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12 nationalities among 19 people. Chaotic, creative or clever?

Our 19th employee joins us in a few days. As an Australian, he represents the 12th different nationality in our small company. We don’t work with remote employees so all 19 work regularly in our Munich office.

People ask us how we manage with all the different cultures? What about the different styles in software design and development? What about the different languages? Do we even understand each other? Sure, it can be creative, but how can we channel this creativity and diversity and move jointly in a single direction?

Initially, our plan was to hire German speakers and establish German as the main language of our company. However we received some job applications from extraordinarily talented individuals who were fluent in Java, html and other languages but much less fluent in German. We couldn’t say no. And so, our company language inevitably became English. With the addition of the Australian, we now have two native English speakers. That means 17 people are communicating in their second (or third) language.

Does anything get lost in translation? Do meetings require a bit more time than usual? Yes, they do. But this is a small price to pay for the benefits we achieve through this mixture of cultures.

We may all “speak” Java, but the way we think differs from country to country. A front-end guru from China will bring a different perspective from a developer from Romania. A designer from Honduras will have ideas that a programmer from Ukraine may never have come up with. A developer from Macedonia may have experience that an architect from Germany hadn’t considered. But it’s the regular dialog, exchange of ideas and frequent debate that creates the spark that leads to brilliant new ideas. Ideas that only the mix of cultures could produce.

Recently someone asked: if one developer starts moving in the wrong direction, how do we figure this out? My answer was that maybe this developer is moving in the right direction. He or she might know something that the rest of us hasn’t figure out yet.

We’re still hiring. There are candidates in the pipeline who will increase our number of nationalities even further and we look forward to it.

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