A week in the life of Delivery Hero’s CTO
Christian Hardenberg joined Delivery Hero in June 2016 as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In the past five years, he has scaled the tech organization from 130 to 1,000 people in the Berlin Headquarters alone. At Delivery Hero, technology is the core of our success and the backbone of our business, making Christian’s position a highly strategic one in a fast-growing company that has operations in over 40 markets. For this reason, we wanted to understand what a “typical” work week looks like for our CTO—especially in a fully digital environment, and how he keeps his focus on the long-term vision whilst supporting the tremendous growth that is happening right now.
Christian, what does a typical work week schedule look like for you?
I would say that my work-life primarily rhymes with virtual meetings—which can amount to over 40 calendar invitations set up in a typical week. Every Monday, I meet with my “CTO Office” team to prepare the week and ensure that I spend my time on the most relevant topics. Most of my meetings are scheduled way in advance, but we also leave room for the unexpected, so it’s a mix between:
- Regular catch ups with the Delivery Hero C-level management team, with the CTOs from our local brands, with the central tech leadership team, and my direct reports.
- Looking ahead by reviewing complex projects, roadmaps, architecture, or objectives and key results (OKR) planning.
- Ad hoc meetings, for example, in the event of incidents (which are causing us to lose orders) we might even have to implement a task force that meets on a daily basis until the problem in question is solved.
- Finally, I make sure to deliberately take a step back to prioritize strategic thinking. I schedule time with myself for this.
How do you make sure that your daily tasks fit within the broader scope of your OKRs, mission and vision?
It is quite a challenge to find a right balance between hands-on topics (to prevent short-term catastrophes) and strategic long-term thinking (to make sure we prepare for the next 10x in growth).
Basically, I constantly adjust to put my time and effort into topics that have a high impact for the company. These topics change across the year, for example, at one time it might mean focusing on recruiting and strengthening the team, at another time it would center around incident management and operational excellence, and another time it’s all about technical architecture and making our system scalable and easy to extend.
We use OKRs quite extensively throughout the organization. OKRs are ambitious goals which make sure that we are clear on the “why” (objective) and that we are also driving the “what” based on measurable impact (key results). I like that the OKR process leads to transparency, alignment and accountability across Delivery Hero.
Given that we define our OKRs on a quarterly cadence and focus on measurable results, they are not perfect. They need to be amended with a long-term mission and “big bets” for the future and also with more detailed product roadmap planning. But I think they serve a great value to connect the long-term business objectives with the short-term feature road maps of our product teams.
Delivery Hero runs a platform that is used in over 40 markets. How much are you in touch with the local teams on a weekly basis?
Our global setup is very unique in the world: we combine the strength of both global and local tech teams to create a product that fits our customer needs. To manage this unique setup I work quite closely with our local tech teams. We have put in place a Global Tech Council that meets biweekly, where all local CTOs get together to exchange best practices. In the past, I used to visit our local entities quite often in person, which of course has now been replaced by virtual meetups.
Our global setup is very unique in the world: we combine the strength of both global and local tech teams to create a product that fits our customer needs.
What would you say is the biggest focus on your agenda at the moment?
Delivery Hero has had a tremendous growth journey, but it is only the beginning. While we were a simple restaurant delivery app in the past, we have changed the underlying technology to be able to deliver anything our customers want at record speed. The growth of the company also brings many interesting challenges. Each day, our tech teams have to find solutions to connect millions of customers, riders, restaurants and shops in the best possible way.
While our product and tech teams are growing tremendously and we are constantly restructuring the architecture of our systems, we don’t want to slow down. This can only work if we hire a lot of smart individuals from all over the world that love to deliver solutions.
Next to building a great team I am also passionate about building a great environment for engineers. One of the most important aspects for me is fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity.
How do you work together with the other members of the C-level management?
Together as a management team, we try to define the company we want to be and how to get there, which is fun and challenging. Practically speaking, we meet regularly in full day sessions to discuss company-wide initiatives and projects. The setup is a bit more informal than one might think, as we typically prefer to “co-create”, instead of listening to presentations.
How was your day-to-day organization and general work life balance impacted by the pandemic?
I’m definitely using Slack and Zoom more than I used to, but I would say that the main change was to transfer real life meetings into virtual ones. Even though I miss the in-person interactions with my teams, this online setup also allowed us to make some of our meetings way more inclusive and accessible. Our latest global tech summit connected over 2,000 employees from all over the world, instead of the 80 people that used to physically participate in the previous years.
On the personal side, I miss traveling and meeting teams a lot, but the home setup has also allowed me to spend more time with my family and pursue some of my other passions like playing a bit of piano every day.
Last but not least, what makes you excited to get up and start your week every Monday?
Delivery Hero is the world’s leading local delivery platform. From our home in Berlin’s tech hub we deploy our delivery technology across over 40 markets. What I find exciting is to coordinate engineering teams in faraway places like Seoul, Singapore, Dubai, Istanbul or Buenos Aires and to make sure we are all working together towards the same vision.
There are so many more problems waiting to be solved. I don’t think it will get anything but challenging in the years ahead. An exciting journey is ahead of us, and although we’ve always been very proud of our tech capabilities at Delivery Hero, it still feels like we are just getting started.