Sa, 2.12.2023

Skype Estonia CEO: hiring attitudes, teaching skills

Kristina Traks
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Photo: Elmo Riig / Sakala

«A person with zero professional experience once showed up for interview. With eyes ablaze, he shared his heart’s desire: to send a satellite into orbit. I hired him on the spot. Within a year, he grew from tester to software developer. And, a couple of weeks ago, a student satellite was launched,» said Skype Estonia site leader Tiit Paananen at a hiring conference, arranged by Excellence Training and Development Centre.

Paananen shared that Skype hires lots of people – ca 40 per cent – via networks. «Skype’s initial 100-150 people all came through networks, as the location of our office was still classified as secret in 2005 and we weren’t able to invite anybody for an interview,» said Mr Paananen. «Back in those days, Skype was not widely known yet, so our first test question was «Do you use Skype?». If the answer was no, the interview was over… for the time being.»

Last year, Skype hired 94 new people in Tallinn, two thirds of which are Estonians. «We hire attitudes and teach skills,» said Mr Paananen. «Our requirements are quite tough and, often, people won’t even send a CV, deciding that they don’t qualify.»

According to Mr Paananen, what really counts at Skype is how people would fit into the team. Plus right attitudes. «Estonians tend to have problems going along with change. Often, people have the impression that we are on our way to somewhere, and one day we shall arrive. In reality, we never ever arrive, everything just keeps on changing. The attitude, when the hands hang loose and the person backs off – that’s really anathema with us,» said Mr Paananen. «Our staff must be willing to travel, work through the time zones. Relationships, speaking in public – here’s where Estonians really have room for growth. Many a good project still languishes in a drawer somewhere, for the author hasn’t been able to communicate it convincingly.»

As for Mr Paananen himself, he really did join Skype for the sake of its people. «I reckoned: even if I won’t get anything done, I’ll surely learn a thing or two,» said Mr Paananen.