I sat down with our VP of Product, Duncan Steblyna, to chat about how his time with Veriff has been since joining earlier this year, the big challenges we’re facing right now, and why he might not be in Tallinn much longer...read on to find out!
I was excited to sit down with Duncan again after an enjoyable first interview when he joined the company. This time around, he went into real depth about how his time with Veriff has been, and what's next for the company and himself. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the second part of the interview to be published next week!
Here's where we kicked off.
Truthfully, the first couple of weeks were tough. Relocating, living in a temporary place, bad weather - it does make you question what you’ve done.
Thankfully though, summer was amazing, and we were able to really see a different side of Estonia. We went out, enjoyed some nature, and the food here is wonderful. You could always get a terrace seat in bars and restaurants, which was wonderful in the sunshine. There’s a lot I’ve come to like about Estonia, and I think it’ll be difficult to leave (but we’ll get to that later).
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge we have is hiring. Trying to find enough talent to support the growth of the company is really challenging. Tallinn, and Estonia in general, are almost doing too well, with so many companies growing very quickly. They’re absorbing as much talent as they can get.
This leads to us and other companies trying to import talent, which is equally challenging as a lot of people have never even been to Estonia so they have no clue how nice it is here!
We’ve been trying to recruit from all over the place. In Estonia, we recently opened a new office in Tartu, but the talent requirements we have to support the growth of the company is leading us to look outside the country, as the demand in the local market is already too hot.
This is why we’re discussing a potential new office in Barcelona.
We looked at roughly 25 different factors, and we were considering cities all over Europe, I think maybe 20 were on our initial longlist. And amongst the factors we considered were things like commuting time, travel time from Tallinn, property and rent prices, quality of life, a lot of different things basically. But the most important question was - “Where can we hire a brand new team the fastest?”
This meant the two most important factors on our list were local talent availability - is there already a mass of engineering and product people in the city - and desirability for recruiting international talent, so can we establish an office and draw people from all over the world?
As an example, if we contact someone in London and say “Do you want to move to Barcelona?” the answer is more likely to be yes, particularly compared with maybe a dozen cities further north in Europe. It’s also a vacation hotspot, so a lot of people have already visited and might have pre-existing positive impressions, which makes it an easier sell. Not many people will say no to sunshine, tapas, and a sea view! (Especially if we contact them in November/December.)
Yes, we’re already hiring for Barcelona - so people can check roles on the careers page right now.
We’re particularly looking for product development talent, as the initial idea is that it’ll be a product development office. This means product managers, designers, UX designers, analysts, engineers, data scientists, machine learning specialists, that kind of thing. In fact, many of the relevant roles that are currently on our website are really for Tallinn or Barcelona.
I’d say there are two reasons. When I personally looked at joining Veriff, I looked at the global trends of what’s big right now, and identity and privacy is still a growing topic. These are things that are affecting everyone in society, and being a part of a solution to the problem, rather than say working on something else which is fun but unimportant, gives you a more positive feeling. Veriff is doing something which is critically important.
The other reason is the tools that we use. The whole tech industry is going through this ‘machine-learning/AI’ revolution, and every company is saying they’re using these technologies in some way. It’s similar to the early days of mobile when absolutely everyone needed to have an app. If you were an ice cream shop, you had an app. It was a crazy time.
Machine learning is in that same phase right now. It’s a world-altering technology. And Veriff is using it in a very real and legitimate way. So if you join Veriff and gain four years worth of experience working with this technology, your personal market value will increase massively.
Fintech, privacy and identity are only going to get bigger and more valuable across the next decade. From that perspective, Veriff is a fantastic place to be, and to be involved with.
Thanks to Duncan for sharing his time, and why not join him as one of our very first Veriffians in Barcelona! Go and check the open roles on our careers page today!