In the “Alumni” series, we talk to former team members about their career change and how working at InterNations has influenced them.
In this interview, we’re introducing Lauren, who left InterNations in February 2019 to combine work with her life-long passion for sports.
How long did you work for InterNations, and which teams were you a part of?
I worked at InterNations for about three and a half years, starting in October 2015. Even before I actually began my new job, I was invited to the team event at Oktoberfest: I vividly remember meeting Anastasiya from the Learning & Development Team that first day because she was another newcomer and we both just showed up at Café Kaiserschmarrn without knowing anyone.
I was part of the Corporate Partnerships Team, first as a manager, then as a senior manager, up until August 2018. Then I joined the new business unit, InterNations Business Solutions, where I worked till the end of February this year.
What was your background when you took the job at InterNations?
I have a degree in journalism and mass communication, with a focus on advertising, and I’d worked at a couple of international advertising and marketing agencies before coming to InterNations. So, I already had several years of experience in agency work and account management.
It was David, the Head of Corporate Partnerships, who found and recruited me through a professional networking site. Being an expat myself, I’d heard about InterNations and it was definitely something I was aware of, but I’d never attended an event prior to joining the team. Since I’d already lived in Germany for at least four years at that time, I didn’t feel I needed an expat community to find my bearings in Munich. But I rather liked the idea and the way David described the company. I thought it sounded really interesting, like a welcome change of pace and perspective from working at an agency.
Which tasks and responsibilities did your work at InterNations entail?
The overlap between working in the Corporate Partnerships and Business Solutions Teams was account management.
As a corporate partnership manager, I looked after a lot of the partners we brought on board and that wanted to advertise with InterNations, from acquiring new clients to putting their ads live to providing reporting and analysis. A large part of the job was ensuring that whoever wanted to advertise with us was a clear fit and that the company provided a good or service relevant to expats.
At an agency, you usually work with a bunch of different teams: you have a creative team, a strategic planning team, and so on, to develop an ad or an entire campaign, and you have to deliver the creatives while someone else is typically responsible for the technical aspects, like placing the ads.
At InterNations, the clients themselves provided the ad copy most of the time, and we’d have internal reviews. We also put the ads online ourselves, for example putting live banners on our log-out pages or sending out EDMs (electronic direct mailings), so that was something new to me: I had to research best practices on how to track ads, how to monitor tracking and performance, and how to optimize ad and email marketing placements.
My role in Business Solutions focused heavily on business development. It involved a lot of trying to identify strong leads that our services would be relevant for. From there, we would try to find an opportunity to meet with them to pitch our business idea and what our B2B services could offer their expat employees, spouses, and families. We also wanted to work closely with our new partners, such as Volkswagen, trying to come up with new ideas as to how we can inform their expat spouses about InterNations and the services we can provide for those living or working abroad.
Why did you decide to move on from InterNations?
Personally, I’ve always been very passionate about sports. I think I tried almost every kind of sport when I was little, and I was also involved in various sports in high school. I didn’t keep up so much with organized team sports, like soccer, volleyball, or basketball, but I discovered my passion for running when I was in college. I got my degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a town at the foothill of the Rockies: there are so many beautiful trails that lead you directly into the mountains, which was such great motivation to get outside and explore — I’d just take off and run up a canyon.
When I used to still live in Munich, the English Garden offered a nice little escape from the city, despite being right in the center of town, and now that I live a bit outside of Munich, I can go running near Lake Starnberg in the morning! I’ve also participated in the Munich Marathon and the annual Stadtlauf, though I unfortunately missed it this year. Running is just something I absolutely enjoy doing in my spare time.
I’d known about Freeletics for quite some time, used their fitness app myself, and followed the company on social media. It’s actually a Munich-based start-up, and when the right opportunity became available for me to become part of their team, I knew I couldn’t let this pass by. It wasn’t only a new challenge, careerwise, but it also gave me the chance to combine my interest in exercise and nutrition with work.
And what are you doing now?
I’m now a user retention manager in online marketing at Freeletics, and for the first time in my career, I’m no longer working directly with clients. Instead, we provide updates, knowledge, motivation and training topics, and other types of engaging content to our current user base — basically, keep them coming back for more, so to speak. I’m involved in our editorial and content planning, as well as developing the journeys the users experience on the Freeletics app from a CRM (customer relationship management) perspective, and I also focus strongly on copywriting.
For example, we feature a lot of expert series videos on YouTube, where we get our training specialists to share their tips on certain topics, such as planks or the power of habits. In my team, we’ll then come up with the right channel to communicate this new content to our users and motivate them to check it out.
Creating content and copywriting is new to me, but I do enjoy it a lot, as it gives me the chance to be creative and it involves topics I’ve been kind of doing research for most of my life. This makes it easy for me to find information, to get inspiration for new content, and to identify what could be of interest to our users: it comes quite naturally to me, and it’s really fun. We even have an inhouse coach team, certified trainers and nutritionists we can ask to verify facts for us to make sure we base all our recommendations and tips on science.
… so, you’re basically living the dream at Freeletics?
It is very exciting to work for a company that shares and lives my number one personal passion! Everyone practices what they preach: our team events involve joint training sessions with a healthy snack at the end, and we get food — fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, etc. — delivered to our office kitchen, where we can all prepare meals together.
Freeletics also sponsors races you’d like to take part in, and I joined my first Spartan Race together with about 15 or 20 of my new colleagues. Everyone helped each other to climb over the walls of the obstacle course, and we all crossed the finish line together. It was a great way of team-bonding for us! So, I do think I’ve found the perfect place to work for a life-long fitness enthusiast like me.
Do you also need to be a global mind in your new job?
The team at Freeletics is very international, too, and I like that it’s a very similar experience to InterNations in that way.
The work I do is in English, but our app is available in several languages. A lot of the content I create is translated into up to ten languages, from German to French to Russian to Turkish, etc. We have an inhouse localization team to make sure that all our copy gets translated and that the meaning is kept for all our users across the world.
But it’s not only an international product — the people are also really international. In my direct team, I’m working with colleagues from Greece, France, and Brazil, for example. In total, we’re about 140 or 150 people now, and it really reminds me of InterNations in the sense that there’s people from all over the globe working together in Munich.
How did you develop and grow during your time at InterNations?
I think I learned quite a bit at InterNations. Both teams I worked for changed and grew a lot in the time I was there. When I started out, I was the only full-time employee in Corporate Partnerships, and there were three of us when I left for the Business Solutions Team. InterNations Business Solutions was basically a whole new world for everyone involved, where I did a lot of independent work, helping to define the structure of a brand-new department and the direction we thought it would go in.
I really had the chance to try new things, bring my ideas to the table, and see them come to life. It’s great not to be stuck in a process that’s already been established and where you just need to do what you are told. At InterNations, you had to be proactive and seize the opportunity to teach yourself new skills.
For example, I’ve talked about ad placements and issues with tracking before: I had to do some research as to what other companies are doing in this regard, find out what the industry standards and best practices are, and so on. This experience has really taught me about learning by doing — you don’t have to tick all the boxes beforehand to do a job and do it well.
What do you miss most about InterNations?
First of all, I still believe in the InterNations idea and what the community is doing for expats. And of course, I really miss all the amazing people sometimes. I’ve become close friends with some and am still in touch with them, but the team events — especially our team trips to Greece and Spain — were such great occasions to get to know colleagues from other teams, departments, and offices. I have some very fond memories of those!
Photo credits: InterNations / iStockphoto / private (Lauren Eberl)