The best part about creation is the realization that each one of us can change the world for the better. It may sound naive, but it is so. There is nothing and then there is something – a possibility, a solution or a product that will change lives for the better.
Karoli Hindriks + Jobbatical
Creator: Karoli Hindriks (@karolihindriks)
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Words of Wisdom – Work shouldn’t have to be boring. And travel shouldn’t have to be limited to short two-week vacations. For far too long the careers of talented and adventurous people have been trapped in the countries that they happen to be born in.
The world in which we work is rapidly changing. People are innovating more, executing faster and multi-tasking at rates unheard of in any time previously throughout history.
What the industrial age (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford) did for work, management styles and processes, is now quickly being replaced by titans in technology.
It’s not to say that history doesn’t have its place in today’s work environments, as some conventional business strategies are very much still applicable, but it is necessary to say that we are experiencing a global dynamic shift in the way work is executed.
And while many older generations are striving to understand this new, younger workforce, one woman is paving a very clear path for connecting “globetrotting talent” to companies around the world.
Her name is Karoli Hindriks and her startup is Jobbatical (Tallinn, Estonia)
Put simply, Karoli is brilliant.
I probably have a million different words to describe her, but “brilliant” was the first word that comes to mind.
In fact, you could probably place Karoli anywhere on the planet and she’ll instantly make things happen.
At 16 she was the youngest inventor of a patent in Estonia, a country you probably know for its tech contribution, Skype.
Several years later she would tackle the entertainment industry, becoming the CEO of MTV Estonia. Impressive considering she was only 23 years old and the youngest CEO MTV has ever appointed, period.
In total, Karoli has launched 7 TV channels, as well as the most successful pay TV in the Baltics and an unknown local teenage garage band that won a European Music Award with millions of votes.
Now, she’s tackling the global workforce issue with Millennials and she’s making moves in the process.
In her article, The On-Demand Generation, Karoli stated:
“Work for us is not a cozy place to spend time in until we get old. It is a list of experiences and tasks we want to complete on our journey to our own next big thing. We want to be on the move, in the process of learning to get there. In short that means that we are an entrepreneurial generation.”
Based on the trends I’m finding through the progression of Hustle & Deal Flow™, the above statement couldn’t be more accurate. Many entrepreneurs and creators featured on here feel very much the same way. Hence, they paved their own path.
I was very fortunate to have conducted this interview with Karoli because I think she’s tackling a global debate right now and trying to solve this workforce gap instead of fearing it.
Karoli gave me insights into Estonia, being the youngest inventor of a patent in her country, what it was like to work in the television industry and where she sees this next generation heading for careers.
Here’s what Karoli had to say:
HDF: Hi Karoli!! Thanks for doing this. I know you’re super busy and I’m grateful to have time with you.
I always start by getting to know a bit more about where you’re originally from – What you love about it? What was life like growing up?
And of course – Where do you currently live and any experiences you want in between. (Laughter)
Karoli: Thank you!!
Well, I am from a tiny, but exceptional Northern European country called Estonia. This is a country which only less than 25 years ago managed to free itself from the Soviet Russian occupation, and has worked itself up to be among the strongest economies in Europe.
Vanalinn – Estonia
I actually remember the day when Russian tanks left our country and less than three decades later this is one of the most high-tech countries in the world – From the fact that our whole country is literally in the cloud and all public services are done online within minutes (from voting in the elections, filling out income tax declaration or starting up a company).
There are also more startups per capita than in any other European country. The best known for you is probably Skype.
By the way, it is also the first country to give out e-residency therefore you can become an Estonian e-resident online!
Tallinn, Estonia by Maxima (All rights reserved)
HDF: That’s interesting!
Karoli: Yeah, the great thing about this country is how little time it takes to be a citizen and a business owner.
For example filling out my income declaration took exactly two minutes, starting a business takes a bit longer – ten minutes. As services are all digital, then people spend minimum time on bureaucracy.
HDF: Full disclosure – I wish it were a bit more easy in the U.S., but hey, every country has its pros and cons. I like the fact that you guys are so digital.
So, I don’t even know where to begin with your background because it’s exceptional.
Entrepreneurship is in your blood, apparently. I also really love what you’re doing with Jobbatical, but I thought we could go all the way back for a minute.
At the age of 16 you founded a student company startup and became the youngest inventor in Estonia that had a registered patent.
Can you tell me more about that experience as well as you becoming a founder, and how that has basically shaped your life ever since?
Karoli: Yes, I started my first business when I was sixteen years old therefore joined the entrepreneurial journey in adolescence.
We had to come up with student company idea in school; I had the idea of a fashionable safety accessory and became the youngest inventor of my country.
Safety Reflector to be Worn By Pedestrians at Night
The patent office lawyers were very surprised when I first came into their office – I was probably the youngest person they had ever seen stepping through their door (and a girl!).
We sold hundreds of thousands of reflectors and I learned a lot in that journey. I learned how what it feels to create a change and realized that anybody, including a little girl like me can lead the way. This indeed shaped my future.
HDF: I can imagine the look on their face when you walked in being so young. (laughter)
Karoli: Well, later I was invited to lead the launch of MTV (Music Television) in my country. At the age of twenty-three I was the CEO of MTV Estonia and actually the youngest CEO MTV has ever had.
From there started my journey in the television business.
Altogether I lead the launch of seven TV channels (including National Geographic Channels).
MTV (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.org – All Rights Reserved to MTV)
Karoli: Yeah, and I launched three new channels in 2009 when our economy fell 14%. It was a painful beginning, but three years later it was the most successful Pay TV group in the Baltics.
In that sense it was great timing as nobody else was launching anything and it was cheap to build up the marketing.
HDF: I’m fairly familiar with the media industry, but not television. Can you tell me a bit more about your journey through TV and media before creating Jobbatical?
Karoli: Media is an exciting industry and show business even more so.
We did amazing things with my teams!
HDF: For example?
Karoli: For instance we launched an unknown local teenage garage band to win a European Music Award with millions of votes, got them to perform on the big stage next to Foo Fighters and Amy Winehouse, and we disrupted the regional television landscape with new thematic pay TV channels.
When looking at the television business where I was then the trends were pretty similar to the ones of work. Ten years ago there was basically only linear television – somebody created a program and people sat down in front of the television and watched it.
Today the linear has moved to On-Demand as people want to have control over their time and preferences – I watch what I want, when I want and wherever I want.
The same thing is happening with work – from time spent at the office work is changing to completed tasks and people want to have freedom and control over where and when they work.
Photo of Luxembourg by Tristan Schmurr
HDF: I try to explain this to countless individuals about the changing landscape of this On-Demand generation. Older demographics think this new generation isn’t as work savvy as them. I disagree by telling them it’s really just a matter of a newer generation wanting to innovate and make things happen faster.
So I’m seeing why you applied what you learned in media to the workforce.
On that note, I love the concept of Jobbatical!!
Partly because I got my International MBA and every student wanted to go abroad to try out different cultures/industries while applying their skill sets from their past experience, and partly because it allows for a medium to connect cross-cultural talent immediately.
Can you walk me through why you decided to create Jobbatical.com, what is it, etc?
Karoli: With Jobbatical we connect globetrotting talent to tech companies across the globe.
Having been an employer in a fairly remote corner of the Earth, I knew the pain of how hard it was to access talent with international experience.
On the other hand after almost seven years building tv channels I decided to broaden my horizons and relocate. I spent 8 days in Malaysia trying to just relax and quickly understood that just resting is not for me – I needed to work on something.
I would have loved to take a “jobbatical”, but it did not exist. Nobody was really taking advantage of the talent pool that’s curious to relocate and help the teams across borders. I connected the dots and that was the beginning of Jobbatical.
Photo of Philippines by Jojo Nicdao
HDF: So that was your “aha” moment? There was a need?
Karoli: Yeah, one of them.
As for my own “jobbatical,” after my Malaysia trip I managed to find an European early stage startup who needed my help, volunteered to help them and flew with them to Silicon Valley and worked 14-16 hours a day.
It was an amazing working experience and a hands-on experience of the service I was going to build up.
HDF: And as for the locations?
Karoli: As for the locations – I believe there is a long tail of amazing cities emerging, and people are much more open to relocating to undiscovered locations than ever before.
Five years ago talent wanted to relocate to NYC or London, but now strange locations like Estonia or Malaysia are becoming attractive career destinations.
People want to live special lives and follow hidden tracks. I believe this is a huge opportunity for formerly sidelined cities and countries to emerge as highly desirable living and working locations.
Photo of Australia by Aristocrats-Hat
HDF: I have found this to be profoundly true. It wasn’t just some of my classmates that wanted to explore new cultures and territories, I’m seeing this a lot with younger Millennials as well. They want experiences and they have access to other cultures now more than ever.
I was reading your Medium post, The On Demand Generation, and I really believe you nailed it. Two lines in there really stuck out for me:
“You can either declare that my generation (or the Millennials) are doomed, or you can dig deeper and see how they perceive work. Why for them is the thought of working in the same company for five years so horrifying?”
“In many ways our generation has got to where the generations before us have aspired. We are result driven and want to work on things that actually make a difference. We do not want to waste time on nonsense and sit around. If we see nonsense happening then we either want to disrupt it or if it is not possible then just leave — even if it means risking a short-term financial uncertainty tomorrow. Nothing is worse than working on nonsense.”
Why do you think it’s so hard for employers from previous generations and their companies to understand this new work perspective that’s happening amongst younger generations?
I ask because I feel like their perspective is that we don’t want to work, and our perspective is that we don’t want to waste time. I’d love your thoughts on this topic.
Karoli: This probably has multiple answers, but my feeling is that the main trigger for the change is the question: “Why?”
What I mean is that the model of 9-to-5 originates from the time when people worked in factories. It was obviously necessary to have a very clear structure and process that included going to work at certain times, working on the line and being in the production chain with a specific role.
The ironic thing is that even when machines replaced humans in the factory lines and the nature of the work people did changed completely, the process remained the same.
For a long time people did not ask the question: “Why am I doing this?” The definition of working was connected to the time spent at a certain location. It seems to me that our generation had the “aha” moment and started to ask the question “Why?”.
If one person is completing a task in five hours while their colleague doing the same task stays late at the office all week but does not get it done then is he really working more?
I completely love the fact that we are shifting to the era of “doers”.
HDF: I couldn’t agree more. We are experiencing a HUGE shift from order takers to order makers, or “doers”.
Karoli: If you ask why aren’t employers getting it then probably the answer lies much deeper.
In a large organization there are layers of managers between the actual employer and the employee.
I cannot imagine an entrepreneur who would not value the mindset of getting things done.
I think that employers from previous generations may sometimes be reluctant to depart from their traditional ways for an understandable reason: those are the strategies that have succeeded for them in the past. That got them to where they are now.
At the same time, I think that many employers who are not Millennials themselves are more and more seeing the importance to deeply understanding and engaging with their younger employees.
Ultimately if employers and employees are both excited about their company’s vision then they both want the same thing – forward movement towards that vision.
I am optimistic that employers will come to embrace the new trends in the workforce as they come to a deeper understanding of them.
HDF: Karoli, I think you are my new hero on this subject (laughter). Seriously!
Do you think innovation and technology has developed younger generations to multi-task their work faster and solve problems quicker?
Karoli: I think the technology has developed the younger generation to be more adaptable for change in various ways – whether it’s shifting between various tasks or rethinking of existing patterns.
HDF: So knowing this shift is taking place and seeing that this younger generation wants something different in a job setting, how do you decide what opportunities to feature?
Is it just a matter of screening all the employers and their jobs?
Karoli: We constantly scout interesting teams in exotic areas of the world. Besides that screen the teams that approach us directly.
HDF: So, it’s similar to our approach. (laughter)
I saw several countries listed on Jobbatical’s website? To date, how many cities and countries have been on the Jobbatical platform?
Karoli: We have had opportunities in over 40 countries, from Argentina to Malta to Myanmar to New Zealand.
Some hotspots for opportunities have proved to be Singapore, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Berlin – all perfect examples of emerging tech hubs that a decade or two ago would not have been considered the prime entrepreneurial locations, but are now absolutely booming startup and tech activity.
Picture of Singapore by Matt Weibo
Picture of Barcelona by Jose Luis Alegre Rodriguez
HDF: And what has been some of the greatest feedback you’ve heard thus far? Either from talent, an employer or both?
Karoli: As for feedback, one of the best things we’ve been hearing from users is that discovering Jobbatical has reignited an excitement about their careers and given them hope they may have lost in having their work be an adventure.
For example, Irish expat in Budapest Mary Murphy said this about us on her blog:
Twenty-something years of moving around, exploring new fields, studying new disciplines, and I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. This week, though, I discovered something that got my heart pounding a little. And loathe though I am to admit it, I can feel some tentative excitement tiptoeing through my veins for the first time in quite a while.”
(We liked her post so much we republished it on our own blog: http://ow.ly/OCcwg)
Hearing or reading things like this honestly brings tears to my eyes.
Especially considering statistics that show how unengaged many many people are with their work – for example, according to a 2014 Gallup poll in the U.S. less than a third of employees feel engaged with their work, and the numbers are lowest for Millennials:
Gallup, Marjority of U.S. Employees Not Engaged Despite Gains in 2014
If Jobbatical can inspire people to pursue work that get their hearts pounding instead of putting them to sleep than we will be fulfilling one of our deepest values.
HDF: So you’re on a huge mission to redefine what it means to discover “what you want to be when you grow up”. (Laughter)
Do you ever see some of the talent stay with the companies they do these short-term gigs with?
Karoli: As we’re still just seven months old, and most “Jobbaticals” are a year long, it’s still too early to tell.
But we absolutely expect that for many people who go on a jobbatical, once they have experienced a taste of life in their new country they may not want to leave!
We often (only somewhat jokingly), compare taking a jobbatical to dating before marriage – the jobbatical is a short commitment that may very well inspire the traveler to fall in love and decide to commit long-term.
It’s a win-win for the company and the traveler because at the end of the year they are completely free to decide on a further cooperation, but with no hard feelings if they do not.
HDF: That’s a great analogy – “Professional Dating” is what I like to call it.
Turning back to you, have there been any obstacles along the way, either at an earlier age or more recent, that have taught you valuable lessons? Any that you’d like to share?
Karoli: Obstacles are part of every entrepreneurial journey! In a way the fun part of it as it would be rather boring without them. Obstacles have all been solvable and not really anything that is worth mentioning.
HDF: What’s the best part about creating for you? A company, a brand, anything?
Karoli: The best part about creation is the realisation that each one of us can change the world for the better. It may sound naive, but it is so. There is nothing and then there is something – a possibility, a solution or a product that will change lives for the better.
I still get teary when I see people wearing my reflectors – the safety accessory idea that I developed at the age of sixteen is still keeping people safe in the streets!
HDF: If you could describe your brand or the brand essence of Jobbatical, what would it be and why?
Karoli: The essence of Jobbatical is challenging and changing the broken model of work as we know it.
Work shouldn’t have to be boring. And travel shouldn’t have to be limited to short two-week vacations. For far too long the careers of talented and adventurous people have been trapped in the countries that they happen to be born in.
And teams with amazing ideas have not been able to access the sparkling talent they needed to turn those ideas into reality, just because that talent was not in their backyard.
Of course there have always been expats, but they have been the exception, and the expectation was often that they would transplant their whole lives, permanently, to a new place. This is not how it needs to be.
So much of how we view work is left over from structures and limitations that no longer exist. We want to help the world shake off those perceived limitations and embrace the endless possibilities that truly exist.
HDF: You’re not just changing the hiring paradigm, you’re igniting a movement and I like it.
So as an experienced entrepreneur, if you could give any advice on starting your own company or branching out on your own, what advice would you give?
Focus, focus, focus. There is nothing more important than keeping yourself focused on building your company and saying no to anything that does not help that process.
HDF: Perfectly put!
How important has social media or the Internet played in the building of Jobbatical to date? How important do you think it will be as you continue to grow it?
Karoli: One of our biggest sources of growth for our community has been online global and local media telling our story to people all over the world.
FastCoExist.com Article on Jobbatical
This is such a clear example of how the connectedness of culture through the internet is building bridges across language and cultural barriers – these writers and journalists and writers speak different languages and probably grew up with very different lives from each other yet when we read each article (often with the help of Google translator) we see the common thread of enthusiasm and vision that they catch onto from us.
Our team gets excited every time we see our story being told in a new language, and we absolutely foresee this trend continuing and being very important to us.
HDF: Karoli!! I’m excited we could not only be one of those journals that speaks about Jobbatical and the importance of your platform, but that I also get to candidly interview you. Thank you!
Final question – If you could meet any entrepreneur throughout all of history, current or past, who would it be and why?
Karoli: Sir Richard Branson. I remember I was sitting in Italy reading his “Losing My Virginity” and decided that I will change the world as well.
HDF: Well, let’s see if we can get him to see this article and make that happen. (Laughter)
Thanks so much Karoli for doing this. Seriously, I see so much greatness coming from Jobbatical!
Karoli: I could certainly line up amazing people from our community who would be ready to relocate to Branson’s Necker Island and help him work on new ways how to change the world.
Or maybe he would like to join our journey? Changing work is about as crazy as starting your own airline – if not even more so!
HDF: Anything’s possible and with you, I don’t doubt it. Thanks again!!