Chief Technology Officer, SoundCloud
Having led global teams of software engineers and with big tech names on his resumé, including Yahoo! and Thomson Reuters, Artem Fishman took on his latest role with a move from New York City to Berlin when he joined SoundCloud as CTO in 2017.
What prompted you to consider leaving the US for Germany?
I had lived in New York since my family emigrated to the US when I was 13. New York is my home and I love the city. An opportunity in the music space came up and I was drawn to the mission and founders of SoundCloud. I also wanted the experience of working with a technology company in Europe.
How did you make your final decision to take the leap?
I didn’t exactly “leap” as I wanted to consider what was best for the whole family. We made a few trips to Berlin to check it out. After the first, we were a bit hesitant. We had settled in New Jersey and Berlin is a thriving, busy, chaotic, beautifully different city. We asked ourselves if we wanted to make such a big change but then after another visit, it just clicked. We decided that’s what makes Berlin so special and what a great life experience to be part of it.
Were there any surprises in the lead up to relocating and during the actual move?
Thankfully, no. The transition was smooth because we were all on board as a family, SoundCloud led our relocation and we had the support of a great relocation company.
Can you give us a little more insight into what made the move so smooth?
Good organisation from the outset made all the difference. Plus, the relocation expert that SoundCloud engaged for us was fantastic. She was an ex-pat herself, so had good local knowledge plus an understanding of being new to the city. After finding out what we were looking for in terms of our budget, accommodation, schools and local community requirements, she identified several likely homes. We then visited these with her over a period of eight or nine days and made our choice well before the relocation. This meant that we moved straight into our new home.
Have there been any notable cultural differences or changes in how you approach your role?
I appreciate the frank discussions and honest, open feedback at all levels of the business culture. As a hiring manager, I’ve also had to familiarize myself with the different recruiting process such as the longer lead times in on-boarding new team members.
Can you tell us a little more about the engineering talent in Berlin?
I’ve recently started a Berlin chapter of a CTO club I’m part of in NYC. It’s a forum for knowledge sharing and developing new relationships. Berlin has both an established engineering community and a whole new range of engineers coming up in the tech space, so it’s an exciting community to be part of.
What about differences in terms of product and engineering talent?
There are fantastic engineers in both countries. The key differences are not in quality, but in quantity, availability and experience. There’s a far larger pool of talent in ‘the Bay’ area in the US than in Europe. Recruiting benefits from the network effect, whereby you might hire a single engineer and before you know it 10 people have moved over to join them. There’s also greater experience of developing product for delivery at scale in the US. People underestimate what’s needed to mass scale a product. It triggers a different way of thinking and approaches to things like automation to manage that scale.
How does the attitude to work-life balance differ?
Europe is known for a commitment to maintaining a healthy work life balance. I enthusiastically support it. Of course attitudes vary, country by country, culture by culture and I am glad that it’s embraced here in Germany.
What’s your overriding feeling about Berlin?
The level of drive here in the tech space is impressive. There are interesting, emerging companies developing in transformative areas, such as e-mobility, fintech, aerospace and satellite technology. Anything feels possible here and it’s inspiring to be in a city where you feel ‘something special’ is happening.
Sam Wilkins is Senior Partner at Erevena, an Executive Search firm focused on high growth and transformation. Erevena’s clients are amongst the fastest growing companies in the world: they are VC & growth equity backed; they are publicly traded & privately held companies transforming to grow. Sam’s functional specialisms are the office of the CTO across all consumer and B2B industries and Commercial Leadership in scaling B2B SaaS, where he has a long track record and deep international network across Europe and the US.
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