As Pinterest’s first employee in Dublin, Karl Conway has seen a lot of change in just a few years, from working out of a small space in a Georgian-era townhouse to building a modern EMEA headquarters that’s now home to 100 people and counting. Below, he explains why he took the leap, what’s challenging about collaborating with his cross-continental counterparts, and what he’s most excited about as the Dublin office — and Dublin itself — continues to grow.
What do you do at Pinterest?
My core job is Head of Community Operations for EMEA, which means I oversee four teams here in Dublin. We handle email support for our users, who we call Pinners; verify that ads are compliant; and deal with spam and restricted content. It’s my responsibility to keep communication flowing between us and our counterparts in San Francisco, make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction, and set up our team members with whatever they need to be successful.
Recently I took on the additional role of Site Lead for the Dublin office, which means working with the rest of the leadership group here on everything from expanding our physical space, to hiring, to office visibility, both within Pinterest and externally. I also help assess employee engagement, so I spend time digging into team survey data to see how people are feeling, and thinking about how we can continue building a positive, inclusive, and diverse culture. I was the first Pinterest employee in Dublin back in 2016, so I’ve been informally involved in a lot of this work from the start. Now I’m empowered to think a bit more strategically about supporting the office as it grows.
Why did you decide to join the team?
It happened really quickly! I had an offer from another company, and I’d called a friend who worked at Pinterest to ask her to be a reference. She said sure, but asked if I’d consider starting Pinterest’s Dublin office instead. I’d been using the product for years, and I liked the idea of getting my hands dirty with all the different things you need to do to start an office. So it was a bit of a no-brainer for me; I couldn’t turn it down.
“I liked the idea of getting my hands dirty with all the different things you need to do to start an office.”
I was also happy to be able to stay in Dublin. I’m from Sligo, in northwest Ireland, but I’ve been in Dublin for 10 years now, and it’s a great place to live. It’s thriving culturally — there’s a lot to see and do, and it’s becoming a real culinary hotspot. It’s superbly walkable. It’s also extremely well-connected to the rest of the island and Europe; a lot of folks from other Pinterest offices have come here to explore the continent and used Dublin as their hub. It’s growing, too, so there are nice places to live, and still lots of affordable options in the north of the city if you’re looking to settle and grow a family.
What’s the culture like in the Dublin office and at Pinterest in general?
At Pinterest in general, we always put Pinners first. Our mission is to inspire people to create a life they love, and from the top down, our team really does stay focused on that goal in everything we do. So we tend to be pretty measured and thoughtful. At the same time, we have to be careful not to do so much consensus-building that it slows us down. There’s a healthy caution about making the right decisions and moving forward in the right way.
There’s also a warmth to the culture, both company-wide and in Dublin. We put a lot of emphasis on hiring nice people, and I think that’s made working across functions easier. As we grow, we’re focusing a lot on making the office feel like one big team. Honestly, it’s just a great place to work. People here don’t have the Sunday night blues. Even nearly four years in, I still feel that way. I was off last week, and I genuinely looked forward to coming back.
What’s challenging about your work?
For me personally, the main challenge right now is balancing my two roles. I want to make sure I’m giving the Community Operations team the support they need and still doing the office justice as Site Lead.
As for the office itself, I think one challenge is being fully visible within the company. As the EMEA headquarters, we’re now much bigger than London or Paris or Berlin — but those offices actually existed a few years before we did. So we still have some catching up to do in terms of helping the rest of Pinterest understand who we are and what we do. We’re thinking about meaningful ways to showcase what’s happening in Dublin, such as representing the office at company-wide events.
“We’ve recognized that giving honest feedback needs to be a part of how we help each other grow.”
And because everyone is so nice, I do think having difficult conversations can potentially be a challenge for us. We’ve been talking a lot as a company this year about what we call “care with candor.” We’ve recognized that giving honest feedback needs to be a part of how we help each other grow.
What’s it like to collaborate across continents?
It’s a lot of video meetings near the end of the day, because the reality is our San Francisco colleagues start work around 4 p.m. Dublin time. But as our office grows, there’s less and less we have to fit into those windows, because we’re increasingly autonomous. Most of our team reports to a local manager, and as we add support functions here like recruiting and HR, we’re starting to make more decisions on our own.
With our European colleagues, there’s obviously much more overlap in terms of time zones — and we’ve been meeting face-to-face more often, too, traveling between offices and hosting trainings here in Dublin. We’re also one of three locations that hosts Knit Con, Pinterest’s annual employee conference; this year we had people here from 10 other international offices. It’s always an inspiring couple of days. We bring in Pinners for some sessions, but mostly employees give trainings sharing their various talents. We’ve had everything from photography to knife skills to sign language. I’m obsessed with recycling and composting, so I did a session on that. It’s a great way to get to know each other better. We actually do a similar monthly event with the Community Ops team, kind of a mini Knit Con as part of our monthly all-hands meeting, and we’re hoping to start sessions for the entire Dublin office sometime this year.
What are you most excited about for Pinterest Dublin right now?
The big thing is growth. Even though our office is more than three years old and we just hit 100 employees in Dublin, it still feels like the early days both here and in EMEA. We’ve had a lot of growth internationally on the user side, and I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of translating that to advertising. We’ve already done a lot of hiring in Sales — that’s the other big team right now in Dublin, besides Community Operations — but we’re going to do more, and we’re about to start building the Engineering team here, too. That’s such a massive part of what Pinterest is; Engineering is something like 50% of the team in San Francisco. So I think that will help us feel even more like a true headquarters, and I’m excited to see how the office matures.
“Even though our office is more than three years old and we just hit 100 employees in Dublin, it still feels like the early days both here and in EMEA.”
We also have a bunch of smaller teams that are just getting started in Dublin and have only one or two people, and that comes with a lot of opportunities for all of us to learn. Growth doesn’t just have to mean moving up on your team. We’re in a moment where there’s room to tackle things outside your core job, like helping set up events or working on office culture. Because we still need to be a bit scrappy in certain areas, there’s a lot of freedom for someone who wants to step up, take ownership, and explore.
Interested in helping build Pinterest Dublin? Check out our open roles.
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