New Head of HubHub: “The dynamics of our time gives coworking a new dimension”
Peter has worked in several managerial positions in both Slovak and foreign companies. Today, he represents the Head of HubHub. Peter told us about his experience in leadership positions, about the world of coworking and about his plans with HubHub.
Peter Jirsák has worked in several managerial positions in both Slovak and foreign companies. He took care of technical teams and business strategies. At Microsoft, he was dedicated to the IT professional community and product support, and later managed the sales and technical department.
He worked at HB Reavis Group as an IT director, ensuring that IT became part of the business. Today, he represents the Head of HubHub. Peter told us about his experience in leadership positions, about the world of coworking and about his plans with HubHub.
You worked at HB Reavis as an IT Director. What was the challenge you had to face there?
The biggest challenge was to prepare the technical department from the starting position of a support department for the role of a full-fledged business partner, then the whole subsequent implementation. Nowadays, IT is not only supposed to fulfil the role of technical support and process simplification, but also to create and bring innovative solutions to services or products, thus creating added value for the whole company.
What is your vision as Head of HubHub and what do you want to achieve?
We try to enable the wider community through HubHub spaces and activities to communicate with each other on interesting and timely topics that really echo throughout the society at the moment. My goal is for HubHub to be successful and for our community to grow. And make people more and more satisfied at HubHub.
When taking office, politicians or presidents present a plan for the first 100 days, what will be your next steps?
Yes, I certainly have a plan, although not a “presidential” one but rather a business one. It is practically divided into 30 – 60 – 90 days. It will be a tour of all countries, i. e. branches, where I will find out what is going on, what is good, what is wrong and how alignment works on the overall strategy. I very much like to use the mind map tool, in which I will try to draw an overall picture that I will perceive.
For the next 30 days, based on what I have taken from the first thirty, I will be building and communicating the strategy within the teams. Of course, I don’t do the strategy myself sitting at a table. It will arise from a series of meetings with team members and our members, and of course with senior management. We will create a clear picture of what we want to achieve and what we are going to do. We will create a matrix of feedback, what we do well, what we do not do so well and what we lack, a list of activities that we will carry out, or we will improve some of them, activities which we will cancel and which we have to start all over again.
Then the last 30 days are really about implementation and continuous collection of feedback, primarily from our “members” and of course the team members who perform the HubHub activities.
Coworking, digital nomads, flexi working time… these are all the themes of today. What is your perception of these?
In my opinion, this trend is not new at all. I perceive it for the last seven – eight years and I actually see two trends here. One is as if the general social situation, which is very dynamic and motivates people to behave slightly differently than what they were used to. So, it is no longer true that I arrive at work at 7 am in the morning and I can run home between 3 and 4 pm.
International cooperation has greatly expanded, bringing shifts in time zones. We have very many global corporations that employ people across continents. There is also a market that is developing extremely dynamically, especially the technological one, where one not only has to do his routine, but also has to perceive new things, tools and technologies that are constantly growing. This dynamic of time also forces people to react in different ways of functioning.
On the other hand, we also have the tools that make this possible. Many people wanted to work dynamically, but it really wasn’t possible in the past. They had a cable line and a typewriter. Today we have digital tools that are incredible. First, we have very capable mobile devices where we can handle a lot of things. The phone keeps reminding us, ringing or vibrating in our pocket, and it forces us to look what’s happening all the time. This applies to private life and as well as to work. We constantly receive new entries from team members on our mobile phone, tablet or laptop, which forces us to look at it and respond. So, we don’t actually work in one place – in the workplace – anymore, but we work everywhere.
Another thing are the time zones that I mentioned. This means that sometimes you have to work very early in the morning or late in the evening to communicate with an American or Asian team. Of course, you want to live somewhere in between, so you also handle private things during the day. And so, there is a completely different dynamic than it was in the past. And I think it is also quite natural for people to be working on a level of doing things that need to be done, not on a level of spending the required time at work. I think this trend will continue to happen and perhaps even more so. This is natural for most people and for me too.
Coworking as a source of talent, does it work?
In my opinion, coworking does not have the primary goal of creating talent resources. Coworking is a reaction to all that we mentioned. This trend brings a large number of dynamic companies that want to work a little differently, in an unconventional way to respond to the current trends. They want to develop ideas that appear on the market very quickly and to do so in spaces that allow them to collaborate well. They do not want to be bound for a long time. So that’s what coworking is all about – a technology background, interesting events, and a pleasant space in which these companies can operate at the same time. All this brings with it very interesting, progressive people. We see them as talents and think that a coworking centre can serve as a concentrator of these talents, but I would definitely not call it a source of talent. I would call it a space where you can meet these talents and communicate with them on interesting and current topics. Or you, if you would like to talk to them about something, exactly here in the kitchen is the ideal place or in common areas or at events that take place in the framework of coworking. The talent source sounds almost like a space for HR agencies, and I don’t think that is our goal.
You managed IT departments in the corporate sector, now they will be teams from different countries. How to manage that?
To begin with, I would like to correct you, I managed only one IT team within HB Reavis Group. At Microsoft, I managed a team of sales and technical specialists for specific products or areas. And then I managed a technical and sales team in a smaller Slovak company.
In my view, management is primarily about people. First of all, I try to understand the people in the team. To understand their needs, what they are trying to achieve, and why they do things the way they do them. At the same time, my enormous effort is for them to understand me, to understand what we are trying to achieve as a team, what is our ultimate goal, and what are the steps to achieve it. Perhaps it is a bit more demanding that I believe primarily in personal interaction, and therefore there is the need to travel more. This is probably the main difference I see compared to managing a local team.
The number of jobs that require a computer and an internet connection is still increasing. Is an own “space” still important?
This is an excellent question, because it really seems (based on what one hears about modern trends) that human interaction is no longer necessary. I don’t think so. I also know from personal experience that when one needs to concentrate, it is great to be isolated in silence and to tap on the computer at home or think about things. But the inspiration and the natural feeling, the set-up of a person is that he or she wants to be in a team, he or she just wants to communicate about things, and personal interaction cannot be replaced by anything.
Videoconferencing is fine, but personal interaction is essential, especially when it comes to more complex topics, you need to perceive the person sitting opposite you. From my point of view, coworking centres are an excellent answer to the dynamics of the times, because they allow very flexible operation. When you want to be at home, you are at home, and when you really want to be in the company of very interesting people, you go to HubHub, which concentrates companies – which seems to be on the edge of our time. So, if you want to interact with such people, a coworking centre is really the right space.
I think the trend is the modernisation and dynamisation of workspaces, and it also comes as a requirement from new clients. They want to work in innovative spaces. And the trend of “home office” is rather stabilised. People want to work in interesting spaces.
Coworking spaces in the world are often located in the underground parts of towns, you brought them to the city’s most expensive addresses, why?
This has two reasons. One reason is the market situation and the demand on the premises we have been talking about. Until relatively recently, a few years back, coworking centres were primarily for those freelancers who didn’t have the space or didn’t want to work at home and wanted to go to the office, it was rather a makeshift option with great price sensitivity.
At present, a very wide range of customers is interested in coworking spaces. They are not just small start-ups or freelancers, but also relatively large companies or corporations that want some of their innovative departments that need a slightly different dynamics of work – to be placed in a coworking space. They also look at things other than, let’s say, the cost of space. More important is the quality of the space and the connectivity of the space to other customers or interesting groups.
The second reason is that people who choose a workspace look very much at the accessibility of the site and the availability of the services that are there. These things enable locations located somewhere in the middle of the action.
What business do you want to bring to HubHub?
We want to bring all interesting dynamic companies to us. Of course, well-known names are fine, but we don’t have a list of strictly given top 10 brands we want to persuade to join us. Creating a functional community is very important to us. We look primarily at harmony, namely the resonance of the interests and activities that take place in our community, and then at its organic growth. We do not have it based on the name of the brand that “sits” with us.
What do you think is the biggest myth about working in a coworking centre?
Probably the biggest myth is that it’s primarily about having cheap space to work in. In my opinion, this is a generally resonating opinion. The added value, however, is somewhere else than in the price of space. It’s about the community, the interesting people and the fact that it can be a very good starting point.
Which place in HubHub do you like the best?
I really like the whole HubHub because it is very lively here. By default, in the offices I have worked in as well, it’s quite settled. Here, in HubHub, I basically have no permanent seat, I sit mostly in shared spaces and I like the dynamics, the topics that are being discussed, and the ability to interact with anyone at any time. For me it is very pleasant and as far as a particular place is concerned, at this point I cannot judge which is my favourite. However, our terrace is a perfect place for wok.
Thank you for the interview!
Article in cooperation with Daily Upgrade.