Behind The Scenes: Jenny

Babbel’s People Operations Manager tells us about her international background and how her work has been affected by the pandemic.

At Babbel, our endgame is getting people to have conversations with other people, in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at. 

This round we’re talking to Jenny Zilligen, Junior People Operations Manager at Babbel.

What’s your role at Babbel? What do you do on a typical day?

I’m a Junior People Operations Manager within the People & Organization department. On a typical day, I create contracts and agreements for all Babbelonians and freelancers, communicate with federal offices and authorities and advise employees on labour law issues. Another big part of my daily work routine is helping new joiners with their visa process and relocation, as well as advising the Talent Acquisition team and hiring managers on visa cases. In addition, I work with my team on preparing and maintaining the monthly payroll and I manage the on- and offboarding of our employees. On a typical day, I work very closely with Talent Acquisition and the Business Partners as well as Internal IT, Legal, Controlling and Accounting.

Where are you from and which languages do you speak?

I’m originally from Cologne in Germany, so my native language is German, but I have also lived in South Africa and Scotland for a couple of years, so in a way my second native language is English now. I also speak French, which I learned in school and I speak Afrikaans from living in South Africa. At the moment I’m learning Italian because I took one semester of Italian at University and would love to be able to speak it fluently one day.

I came to Berlin to start a Trainee Position at Babbel and then fell in love with the company and the city and decided to stay after I was offered a full-time position.

This is a pretty international workplace. How does that influence your work?

I love that Babbel and Babbelonians are so diverse and international. I get to work and communicate with not only people from all over the world but also with embassies and government offices from a vast number of countries. This has vastly influenced how I approach problems that come up at work. I don’t look at something and evaluate it from a “German perspective” but always try to keep in mind the diverse backgrounds of everyone I work with.

What learning/growth opportunities have impacted you most?

I think my biggest work-related growth opportunity so far was the Traineeship at Babbel. Being able to learn so much in such a supportive and open environment has impacted me a lot and I don’t think I would be pursuing the same career path as I am now if it wasn’t for this opportunity. As for non-work-related opportunities, I have been very privileged and got to live abroad in a few countries (South Africa, Ireland, USA, Scotland) and to live, study and work there and all of these opportunities have impacted me a lot. I think you can learn a lot more from living within another culture than by reading about it in a classroom.

What challenges are you most animated by?

I’m most animated by things that challenge what I already know. Anything that helps me improve my skills and become a better HR professional while also helping me grow as a person. First and foremost, this is obviously Covid-19 at the moment. Learning how to adapt to the situation but also how to communicate and how to best emotionally support people through this time has been challenging and equally rewarding for me. 

How has the pandemic affected how you and your team operate?

Covid-19 has had a big impact on how we do our work and we had to readjust some of our processes. It is especially hard at the moment to get a work visa issued for Germany and for people to move here. Visas have to be issued at the German embassy in your home country first and due to lockdowns all across the world most embassies are closed. The same goes for visas that we extend here in Berlin, the immigration office here has been doing everything they can to help out people during the Covid-19 situation but extensions are taking several months right now, while they were only a few weeks long before. So there is a lot of uncertainty for everything visa-related right now.

A lot of the communication I have with official authorities etc. has moved to digital platforms, so we are communicating with them by email now instead of sending physical paper copies or a fax (yes, official German government authorities still use fax). There has also been a lot more understanding from their side so if some extensions couldn’t be made or a deadline wasn’t met due to Covid-19.

Since we are now all working from home, how have you adjusted to this situation? Do you have any tips to share for WFH productivity?

In the beginning I found it very hard to adjust to working from home everyday and not having a stable office-work routine. What has helped me the most in adjusting for working from home was creating a daily morning and work routine to plan out my day. I create a to do list in the morning first and then schedule time for every item on that list, this way it is easier for me to be as productive as I would be working from the office. 

I get very tempted to start working from the moment I get up until late, so scheduling time for specific tasks throughout my workday as well as for yoga and breakfast in the morning has helped me create a productive work from home routine. Also, what has really helped me is being in constant communication with my team and other teams from my department to feel more connected to everyone.

Want to work with Jenny? Check out our current job openings here!

Ewa Cabaj

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.