A Special Culture: Diversity as Enrichment, the Internet as the Future
Lucia Falkenberg and Selin Gueldner from DE-CIX, on the importance of diversity, interculturality, and flexible working styles for company culture.
dotmagazine: As the leading operator of Internet Exchanges in the world – serving 40+ metro markets and growing strongly – DE-CIX is a company that combines a future-proof workplace with flexible working options, professional development opportunities, and a vibrant culture of diversity. Lucia and Selin: how does DE-CIX benefit from having a supportive and diverse working climate?
Lucia Falkenberg: Despite our world market leader status and the economic security that comes with it, we are innovation-driven and very proud of our unique DE-CIX culture. We experience diversity as enrichment and use different experiences and perspectives as a breeding ground for creativity and new ideas.
Even in the difficult times of the pandemic, our ways of working together were characterized by mutual support. We very quickly adapted to mobile working, and we provided access to vaccinations, and this summer we enjoyed meeting again in person, and in particular, getting to know personally those who joined us during the long period of virtual-only work. That’s a lot of new colleagues, and again, we’re excited about how diverse these colleagues are in terms of age, nationality, gender, whatever.
Selin Gueldner: I also find that DE-CIX is very open to diversity and interculturality. And you really notice it – for example, if you speak different languages, you have opportunities to speak them every day, which is just such a bonus for the working environment and atmosphere here at the company.
dot: What makes DE-CIX the right place for young Women in Tech to take their first professional steps?
Lucia: One clearly important aspect is our flexible working model. At DE-CIX, there are so many different possible variants of part-time work. As a rule, the approach is that we find solutions together when employees approach us with the need to adapt their working model to their domestic situation, such as if they are starting a family. The remote working model that we established during the Covid-19 pandemic is an example of this, but by no means the only one. Now, we are offering new hybrid opportunities to combine the best of both worlds – remote working and flexible office days. I think it is undisputed that this model facilitates balancing the demands of work and family.
In addition, we offer a comprehensive range of professional development opportunities and, because we are so broadly based, the opportunity to develop in very different ways. Selin, my partner in this interview, is a wonderful example of this. Having already had a successful sales career at DE-CIX, she wanted to reorient within the company after her second child. That led to her joining my team and bringing her sales skills to the HR department, a great enrichment for the team.
Another important point is that we ensure the visibility of the women we have in our workforce. We are very proud of this diverse culture and we shout it out. Our Women (and Girls) in Tech are getting up on stages, they are speakers at conferences and in webinars, so that the whole world out there sees this vibrant diversity that we value so much.
dot: On that topic, what would you say to a young woman who is thinking about how she can use her, for example, business degree and what industry she wants to go into, and she says, “Absolutely not tech. It’s too male-dominated.”
Lucia: I would tell her that I can understand that well. I studied business administration myself, and when I started working, I thought about all kinds of industries. For me, IT was all about nerds in basements surrounded by pizza boxes. Somehow, by total chance, I found myself in this Internet world early in my career, and honestly, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
My advice is: Get away from the clichés. We all wish for a world without bias, with fewer stereotypes. Start with yourself: look more closely at a company like DE-CIX and form your own opinions. We are talking about the IT and Internet world – one of the most innovative industries ever. We are talking about really excellent economic prospects for the future – something which is no longer a matter of course, especially in the current climate. And we’re talking about an industry that has always been a pioneer when it comes to innovative working models and processes. So, stop thinking, start acting. Take a look at what DE-CIX has to offer and come talk to us.
Selin: Looking at this industry, certainly there are more men than women, but I find the mentality, certainly at DE-CIX, is more open and less conservative than in other industries. Women are accepted for who they are, what they can do, and not simply judged on their gender. The mentality at DE-CIX is that everyone is appreciated for their work, for what that person can do, and not because of their gender or nationality, for example.
Lucia: I would like to add here that the topic of bringing more women into the technical teams has been a focus for us for several years now. I think it’s remarkable that, at the time we began this initiative, it was mostly the male team heads that approached me, saying: Lucia, please encourage more female applicants to apply. We know how good it is for the team atmosphere. We have learned how good it is for communication and for creativity and team dynamics in general. And as I said, that was a few years ago. In the meantime, we have managed to get more women to the next management level, and we have already seen the flow-on effect of this in new applicants for positions: Because we make women visible, this inspires other women to become part of DE-CIX. They have the feeling that they can live out their strengths and their experience and qualifications with us.
dot: What advice would you give to a young woman who is thinking of applying for a job at DE-CIX?
Lucia: They should become part of our network. We place a lot of emphasis on diversity. We are crisis-proof, which is also important. And the Internet is the future. We are a steadily growing company with all of the classic business areas, such as marketing and sales, as well as the technical areas.
Given that we are in a knowledge industry, almost everyone who comes to us, no matter what the field, needs to have professional qualifications. Beyond that, you also need to have a certain passion for the Internet and, above all, a desire to constantly develop and learn. We invest a lot in further training. We continue to develop people, just as we develop ourselves as a company. And that’s where we offer opportunities.
Lucia Falkenberg is CPO with the eco Association and DE-CIX Management GmbH. Having joined eco in 2012, Lucia became Head of the eco New Work Competence Group in 2014. Falkenberg is the founder of eco’s #LiT – Ladies in Tech initiative, which campaigns for more visibility for women in tech. As a woman working in the digital sector, Lucia benefits directly from the opportunities offered by the digital world of work.
Selin Güldner is a HR Representative at DE-CIX. After doing a Master’s degree in cross-cultural management at the University of Bordeaux, she moved to Germany and started her career as a salesperson in the IT industry, and then joined DE-CIX in 2015 as Business Development Manager for Turkey and Benelux. After returning from parental leave in 2018, DE-CIX gave Selin the opportunity to start her career in HR.
This interview has also been published as a core part of the eco Association white paper “Girls in Tech: A Call to Action,” which was launched on the occasion of Girls’ Day, 28 April 2022. The white paper is founded not just on top-notch research studies, but also on insights from 15 role models from IT & tech companies and associations in Europe, the US and Africa. The far-reaching paper not only sets out lessons and recommendations for companies, but also key guidelines for policymakers & educators.