Globalization and increasing digitalization of the working world has made it a matter of course for many companies to organize and manage their departments even across large distances. But does physical separation really pose a challenge? To find out, we interviewed our Director of Infrastructure & Security, who has been living in Sweden since December 2022.
As the second employee of empower® (formerly: Made in Office), he has supervised several areas of responsibility that have led him to his current position.
What does the job of a Director of Infrastructure & Security involve?
“My tasks are very diverse. I’m responsible in a leading role for the entire internal IT infrastructure. And in addition, as an information security officer, I’m also responsible for security of all information-related matters. From the beginning, I helped build up the business and empower® products. Since then, we’ve grown considerably, which means I have to specialize more and more.
In the wake of increasing cyber threats, the biggest threat to business organizations today, this topic has become my main field of activity. My activities also include business continuity management, i.e. creating emergency plans and preparing for exceptional situations related to risk management. An important part of my work also involves preventing such situations from arising in the first place. This includes avoiding and reducing risks, monitoring the threat map, and training employees. In connection with my IT activities, my tasks also include the maintenance and upkeep of the IT infrastructure.
In IT management, one of my main tasks is to keep everything running, monitored, administered, scaled, or expanded. I’m the primary contact person for all of my colleagues’ IT questions or problems. I always help them to meet challenges and use IT resources in the best possible way.
However, not everything always works remotely. We recently underwent an elaborate ISO 27001 certification for information security management. During the implementation and audit, I was of course also on site to ensure the best possible result. But I think especially with paradigms like cloud-first and exponential population growth, the future of IT work will become more and more distributed, meaning working remotely."
How did you come to this profession? Did you complete apprenticeship or studies in the field?
“Even before I entered into an apprenticeship, I was very involved with IT, starting when I was eight years old. Since then, I’ve grown up with it. Before my apprenticeship, I got involved in cybersecurity issues as a hobby. That’s where my background started. As far as how to take control over computers networks, with or without permission, that hasn’t changed, that’s still the same. So, I have a good understanding of what we need to protect ourselves from.
Then I learned software development. I also worked as a software developer back in the day. I started out as a freelancer, and on the side I took care of IT a bit because of my background. At empower®, I started in 2009 as an IT architect, then went through various positions, including product development, and since 6 years I’m Director of Infrastructure & Security.”
What does your day-to-day work look like?
“I do all of that remotely. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in the office very rarely. This was a kind of final rehearsal for my decision to emigrate to Sweden. My colleagues support me as my right arm in everything that currently happens in the office and where hands-on is needed. As far as IT is concerned, we’re very well positioned, so there’s very little hands-on needed. Except for recurring activities, such as when someone gets a new computer, starts working for us, or hardware or offline backups have to be performed.”
In December 2022 you emigrated to Sweden. Where are you located?
“I live in Småland, which is where Astrid Lindgren was born and Ikea comes from. It’s the vacation region of Sweden, so to speak. There’s a lot of forest here, a lot of lakes and just great nature. My house is on the edge of a village with 2,000 inhabitants. The technology in Sweden is quite advanced. Even if you’re in a boat on a lake, even there is no building anywhere, you still have LTE reception, so that’s great technologically. People in Sweden are very close to nature and have a great sense of their surroundings.”
How can you ensure that everything runs smoothly at empower® despite your distance from Cologne?
“We’ve had the option of working from home for a long time. That means everything is possible remotely.If someone has a problem with their computer, there are tools available to help them, such as screen captures. But sometimes concrete instructions on what to do to solve a problem are all that is needed.
It only gets difficult when it comes to the hardware. What kind of hardware ist that? Essentially, it’s headsets, input devices, and laptops. These usually work. If that’s not the case, which happens very rarely, then the colleagues on site are happy to provide support.
If you work remotely and sit in a home office, you have to come to the office with the device in case of an emergency when something stops working on the device itself. There are then replacement devices that can be used at short notice. So you can take care of the problem in peace when someone from IT support is on site."
What made you choose Sweden?
“I started getting interested in crypto mining in 2017 and had my equipment globally in Iceland, Canada, Sweden, Holland, America, and Russia, so basically everywhere. Crypto mining needs very cheap electricity, otherwise it generates too high costs. However, I wanted to have my own location for my equipment, so I researched electricity prices in Europe and found a very tempting offer in Sweden. Since I was doing this as a hobby, I was not attractive to the data center market with cheap electricity. Sweden is also not that far away from Germany. So I thought to myself: go there, buy a house, and put the stuff there. And that’s exactly what I did.
During that time, I realized what a great country it is and how good the air and quality of life is. So, I decided to restore the house I’d bought, which needed renovation, and emigrate completely. I’ve been busy with the restoration for the last four years, always combined with working from the home office in Sweden. My final decision to leave was made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I identify very much with the values and attitude of the people in Sweden. They’re very open and friendly, very helpful. I was also convinced by the way they treat and respect freedom.
The same goes for dealing with the environment. Here’s an example: at my house I have ten different types of sorted rubbish. That shows me the importance of preserving the environment. So much is recycled, and everything is very clean.
Here in the country, I have 1 Gbit/s fiber optics in sync, so from a technological point of view, too, it's really ingenious. I’ve always lived in Cologne and never thought I’d ever emigrate, but Sweden and the values lived here have convinced me. Admittedly, the work ethic is different here and there. From Germany, I'm used to a very high level of commitment and standards, and I appreciate that."
How often do you still come to Germany?
“I hope no more at all. I was on site in March for the ISO certification because it was important for me to make the project a success. But my goal is to work 100% remotely. I feel super comfortable in Sweden and if there is no reason to come to Germany, I won’t. Of course I miss my colleague, but through collaboration tools you are always connected with each other. Be it by chat, voice or even picture. One advantage is certainly the fact that my role puts me in contact with almost everyone and I'm not limited to one department or team.”
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