Rackspace and Family

On 9/25/14 I was hired by Rackspace.com.

On 10/10/14 I was part of the family.

What’s the difference? What kind of lip-service is “family” in a corporate environment?

Let’s back up a bit.

I’ve spent the last few years in consulting and the startup minefield. Projects come and go, team members are always in transition and fires rage day and night. It doesn’t matter the company; it’s part of the game. Needless to say I got burned out and I needed a change. Along comes a tweet from Jesse Noller that Rackspace is looking for a Senior Rubyist. I’m a big fan of jumping on opportunities on the first knock so I messaged back.

Over the next 24 hours I had three phone interviews with folks on the team and a day later I had plane tickets to San Antonio. The day I was in town I interviewed with eight people over four hours and got the grand tour of their 1.2 MILLION SQFT office.

What was the job? A position known as a Developer Advocate. Essentially I would work on open source tooling, teaching and outreach in the community. It’s not a sales or support position. If you know me, teaching and relating is what I enjoy doing and luckily, I got the job.

So great; now what?

Rackspace has two mandatory training sessions; one is a full day of paperwork, laptops, where to park, etc. The second session is an immersive three solid days of orientation called Rookie-O. You’re assigned a seat at a table with seven other folks of various backgrounds, interests, and positions and yes, there is a healthy amount of team work involved. You might be seated next to someone in HR, a receptionist, or a new VP. Everyone at Rackspace goes through this process.

Representative folks (from the Chairman down) arrive and present what they do, what they manage, etc and do Q/A sessions. All of this is very informal and honestly, kind of fun. Games are interspersed aimed at getting folks out of their comfort zones; points are assigned and scores tracked per table. We even had to dress up our respective tables to showcase the core values of the company. Corny right? It was — unabashedly so, and it was fun.

One thing that really impressed me was the Rack Gives Back program. It’s a employee-based community program that sponsors various efforts to give back. One major project is sponsoring a local school district and help with things like art and music programs. At the end of their presentation they asked if anyone would like to donate towards these efforts — Graham Weston (Chairman Of The Board) himself would personally match dollar for dollar all our contributions over the next year. We raised $45,000 in about ten minutes. Rackers giving back.

So where does the family aspect come in? Rackers go very far out of their way to treat all Rackers as friends and family. It’s one of their stated core values. All good, and easy to say but over the orientation days you start to realize they’re not kidding. Stories are told of Rackers helping other Rackers in time of need; and not just parking change here — we’re talking about giving up weekends to help out of towners move, or donating your vacation time to a person fighting a serious illness. Helping is corporate secondary nature. Communication and transparency aren’t just talked about; they’re exercised.

Through these three days of orientation you start to develop friendships. Slowly, personalities come out, and phone numbers and twitter handles are exchanged. Drinks and dinner are had. You’re in this together and bonds are created. It has a bootcampesque in-the-deep-end kind of immersiveness.

The very best part of “Rookie-O” though was the huge surprise at the end. Want to know what it was? Ask me in person; I don’t want to spoil the surprise for others to come. Needless to say it drives home the fact that you’re part of the family and not just a number. It instills a sense of belonging. You’re in. You’re a Racker.

Rackspace is truly a special place. They want you to learn, grow, share and retire from its ranks. The corporate experience is well rounded and carefully crafted. As a past customer of Rackspace their interest and support goes as much inward as it does out to the customer. Rackspace really specializes in the extra mile.

Originally published at blog.matt-darby.com.