An Interview with David Wascha – Chief Product and Technology Officer at Zoopla

Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic has had a heavy impact on job security, with redundancies rising at a significantly fast rate, from the tech industry has recently emerged some refreshingly hopeful news – Zoopla’s new spree of senior hires in Product and Technology.

Wanting to learn more about this hiring spree, and how the company has managed to navigate through this turbulent period in time, we caught up with Zoopla’s very own Chief Product and Technology Officer David Wascha.


Motives Behind the Wave of New Hires


“We certainly weren’t anticipating having to do all this recruiting through a global pandemic/lockdown when we kicked it off. Despite the challenges it’s been interesting and we now have quite a bit of experience doing it. The most satisfying thing is all the really talented people that we’ve added.”

“We were acquired by Silver Lake in May 2018, one of the biggest most successful technology investors in the world, and Zoopla is one of their largest investments outside of the U.S. They’re incredibly supportive in our aspirations for transforming  how people find, buy and sell property in the UK.”

“The property industry is one of the few that hasn’t enjoyed a lot of innovation in recent years, and I think we all see the opportunity to go and be a company, that really drives innovation. Our ambition is to genuinely address some of the customer/consumer and agent pain points in the industry.”

“So as part of a detailed review we took stock late last year of what we needed to go and realise that ambition. We clearly needed even more talented people to help us do this. We got the go ahead and we’ve been recruiting and hiring very successfully ever since, even through lockdown.”


Hiring New Employees Through Lockdown


“It’s been fascinating. Obviously we want to hire people who are incredibly skilled, but equally we want to hire people who share our ambition and who value the culture that we’re trying to build at Zoopla.”

“I think a physical space says a lot about a company, and also helps a company communicate their culture. We have a very exciting office which we had used to really use as a selling point, but we haven’t been able to do that recently. So we’ve had to shift to try and communicate our ambition, what we care about and our culture over calls – so that’s taken a shift in how we structure those interviews and who participates in them.”



Zoopla’s UK Office Space

“There are now also many more touchpoints in the interview process than there have been historically, and also there’s a lot of questions that candidates have that they weren’t asking pre-COVID, like ‘how’s the company doing?’, ‘Is it going to be around six months from now?’ – that’s a concern they have with any company, they’re having to ask that. Understandably people were discovering their risk tolerance for leaving a stable job was very low.” 

“However, potential recruits are certainly getting more comfortable. And obviously the calibre and type of talent that we’re hiring are incredibly in demand, both in the UK and abroad, and so they have a much higher job security in general I think.”

“We really shifted to try and communicate what we’re looking for in our culture as much through our interactions as we have historically through the physical presence in the building. And then there are a lot of touch points even post job offer, we just want to let people know that even though we are working remotely that we’re still excited, we’re still here.”

“Our onboarding process has also become all the more important as well, because that’s really how we integrate people into our culture and our ambition, and doing that virtually requires a higher level of fidelity than it historically has required.”


Other Impacts of COVID-19


“In technology, and in software, you have a couple of challenges that are really highlighted and exacerbated by remote working – one is that it’s a very creative, and collaborative endeavour, and that physical space for creativity and shared creation and collaboration has been taken away from us, so we’ve needed to figure out more remote analogues for those.” 

“We’ve gotten quite adept at modifying how we work, adjusting to using Zoom, breakout rooms in Zoom and different online tools. The interesting thing we’ve been discovering is that if and when we go back into the office we’ll rightly take some of these practices back with us – we’ll actually improve overall how we’re working.”

“But some of the more interesting things is when you’re in tech and software development I think you find a lot of people who can be quite introverted and the way that they experience Zoom and video calls has been interesting.”

“I’m right in the middle, between extroverted and introverted, so I can appreciate it, I do find all-day Zoom calls somewhat draining, but just starting to modify our remote working practices to accommodate these styles has been really interesting. Something as simple as giving people permission to turn off their camera when they’re having a video call has been really one of the best adaptations that we’ve made, really digging into how we can improve this experience for our employees.”

“In the physical office we have the ability for our employees to go to a room called ‘The Library’, which is very quiet, there’s loads of books and low lamps on the desk, and people who need that quiet space tend to gravitate to this room. But if you’re always on a video call, or expected to be, there’s no relief from that.”

“There’s all kinds of things that we’re trying to identify, experiment with and refine to always be improving that experience for our employees given that we’re all given these new set of constraints.”


Final Thoughts


“We’ve hired and onboarded over 50 people that we’ve never met in person. When we talk about what we’re doing we talk about it with candidates and internally as a once in a career opportunity. We genuinely believe this, and given that the industry is right for disruption, we have new investors and new backers, so the talented people that we’re looking for really can see the opportunity we’re talking about. That’s why we believe we’ve had such success in hiring incredibly talented people as fast as we have.”