DAY IN THE LIFE INTERVIEW: KATHIRN HOLWEGER

We are very excited to introduce you to Kathrin Hollweger, Engineering Manager at Babbel, the top-grossing language learning app!

Babbel was the first app of its kind and now has over 1 million active subscribers. Fast Company Magazine ranked Babbel as the world’s #1 most innovative company in education.

Their courses guarantee to teach you language skills that are useful from the start. 73% of users indicated that they’d be able to have a short, simple conversation in their new language within five hours of using Babbel.


1. What is the best part about being an Engineering Manager?

The best part of being an Engineering Manager is also the toughest part. In addition to my managerial role overseeing broad company initiatives, I remain hands on in the actual development of the product and the implementation of features.

I always enjoy seeing where, how and why certain decisions are made and having an influence in them.

2. What brought you to this area, what’s your background?

My background is in Engineering. I studied computer science and linguistics before working in web development and development in the telecommunication field.

My highlight was finding a position in mobile development here at Babbel, The position has offered an amazing experience combining my love for coding with my love for languages.

I had not considered moving to management before I started taking on some team responsibilities and noticed how much I enjoy organizing, planning and taking care of a team. I grew with my responsibilities and I now massively enjoy being able to steer the direction of the company.

3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?

Flexible work hours are great. My days can start earlier or later, but usually I arrive in the office around 10am.

I often start with a meeting, but first prefer to look at my calendar and mailbox, so I have a rough plan in my mind about what I need to prepare for meetings that day and what time I have available for other tasks.

Whenever possible I attend the stand-ups of my two teams in the morning, where we discuss projects we are currently working on and if there’s anything that needs special attention or support.

And yes, there are lots of meetings – with the teams planning or discussing architecture, regular 1on1s with my direct reports, job interviews, and with my fellow Engineering Managers or the People and Culture circle.

My time in between is spent documenting, and thinking about improvements or solutions for issues I encountered when talking to people or observing processes.

Little breaks during the day I usually fill by skimming through the tech news headlines for inspiration and upcoming gadgets ;).

4. What kind of projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a number of interesting topics.

First, is managing my two teams.

Aside from that, a few projects have emerged from my work with the People and Culture Circle. In collaboration with HR and Engineering, I am driving the introduction of a new survey tool to be used as a trial in my department. The tool will allow for more frequent, smaller surveys to be implemented so we are able to better align certain events with specific feedback, and to react and communicate more quickly.

Another initiative I’m currently driving is planning a Girl’s Day in Engineering. It will be the first time that we launch an initiative like it, so I am very excited.

Also interesting and new for me is talking to different companies or potential partners about technology. We realise that not every tool we need must be built by us. Finding a good balance between harnessing the technology out there and building ourselves is an interesting calculation.

5. What is the one app you could not live without?

Fantastical (calendar) + Maps. Orientation – be it my schedule or navigating the city – I need reliable assistance! 🙂

6. What’s the best thing about working at your company?

I struggle to choose between diversity and learning. Although, I think learning takes the title. Learning is what drives me. I am a curious person and I love to challenge myself in new fields. For me Babbel truly is a learning company inside and out. At Babbel, I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow, and have never been bored.

7. Where is the after work hangout?

I’ll be honest. I’m the dictionary (wikipedia) definition of an introvert. My hangout is on my couch with a good book or my Nintendo Switch, recharging my batteries.

8. Who is your professional role model?

I don’t have a specific role model. It’s more certain traits that I admire in other people. Patience for example is something that I sometimes struggle with. The same goes for managers who seem to effortlessly manage their busy schedules.

9. Which tech trends are you most excited about?

I’m very interested in connected health. But I’m also very much looking forward to cashless payments.

10. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employer?

A focus I’m passionate about

Humanity and respect – understanding that people have lives and personalities, and catering to that

Ambition – always challenging the status quo, never resting on what you have

11. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to a tech professional or a young developer starting out?

Keep your eye on solutions. And I don’t mean that only in terms of coding solutions. No matter where you find yourself, you will always be surrounded by challenges and problems of some kind. Don’t dwell on them – try to fix them. It will make you happier, it will make you stand out and it will open doors for you.