Axel Springer’s CTO shares his cultural hacks with Berlin’s tech leaders

Over fifty people crowded into MHPLab’s kitchen, on a warm summer night in Berlin for the June edition of Austin Fraser’s Leaders in Tech event series. Cold drinks were in high demand as attendees perched on benches and office chairs, and stood in small groups near the hor d’oeuvres getting to know each other as they waited for the main event of the evening, a talk by Sebastian Waschnick, CTO at Axel Springer Ideas Engineering, on hacking company culture.
Leaders in Tech brings together CTOs, CIOs, VPs, heads of IT or other senior technology leaders to engage and learn more about current topics and trends. The talks cover a broad range of topics within the technical, management, and innovation spheres, and draw a diverse crowd of technology leaders. On this particular evening at MHPLab, the audience varied widely in age; many in the crowd were dressed down for the heat (or just in normal startup casual); and based on the chatter, the assembled attendees had come to technology from a variety of different starting points.
After everyone had arrived, grabbed some food and something to drink, the evening officially kicked off with a brief welcomes from Anjo Gaul, community manager for Austin Fraser and from the event host. Then it was time for Sebastian Waschnick’s talk, “You can’t manage culture: Cultural Hacks to try for yourself,” which you can watch here

During the talk, Waschi outlined what he’d discovered about company culture during his career, and how he’d put these lessons into practice at Axel Springer Ideas Engineering by using individual “hacks.” Many of his stories about the different hacks his team tried got members of the audience really excited and curious, they couldn’t help but call out questions. Waschi was happy to engage, and it made the session much more interactive. In fact, even after the talk and the Q&A session ended and people spread out, a circle formed around Waschi to keep the discussion going.
You can review Waschi’s slides by clicking here.
After Sebastian’s talk and the Q&A segment, Austin Fraser community manager Anjo Gaul revealed the surprise he’d teased earlier that day: he’d invited Brewer’s Tribute, a local Berlin brewery, to hold a craft beer tasting during the networking and discussion part of the evening, which spilled out onto the MHPLab’s patio along the river Spree.
One engineering lead told me that he’ll definitely be returning to the next Leaders in Tech gathering. Not only was the setting great, he also said that of all the meetups he’d been to lately, this one had the best food and refreshments. Other attendees had more cerebral (and professional) reasons to keep coming back, like Katja Paar, head of strategy & design at mediaworx. She said “I need to look at the world outside my job and office sometimes, to stay flexible and open-minded.” For her, what sets the Leaders in Tech events apart from other meetups is the “good atmosphere” and that she gets to meet fellow “professionals instead of job seekers”.

Some of the participants were just visiting Berlin, and had found out about Leaders in Tech by chance. Maciej Głowacki, head of growth at Polidea, lives in Warsaw, Poland, and had come to Berlin for a conference. While looking for other events at which to meet people working on technology in Berlin, he stumbled across Leaders In Tech. He decided to come to the meetup because he was interested in connecting with other tech leaders who are facing issues similar to the ones he’s struggling with. It was the right decision. Mac, as he prefers to be called, said “I liked the open and friendly atmosphere of the meeting, which was encouraging to start informal discussions and meet other participants. People were sharing their stories and advice on some best practices to others – you usually don’t get much of such merit-based discussions during meetups.”
As the sun set over the Spree, a surprising number of people were still lingering over their drinks and conversing on the patio. Even an hour after the main part of the event had ended, the attendees still had a lot to say to each other and connections to make — thanks to Austin Fraser and MHPLab!