We all need to work towards equality, whether as a company or in society as a whole. When it comes to fair opportunities, treatment and pay, as well as proactive and mutual support, it’s not just about gender differences. These are integral aspects of making our world more diverse and our chances more equal. As Women’s Month comes to an end, we would like to share some thoughts and ideas from our team.
At Spread Group, we see ourselves in a constant learning process, and are fully committed to working towards fairness and equitable treatment company-wide. That’s why this year we have addressed the International Women’s Day motto, “Embrace Equity”, and asked ourselves, what does it actually mean?
#EmbraceEquity – “why equal opportunities are no longer enough”
When talking about gender parity, equality is the top priority. Women’s Day 2023 highlighted that equality and equal distribution of resources does not necessarily mean everyone is on a level playing. Instead, it is important to recognize different backgrounds, experiences, and individual challenges. In particular, women, the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, people with disabilities, and the financially disadvantaged are in need of specific empowerment. This is where justice, or “equity,” comes into play, which recognizes that not everyone has had the same experience or resources. As a result, we must find individual solutions while breaking down individual barriers – this is how fairness and inclusion can be achieved.
Discussion on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – our Women’s Day event on March 8th
At Spread Group we are also committed to deepening our knowledge on equality and learning from each other in the process. To get us underway, we hosted a hybrid event for Spreadsters at our Leipzig headquarters. Business & Family Coach Hulya Kurt kicked things off with a candid keynote presentation on Equity vs. Equality and Unconscious Bias. This was followed by insights into everyday life at the company, with Spreadsters from different areas presenting their own experiences with diversity and inclusion. Positive experiences at Spread Group were discussed, as well as ideas and suggestions for improvements. Fueled by some tasty snacks and drinks, many conversations took place afterwards, where we chatted about what we had heard so far. Overall it was an insightful day, giving us new energy and input as we continue to strive for equality.
Questions for our Spreadsters – What does Equity and Equality mean to you?
Besides the event, we asked various colleagues what equity and equality mean to them, and how they practice it in their daily lives. Colleagues of all genders had their say, with their responses clearly reflecting the diversity of our company. Different experiences and perspectives produced very different takes, and an excerpt of the statements can be seen here:
Ultimately, we can all do our part, but it is primarily a leadership task to create and follow up on structural changes. A task that also occupies Shazmin Hussein, our new Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding. Her vision is to strengthen the influence of female leaders in the company. This requires the right tools “to better navigate the business landscape, develop and leverage talents, and step into roles of greater influence,” says Shazmin. This can enable lasting personal and professional development – because that’s possibly the most significant mandate and lever for companies like ours to practice real equity, equity. Addressing career development opportunities individually – empowering the entire Spread Group team.
Fresh designs, a new breastcare app – Pink Ribbon are finding innovative ways of reminding women across Germany to be vigilant against breast cancer.
Spotting signs early is key to survival. According to the German Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in this country, statistically affecting one in eight women at some point in their lifetime. Yet if discovered and treated in time, the disease is often curable. The most essential acts of ‘prevention’ are regular early detection checks, whether at the gynaecologist or self-checks at home. Thanks to their new breastcare app, Spreadshop partners Pink Ribbon Germany are supporting women by reminding them to never miss a check or appointment.
This new digital assistant is completely free, always available and loaded with of information on ‘breast awareness’. Designed to address the needs of women of all ages, it features an automated reminder for preventative check-ups and is currently available in seven languages. Being a non-profit organisation, the app is also free of adverts and does not require an account to use. At no point does any personal data need to be entered.
What’s more, the Pink Ribbon Shirt Shop is now brimming with new looks created alongside Spreadshop designers, taking the message of breast awareness from the digital into the material world. The ‘Power of Pink’ design is a stylish and effective reminder to check for lumps, while ‘Don’t lose hope’ is catchy and straight to the point, a symbol for positivity and courage for those undergoing treatment. Or there’s ‘every day we wear pink’, a design evoking a sense of solidarity, collective engagement and awareness of breast cancer.
“We are delighted to have found a strong supporter in Spreadshop for the crucial early detection of breast cancer in women. Both our campaign motifs and the new breastcare app help us achieve this common goal: reminding even more women about breast cancer screening,” says Sonja Prinz, who was behind the breastcare app at Awareness Deutschland GmbH, the umbrella organisation responsible for the Pink Ribbon campaign in Germany.
breastcare App: www.breastcare.app
Pink Ribbon: www.pinkribbon-deutschland.de
Caroline has enjoyed a truly diverse career path over the last 17 years at Spread Group. Having started as a packer in Leipzig, she is now the Director of Manufacturing and Production, responsible for all of our production sites across the world. In the role, Caroline is the main contact and expert for print technologies, production processes and capacity planning. She talked to us about her career before and with us, her tasks and how she finds a work-life balance.
How did you end up at Spread Group?
I applied here after a recommendation from a friend in 2005, at a time when they were looking for people to join the production team. After my interview I actually started working as a packer on the same day. I like to think of Spread Group as my second baby, as the company is slightly younger than my daughter (laughs). I spent the first few years learning production, eventually changing my roles, as team lead, supervisor, production manager and now director. So far it’s been fun pretty much every day and I’m proud to be part of the success story that is Spread Group.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational background?
After my apprenticeship as a legal assistant it was clear that working on things which require creative and innovative solutions fits me better. This led me to another apprenticeship in Digital and Print Media Design. Following a classic educational path hasn’t really taken me to where I am. More important was the trust and support I received from my supervisors at Spread Group. I am very thankful that they noticed my potential and empowered me. If you want to build yourself up somewhere internally, having fun and staying motivated will set you on your way.
How would you describe your current position?
I am responsible for our production sites in Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and the US, building a fantastic team full of smart people around me. As the main contact person, it’s essential to show presence, so I travell regularly between the sites and enjoy doing so. With such a diverse range of tasks, it’s hard to summarise exactly what I do. Nevertheless you can roughly divide it into five areas: quality control, capacity planning, optimising productions processes, warehousing and people management. By always having to keep up with the newest developments, in terms of printing technology and textiles, things never get boring.
What was your personal highlight at Spread Group so far?
Boiling it down to one highlight is tough after 17 years. What I am undeniably proud of is having watched this small Leipzig start-up become a global player. Seeing how the production sites have been built up is just confirmation of this. In addition, it is always a highlight when ideas that are brought in are then actually implemented in production and we become better, faster or more modern as a result.
How do you spend your free time?
Although I travel a lot for work, I still like to do it privately as well. Extending my horizons and getting to know other cultures and mentalities is a real passion of mine. I am actually about to become a grandmother for the first time, which is of course incredibly exciting. It wont be hard to guess which baby in Leipzig is going to have the coolest babygrow with the funniest slogan (laughs).
🚀 Are you ready to start your career with us? Check out our current open positions here.
Every day, around 25,000 new designs are uploaded to our platforms. The vast majority of them send out positive messages into the world, while supporting an open and fair discourse. Our business model is based on the idea of offering customers an opportunity to create, buy and sell individualized fashion and lifestyle products. The team around Hannes Döring, Director Asset Management, tackles all kinds of design issues within Spread Group. Difficult questions like, “What is acceptable?”, and “How do we define the borders of good taste?” are at the center of their work. We talked to Hannes about the importance of context and the value of a diverse team for design reviews at Spread Group.
Spread Group: You and your team review designs that you consider to be, among other things, violations of our Community Standards. How do you go about it?
Hannes Döring: Suspicious designs are mainly reported to us through our community, usually via our design reporting feature. It helps us draw on country-specific knowledge, as each country has its own laws, symbols and signs that are interpreted and used differently from region to region. These designs are reported by the community and checked by my team. They remain online as long as they are being checked, because – as the presumption of innocence goes – no guilt can be presumed until it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. As with many other platform applications, we rely on the “many-eyes-principle” as our review standard. Our team constantly familiarizes itself with current political or social issues, and we also proactively conduct platform scans. AI-based and human filters help us remove content from our platforms that e.g. glorifies violence, often within minutes.
Spread Group: Some designs can clearly be identified as a violation of the law, whereas others only offend given a context. How do you deal with this in the team?
Hannes Döring: We constantly educate ourselves and inform ourselves through media and portals, but also through experts such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, HateAid and other organizations like Germany’s Kulturbüro Sachsen. As a team, we have regular meetings and discuss positions on social controversies. In doing so, it is important to us to leave personal sensitivities or questions of taste aside. The latter is more often the case with designs depicting dark humor.
To give an example, due to the debate on the issue of abortion rights in the USA, we put the topic back on the table, discussed it at length and weighed it up. As a result, we don’t think it contradicts our community standards to be in favor of a ban on abortion. We do, however, believe that expressing a position needs to adhere to a certain form. Explicit photos are not part of freedom of expression here, as these can hurt the feelings of others.
Periodically, we revisit our decisions and check whether they still apply under the current circumstances. An example of this is the word “lateral thinking” (“Querdenken”), which was unobjectionable for a long time until it has been given a direction by a political movement in which our fifth community standard (supporting harmful, misleading content) is clearly violated. However, it is possible that this level of meaning may change again, and we will use the term in a neutral way.
Spread Group: For which topics do you call on external experts?
Hannes Döring: That varies greatly. As a rule, my team approaches me and asks for more in-depth knowledge on topics that are currently being increasingly reported. Recently, for example, we had two multi-day workshops on sexism, and on another occasion on runes and neopaganism.
In the sexism workshop with the Educat Collective, we learned that sexism takes place on four levels: Sexism on a structural, institutional, individual, and media/discursive level. Sexism is often a mixture of these four forms. Using concrete design examples, we immediately transferred what we had learned into our everyday practice: How would we now (re)assess designs? Can we identify them more clearly?
In the second workshop with the Saxony Cultural Office, we discussed concepts such as runes, Teutons and Vikings, and what their appeal is today. In certain reenactment groups, “Germanic” villages and esoteric circles tend to have nationalistic, racist, and ethnic tendencies that like using runic characters. But runes can also be found in different contexts, such as the metal music scene. It always depends on the individual case and the context. With the help of the workshops, we now have a much greater certainty for our design examinations with these subjects.
Spread Group: You’re talking about case-by-case assessment here. Does this mean that you really make your decisions on a case-by-case basis?
Hannes Döring: Let me go back to my earlier example of the right to abortion. As I said, we allow the pro and con sides of these designs on our platforms. However, if the symbolism or choice of images is offensive, these designs must of course be permanently deleted. In such borderline areas, there is no way around having the designs checked again individually by a broad-based, diverse team.
Spread Group: Thank you for the insight into your work, Hannes!
Our operations director Zach recently took over an enormous project: the relocation of our production facility in Nevada. He has been with us for 10 years already, now managing our two US-American manufacturing sites. Zach views himself as a ground level air traffic controller, that is taking care of all processes running smoothly. We talked to him about the challenges of managing two teams in two locations, the future of our American production and what keeps him occupied off the job.
Hi Zach! Can you tell us when you joined Spread Group and explain what is your job here?
I started in 2012 as the operations manager for the Greensburg facility. Now I’m the operations manager for both of our North American facilities in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas, Nevada.
If you were to explain your job in three short sentences to somebody like just to summarize, what would you say?
My job really boils down to being ground level air traffic control. You know, the word director and the title are really appropriate because people come to me needing either resources or an answer or solution. Either I help them with that, or I direct the information to who can. And I do a lot of connection in between like an air traffic controller. So, a lot of my time I feel like I’m kind of waving things in, it’s a lot of making connections and making sure resources are adequately shared.
You took over a big part in the relocation of our production facility in Nevada. How was this experience for you?
It was challenging for sure, but it was definitely a positive experience. I really enjoyed it. Taking over the project at a later stage was not easy, getting myself up to speed, figuring out where and what was already planned. You know, being both remote and on site, it was a lot. It was a great challenge. It’s a great test run for when we move the Greensburg facility someday. It was a lot of work. But it was also rewarding and I’m really glad that I did it.
What are the plans for the future of our production in the USA? Can you already tell something about that?
One of the biggest things we’re going to do is making sure that we standardize processes, you know, globally and especially within the US. The time zones being so far apart makes it really hard to communicate. We have got a couple plans in place with changing supervisors, travel times and some weekly meetings to keep both facilities aware of what’s going on. So, if somebody has a great idea at one site, we can share that information with the others, and I’ve been connecting the maintenance teams a lot more. So that if one of our pieces of equipment has an issue, they have a much bigger group to communicate with. We’ve set up the teams chats and we’re communicating a lot better now. And so, to me the thing I’m looking the most forward to is building a national team.
What are qualities or maybe soft skills that you need in this position and in the interaction with your team?
Being an active listener. There’s a lot of people that get into leadership positions based on any given skill, like being very good at a particular job. From a leadership perspective to me the most important thing is being an active listener and having empathy, emotional intelligence. Because if you don’t have those two things, you’re not going to build a team. You know, I can hammer out specific statistics and the time per piece or point out mistakes that are made. But if I don’t do it in a way that connects with people and builds them, then it’s going to fail.
Are there any hidden talents or hobbies you’d like to share?
I’m an amateur car restorer. I have two project cars. One is a 1969 Mustang and one is a 1973 Scout. I don’t do it for money, I just do it for my own entertainment because I like fixing things and it’s a nice contrast between my day job. No two days are the same. You know, like sometimes it’s very hard to recognize what I really accomplished in a day. But when I’m working on something mechanical, there’s a very tactile experience. I can take a part of a car, I can clean it, I can repaint it, I can put it back together. I can make it work again. So that to me is sort of like a cathartic release to counterbalance a hectic day. And in addition to that, I am also a guitar player at a local indie rock band in Pittsburgh named Sommelier.
Oh great, we should definitely check it out! Thank you, Zach!
At Spread Group, we have several helpful tools and events to guide our new Spreadsters through their orientation. The goal is to get to know each other and the company.
Onboarding plays an essential role in every employee’s experience at a company. Feeling welcomed, supported, and integrated into an organization, and learning about the structures and culture creates our first impression at a new job. That is why onboarding at Spread Group is designed to provide numerous offers and support systems to new employees during their first weeks at the company.
The Welcome Package
The onboarding journey starts on the first day, where we provide our new employees with a welcome package filled with useful goodies. Among them is the Onboarding Booklet – a brochure filled with important information about the company, its structure, our values, and frequently used words or abbreviations. The package also contains an Onboarding Pass, which can be used as a name tag and a checklist for completed onboardings.
Our onboarding meetings are a central part of the process because they provide detailed insights into our departments and teams that a booklet cannot. In total, we have 27 onboardings: 7 mandatory and 20 additional meetings. A team leader chooses the most relevant onboardings for their employee. Their purpose is to give new employees an overview of our departments and teams, their tasks and responsibilities, as well as useful information and contact persons for specific issues and questions. At the same time, they give attendees a chance to network and get to know colleagues.
A special additional onboarding provided by our people and culture team is the welcome tour. Because we have a quite large building in Leipzig, it is important for new employees to know their way around and to know which team is to be found where.
Internal Introduction & Events
To support the interpersonal communication and get2know process, we provide our new Spread Group colleagues different options. The internal introduction is carried out by your team and within our internal communication channels, such as our blog and company events. Among those events are lunches and Get-togethers with other colleagues, to help new employees to chat, connect and get involved.
Creating a comfortable onboarding environment is an ongoing process. We strive to constantly develop and improve it, to create a satisfying experience for every new employee. Feedback is an integral part of this process. To help with this, we implemented a 3-month-feedback conversation that includes questions about the recruitment process, onboarding experience and your satisfaction with your team, tasks, and responsibilities.
Our onboarding process consists of several steps to make sure that new employees get all the information and support that they need during their first weeks at Spread Group.
Would you like to experience our smooth onboarding process? Then check out our open positions!
G’Day Matt! Matthew Alexander has been part of our copywriting team since June 2022, writing texts for our US market. For the Australian-born copywriter, writing is not just a job, but also something he pursues as a hobby. Prior to working at Spread Group, he worked as a freelance copywriter and web developer, as well as a travel agent, among other things. Learn more about Matthew and working at Spread Group in our video!
Since February 2022, Fabian has been part of the recruiting team of the People & Culture division at Spread Group. He and his colleagues take care of future-proofing the Spreadster, aka our staff. With a lot of passion, Fabian sees himself as a mediator between external applicants and the internal hiring departments. Humanizing as well as making the recruiting process more straightforward were the main factors behind his decision to start working at Spread Group. We talked to Fabian about this and more:
Hi Fabian! When did you join Spread Group and what exactly do you do here?
I’ve been a Leipzig resident since I joined Spread Group six months ago. And I haven’t regretted it for a second so far! As a junior recruiter, I’m something of an interface between the applicants and our internal departments, where I act as somewhat of an intermediary. Some administrative tasks are also part of my job, but what particularly excites and inspires me are interpersonal aspects. The icing on the cake are the conversations and interviews that I get to conduct. This means I always meet new and exciting people, and at the same time I gain insights into the company as a whole. That’s what I find both great and unique about the role of recruiter.
What did you do before? And why did you choose Spread Group?
Before moving to Leipzig, I lived in the Netherlands for 10 years. I studied psychology there and gained my first work experience. First as an account manager in a wholesale company, and later as a forensic escort. The work with delinquent youths had a great impact on me, but after a while I also felt like looking for a new field of work. While looking for a new challenge, I came across Spread Group. The company’s profile and presence on the web made me very curious. Hardly any other application process was as pleasant and almost family-like as here. The opportunity to meet future colleagues during the process and to feel invited at every step encouraged me to join Spread Group.
What is the most exciting thing about your job as a recruiter? What does it take?
As mentioned earlier, the chance to conduct interviews as a recruiter and to get to meet very different people is definitely the most exciting thing for me. It’s the icing on the cake. And helping to find the best applicant match for a department is also at the top of the list. It requires empathy, a sure instinct, and a service-oriented attitude. The application process should be as pleasant as possible for every applicant, no matter how different they are.
Can you share valuable advice for applicants?
Come as you are! Literally and figuratively. Be open and authentic – this is how you’ll find the job that suits you best.
What did you want to be when you were little?
A singer! I have a classical voice training and am therefore quite the fit when it comes to Italian operas (laughs).
Are there any other hidden talents or hobbies you would like to share with us?
If the last two challenging pandemic years have taught me one thing, it’s to take care of myself and switch off in between. For me, this includes activities like cooking, yoga, and traveling. I’m already planning my next trip to a festival in Hungary, and my colleagues can look forward to new couscous salad variations on a regular basis. That’s when my Tunisian roots come to the fore – and a mutual lunch break is always good for me.
Rumor has it that a few new statement shirts have moved into your closet. Which slogan T-shirt will surprise us next time you enter the company kitchen?
A brand-new addition is a T-shirt saying “Personal Manager. Because superhero is no official job title” (laughs). And as soon as the shirt is dry again, I will definitely wear my new favorite saying: “I’m in HR. I can’t fix crazy, but I can document it.”
Thank you for these exciting insights, Fabian!
Curious? We are looking for colleagues for Fabian as well as new Spreadsters in our SPOD division, e.g. as a Business Development Manager. We are also looking for a Legal Counsel to strengthen our global legal team: https://www.spreadgroup.com/de/job-openings/
Patrick-Philipp Kasten joined Spread Group as Accounting Manager for Germany at the beginning of 2022. After 9 years in auditing, it was time for pastures new! With Leipzig being his hometown, he has followed Spreadshirt’s story from start-up to international e-commerce company Spread Group. Patrick chatted to us about his diverse tasks here, why he has chosen Spread Group, and how he balances office and personal life.
How would describe your job at Spread Group?
As Accounting Manager for Germany, I am responsible for the annual and monthly financial statements of the parent company and its German subsidiaries, as well as making sure our team of 6 continue to work together. It’s a very varied job in which I have to both be a manager and drive projects forward. For example, I am currently working with developers to automate more administrative processes. I am also the first point of contact for our auditor in the context of the single-entity audit of sprd.net AG.
Why did you choose Spread Group?
Before I applied, I had a look at the latest published annual financial statements. You could call that a symptom of being so long in the industry (smiles). And what I saw was there that the company had grown healthily and moderately – without any major fluctuations. In my eyes, that speaks for a promising business model. I was also very impressed about the fast application process. It felt like I had the contract within three days (laughs).
What’s the best thing about your job?
It’s got to be the collaboration with all departments in the company. In Accounting, we bring together a lot of information. Through this close contact, we know what the departments are working on or what projects are pending.
What talent and knowledge do you need for working in accounting?
A passion for numbers is important in accounting, but that’s not the only thing. It is also very important to be familiar with MS Excel and other relevant programs. As an interface to all departments, you should also be communicative and enjoy working with others. Personally, I also find it essential to be able to observe things critically. Invoices should not simply be processed, but also questioned. This also requires a general understanding of our corporate structure and purpose in order to understand the more complex invoice correlations.
What did you want to be when you were young?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist, digging around and exploring the world. To this day I’m still very fond of gardening; after accounting, gardening would be my back-up (smiles).
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to keep active to balance out the challenges of an office job. This usually involves a saddle, either on my bicycle or the motorbike. Since I was a kid, I’ve played the accordion, but I must admit this sadly only gets brought out twice a year or so. More regularly, I go fishing. My tip: get up early! Around Leipzig there are many lakes with fishing spots perfect for catching perch or pike. But there are also some great spots right in the city, for example in Plagwitz on the Karl Heine Canal near the Spread Group headquarters.
🧮 Want to find out more? Patrick is looking for support for his team. If you like numbers, a welcoming team, flexible home office options and more fishing tips from Patrick, apply now!
Lena joined Spread Group 7 years ago, when it was still known as Spreadshirt. Starting out in customer service, she then moved on to become communications manager at Spreadshop. In the summer of 2021 Lena made the switch to Product Management where she is now the Product Owner for SPOD.
How would you describe your role at Spread Group?
Lena: It’s now been 7 years in total for me here, but I’ve been the Product Owner for SPOD since last summer. I guess you could say I’ve come full circle. Just after I started here, during one of my first feedback sessions, the question popped up: which of the other roles at the company interest me? My answer was clear: Product Management. Right from the get-go I was fascinated by the work of product owners. A colleague from back then whose role I found particularly interesting is now my boss.
Can you sum up your job in 3 sentences?
Lena: As the SPOD product owner I am the one who connects the businesses with our IT department. My job is to aid the continuous development of SPOD and to make sure the customers’ wishes and business goals are achieved. SPOD connects e-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce or Squarespace with our Print-on-Demand Production sites. Merchants can showcase their own designs on clothes and accessories. Orders which have been placed via the SPOD application are then printed by us and sent to the customer in the name of the respective merchant.
What’s the best thing about your job as a product owner?
Lena: Simply put, my role as a Product Owner is a lot of fun. Programming fascinates me, but I actually can’t code. However, there are definitely elements of programming in my current role. You also get the chance to work, as a team, step-by-step towards a goal, on things like new features that customers have been asking for. We plan it, program it, then check it. In the end, there is a result of work we’ve all combined for. That’s what attracts me the most.
What kind of skills do you need for the job?
Lena: If you’re not into organization and problem-solving, this isn’t the job for you. When you’re getting inundated confronted daily with bugs, feedback and new information you should always remain conscious of the main goals; the development and improvement of the products. Yet to find the best solutions, you still need a certain degree of diplomacy and mediation skills, especially when mediating between UX, Frontend and Backend.
What did you want to be when you were young?
Lena: Honestly, I can’t actually remember. But admittedly, it probably wasn’t a Product Owner (laughs). I had absolutely no experience in IT or software development before I started at Spread Group, and during my studies, I was still undecided what my next step would be. That’s the great thing about the jobs here, they’re so diverse. Everything is possible, from in house software development and production to business analytics.
What would be your dream job?
Lena: It was clear as I started at Spread Group 7 years ago that I wanted to get a foot in the door of the tech world and develop my skills from there on. Of course, I can use all the skills I have acquired in other areas or for a different purpose, but I wouldn’t want to choose any other job at the moment. Moreover, the team at SPOD is strong and very international. Everyone is into the job and even though some of us have ever never met in person, it just clicks.
🚀 P.S.: We are currently looking for Product Owners (f/m/d) in the area of User Management. Do you want to be part of a design-driven team and create the best possible user experience alongside developers and other product managers like Lena? Then apply now!