When I was looking around to find my next job, it seemed to me that a lot of tech companies see their “culture” as a primary differentiator. But how they measure and reflect that culture varies. Often when they say “culture” they really just mean “perks”—daily catered lunch, working remotely, and unlimited time off. Sometimes by “culture” they mean a feeling of camaraderie—group events together, hiring people that also become friends, and having legendary giphy game.
But culture isn’t just perks or happy feelings. It can’t be defined in isolation. I’m a subscriber to a particular part of the Netflix model: “the actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.” Similarly, your actual culture is a manifestation of the company’s actions.
I also see many companies use vague inspirational words or phrases to define their values: courage, integrity, be bold, make good decisions! That’s a good start, in theory. But your actual culture isn’t a set of vague words: it’s your actions. If your actions aren’t guided by and tightly coupled with pragmatic and progressive values, they’ll fall short and your culture will suffer. The health of your actual culture should be measured and reflected by constantly evaluating your actions in the context of those values.
Some personal background here may help. I’m a tech cynic. Halfway through my career, I was fed up with tech companies and bailed for a stint. After that hiatus, I discovered my problem wasn’t with tech itself. My problem was that I’d been working for companies with an actual culture that was horrible. I vowed that life is too short to ever work in settings like that again. That’s led me to great new places. Prior to Buoyant, I worked at a company whose actual culture was manifested by actively practicing things like Dr. Robert Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule.” That’s a tough act to follow.
I’m also an engineer. I want to work somewhere interesting. I want to be successful and make a difference. When I thought about where I wanted to go next, I laid out my priorities and determined my next move needed to be a company in the middle of the Venn diagram between legit technology, strong market opportunity, and a great actual culture.
I found that at Buoyant.
We value diversity. We’re a small scrappy startup. Working diversity and inclusivity into core company values makes the biggest impact in early growth stages. That’s also when it’s toughest because you face enormous pressure to move quickly in the path of least resistance. That hasn’t stopped Buoyant from challenging ourselves to tackle diversity on our teams and seek new viewpoints, even though it’s hard. Our cultural values are also fluid and they change over time as those new viewpoints are introduced.
We communicate with transparency. That doesn’t mean having a regular All Hands meeting to communicate marching orders downward. Actual transparency is about focusing on communicating the clear rationale behind decisions. We explain the why behind objectives. If people understand and are invested in the why, then they can own and develop effective strategies that lead to successful execution. That type of transparency is what creates autonomy. Autonomy creates job satisfaction.
We practice kindness in daily interactions. That’s basically an extension of The No Asshole rule. But it goes beyond getting rid of folks that are toxic. It’s being mindful of and having rational compassion for each other’s backgrounds, situations, and commitments. It’s taking a moment to check yourself in a moment of crisis. It’s being patient and communicating with kindness and honesty—even when providing constructive feedback—that builds trust and loyalty; not just within the walls of Buoyant, but also within our community.
We understand that excellence scales. That’s not an aspirational lofty goal. It’s a process of starting by creating high quality small building blocks. We build small things first that make building things later much faster. That applies across the board; just as much to marketing as it does to engineering. When things fail—as they inevitably do—learn quickly, move on, and make the system better. You can’t build excellent big things with a bunch of crappy small things.
We have fierce determination. We keep our eyes on the prize and make decisions that keep us light, nimble, fast, and effective. We’re competitive. We constantly improve. We move quickly. We focus obsessively on the needs of our customers and we deliver results that matter to them. That determination is what drives prioritization. Buoyant is here to win.
We do the right thing. If you played the game poorly, does it really matter if you win? Winning absolutely matters. But so does our reputation. Don’t just win the game (do the thing right), win the game honorably (do the right thing). That’s also why diversity, kindness, transparency, and excellence aren’t inhibitors or obstacles to our determination: they’re what drive our success.
And we have fun. Sometimes that means putting up with William’s constant stream of dad jokes. 😉 But mostly it means that we’re really good to each other. Yes, we have the perks and camaraderie some mean by “culture”. Beyond that, it also means that constantly acting on these values is something we enjoy. We like being this way. It shows.
That’s how we manifest culture here. That’s why I choose Buoyant.
Do you want to work with great people making great products? Come see what we’re doing here. Also, we’re hiring! Be a part of our team or join our community. Help us build a culture that matters.