August 21, 2015
Twitter Singapore recently threw a party (and we mean a huge one at that) to celebrate the opening of their swanky new Asia-Pacific office (more than 22,000 square-feet) in our central business district. It’s pretty much the entire floor, really. It’s the kind where you can get lost in if you’re not familiar with big office spaces. Twitter isn’t really that new a social media platform, as many people would like to think. I mean, last year, Kim Kardashian single-handedly “broke the Internet” when she flaunted her curves (read: bum) for the cover of New York City-based independent magazine, Paper. And how can we forget Ellen’s star-studded Oscar selfie (or rather, wefie), which raked in over three million retweets? Definitely one for the modern history books. What about the hilarious but nasty things deadmau5 has to say about everyone? The last big one was about David Guetta – he used live horses for his shows, sparking a whole lot of controversy online. So you see, we’re living in the age of all things digital. And like Bala Subramaniam, Twitter Singapore’s Regional HR Business Partner said, “We’re changing the world 140 characters at a time”. Now that the confetti has been swept away and champagne glasses emptied, we visited Twitter Singapore’s home again to get an insight on what goes on behind the scenes. By Adam Kerr.
So you already know what people do on Twitter, or maybe you’re on it yourself (celebrities, prominent figureheads and even Ministers are on it now, so we wouldn’t be surprised). Most people tweet random musings, poetry, how their day is going or something that’s out of the ordinary. And then there are those who use it as a means of communication with friends (there’s a Direct Message function). I use it mostly to catch up on news and tweet the occasional rant. So in a nutshell, Twitter is a community-driven social media platform that shows you what’s happening in the world.
Now that they’ve made the Singapore office as the headquarters for the APAC region, they’re planning to add more than 100 jobs over the next few years to meet demands from users, partners and advertisers across the region. Twitter Singapore began as a small service office in 2013, and has since grown to have 80 staff members. They’ve got many positions open in various departments, like sales, partnerships, marketing, HR, finance, user services and more (you can check out their website). And if you’re looking to begin a career in a new niche (or if you’re a fresh graduate), Twitter Singapore offers annual internship programs across different countries, and a “Young Promising Leaders” program specially for Communications and Marketing graduates.
While we’re all for chasing our dreams, it’s always better to know what kind of company you’re getting into. And for Twitter, they place a lot of emphasis on spending time with people, no matter what department and which country. They’ve got an open office culture where you can speak freely with one another because it’s an informal space with no hierarchy (there are team leaders, but everyone’s essentially on the same level). And like every other office culture, they have themed-days. For example, the HR department that Bala spearheads takes Thursday afternoons off to watch movies together. And seeing how the office has a pretty relaxed environment, they adhere to an unofficial dress code – basically, you must be dressed. Yes, that’s it. They don’t have such things as “no shorts”, or “no slippers” or anything of that sort. But they sometimes do have “Formal Fridays” – also not compulsory – in case anybody in the office wants a sense of formality in the office. Pretty cool stuff.
So to get a gist of how things work around the Twitter office, we speak with Bala, as well as Steven Kalifowitz, the current Head of Brand Strategy for APAC and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions. We explore the different parts of the office and what they’re used for.
9am: Getting into the office
Although they usually get in about 9am, it really depends on whether or not they have meetings teams across different countries. Depending on the time zones of those countries they’re connecting with, some people would have calls that would start really early in the morning, or late at night. Bala said, “If you’ve noticed, we don’t log time like other offices. The cards are really more for access control. It’s like an honest system; we know you’ll do good work. Spend time with people, that’s most important”. Seems like a running theme in this office. Great, where do we sign up?
Is this a pantry or heaven?! It’s well stocked with Nutella, cup noodles, Hello Panda biscuits, cereals, granola bars, normal milk, soy milk, cold beverages (yes they have beer) and so much more. And funny thing is, Steven mentioned that an email went out earlier that week when I met them to ask the staff to fill up a spreadsheet with what they’d like in the pantry. Yum. So anyway, on a typical morning, Bala starts the day off by making coffee for himself here. “Coffee starts the day. Without coffee nothing can start,” he says. And as for Steven, he makes a full breakfast.
10am: The daily grind
“One of the awesome things about being part of Twitter is that all of us had input into this office space. I said, ‘I don’t care what you do with the space, as long as there’s a shower cause I gotta ride my bike to work’,” Steven says. Not many companies have an office space where their own staff could give a suggestion so that’s pretty awesome.
Besides all the other additional input, the new office incorporated elements of Singapore’s heritage throughout the interior design, and you can see this from the Peranakan-inspired wall and floor tiles, nostalgic old-school doors and windows, 70s style grilles, and more.
12pm: Where to have lunch?
“We’ve got Telok Ayer and Chinatown around here, and Lau Pa Sat over there. And then you’ve got all these nice little coffee shops. There’re so many options,” says Steven. But then comes the problem of having no seats. So they gather at the Commons; a multi-function area for all to use (they cater food here once a week). This area is also used for meetings or to just chat with one another. Bala says, “In isolation, things are not as great as when people work together. It’s all about collaboration”. They’ve also held events like their opening night here (it can hold up to 100 people). Husband and wife folk musicians, Us The Duo, even dropped by for an intimate session last month.
2pm: Time to collaborate
So besides the Commons, the new office also has many other work areas and rooms as a reflection of the company’s role in being a platform for live, public conversations. “This office gives you different kinds of spaces; semi-private rooms, private rooms, claustrophobic rooms with no windows if you need to focus or have a really private call,” says Bala. And if you’re about to crash from lunch, they even have standing workstations so you can get your blood flowing as you go about your day.
6pm: Closing time
Time to go home! So if you were to exit the Commons to the Reception Area, you’d pass by a huge wall art installation, which was designed by students from LASALLE College of the Arts. This piece showcases Twitter’s core values and the first tweets from each of the official country accounts. A single blue piece of twine links all the capitals across the region to create the outline of the Twitter logo, with Singapore at the heart of it; a visual representation of connectivity and geographical reach.
And in case you’re waiting for your other friends in the CBD area to finish working, you can chill out at the lounge behind the Reception Area where there’s even more snacks, drinks and – get this – a television (it’s cool — we have a TV here in NYLON too!)