My First Weeks as a Zalando Tech Engineer in Dortmund

Zalando-Dortmund newbie Malte Pickhan describes getting acquainted with his new work digs.

Posted on Sep 24, 2015

In mid-July, I joined Zalando’s engineering team in Dortmund as a Java engineer working on the Payments team. All Zalando new hires spend their first few weeks (usually four) being onboarded in Berlin. Pretty cool, right? But not so optimal if you and your girlfriend are expecting a baby at any moment, as was true in my case.

As any new hire might be, I was a bit hesitant to tell my new team that I had to say “no” to something as crucial as onboarding. I needn’t have worried: My delivery lead (the team member primarily responsible for overseeing the technical/engineering aspects of my work) said I could do the onboarding at a later date. This outcome reassured me that I made the right decision by joining Zalando: Despite its size, the company remains flexible and respects employees’ human needs. I still got to do some onboarding — but much closer to home, in the Dortmund team’s shiny new office.

Despite all the usual newbie presentations, introductions and paperwork, I was able to be productive pretty quickly — getting down to work in my very first week. My first Zalando project is a microservice that exposes a REST interface (described with Swagger and implemented with Spring-Boot) to route certain types of requests to specific endpoints. Earlier this year, Zalando began migrating applications to AWS — packaging them with Docker and deploying them with our own open-source Platform as a Service, STUPS. A lot about the project was unfamiliar to me, but as someone who learns by doing, I was soon comfortable with the work.

Dortmund newbies spend our first three months with three different teams to get familiar with the office, check for “chemistry,” and decide what we’d like to work on most. With autonomous teams, every team gets to decide which technologies and languages to apply to their projects; in Dortmund, many teams choose Scala. Additionally, you receive a powerful laptop and are open to choose between two models.

Aside from getting great hardware and even greater engineering challenges to work on, I’ve been enjoying our monthly “Funny Fridays” — Dortmund Tech team gatherings with beer, pizza and conversation. I’ve been learning from our internal tech talks and Thursday morning “Tech All-Hands” sessions, broadcast live from our Berlin office. And I’ve enjoyed the comfortable surroundings and amenities — Club Mate, fresh snacks —available in our new digs.

My girlfriend and I are still waiting for our delivery date, but thanks to Zalando I'll get two weeks off as soon as Baby arrives!

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