"The environment is really pleasant, and the members of the KLM team are very supportive. KLM considers us software engineers: we are designing and maintaining programs we have previously developed", said the Hungarian back-end Java engineer. Thankfully, this is exactly the attitude KLM is looking for: people who are interested in thinking ahead. A software engineer is just what they want. They need people who want to innovate and help, and they are looking for it in Budapest.
For those, like the quoted software engineer, who are unfamiliar, KLM is the longest running airline in the world. Their founder already said in 1919; “the ocean of air, unites all people”. KLM has nearly 26,000 employees and a fleet of 110, with scheduled passenger and cargo services to 145 destinations. Any Dutch person knows and recognises the blue and white colours, and associates KLM with the country itself.
But that’s Holland, what does this have to do with Budapest? What are they working on? "We will work on more than just one product in Budapest", says Peter Tompa, the IT manager Finance Shared Service Centre (who is supporting the start of the new IT branch). He explains they are working on all of the branches of KLM's Digital, Technology & Data division. The guiding philosophy of the Budapest office, and KLM as a whole, is that there is no difference between someone working two streets away from home or someone working two countries away. Within KLM, Hungarian colleagues will be equal to their colleagues in Amsterdam. "We have people who work on our flight applications, ground applications, HR applications and planning and control applications", says Tompa. “Ultimately, everyone will be working together”.
KLM IT in Budapest?
time for innovation and development
people in the Hungarian tech-scene
colleagues at KLM IT worldwide
KLM understands that they need to focus on more than the Dutch market as they continue to grow. Budapest is nearby and it shares many similarities with Dutch culture. In Budapest, they can foster the skills, culture, and critical positive thinking that KLM values. "We already knew Budapest. We have an office here, with finance and commercial departments. We have good experiences here. That makes it easy for us to decide that we want to continue working with Hungarian people”, says Thomas Van Caelenberg, the project manager responsible for setting up KLM’s international IT offices. “We have excellent engineers in Hungary; their level of knowledge is senior", adds Tompa.
These are exciting words and that excitement carries into the office. The first impression you get is, ‘this is a startup’. This is funny considering that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has existed since 1919. Maybe it's the afternoon pizza parties, the hybrid working policy and the flexible hours, or it could just be the vibe in the room. "KLM wants to be the most data tech-driven airline company in the world", exclaims Van Caelenberg. "Growth right now will be very steep, almost an exponential curve".
Develop into a leader
At the Budapest office there is an opportunity to create leaders out of engineers. Soon enough the new hires will be mentors. People will ask them for advice, and they will get big opportunities to work on their leadership skills and expertise.
What becomes clear hearing from both Van Caelenberg and Tompa is that self-improvement is a genuine focus. Fridays afternoons are reserved for personal development. No daily work has to be done, and the team is free to work on their other skills, anything from SQL or Python training or their business English. KLM empowers employees to work on what excites them.
Stability for a startup
What can we expect from the new Budapest office? Thomas and Peter are confident that talent will join because KLM offers something for engineers other companies can’t. One perk? As with any company, you get a discount on your own product. KLM’s product happens to be flights, so you get cheaper flights for your days off. However, what you will see on that flight really makes the difference. While travelling, an engineer was delighted to see the cabin crew use an app with her code. She could see what was happening with her work. That’s because at KLM, every project directly impacts millions of customers and colleagues.
That leaves us with the question, what’s next? The KLM Budapest office believes it will continue to grow in the near future and become an organisation wanted by all of KLM; one where you are free to choose the projects you want. "KLM’s branch office gives you the stability for a startup. That’s the beauty of it" says Tompa. "If you join an IT company, you are part of the machine", adds Van Caelenberg, "but at a company like KLM, you are treasured and appreciated by everyone".