For the first article in our Cool Librarian Jobs series, we interviewed Katie Needs who is working at the startup Gidsy in Berlin.
1) What is Gidsy?
In a nutshell? Gidsy is a place where anyone can explore, book and organize unique things to do, all over the world. Gidsy takes care of the hassle of organizing things (cancellations, payments, refunds, all that business), and lets people who have a skill to share or an event they want to host do so easily. It also gives an opportunity for people to connect in real life, and experience something fun together.
2) What do you do as a Community Manager there?
A whole lot of talking to people, which I love. I handle customer support, creating content and managing our social networks (we use Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and SoundCloud quite a lot). I also work on developing cool projects to get users engaged in our community, from organizing meetups to developing ambassador programs or other bigger things like that. It’s a really collaborative environment, and I work with all the different teams (developers, product, etc…) to help make Gidsy super awesome.
3) How did your library experience prepare you for this position?
I studied LIS as well as Archives and Records Management at the University of Toronto iSchool. One of the big things I took away from my time at the iSchool, aside from the practical things, was that I would more than likely not work in my field right away – it might have been one of the first things I was told. This really stuck with me, so I made sure to learn as many different things as I could, and get as many experiences as I could during school.
In terms of practical things – the classes I took in reference and outreach/advocacy and the experience I have applying that knowledge (ie: circulation desk, volunteering with Librarians Without Borders, and other such things) have been my biggest help in this line of work. I really love connecting with people and working with them to bring communities together, helping people solve problems creatively…
I really feel like librarians are the ultimate Community Managers – and this idea was something that was instilled in me during school. Taking this into account, this position is a perfect fit for me – I like being able to use my librarian powers in new and creative, non-traditional ways.
5) Working abroad is a dream for quite a few of our readers (myself included). How did you find this position?
Well, I am a very lucky girl as I have dual UK/Canadian citizenship – so I am able to work and live in the EU without any trouble. But, as for the job – I came to Berlin with the goal of finding work at a startup because I am really drawn to the whole culture, and how innovative and exciting it is. I had worked on a really cool project for SoundCloud the summer of 2011 called Sounds of My City, which was how I got to know Berlin and the startup scene here a bit. So when I arrived, it was sort of full speed ahead trying to find the best fit for me. Luckily, Gidsy had a Community Management Internship open, and everything sort of fell into place. I’m now employed there full time, and love every minute of it!
In terms of actually finding the job – lots and lots and lots of googling, following every type of job feed – libraries, archives, tech, you name it – talking to people and learning about what was available. I certainly didn’t stumble upon the job, but the right opportunity came at the right moment.
6) What advice do you have for librarians interested in working at a startup in Berlin?
Go for it! You definitely have the skills and knowledge, you’ll learn so much (be a sponge), and you’ll be better for it in the end! Working at a startup is so exciting and challenging in a way that I don’t think anyone can prepare you for, which keeps you on your toes.
If you want to work (and REALLY work), immerse yourself in a product you believe in, get an outside-the-box experience and be afforded insane opportunities to meet brilliant people and really disrupt things, then a startup is definitely for you. In Berlin or otherwise – you’d be surprised at the amazing things people are building and working on in your own communities, no matter how big or small.
7) There is a lot of focus on developing a startup culture in the library world. How would you compare working a startup vs. working in a more traditional library setting?
It’s like apples and oranges, really. They are two different beasts entirely. I’d say the whole culture is different in a startup – things are much smaller, people are a lot younger, there is a lot more fluidity in the day-to-day life and a lot less books & dust, haha! The industry is a lot more tech-focused, a constantly evolving organism with less overhead layers to stop fast progress. A lot more coffee, a lot less women (but this is changing, which is great!).
The fact that startups aren’t usually making a lot of money probably ignites the same kind of fire under your butt, just like if you were working at a smaller library, archive or other heritage institution with little funding, though. I just think that you always want to be doing an amazing job, and can clearly see the bigger picture, no matter what the setting.
8) What is living in Berlin like?
Berlin is an amazing city, such a cool vibe. There is nowhere else like it in the world. The people are all great, and from so many different backgrounds. The city is pretty cheap too, so it makes living much less of a hassle. Someone told me this once, and it was so dead on: I think Berlin is really unique because it’s one of these places where you can literally arrive with nothing but a backpack full of clothes, a good idea, a little ambition and 20 bucks and totally make it.
9) Do you have any recommendations for places to visit in Berlin?
Oh, plenty! There’s so much to do. But, if I had one day I’d say – check out the German History Museum, it’s so amazing and curated so well. Carry on down Unter den Linden to the Brandenburger Tor, hop on the U-bahn and find yourself at Tempelhof airport for a stroll. Eat a currywurst or a döner kebap (just to say you did), get a coffee at Cafe CK, wander along the Maybachufer or the Spree. Come visit the Gidsy office! And then come back to Berlin soon, because there’s so much more to do!
You can follow Katie on Twitter @katieneeds. Thanks for talking to us about your awesome job, Katie!
Interviewed by Karen Holt, Librarian Lifestyle Editor. Karen tweets @karenholt and @librarianlifest. If you have or know someone who has a cool librarian job, contact Karen at email@example.com and we may profile you for our new series.