B.Sorted is the Center of Excellence for the software license management provided by the Dutch company B.Lay.
This is what we knew about them before contacting them for an interview. That and the fact that they have wonderful offices, a special organizational culture and, generally, benefits which most companies don’t offer to their employees.
What we later found was that the person and not the space (whatever how wonderful it might be) represents the center of the B.Sorted philosophy. Proof of that is what Mark (founder of B.Lay) told us when he got our questions: We like to involve our people in our choices as much as possible. When you take that to our office in Bucharest, we can create an office with a certain thought. It is our people who make it home and they then make it a success.
So the answers to the first three questions belong to Mark, the others being the result of the perception four colleagues of his -Gabriela, Andra, Nicoleta and Alexandru- with different roles in the Bucharest office have about the company they are a part of.
It is set that the IT market is extremely offering.
What does b.sorted give extra to attract the best candidates?
Mark: Unfortunately, most companies treat people like “cattle”. Floors of anonymous work machines. We believe in the the individual strength of people and offer them to be individuals. This can be felt in all elements of work, how the office looks, what technologies we use, the way you plan your work, direct interaction with clients, learning, etc. We recently started moving away from managers and implementing self managing / steering. The individual as our biggest assets.
We try to attract good people in a wider sense. Not just good in their job but also good personalities that fit us. Which does mean we not always hire the person with the most impressive experience but look strongly at the potential and motivation of people. We are a specialist firm. There are very little people who can do what we need, and if they can, who can do it the way we like to do stuff.
Working in the atmosphere we offer attracts certain people. It is not always easy. You will be pushed to form an opinion, speak up and argue your thoughts. Not a given for all people. One person once told me; “in my old job I was never seen, I felt like a number. That was tough. Now I’m seen, I really like it, but it is tough”. I take that as a compliment. Personal growth in process.
How many employees does b.sorted have in Romania and
how many open positions are there at the moment?
Mark: 28 employees, 5 open vacancies
What are the stages a candidate has to go through to get hired?
Mark: After a CV review and often a quick first phone call, people undergo typically 2 or 3 interview rounds. All of them are with various people in the company and they will include future colleagues (peers). Their opinion matters as they have to work with a new hire but also can answer the best to any questions. Tell it as it is. It would be our ultimate goal that the team can hire the best addition.
At least one of the interviews is via teleconferencing. This since it the main communication tool used internally and with our clients. English language skills are important, but if not sufficient we do also have language classes that people attend on a weekly basis.
What do you think will impress candidates the most once they step
inside your headquarters?
Alexandru: The vibe, once you enter you kinda get wrapped in this friendly, cozy and colorful environment that only gives you good vibrations.
Nicoleta: The office itself. I often see potential candidates coming in to our office and they are struck by the design and the feeling of comfort and coziness, you can immediately see it on their faces. We are not a traditional company, everything about us is “unusual” and you can experience that just by stepping into our office.
Andra: Honestly, I would say everything! From the modern workspace filled in with very pleasant areas, to the diversity of people working here.. One day you can’t hear a word around and everybody is focused on showing their real potential, the next day you can hear diffuse hip hop beats or classical music, the other day there is a foosball championship happening or a very serious team meeting in the amphitheater. The whole atmosphere is overwhelming when stepping in this office and I actually did notice various “loud” reactions in people’s eyes when meeting us and seeing how the office looks like.
Gabriela: When they will enter our office, they will definitely be pleasantly surprised by our working space, design, colors, shapes. After only 5 minutes they will notice that the atmosphere of the office is in complete accordance with how B.Sorted office really is. They will realize the type of people that we are, the positivism that we share, the joy and hard work that we do, and the fact that we could not perform at its peak in a different kind of space. This office challenges us every day and we make the office look better and better.
What impact does your company culture have on the co-workers’
professional and friendly relations?
Andra: First of all, above all things, we respect and value one another. But what we learned while working here is that the most important thing is to always be yourself and stop competing with other people. Everybody has its own potential and its own set of skills that is or will become useful in achieving the company’s goals. On the personal side, the accent is on the F for Fun! From Friday movie nights, to foosball championships, from cooking for the team to interesting „life on other planets” debates, everything is fun!
Nicoleta: Everyone is welcomed and, even more important, encouraged to share ideas. We often share the projects we are working on with our colleagues and ask for their feedback because we want to see how others perceive a certain situation and we are constantly trying to improve the way we do things. On a personal level, I believe that we are very close to each other, I can honestly say that I feel like we are one big happy family.
Alexandru: People enjoy the liberty and comfort that is given to them and when people get confortable they get to be more connected, open and kind to each other both on the professional and personal level.
Gabriela: First I should say that it is a huge impact. Starting with the fact that I found the perfect environment, the perfect management, thus the perfect company to express myself, should give you the answer. Every morning when I step in the office I feel like I am where I was supposed to be. It’s not like I’m „forced” to do that, it just … comes natural. In the beginning it used to sound a bit strange for me to hear that I should say if something is not right, if I have a different opinion about anything – it sounded impossible – but after 1.5 years at B.Sorted I realise that this can be done and that’s how it’s supposed to be; the fact that we were, from the very beginning, encouraged to call spade a spade, made us, „US”.
We are keen to share our experience with others. We organize internal courses to show our colleagues new and interesting things. So …we share knowledge.
In a relaxing environment we can assume there’s the risk for people
to become way too relaxed. Did it happen to you?
Nicoleta: It does happen once in a while, but the beauty of it is that you never really disconnect from your work and most of the good ideas come when you are in a more relaxed mood.
Andra: Not even once. Because everybody knows that if they miss one funny moment due to the fact that they are too busy working on a specific project, there is definitely going to be another funny moment. People know that with so much freedom on their shoulders, there comes also a certain dose of responsibility that they need to take. And they are mature enough to waive all the pros and cons that come with this „relaxed work environment” and in the end they make the right decision.
Alexandru: It can happen, but then we take a few mins to refresh and we can either go on the terrace(s), play a game of foosball, chill on the net or hammach. Or if we want to deconnect we find a quiet space where we can focus and get back in the zone.
Gabriela: Yes, let’s assume that, but when you know that you are privileged to work in such an environment, I think you become more conscientious and serious on your daily work. At least this happened to me. We all benefit of all office areas provided, daily, which means we work and have fun, in the same time.
Please tell us something about the main rooms of your HQ
and also which of them is the most crowded, the fellow workers’ favorite.
Gabriela: Our office was designed by us, which means that in every corner of it , for sure we will find our spot. That’s why we have hotspot office, which means that we don’t have our own desk, every day we work from a different desk and area. We have private rooms, meeting rooms, quiet areas, relaxing areas, amphitheater (for conferences and also movie nights), playing areas and something really cute „The NET” hung between two floors, which provides you adrenaline at the beginning and then total peace.
So our office is a mix between culture and personalities.
Alexandru: Usually the top floor is the most crowded. It’s designed as a bistro type place and is the most open space in the office, being one of the main reasons why people choose this. People here enjoy socializing a lot.
The second hot spot in the office is the “silent cube”, it’s located at the base level (-1) and it’s basically a cube like structure divided into 4 booths. Each booth is sound proof, has furry walls, mirror sealing and a wonderful wallpaper that takes you to a calm place. It’s a place where you can really focus and get stuff done.
Another hot place is the terrace(s), it’s a place where people go out to refresh, socialize or have a smoke. You can always hear laughter from there.
Nicoleta: The semi-underground floor has a more industrial type of look and is usually occupied by the tech guys. The upper floor looks more like a lounge area with long sofas and tall quiet booths. It’s a more quiet space where you can really focus on getting things done.
Because the main theme of the design was “open and multifunctional office”, lots of areas can be used for different purposes: the kitchen area can also be used for working before and after lunch hours while the stairs are a good place for big meetings or to sit and watch a movie on the projector screen in the evening.
The soundproof booths are on high demand every day and everyone’s favorites. They have furry walls, mirrors on the ceilings and landscape wallpapers that make you feel like you are both at home and on vacation at the same time.
Andra: We prefer to use the “hot desk” terminology when describing the functionality of our office. This means that no one has a fixed desk and is free to move wherever feels more comfortable or suitable to perform the tasks needed that day. If that means sitting in one of the phone booth and host a conference with a customer, or likes the openness of the floor above where you are surrounded by colleagues, or prefers to focus in one of the quiet “couch areas”, or simply likes to feel “like home” laying on the divan and working, everybody finds their place. I doubt we have a favorite spot, any place is good as long as it serves its purpose.
We heard that at b.sorted no employee has a fixed role in the company.
Tell us more about this. Why was the system made like that and
how do things actually work?
Nicoleta: We are still a young company and as we grow different opportunities or career paths may emerge on the way. Everyone is encouraged to try new roles in the company as we believe everyone can add its own view to each role, thus making it better or more complete. Also, we might not be aware of all the roles we need, so we give everyone the opportunity to “invent” their own place and job. In most of the cases, people will correctly identify the need of a certain position or role, so this allows us to fill in the gaps.
Gabriela: We do have a fixed role, but very often we are in charge with extra tasks just because we are the best for those tasks. To system is trying to use the best qualities of people on different tasks so we will have the best results. Maybe that’s why it seems that we have mixed roles.
Alexandru: We emphasize the idea of freedom to grow. People are given the liberty to develop in a more natural way, mostly guided by their own curiosity, interest, likes and personality. This is the reason why people have multiple roles, they just enjoy getting involved in stuff they enjoy.
Andra: b.sorted is not just the support desk of B.Lay, as some may think. But in fact, it’s a real center of excellence and expertise. We value and encourage diversity and curiosity and try to stay as much as possible away from the standard company hierarchy that exists in most workplaces. This is the reason why the line between the employees and the management chain is not that rigid. Opinions matter and we do care. I believe that is the motto of our company. Everybody is encouraged to voice their thoughts. If somebody has an idea about a change that could be done in order to improve things, or if they don’t feel confident enough in their role and require additional support or training, or if they have an affinity for a different role, or would want to change job positions and try something else available in our company, everything is possible. The reason behind this is because it’s important that people feel motivated and valued.
Where did you find the inspiration to design your work space?
Alexandru: The concept of the office was a joint effort. When we though about moving we put a small team together and treated this as one of our internal projects. We decided upon most of the details, together with the Design team that we also picked together.
The design of the office emphasizes the idea of mobility and functionality and it’s mostly based on the “functional office” concept that you see now trending in cool startup companies like ours.
There is no fixed desk, the only “desk” you get is a nice looking bag (made out of recycled truck covers, each one is unique) and a laptop. You take your laptop and sit wherever you feel like based on the mood and type of activity or function you want to perform. The design of the office accommodates this with silent areas like the cube were you can focus, leisure places like the foosball table and the net or heavy duty zones like the TA desks that have huge monitors that you can connect to your laptop for extra workspace.
We also have a hot desk policy, meaning that you don’t get to sit at the same desk for long periods of time. The rule goes like this; On the first day the desk is cold, next day is warm and on the third is hot and you have to change it.
Andra: The inspiration comes from us and from all our very different personalities. It’s a mix between all kinds of things: traditional Romanian culture, modern art and playing areas like the net bed or the foosball table. The design is meant to ease the pressure that sometimes is inevitable in our job and find comfort either in laying in one of the two outside terraces, of working from the comfortable sofas, or being alone with your thoughts in one of the quiet booths, or enjoy the freedom and space of the large meeting rooms.
Nicoleta: A small task force of people working in the company was assembled when we decided to move into a new office. The team was getting bigger and bigger and we needed a new space not just to fit all of us but also to help us become more creative. We came up with the concept of the office while the designer helped us put the ideas to practice. The result was amazing and we are really proud of how the office turned out in the end.
Gabriela: The office was designed by us. One day we were on a terrace and each of us shared what they would like to find every day in the office. It was really shocking when we noticed that we have the same ideas even if we are very different; maybe we have the same structure/base.
We thought of what makes us confortable, happy, positive, and we came to the same conclusions. So we worked as a team, in the same direction to get the same design which satisfied us all.
The one thing you would save from your burning office is…
Nicoleta: The people I work with, as the most important thing that defines the company are the people working here. The values of the company, the office we work in, the principles we go by are as good as the people making them happen. The soul of the company is in the end made of the people being part of it, so that is the thing most worthwhile saving.
Andra: The Love. Love for each other, the passion for doing our job, the integrity we show to our customers and all the memories we built here in such a short period of time.
Alexandru: My “desk” (we don’t have our own desk, each employee was given a colorful bag and a laptop which is basically their desk).
Gabriela: …..my team ’cause that’s the one that makes B.Sorted – THE OFFICE
Your inside joke is…
Alexandru: Black & Yellow – from a song that for some reason became the anthem of the „Ibiza tour 2013” teambuilding. From then on we over-used this song on so many ocassions…. The funny part is that I am not sure who really likes the song…
„Idea-R” or Idear – Moking our boss (Mark van Wolferen) on the way he pronounces the word „idea”.
Nicoleta: As we have only Dutch and Romanian people working in B.Lay we often make jokes about the way things are done (or said) in the Netherlands or in Romania. The way Dutch people say some words in English if often very funny, so “idearrr” of “buuudget” are stuff we make fun of quite a lot. The fact that Dutch people also like bread and butter a lot (especially for lunch) is quite a popular thing to make fun of.
Andra: Work hard, play harder! And we all know what that means
Gabriela: Hmmm…. I can’t tell you our inside joke, but we have a saying:
„We work hard! We party hard!”