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DEEPSET: Remote first, with an IRL twist.


MEETING DR. ANNA GRÜNDLER

A year and a bit ago, Dr. Anna Gründler joined deepset as Head of Operations. She became the eleventh member of a bootstrapped startup founded in 2018, determined to become the standard for Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Her new colleagues were talented and passionate people who had had their hands and minds full with developing the open source-based product for the past three years, so her focus was now to “put the strategy into action” and to create the structure of the organization itself.

After the series A funding led by investor GV (Google Ventures), she was able to hire and onboard the right people, put processes in place, and naturally become the link between all teams, making sure everyone “spoke the same language”. Listening to Anna, there is no other way to do that than to instill the right culture and values from day one.


tech company team group picture during a retreat workation
The team at the Workation Village

REMOTE BY NATURE

In a little over a year, deepset grew from 11 to 40 employees.

If working remotely was still something out of the ordinary back in 2018 when Milos Rusic, Malte Pietsch, and Timo Möller started the company, it was still a format they were very attracted to and that felt natural to them: coming from different cities in Germany none of them really wanted to relocate fully. In 2020, with COVID and more teammates joining from everywhere, being fully remote became the obvious choice.

It really allows us to get the best talents,” says Anna Gründler.

Despite seeing the value of remote work, Anna herself, at first, was worried about feeling lonely and disconnected. This is why she made it one of her priorities to establish practices to avoid such pitfalls: from morning team meetings in the virtual office to in-person re:base gatherings every quarter.

Nevertheless, Anna was aware that without strong shared values, it is difficult to create a sense of the team.


a tech team gathering for a meeting on a retreat location
working session


CO CREATED VALUES

When Anna joined deepset, the concept of “values” was not something that the team had spent a great deal of time on. Anna understood that it was time to talk about company values reflecting the core beliefs of the co-founders and their first employees. So she brought everyone in for a workshop during which they agreed on “teamwork, being humble, open communication, and valuing our accomplishments”. This was the first step to co-creating the culture of deepset. Today, each new hire is still welcomed with a value chat with the CEO and invited to share their thoughts, use their fresh eyes for feedback, and improve the company's values.

Anna’s role is to make what was written down is actually experienced in the day-to-day and that with every new hire the culture lives on.

It starts from the beginning, from the interview process” during which several members of the company hold the “culture fit interviews” with the potential recruits. “Not to find copies, we want to learn and grow, but to make sure we share basic principles” explains Anna.

Then, of course, comes the onboarding process which again, anyone from the company can join to welcome, support, and share information. A “buddy” program is also in place so the new hire feels welcome and included from day one. “That’s how you become a deepseter!” she adds.


three women on a meeting on a terrace in Italy
Brainstorming on the coworking terrace

RE:BASE, THE TWIST

Anna Gründler believes that human interactions are essential to attract good people, keep them enthusiastic and foster innovation. In-person workshops encourage the team members to dream big, facilitate collaboration and reinforce mutual trust. That is why she is convinced of the essential role that their re:base gatherings play in creating a sense of belonging and alignment within the team.

During the second “Covid winter” deepset hired fifteen new people. When April 2022 came it was necessary for everyone to meet their new teammates. That is how the whole team spent a week at the Workation Village in Italy.

Re:base is a coding term referring to the moment when two developers who worked on a code come together and make it work. A fitting name for a quarterly event that now brings together 40 deepseters usually spread across Europe and the US, for a whole week.

The most important is to have the feeling that together we can make it happen,” explains Anna Gründler. “and that is harder to create online or in a classic hotel, it needs to be a warm, welcoming environment, a bit secluded even, to feel safe. Nature helps a lot, to focus on where you are and the people around you”.

The re:base gatherings are now part of deepset’s DNA. They create a sense of belonging, spark innovation and leave everyone energized and inspired.

Of course, organizing such events is not easy. It demands a lot of planning and the head of operations is grateful to now have a team to support her. A team that also makes it a habit to include other members in the planning of the gathering, involving as many people as possible to empower them and co-create one of the highlights of the year for the company.

Anna Gründler’s tips for a successful team retreat are:

  • have a good balance between work sessions and activities,

  • avoid overloading the agenda,

  • try to include everyone in the process

  • Get support from the venue team

And finally, trust that the team will also create serendipitous moments, like her favorite memory at The Workation Village: unexpectedly dancing the night away in a historical castle.



Thank you to Dr. Anna Gründler for taking the time to share her experience and tell us about life at deepset.

Learn more about deepset: www.deepset.ai

Learn more about the Workation Village and team retreats: www.theworkationvillage.com

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