Watch the full interview below
Hello, everyone! Today, we are in the Kandidate Talking Talent Studio with Stella from WeRoad. It is an Italy-based adventure travel startup that currently operates in Italy, Spain, and the UK. And, your company is going to expand to Germany and France. Today, we are here in the studio to talk about two of the topics that fascinate both of us – people and talent. Welcome, Stella. It’s great having you here!
Thank you very much, Gaby. It’s a pleasure to be speaking on your podcast!
My first question is, Why did you join WeRoad?
So, it was a bit of a long thought process in terms of how I even got to think about joining a startup/scale-up. I’m a business psychologist and work extensively with senior and experienced executives who have been doing their management roles for a long time.
We have been advising them, we have been assessing them, and we have been working with their teams and boards and so on. We have done it for over two years until I started to get more and more interested in the VC and Founders world. Started to understand what challenges startup founders have from bringing their startup from a sort of like pre-seed to seed to a Series A to you know, an established business.
Growing from 10 employees to 30 employees, and 100; I felt that my impact as a business psychologist helping those individuals grow through those stages and lead a business from nothing to a hundred to even a thousand employees was so much more exciting to me.
As a result, I started to speak to VC people and then WeRoad came across at a random Monday afternoon’s job search – but more like typing in Head of People, Startup, Milan. And here we go! I loved the vision they had and the whole part about culture. There’s a statement by our co-founder Fabio that goes, “if we ever become a unicorn – then it is because of our culture”. I think once I read that I knew that this startup realises how important it is to invest in people. If I can help them do that, then that would be a great honour! And here I am!
That’s really cool! We’ll touch upon that culture part in a bit. If you look at the way you work with your colleagues, What makes you happiest and most effective when working with your colleagues?
I think I consider us and myself very lucky because we have an amazing leadership team which is why we don’t have a single person in the team that is by nature bossy. Instead, everyone is very hands-on, super-supportive, collaborative, and very empowering to their teams. I think it’s really that what energizes me! It is that positive mindset that sits with the entire leadership team, and it’s a very flat structure that we have in WeRoad. It’s really the CEO, and then he’s got him, you know, Eight minion directors.
That totally makes sense to me! What is the latest thing you have really learned from your colleagues?
I think subconsciously, I learn all the time. More consciously, what we do is we just become part of a group called One Day. The One Day Group was founded by the same person Paulie. He’s a serial entrepreneur in Italy – everyone knows him and he’s very young himself. I think he is in his early 30s but started his first business at 16, coming out of high school. And in the group, we organize things called academies, which are monthly or bi-monthly lectures on different points that we think are relevant.
Because WeRoad is a very seasonal business, we are about to end a very high-stress season. We thought what will be a good topic to cover? It’s probably something around time management and stress. So, we asked our CEO, Andrea De Amico, who’s been very successful on booking.com to share a little bit of his wisdom. I should say that Andrea is the calmest individual that I could imagine!
He made one point that I think it’s sometimes easy to underestimate – and that is the impact and effect that one as a manager has on the team and on the atmosphere is huge. A manager should stay calm in all situations.
That’s really interesting! Could you tell me a little bit more about WeRoad’s company culture, and values – and how you anchor those in the company?
I mentioned earlier already that, you know, one of the co-founders’ statements was that if we make a unicorn, it will be because of our culture. And that wasn’t without any backing, we do have a culture manifesto which was created a long time ago.
If you think of the principles on that and the values, which I’m happy to share briefly, the principles are very much entrepreneurialism, speed, and resilience, and then they are further built on the underlying values which are Passion, Daring, Discovery, Sharing, Respect, and Wellness. We use them in our performance reviews, we use them in the 360s, and we have a question on each value so that everyone can assess everyone around how much they align with that value. And how much they’ve done in order to reflect that and so on.
Even in our interview process, we try and bring them through everywhere. Thinking of the leadership team and the people that they’ve hired and put into those positions, I would say that we’ve been really quite successful so far in ensuring that that culture is kept going and that we’ve not lost it.
That’s really interesting because I believe it’s one thing to have your company culture defined – and then the question is how do you really anchor it in the processes. You already touched upon the interview process. Could you share a bit more on that?
I’m sure that maybe some companies out there already have even a more sophisticated way of taking it. I think culture is not a box-ticking exercise to us, so we don’t have, you know, only a set of questions that everyone needs to answer in a certain way – and if they don’t answer them that way, then that means they’re not a fit – that’s not what we think. Because that would contradict the Daring part, the Discovery part, or the Respect fit with regards to our values.
What we usually do is we have with every role, a culture screening call in which we touch upon some very rough job parts. It’s mainly about how does that person come across? Do they have the passion for the job that we want them to have? Do they have a passion for WeRoad? Are they keen to add that extra bit of effort into the role? Those are the kind of things that we would focus on in the first interview just to get a bit of a feeling and a vibe of the person. And if they are going to be performing within our environment, then they should also be happy within our environment.
Because I think it’s a two-way street. Then, for the most senior positions, we do something (I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, we call it A Working With document) in which what you do is you ask a person or just send them the article and say, can you please write something like this about yourself? It’s allowing the individual to talk about how they like to manage their team, how they like to be managed, what their time and what their preferred communication style is, and what their, you know, go-to’s or no-go’s, etc. It gives you great insight into the individual’s working behavior and if that doesn’t align with your values, you don’t hire. Sometimes, you read one, and you’re like, “OMG! we want to hire you right now!” and other times, you read it and you think that this could be interesting!
Yeah, exactly! I’m thinking if you have the daring element as something that you find super important – this obviously is a sort of spectrum one can imagine. If you really dare to just start and kick off something, you are not a perfectionist! You won’t be hiring perfectionists because of the daring element. One last question, which might be work-related for you or not – it’s a question I personally like – what’s the last thing you really geeked about?
I’m currently geeking a little bit about a book that a friend of mine gave me. It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and I asked everyone to give me a book that they think is worth reading. Because I never know which books to buy, I thought this is a good way for me to just be solid in books. One of them is suggested ‘Entangled Life’. I’m getting really much into it – it’s very much about the underground networking and how trees and the soil communicate with one another – sending signals and chemicals. I mean, it’s fascinating, and also one of my favorite movies quite weirdly is Avatar in which they have this huge underground network. So I see so many parallels in the book and I’m geeking about it slightly.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Stella! It was fantastic catching up with you! Let’s stay in touch. Bye Bye!