Benoit Vermont joined the Hamburg team in 2015 as an Android engineer. Since then, he has been working on our Yelp for Business Owners app developing several new features. Curious and full of energy, he has helped the team step out of its comfort zone many times.
A fan of languages, he is one of the most successful students of the German language we have in the office and is passionate about everything Japanese. He once even managed to join our stand-up meeting from Tokyo, to show us the city home to Godzilla.
1. What drew you to a job at Yelp initially?
After a few years at my previous company I was in dire need of a new challenge. So, I gathered some energy and decided to change everything and move to another country. All or nothing. Like many French before me I thought of the US but was put off by the visa lottery. At the same time, a contact in Germany kept telling me about all the good opportunities in Hamburg and Berlin. The country might not be as appealing to a programmer as the Silicon Valley, but what the heck — it’s renowned for its active scene of startups throughout Europe and its good quality of life.
I had to interview my way through a couple of drab opportunities before I came across Yelp and finally started to get excited. Yelp checked a lot of interesting boxes: an American company, a strong engineering culture, interesting open source pieces, and insights on Github and their engineering blog.
More importantly, the people I met during the interview process were relaxed and created meaningful discussions during the few hours I spent with them. Thus, I decided working with them would more than make up for the fact that it wasn’t San Francisco — and I never regretted that decision since.
2. What is a typical day in the office like for you?
I start the day with coffee and breakfast, which I enjoy while reading emails we receive during the night. The engineering teams in Hamburg and San Francisco collaborate closely and you can be sure that something always happens over there while we are sleeping here in Europe.
Then the coding starts! Add a few meetings here and there (never too long, otherwise I’d fall asleep!), some planning and discussions about technical solutions, and you have a day!
Every week is different, focusing on new features to be designed from scratch or quality improvement of existing code base. I work with a team of people from many different countries in an office small enough that you are on a first name basis with everyone. It’s great that this is a company not overburdened with hierarchy and that you can talk to everyone.
3. How does this job fit your skill set and what are you most excited about as you continue to grow in your role and at Yelp?
As a student I decided to learn mobile development on a whim, thinking it would be cool to build a video game. Having to choose a language and platform, Android was really the only option. Without being able to afford a MacBook, iOS never even presented itself as a choice. I tinkered and crafted my first basic apps and never realised that none of them were ever a video game!
Today I work daily with a handful of other Android developers here in Hamburg, and several more in San Francisco, with whom I can discuss, exchange ideas, and generally grow. I feel there are a lot of opportunities here to keep learning, as it’s encouraged to dip a toe in other teams and tech to get some knowledge about how they work. If I were interested in backend development and Python, I know I could voice it and pretty soon work on a beginner’s ticket.
4. What’s your favorite thing about living in Hamburg? What are you up to when you’re not at work?
Surprisingly, I enjoy the weather, which is not supposed to be the greatest asset here. You will see clouds every day and it might rain but you will have hours of deep blue sky every day too, devoid of pollution. For me, coming from Paris where the sky is always grey because of the car fumes, this feels pretty great. The Christmas season is also magical here and the fact that they sell good hot wine everywhere probably contributes to this dizzy feeling of wonder.
I often go hang around the harbor on Sundays. I find the view of the giant container ships being unloaded by automatic cranes and automatic trucks to be awe-inspiring. And think about all the tech involved to make it happen!
5. What are a few of your current favorite local businesses?
During the weekend, after walking through the harbour and taking a boat, why not enjoy a bowl of soup when it’s cold (or a beer if it’s warm) at the Strandperle? You’ll be sitting in the sand of a small beach in western Hamburg in front of the river Elbe.
And who wouldn’t want to go wakeboarding around a lake? Well, frankly, I didn’t, but couldn’t pass up this opportunity when some colleagues asked me to join for Cablesport. The system is pretty cool: A circular cable runs around a lake and you get towed around by ropes that are attached to the system, similar to a ski lift. If you don’t fall at the beginning, you can then go around and around the lake.
During winter, don’t miss an opportunity to go ice skating on the outdoor ring of Indoo Eisarena in the middle of the city. If you can handle the fact that eight-year-old kids will be way faster than you, you’ll have a great time!
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