Sometimes profiles like this are a list of facts about a person, but my experiences are so important to how I approach my work that I’m going to tell you my story. I think by showing you how I came to think and work the way I do, I can explain better why I chose Clipboard Health and why it’s such a good place to do non-conventional work.
I am German and grew up in the German school system, and always hated it.
For the last six years I attended school, my mom had to kick me out of bed every day to get me to go (sorry, mom!). I just felt there was no defined purpose for what I was learning - it was a random mixture of teaching that wasn’t pushing me in any specific direction. I left school after 10th grade. I had the option to do college and actually did some remedial work I could until I realized that the very last thing I wanted to do was spend another three years in school.
When I was 18, I left home and moved into a shared flat with a couple of dudes.
One of my flatmates was a designer. we quickly became friends and we started working on web projects together (I had been doing projects of that kind since I was 14.) that I think paid us around 1000 Euros, which to me at the time felt like a lot of money.
If you don’t know, in Germany there are some options for training that work as an apprenticeship with a company for around 2-3 years. I applied for one and the CEO of the web development company brought me in for an interview. Somehow he still brought me on despite my terrible grades in school and non-linear path, and I spent the next two years working 8-9 hours at his agency, gulping down dinner and then working another 4-6 hours on side projects for my own company I was building with my designer flatmate. Those projects gave me the freedom and autonomy I wanted from my work. This company and friendship turned into a 5 year-long journey in building a small web and design agency.
Looking back, I think all I ever wanted was to be an entrepreneur.
We’d still enjoy our social life but I was just pushing so hard, building websites for mid-sized companies and small projects the CEO sent me when they were too small to be taken in for his company. That CEO was like a big brother, and he helped me learn while giving me the freedom to use what I had learned.
At the end of my time there, I got a job offer to work as a UX designer with a big telecommunications company building mobile prototypes before the iPhone era. They offered to pay what was at the time a lot of money and took that. But even though the pay was good, building my own company went out of sight. I started focussing more and more on consulting gigs, traveled internationally, and did good work, but the autonomy was gone. It took me five years to get out of that “money path” maximizing the size of my salary, but ignoring what I am really passionate about; I needed to choose passion over money.
I took a sabbatical (how typical?) and really felt I was done with all of it.
No more computers, no more tech. I guess demonizing it all was my attempt to get out of that comfort zone I was in for too many years already. Eventually, I ended up deciding I wouldn’t quit what I did entirely, but I needed to find a better environment to regain my passion. Still, into my sabbatical, a recruiter contacted me for an interesting full-stack engineer position at a local startup. I liked the challenge, and the tech stack and really clicked with the team lead. Everything was perfect. But when they made me an offer and felt deep inside, being an engineer is not for me anymore. I don’t want to sit in front of the keyboard all day. I wanted to feel more alive, and spend more time with people! Focus on what is fun! Continue running meetups, network with people, and travel.
At this time I was living in Berlin, and it started to become a very competitive hiring environment.
The team lead, whom I declined the offer, was kinda sad that it didn't work out. He almost started crying over how hard it was to find good people in that market. He was really exhausted from all the hiring and few people that matched.
So I thought to myself “this is a cool place to work, and I know some cool people. Why are they not able to find each other?” I knew all these designers and engineers who were looking for work from the tech meetups I was organizing and all they needed was to have a connection made with a company in a way they could trust.
I talked to a friend in recruiting to build a plan and presented it to the team lead. And guess what? They trusted me enough to hand over their recruiting to me for a time. They liked the fact that an engineer was open to putting on the recruiting hat. Engineers recruiting Engineers :)
Normal recruiters have been a bother to me.
They often contact you knowing very little about you, and they often just don’t know the company or have the insight to know if you are a good fit for them. I had been ghosted several times by recruiters and I knew I didn’t want to use the same tactics they did. I am not blaming anyone here. I see it as the main fault of how many recruitment agencies operate and under which pressure recruiters are in these days. I also had positive experiences and know some brilliant recruiters, but those mostly work in-house now and are quite rare.
So I did something unconventional: I just started spending a ton of time with engineers and designers, networking on meetups, plus running my own, always explaining in a very honest way why people would or wouldn’t want to work where I worked. By the end of four weeks, I had three high-value hires for the company.
Finally, I felt alive again! I had done something completely different, being able to benefit from all my past experiences without making a hard cut. And the best part: I haven’t had so much fun in years! Plus, since I made those 3 hires, my accounts were filled for the next 6 months 😛.
So I kept on networking like crazy, helping all kinds of folks to connect for jobs or co-founding startups, career coaching, and supporting a couple of founders building their teams.
As word of mouth got around and more and more startups started showing interest in working with me, I realized I couldn’t scale what I was doing, and this made me move back towards doing things conventionally. I brought in freelance talent sourcers and tried to increase what we were doing on the volume side. It worked, but not as well as I wanted and it didn’t bring the results I knew I could get. And eventually, it started boring me to death.
So I decided to move in another direction again and build a talent community.
It was sort of a recruiting agency with a community backbone starting with the network I had built over the past year with my meetups. I was back talking to people and learning about them on a personal level. Sometimes what was best for both the person I was recruiting and the company was teaching them both - telling the company who the recruit was, and teaching the recruit how to talk about themselves so they could tell people who they were and what they could do.
I started to professionalize what I was doing. I’d try to find extreme insight about the companies I was working for, producing 10-page micro handbooks (an early version of what is now the Culture HUB) for particular companies so the talent I was talking to could really decide if it was a good fit for them or not. When we knew they were a good fit, I’d help them skip past HR and talk directly to hiring managers we knew and we trusted. They loved it - honesty worked incredibly well. They were used to lies and company information that was carefully crafted to not say anything bad, and letting them really know where they’d be working helped them have the confidence to take jobs there.
This became a company called devBuddies.io.
During that time, I’d be talking to people from all over the world on Slack and LinkedIn and got somehow bored of only talking to people via video and in case we had a good connection I kept telling them “hey, just come to Berlin. Be my guest! You can stay at my place for a week or so. I’ll introduce you to hiring managers. In the worst case, you get to see Berlin, but you also have a very good chance of getting a job, as well”.
It was through this I met a guy named Anthony, I bothered him to come to Berlin for months, and eventually, he broke down and came. He had several interviews, but his drive and ambition were so large that most conventional roles weren’t big enough to hold him. During a party on a rooftop, I meet the founders of bunch.ai. While they were sharing their story and that they had just lost one of their co-founders, my mind was getting louder and louder saying: Anthony! Anthony is the right guy for you! I put him in touch with Charles Ahmadzadeh of bunch.ai, and he got a job there as a CPO and eventually turned into a co-founder, still going. He did very well there, and that had a secondary effect in helping me reinforce my relationship with Charles and Anthony. Those kinds of long-term relationships are valuable (as my story will eventually show). We had sponsored several others who came for a job-hunt-week-holiday to Berlin and eventually found a new job through this experience before they relocated to Germany. It was so much fun being a city and career guide at the same time!
2 years later, devBuddies.io had grown into a medium-sized and very personal community of top tech talent. Our monthly ritual was quite simple: We would invite everyone we knew from founders to tech talent, to friends and artists into a bar or for a BBQs (during summer) for a gathering amongst friends and we’d pay the bill in the end :) There was never any intended business talk, but a lot of the hires and our business development came through these personal gatherings and connections we had made.
We were doing around 30% of our hires just through community referrals.
The team had grown to 6 people and we were making really good money. It got to the point where the business needed more and more structure to support our team. My co-founder started liking it more and more and how about myself? Again, I felt trapped in too much operational stuff… I just wanted to be free, network, and do what feels right in the present moment. But eventually, I found myself stuck in developing new clients and creating one micro-handbook after another. I found it was a good time for me to walk away and hand over my baby to my co-founder. In hindsight, I sometimes regret that I wasn’t capable to scale my approach and enabling myself to stay in my sweet spot while scaling the business.
One thing that was frustrating me at devBuddies, was that no matter how close the connection with the companies where - our “job” ended when our candidate’s journey was just about to start. I wanted more. Contribute to shaping the culture and accompanying my folks in their career.
I started working with several companies doing interim projects with a mix of recruiting, people and culture.
Basically, building entire early-stage teams. I learned a ton about how people relate to companies. Sometimes we’d publish every discussion the company had about a role, raw and just how it was said in internal channels. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And people loved it - they loved how genuine it was.
All this taught me something important: People want to know the truth. They respect it, and they come to trust you if they know you are being honest with them. Being real with people always pays off, even if they don’t take the job - they either know they are a good fit or know they aren’t, and they make better decisions that work out well for everyone. You get to leverage the talent’s knowledge of themselves that way.
Eventually, I came to think of this as part of a concept I call “open-source culture”.
I think it’s odd that we only open-source code. If showing people what you are doing and letting them iterate and improve works for code, it should work in other places as well.
With culture, I think a company really benefits by putting everything out in the open and letting people see it, try it, and make suggestions. Every company has an individual culture they want to share. Open-source culture lets them see how people are telling their stories, teaches a company how to define what their story and identity are, and shows them how to share that with the world in a way that connects them with talented people who resonate with what they see.
Eventually, Charles left bunch.ai because he wanted to spend more time with his family than being a founder would allow, and he started telling me about this great place he had found called Clipboard Health. And when he started working there he was telling me “hey, this is a place where there’s a lot of freedom to try new things, and where weird ideas that work are rewarded”.
And years and years of making personal connections with people paid off again for me.
Clipboard has given me the freedom to really start putting open-source culture into action, to be truly transparent and truly honest with applicants. We built this culture hub as part of that project, and every day we are trying new things with video, audio, and written communications to get more and better information in front of anyone who might like to see it.
When I try to think of another place I could say “Hey, let’s do this crazy thing” and have the answer always be “It’s worth a try! See how it works!” I just can’t think of another place like Clipboard Health where I’d really be able to use freedom to do anything and everything like I can right now.
I had one of my eye-opening moments in the very early days.
I started discovering our endless confluence universe of content when I came across the article
Discover some of the internal content that is actually written by CBH people for CBH to get a straight-up view into
There are other ways Clipboard Health’s flexibility supports me a lot.
I’m a single father of two boys (9 and 14 years old) and got a partner I love deeply who has two kids as well. So we are kind of a patchwork family. Raising kids feels like bootstrapping an early-stage startup without funding on the side.
Clipboard has the kind of flexibility that makes it possible for me to spend the time to be fully there for my kids and push hard in my career.
And what got me here is radical honesty (or hard learning when I wasn’t!), openness, trying to be there for people without asking something in return, and building relationships every day. I couldn’t be happier.
Thanks to everyone who is and has been there with me on my journey!