Business Management

Typical 24: Simon Edelstyn, Managing Director, Outbrain

IDG Connect is looking to speak to IT, business and marketing professionals across the spectrum to discover more about their very different, typical working days…


Name:  Simon Edelstyn

Job title: Managing Director, Europe

Company: Outbrain

Location: UK, London

Years’ experience: Nearly 3 at Outbrain, 25 years in Marketing and Business Development

What time do you reach the office each day?

Generally between 8:00 and 8:30 depending on whether it’s a gym day or not, and of course depending also on the traffic. I commute from Wimbledon to the office in Soho by motorcycle (BMW R1200R) which takes about 35 minutes. I really enjoy the freedom that the motorcycle offers me and despite the variable weather conditions, it provides an enjoyable break between office and home. It’s time to switch off and enjoy which is in contrast to the tube.  

Is your job varied?

Every day is very different and not just in a small way. It’s the variety that makes Outbrain such a stimulating place to work, and that’s partly because of the stage the company is at and its rapid growth, but also how our industry is evolving. Since starting the UK office in January 2011, we have evolved from being solely a small UK sales office to a business operating successfully in five European countries and with a fully functional European HQ. Operating in five different markets highlights the challenges of scale with local market requirements so things are seldom what they seem at first viewing. In addition, with this growth we have also had to build out all the support functions to support remote offices, develop our team, mature in our business processes, execute (four, soon to be five) UK office moves and of course still provide the support our partners rightly expect.

Is your job creative?

I think it is. And I think for me it’s an essential part of achieving job satisfaction. So for example, while we will clearly operate within defined business parameters, we are also very partner focused and will work creatively to ensure that we meet their different and evolving needs. In addition, as our European business continues to grow so rapidly, we always have to address new issues which naturally come with scale and operating in multiple countries.

What do you spend the majority of your time doing?

By far the majority of my time is talking with the team – things from discussing issues and helping in the decision making process, spending time with direct reports in one-to-ones, to communicating with the wider EU or US team via video conferencing or with country visits.

Do you personalise your desk?

I am a fan of personalising my space. The office is a place where we all spend a lot of time and so it should be comfortable and fun place to be. I don’t have an office and I enjoy sitting with the team in a single shared open space. So my desk is my place where I surround myself with bits and pieces like my lederhosen, recently worn at a partner event at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

Would you describe yourself as creative?

Yes, in so far as I more often than not come up with solutions for problems. I enjoy, for example, evaluating the needs of partners with the internal constraints of scale, or in structuring innovative deals to meet partner needs.  

Do you have any quirky daily rituals?

Not as far as I am aware, but that maybe a good question to put to my team.

Do you tend to work on your own or with colleagues?

Team time is essential as it’s our people who interface with our partners and other stakeholders and so it’s mission critical to make sure that we have constant communications.

How many hours on average do you work a day?

At my PC, probably 65 to 70 hours a week and there is always some catch up time at the weekends. 

What type of music (if any) do you listen to at work?

Everything from Seasick Steve to Coldplay. It’s driven by mood and environment and yes we do sometimes have music in the office, usually towards the end of the day. We don’t have it on all the time generally out of consideration for others who may be less keen on Seasick Steve. Everyone, including me, has headphones and so if I feel the urge to listen to some 60’s or 70’s rock, I will.

What do you do for lunch?

I am not a lunch fan and so often miss it and work through. I associate food with relaxing, time to enjoy and chill so I would much prefer to wait and have a proper evening meal.  While I know this is clearly not an ideal diet routine, it’s what I do. In addition on Monday and Thursday I am trying out the 5:2 diet, which to best honest I don’t find too difficult. 

Do you socialise with work colleagues?

Not a great deal, but we do have team and company evenings out. I think that having spent all day with colleagues, there needs to be time for my family and for me. So unless it’s a partner or industry event or a team thing I will generally head home after work.  Besides, socialising and motorcycling don’t mix.  So if I am going to an after work thing I have to plan it and so take the tube in.

What is your last task of your day?

Clearing out my email. My inbox will generally not have more than 20 emails in it and all will have been opened.

How do you like to relax after work?

TV. I really enjoy good drama and at this time of year there is plenty of it.

Do you keep checking email through the evening?

Yes, my iPhone is never off and so emails are responded to as soon as I get them, much to the annoyance of my family – to the point that my last my PC and iPhone where confiscated on our last family holiday in early September in Greece. The fact is we have a great team in Europe and they are more than capable of running the business effectively without me.

I think it also sets a poor example to my kids who even bring their iPhones to the dinner table which is generally met with a robust response.

What would you say to your 20-year old self?

Interesting question because I have an 18 year old son and a 21 year old daughter……

If you could try out any job for a day, what would you choose?

I would like to be a Justice of the Peace for a day.  It’s something that I have been thinking I could/should do in a couple of years’ time.  While I am certainly no lawyer, I think that my experience and ability to evaluate information and make decisions lends itself towards being a judge of some kind and I hope it would be a good thing to give back to society.

What device did you use to answer these questions?

My Mac Pro……..which has a Windows operating system.  Despite everything I am a big fan of Office and in particular MS Outlook. I argue I have the best of both worlds – best hardware and best business software.   

Do you use your own personal device for work?

Yes, my iPhone is my device and when I am working from home I use my own PC. 



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