In the spotlight

Jonatan
Allback

“Starting his career in consulting, then moving to banking, with a brief stop at Goldman Sachs, Jonatan Allback who now leads one of Adyen’s most strategic accounts, eBay, out of San Francisco, says about Adyen: “It was love at first sight.”

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Jonatan Allback remembers the precise moment he became a payments nerd.

In 2013, Adyen landed a deal with Swedish music-streaming juggernaut Spotify. Jonatan, who goes by Jono, had joined Adyen as a Junior Account Manager in the global headquarters in Amsterdam a year prior. A relatively recent business school graduate, Jono picked up payments quickly, and he was asked to manage the Spotify account. After a few months working with the Spotify team, he was walking them through intricate payment topics with an ease that surprised even him.

“You don’t realize how much you’ve learned until you’re geeking out on data analysis and auth rate optimizations,” says Jono, who grew up in Sweden but moved to the US to play soccer in college, then joined Adyen in Europe. 

In fact, he’s always been drawn to complex topics like payments. Adyen’s early years were “wild and fast-paced, like you’d expect from a start-up,” he says. “Every day brought a new challenge — it still does.” At the time, data analysis could be painfully manual, and calculating something like interchange rates might be an all-hands-on-deck project. For example, understanding changes to Visa and Mastercard rates in order to hand off the information to engineers. To Jono, the banter in the Dutch company was “refreshingly direct,” and the energy in the headquarters was (and still is) contagious, he says.

After three years running accounts in Amsterdam, Jono moved back to the U.S. in 2015 to co-lead the Account Management team in San Francisco. But earlier this year, after some reflection, he realized he didn’t want to continue managing. 

“I missed being deep into the weeds and getting my hands dirty,” Jono says. “I wanted to own my own projects versus dealing with the administrative parts of managing. I liked the mentoring and coaching aspects but wanted to interact with customers directly.”

Jono’s journey at Adyen unfolds like the history of Adyen itself, from his early days working on Groupon, getting Spotify up and running, to his work with Netflix in the San Francisco office. Now, heading into his sixth year at Adyen, Jono is using his payments knowledge to tackle his most high-profile position yet: managing Adyen’s relationship with eBay. It’s a difficult and complex project for Adyen, but Jono is ready for the challenge. 

“Managing accounts at Adyen makes you a bit like an octopus. You have tentacles in each part of the company, which exposes us to everything Adyen does,” he says. “You’re part consultant, part relationship manager, and part project manager. You need to know the product, and also which subject matter experts to bring in to help solve your merchant’s challenges.”

Keep reading to learn more about Jono’s story.

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What do you love about working in Adyen?

The fact that people aren’t afraid to fail and make mistakes. At Adyen, you have the freedom to make choices, but you’re responsible for the outcome as well. And if you prove that you’re able to run with a large, complex project — regardless of what it is — you’ll open doors within the company, and you’ll be able to move to any role. You can grow and learn more in this company than anywhere else I’ve seen.

What keeps you coming to work every day?

Although it sounds very cliché, it’s the people. I work best when I have people around me and when we have fun together. Whether we’re working on a project or even if it’s “beer o’clock,” it’s a “work hard, play hard” mentality everywhere, which I like.

Tell us about one of your peak moments at Adyen. 

About a year after I had been managing the Groupon account with Sam Halse (COO), it became clear that Sam was going to move on, since he was taking over as Head of Account Management in Amsterdam. We were planning a meeting with Groupon at their office in Switzerland. I had always been going to these meetings with Sam, listening in and learning. But then he asked me to go on my own. He said I’d never be able to fully own the account if he’s always there. I was nervous to travel there alone, because Groupon was one of our largest accounts back then. But it also felt great that I had earned Sam’s and the company’s trust.

And a memorable facepalm moment?

In my second year, I was at a gambling conference in London. I was on the conference floor having a long, engaging conversation with a prospective client, thinking we could help them out. After 15 minutes, we realized we wouldn’t accept his business and had wasted everyone’s time.

"People have different definitions of success. Some think it's titles. Not me."

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced at the company?

The biggest challenge I’ve always had is staying up to date with the ever-changing payment landscape. It’s an industry that is constantly evolving--from new products and players to rules and regulations. It can be a challenge to ensure you are well educated and have the right information, so we can continue to support our merchants.

How would you describe your day job to a child?

We’re trying to help merchants with their challenges, and make sure they’re happy with us as a partner to solve their payments problems.

"I found Adyen to be the opposite of banking. At the bank, we might have meetings for three months and nothing got done. At Adyen, things get done in three weeks. It suited me perfectly."

What has been your favorite project in your six years in Adyen?

Definitely taking Spotify live. Seeing them scale and overcoming the growing pains and challenges we faced with that. As a Swede, taking the largest Swedish unicorn live and seeing it grow all the way through their journey, that’s awesome. It will always be dear to my heart.

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"Whether it’s friends or colleagues, you should be able to tell people your true feelings and be yourself, without any fear of the repercussions for being honest and open. You don’t have to love or agree with everybody, but you should respect everyone. At Adyen, we have that “family” feeling, so people will not hold it against you if you disagree with them. People are encouraged to be themselves."

Tror du att du valde rollen med eBay, eller valde rollen dig?

Det finns mycket som händer av olika anledningar, men jag menar att det är du själv som styr din framtid. Du kontrollerar ditt liv. Det är alltid du som bestämmer hur mycket kraft du lägger ner i en roll eller ett projekt. Du väljer din ansträngning, varje dag. Och om du anstränger dig hårt kommer bra saker att hända. Så till syvende och sist valde jag denna roll, och det är jag glad för.

Hur känns det att arbeta med en så välkänd kund?

Utifrån kan det vara svårt att förstå all den komplexitet som finns hos ett konto som eBay. Det är först när du öppnar motorhuven som det går att inse vilket stort projekt det är, för båda företagen. Det är väldigt många delar av eBay som påverkas.

Vi hade ett viktigt möte för några veckor sedan. Från Adyen var vi fem eller sex personer – eBay var flera dussin. Det visar hur många områden av deras verksamhet som berörs. Och hur viktigt projektet är för dem.

Det fantastiska med att jobba med detta konto – och med Adyen – är att du får arbeta i projekt med några av de främsta företagen i världen, varav eBay är ett. Våra kunder revolutionerar alla branscher, och Adyen bidrar konkret eftersom det vi gör har en direkt påverkan på kundernas verksamhet. Det är en enorm utmaning och ett lika stort ansvar, men jag älskar det.

De är ett stort, framgångsrikt företag som vill göra om hela sin betalinfrastruktur – och vi hjälper till. Hur ofta får du möjlighet att jobba med någonting sådant?

Vad särskiljer Adyen från andra företag?

Faktum är att strukturen i Adyen ser annorlunda ut än i de flesta teknikföretag. Vi har inte samma organisationsstruktur och avdelningar – vi har faktiskt inte riktigt avdelningar. Det är en av grunderna till vår framgång. Vi vill vara agila, oberoende och självständiga eftersom det är snabbt och det är det vi gillar.

Kan du nämna en fördel med att arbeta här som har överraskat dig?

Jag tycker att alla resor och den internationella aspekten har varit riktigt spännande. Ett projekt kan ta mig till ett nytt kontor någonstans i världen under några veckor. Flexibiliteten är utmärkt, både personligt och professionellt. Jag åkte till Afrika två veckor i november, något som hjälpte mig ladda om batterierna och få perspektiv på saker.

Med vilka tre ord skulle du beskriva Adyen?

Gör det igen. (Det är den bokstavliga översättningen av “Adyen” på surinamesiska). Våra grundare gjorde det verkligen på nytt och skapade ett betalföretag som har förändrat branschen. Det som är spännande är att det fortfarande finns utrymme för oss alla att fortsätta det arbetet och “göra det igen”  iterera, snabbt lansera och skapa effekt för våra kunder. Några av de saker som tog oss hit där vi är idag kommer inte att ta oss till Adyen 2.0, så vi anpassar oss och saktar aldrig ner.

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