Not too long ago, I was looking for a job as a software developer. I spent hours reading job descriptions, career pages, Glassdoor reviews, and looking through LinkedIn to see what I could learn about my potential future coworkers. Crunchbase, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube were also a part of my research protocol, and if I was lucky, I’d find an active engineering blog and read every post too.
After all of that, I‘d still have questions, and not feel inspired enough to write cover letters and apply.
Strange, isn’t it?
As engineers, we’re bombarded with recruiter emails and are made to believe that everyone is fighting over our valuable skill set. But once we decide to look for a job, we’re asked to jump through a ridiculous number of hoops.
Job searching should be exciting and inspiring. It’s a time to step back from the daily grind and take care of #1: yourself. Where do I see myself in 5–10 years? What did I love most (and like least) about my last job? How can I maximize doing good for the world and being happy? Who are my ideal teammates?
Job searching is a drag because everything we want to know is buried under take-home tests, whiteboard challenges, and hours of interviews. It’s hard to be excited about all that work for who-knows-if-any-of-this-will-be-worth-it.
That’s why I built Key Values: to help engineers learn more about teams up front, and get excited about starting a new chapter! We should find teams based on value alignment, not what technologies we know.
Last week, I published the 50th team profile on Key Values 🙌 and what I learned is that there is a lot to be excited about.
Here are some of the most notable practices, interesting traditions, and admirable team attributes I’ve come across (in no particular order):
- Unpaid, 3-month sabbaticals at Carbon Five. After you’ve been with the company for 2 years, you can take an uninterrupted block of time to do… well, whatever you want. Spend the summer with your family. Surf in Bali. Record and launch your first music album. I thought you could only get this type of freedom between jobs, but I’ve been happily proven wrong.
- Reverse interviewing and 3rd-party career coaching at Flatiron. Once you get an offer, you can interview up to 5 people: anyone from the most recent hire to the CFO. I am obviously a huge fan, and wish everyone saw hiring as a two-sided relationship. Flatiron also contracts with a network of professional career coaches and pays for 4 sessions so you can get help navigating your personal goals from someone external to the company.
- Granting equity for every single employee at Good Eggs. Whether you’re an executive, web dev, or delivery driver, you have equity. They’ve created a workplace where everyone is heard, feels safe, and has ownership of the company. Every company wants to hire people who act like true owners. Few actually treat their employees as such.
- Educating every hire about their equity grants at Amplitude. The founders of Amplitude think equity compensation for startup employees is broken (I do too!). That’s why they: (1) provide detailed information about what the equity you’re granted means and (2) extended the post-termination option exercise window from the standard 90 days to 10 years for everyone. (That’s right, even if it’s your first year.)
- Publicly sharing internal documents at Nylas and MeetEdgar. When job searching, all we want is transparency. Thankfully, Nylas and MeetEdgar feel the same way. Both teams openly share their employee handbook so that anyone can learn about (and learn from) their employee policies, perks and benefits, culture guide, and day-one on-boarding docs. It’s everything we should know before even deciding to apply.
- Creating unique values at the level of the team at Box. Box isn’t a small company anymore (~300 engineers), but they still hire into individual teams rather than the greater org. They understand that no two teams have the same dynamic because everyone has different work experiences, perspectives, and working styles. That’s why once you join, you’ll work with your teammates to determine what your team’s values are.
- Taking turns doing “office housework” at DataFox. As a woman in tech, I know how common it is for certain coworkers to take on “invisible office labor.” To fight against this, everyone at DataFox takes turns taking notes, planning social events, and running meetings. Even jobs like refilling the water cooler or building new teammates’ desks are tasks everyone helps with. (Bonus: with less than 30 employees, they already use Culture Amp to develop and improve both inclusion and engagement as they scale.)
- Filming a Taylor Swift music video at WineDirect (formerly Vin65). Whoever said you can’t be friends with and have fun with your coworkers is simply wrong. This company filmed a somewhat-high-production cover for Shake It Off, and I’m not really sure I need to say anything else about it! (It’s at the bottom of their profile if you want to watch it.)
- Hiring for slope, not y-intercept at Parabol. While this isn’t mentioned anywhere in their profile, Jordan Husney (co-founder of Parabol) told me that they keep this in mind when they’re hiring. It’s a concept I’ve tried to describe for many years, but never as succinctly. As someone who has “pivoted” careers more than once now, it really resonates with me.
- Going outdoors at Inntopia. The stereotypical engineer spends most of his or her waking hours indoors, but not at Inntopia. All of their offices are in beautiful cities, and they take full advantage of that, rarely working more than 40–45 hours per week. Can you imagine going snowboarding during lunch? Their CEO regularly shows up at the office after a few morning ski runs at the mountain. I want to go outside with them.
- Working on an open-source project that’s also a PBC at Blockstack. How many companies check both of these boxes? Blockstack is an open-source project with >7k community developers/contributors. They also have a Slack channel that has >4k members. They’re so engaged with their community and as a Public Benefit Corporation, are obligated to uphold commitments for public good and not just stockholder interests.
- Working on an open-source project that’s supported by grants and donations at Signal. Since they’re not a profit-seeking entity, everyone at Signal can truly put their users first, and focus on protecting their users’ privacy before all else. Working full-time on a technology that has been adopted by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that’s open-sourced and not VC-funded? I didn’t even know that was an option until now.
- Sweating (and jamming) together at Strava. As a swimmer, cyclist, and runner myself, I love that physical wellness is core to Strava’s culture. They have an office that’s your fitness base camp, plus a massive dataset that’s growing by over a million activities per day (they definitely contribute to that). With so much data, they have regular Jams to build and release fun side projects independent of their main products (check out Strava Labs).
- Pairing at a platform agnostic company like Connected. CUI/VUI, AI/ML, AR/VRAs: what don’t they do?! As an end-to-end product partner that works with all sorts of companies, everyone at Connected Lab is always on the hunt for the next new thing and they never shy away from new tech. Pairing is a company value, and every project is developed with at least one pair of devs working in a pair programming environment.
- Growing out of profitability at G Adventures. There are a number of teams on Key Values that are self-funded (they all deserve a shout out!), but G Adventures is the largest. With 2,000+ employees in over 23 offices worldwide, they’re proof that you can grow and scale a company without investors, and by making something people want. In their case: amazing group travel experiences.
It’s hard to describe your dream job and your dream team without knowing what’s possible, so start knowing.
The goal is to find a way to love what you do every day, how you do it, and who you’re doing it with. Doing good and being happy are not mutually exclusive, and since we have limited time on this earth, it’s on us to find a way to maximize both.
I hope Key Values can help.