team in a company outsite

When we spoke Rob Pappas, the Recruitment Lead at Yousician (hired via Jobbatical 😉), he mentioned that “at the end of the day, I think international hiring does a lot for thought diversity. For any global company, that is extremely critical.”

Yousician has won multiple business awards including WIRED’s hottest Finnish startup, SXSW, Midem,, and educational awards such as Sunday Times ‘World’s best apps’ and Best European Learning Game, so they don’t have an urge to get the word out.

However, they value diversity and did want help with hiring international people: “What is positive is that the hires bring a different perspective on things.”

That’s where Jobbatical comes in.

Moving from Oakland to Helsinki to Grow a Music Startup

Over the past 4 years, Yousician has grown from a team of 6 to 55 people. But in early 2017, Yousician was looking for someone to help grow their diverse team from 50 to 150 over the next three years.

The ideal candidate had to create and run an effective recruitment process, lead candidates successfully through the hiring cycle, manage HR resources consciously and work with key stakeholders across the organizations. But on top of that, he had to maintain and amplify Yousician’s already remarkable workplace.

The company put a lot of effort into building a diverse, creative, motivating and fun working environment. 50% of their team is Finnish, the other 50% is international, and most of them play a musical instrument.

Not an easy task.

That’s when Rob Pappas comes in. Originally from Oakland, and with a BS in Human Resources from the University of California, Long Beach, Rob is no stranger to hyper-growth startups — he’s been working in technical recruiting for nearly 5 years.

First, he joined Instacart’s Talent Acquisition Team right after they raised a huge Series C of 220 million. During his tenure, he helped build out their operations team and technical team.

Moving on from Instacart, he worked as a recruiter for Hipmunk, and then as a talent consulting for companies like Compology and Brava Home; implementing applicant tracking systems, creating recruiting workflows, and doubling employee headcounts.

On top of that, Rob is an avid traveler who has lived in Europe for 6 months and has been to 5 continents.

When he applied in March 2017, he immediately caught Yousician’s attention. A couple months later, in June, Rob was on a plane to Helsinki, and he hasn’t looked back.

A Full-stack Web Developer from Lyon

As a software company, Yousician can’t survive on musicians alone. Their software has the capacity to listen while you play, and understand where you are improving, where you need help, and provide feedback based on that.

In early 2017, Yousician was looking for a Full-stack Developer who could work architect and implement public and internal Yousician web pages by working closely with UX, visual artists, marketing, and other development team members, and over time, take ownership of front-end development at the company.

Developing the largest and fastest-growing music education app in the world is a real challenge, but very rewarding, so Yousician needed a unique, strong candidate familiar with modern front-end technologies, but comfortable working on the back-end as well. This means being proficient with MVW frameworks and tools and CSS3/SVG animation but also experience with Python, MongoDB, and interacting with REST APIs.

Fortunately, Yousician found the perfect candidate via Jobbatical in Lyon, a beautiful city in the south of France.

Loïc Masson is a former musician (no surprise) who gave up his instrument to become a developer. He’s done a lot of work for big companies over the years, but he was looking for a new challenge, an opportunity to work on something he cares about.

“Music is still an important part of my life, it dictates my mood, it makes me go through a day of work, laundry, chores,” mentions Loïc.

With a strong growth mindset — “I’m always looking to improve things” — and experience as a Full-stack Developer at Loyalty working on complex applications, he was the right candidate. After applying via Jobbatical and being interviewed in February, he flew to Helsinki to join the Yousician team.

From New York to Helsinki as Product Manager

Software startups operate in an extremely fast-paced environment. They need to be constantly thinking about the future, talking to users and understanding where and how to move the product forward.

About a year ago, Yousician was looking for an experienced Product and Project Manager to do just that. In other words, this meant translating the user needs and market opportunities into a compelling product vision and roadmap, and working with music theory specialists, game designers and developers to make that a reality

This person’s main responsibility was to understand Yousician’s customers and how they use the product to learn basic elements of music and music theory in a fun and engaging way, so a background in software development, running small dev teams, teaching or gaming was key.

Finally, Yousician needed a practical visionary with analytical thinking, but also someone able to get their hands dirty to understand customers and user behaviour, and own user engagement, educational and financial metrics.

A fun interesting but immensely challenging position.

But Sagar Dubey is not someone who escapes from a good challenge. Originally from India, and with a Masters degree from Syracuse University, Sagar is now a Product Manager at Yousician.

Truth be told, he was the perfect candidate. With 5 years of unique and diverse experiences across India, Latin America and the US as an automation engineer, supply chain manager, product manager, and consultant, his application made a splash.

While in South America, he re-imagined warehouse optimization from first principles side by side with hard working, hard partying Colombian colleagues, met Brazilian and Argentinian landowners to automate farming at scale and acted as a liaison with McKinsey to help create a global supply chain operations center.

Along the way, he received an offer to join Yieldmo “where I got my first real taste of the entire software engineering life cycle — right from design to execution and delivery to the client.” Starting out as a Product Specialist, he moved to Product Management where he helped increase the efficiency of product delivery and develop internal metrics to measure performance.

But Sagar isn’t just a fantastic Product Manager. On top of that, he’s been studying the tabla and sitar for 7 years and is currently learning to play the guitar. So when he applied in March 2017, he was immediately pre-screened and interviewed, and flew to Helsinki in June 2017.

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