This post is presented by Business Is Great Britain.
When Zendesk picked up its roots and moved from Denmark to the United States, its founders didn’t expect to be back in Europe so soon. CEO Mikkel Svane vowed not to get on a plane again—a promise that only lasted two years, as Zendesk grew so quickly that going global was the only solution.
One of its first outposts on its return to Europe was London, where it opened an office in 2011.
Nick Peart works there as a marketing director for Zendesk, which offers Web-based tools for customer support. He’s spent the last three years working from its office in the Paddington area of central London spreading good vibes about Zendesk to an audience that spans Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
“I think the real advantage is that Britain has one of the biggest economies and business market spaces in the whole region,” Peart said. “It just makes sense that you base your people close to your customers. That’s the primary reason that we are where we are.”
Business in Britain is so promising that Zendesk execs have begun looking around for a larger space, one that can accommodate 70 to 100 people, up from 50. Besides just housing employees, Peart hopes the new office will be a place “to meet and mingle and share ideas” with community and industry groups, including ones promoting women in engineering.
In an interview with ReadWrite, Peart gave us insight into Zendesk’s diverse approach to staffing and its decision to make itself at home in Great Britain.
A Central Hub
Prior to Zendesk, Peart specialized in helping American brands in the larger region, often dubbed EMEA. (He worked for Adobe for nearly five years in a senior communications role.) The challenges when you take in not just the core of Europe but the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe and Russia include balancing the needs of 120 different countries with more than 23 major languages, and 16 time zones if you count Russia east of the Urals.
“EMEA is a complicated place, but it’s also an easy place to work,” Peart said. “That’s where the power of London comes in when you’re looking for a base for a pan-European company. It’s such a vibrant, multicultural city, that attracting key talent to work for you in London is a relatively easy task,”
While based out of Paddington, Peart does spend a bit of time at headquarters. He’s often asked to compare and contrast the cultural, technical and logistical differences between San Francisco and London.
“I think the biggest difference is perhaps an awareness of how diverse and huge the office in Britain is,” Peart said. “Maybe that comes from the old colonial past. But there seems to be more awareness of how to go about doing business across [multiple] cultures. “
Community Approach To Tech
The location’s convenient enough, especially if you’re getting on the Heathrow Express to catch a flight. It’s not particularly close to Silicon Roundabout, the supposed “tech center” of London, or Canary Wharf, another hub—but that doesn’t stop Zendesk from inviting folks over.
“There’s a really big just general tech community here,” Peart said. “We’re lucky to be just around the corner from a couple of the key London universities. From a technical perspective, we never struggle to hire the right talent in London. And so whether we’re looking for a highly skilled Ruby engineer to join our customer success team, or a very talented customer services person, we can always find them in London. Plus, you can always find someone that can speak almost any language in London.”
You won’t find that great depth of talent across job categories in other cities, Peart said. Dublin does rank high as a technology hub, he added, but Zendesk chose London for its regional headquarters for its global reach.
Another benefit of establishing roots in central London is that the engineering work can be sensitive to regional privacy and security laws.
“Our customers’ data or the data that resides within Zendesk stays in the EU,” says Peart. “That’s been a differentiator and also a reason why we’d want to be doing business in that region.”
“I think you definitely need to come to London, just to experience the pace, and the ability to be super-agile,” Peart said. “London is a very cosmopolitan, dynamic place to be. I think one of the cool things I really love about working at Zendesk is that we have the ability to test in our market, and then see the results of the tests that we can do really quickly in different countries, and see them taken on and embraced and used globally.”
Culturally, the London office is extremely diverse with more than 10 nationalities speaking more than 20 different languages.
There’s a tradition that “sounds awful, but it’s very much loved in the London office,” says Peart: “If it’s your birthday, then everybody gathers around and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in his or her own language to you.”
As London is still considered the gateway to Europe, Peart said he sees the most opportunities coming from startup service businesses.
“Our whole economy is increasingly becoming a service-based economy,” Peart said. “So it’s a cracking place to come to start, to test. And if you get it right, the country will take you to its heart and will embrace and enable you to be successful.”
Photos courtesy of Zendesk