Peter Minev – Careem’s Director of Engineering

Careem Berlin is home to one of our engineering facilities where a team of over 100 work on developing and improving Careem’s tech capabilities. Careem’s Director of Engineering is Peter Minev…

How did you reach your current position at Careem Berlin?
In 2015 I was simultaneously running engineering teams in Sofia, the Silicon Valley and India. A former colleague of mine from our office in the USA – an extraordinary talent from Stanford – got in touch and said he’d taken a new challenge – to build the entire engineering organisation of Careem. He offered me the opportunity to establish and head the engineering office in Berlin.

The challenge in front of the whole engineering organisation of Careem at that time was that there were a lot of high-quality engineers in the Middle East, but their number was not sufficient for the needs of such a fast-developing technological company. I faced the task to create a big office in a medium, which was new for me.

Why does Careem have an engineering centre in Berlin?
When a company wants to build a large engineering centre it chooses a location, and that’s typically Silicon Valley, London, Berlin, or perhaps Dublin. The German capital was chosen for several reasons. First, the city is a focal point of talent from all over the world. Secondly, time zone is close to the one in Dubai where the headquarters of the company are situated.

How big is your team there now?
In the last year and a half Careem Berlin hired over 100 engineers, and the approved plan with the founders of the company is to have hired 300 employees by the end of 2019. My forecast is that within five years the Berlin office might employ 1,000 engineers.

My forecast is that within five years the Berlin office might employ 1,000 engineers.

Careem Berlin

Careem Berlin

What are the challenges ahead of you as a manager?
The establishment of the office passed through several stages, but the basic goal was to hire exceptionally gifted engineers and then build the right projects. When you hire experts, it’s important that they work on really difficult, challenging tasks, which would have a great impact on the whole company.

What cross-cultural challenges did you face in launching such a complicated project – a startup from Dubai hiring a Bulgarian to head their office in Berlin, which employs experts from different nationalities?
Berlin is an engineering startup centre, which attracts talent from all over the world, including many Bulgarians. That was a clear prerogative for building up teams with a great diversity of cultures and nationalities – much greater than the teams, which I had previously set up.

Among the first 30 engineers we hired, there were 22 different nationalities – we started joking that our Berlin office is like the United Nations. Despite their differences, it became evident that they work in highly efficient teams without any problems. I think that this is due to the high standard for hiring employees in Careem. It’s for this reason that there are no specific cross-cultural challenges and the important thing is what you can do, and not where you come from.

The important thing is what you can do, and not where you come from.

Careem Berlin

Careem Berlin

What distinguishes Careem from other similar platforms and do you have plans to develop it in other markets?
Within the Middle East region, we are the only tech unicorn and we are attracting a lot of attention globally. The standout difference about Careem is the culture. Our founders are truly driven to build a long-lasting institution for the region and to attract and nurture tech talent. Careem is now present in over 100 cities across 15 countries across the Greater Middle East.

At Careem no-one is an employee, we are all colleagues and we’re stimulated by the engineering work we are challenged with. It is extremely interesting and provides a lot of opportunities for acquiring new knowledge and professional growth. There are not many companies in the world, which operate on such a large scale, providing a platform that serves millions of clients in real time.

How big is the operation?
Our operations span The Greater Middle East from Morocco and Egypt through to Iraq (where we opened an office recently) and Pakistan. The market is huge – a population of 700 million people, 50 percent of whom are below 25 years of age. The smartphone coverage is larger than that of China – we are talking about a market with enormous potential.

The smartphone coverage is larger than that of China – we are talking about a market with enormous potential.

Tell us about a difficult decision in your career?
The most difficult one was actually the last one – to put at stake my name and career, promising the founders of Careem, that I can create a successful engineering office in Berlin. We had to establish a highly productive engineering organisation within a very short time. Slightly more than a year later, I can say that this was the best decision I took in my whole career. Careem is already a unicorn, and Careem Berlin is one of its main engineering offices. Of course, it would be egoistic on my behalf to take all the credit – this is the achievement of absolutely all the incredible people in the office and in the company as a whole.

What next for you and the company?
The speed of development of Careem is incredible. With the launch of new services I think that over the next ten years the growth potential is enormous, which means growth of the engineering organisation in Berlin, in particular, which becomes a key link of the company.

See also: How Careem designs for inclusivity and why the Careem app is far more than just a tool for ride hailing.

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