CEO Culture Insights

Sara Holoubek, CEO, Luminary Labs

Culturati Team

Q. What is a recent culture win at your company worth sharing?

We just signed a lease on a new space and are going through an exercise of what to bring with us — literally and figuratively. Specifically, we want to make sure that we we bring what we love about the company while taking the opportunity to leave less desirable parts of the culture behind.

Q. There’s been a lot of talk recently about #hustle and the glorification of burnout. How do you balance commitment to the cause and sustainability or repeatability in your culture?

A few years ago I wrote about work hours in I’ll be online later, but the origin of our way of working is detailed in in a piece on how pregnancy was a forcing function to learn balance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was responsible for another human that I realized that burnout is not necessary. At Luminary Labs, we made the shift by right sizing jobs, rethinking meeting structures, and have built in “heads down” time where no one can book a meeting unless absolutely necessary. We also manage the peaks and valleys. If we are in a valley, we make sure everyone is out the door as soon as humanly possible. For us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Q. Jason Cohen posted this question in a brilliant post on his personal blog recently: “Your first 10 people will join because you’re a startup: They get excitement, influence, caché, unique experience, and a small shot at outsized remuneration. But why will the 500th person join?” For you and your company, why will that 500th person join?

Counterpoint: This wasn’t our experience. Hiring for a small, boot strapped company is not a great proposition. 10 years in, we have a more defined business and culture. Today it’s much easier to attract talent, and especially more experienced talent.

Q. We’re thinking and writing a lot about leadership. How do you know a budding leader when you see or meet one?

Phin Barnes at First Round has great advice. He should speak at Culturati.


Steve Goldsmith, Head of Product, Integrations, Atlassian

Q. What is a recent culture win at your company worth sharing?

We have for years worked to be open by default — a company that shares a tremendous amount of information internally, and that truly believes we operate better as a team when knowledge is shared not hoarded. Our products reflect this philosophy — they are open by default and empower organizations around the world to share and use information in the same ways that we do internally. We recently took the next step and actually launched a brand campaign around this — Open — that takes our commitment to the cultural standard that sharing is power, teams work better than individuals, and we achieve more together and brings it to the market as one of the prominent ways we describe our company and its value in the marketplace. It’s very exciting for me as an employee to see this internal way of working — which is a big part of what makes working here so rewarding for me — be reflected in the market as a brand statement now.

Q. There’s been a lot of talk recently about #hustle and the glorification of burnout. How do you balance commitment to the cause and sustainability or repeatability in your culture?

We actually make this an explicit company value. “Build with Heart and Balance” — which speaks to the exact issue raised here, how to find a balance between business and competitive pressures vs personal sustainability. We make this a top-level value for our company (one of 5) to make sure it’s part of the conversation on every issue, and a way to ensure that employees, partners, customers all realize we value it and are going to invest in balance for our staff. It is the internal shorthand for our staff to think about a project or timeline and ensure that it’s a balanced approach.

Q. Jason Cohen posted this question in a brilliant post on his personal blog recently: “Your first 10 people will join because you’re a startup: They get excitement, influence, caché, unique experience, and a small shot at outsized remuneration. But why will the 500th person join?” For you and your company, why will that 500th person join?

This has been an interesting question for me to think about — I joined Atlassian around that 500th person mark for all our offices globally; we’re now coming up on 500 people working in Austin alone, with more than 3000 staff globally. People join Atlassian because the mission today still resonates like the mission did 10 years ago — to unleash the potential in every team — and our commitment to our values as a company is reinforced as we grow, not diminished. As technology complexity grows in the marketplace, the need for the types of solution we provide is only increasing, to truly unleash the potential in every team. The internal growth that comes from providing more solutions to more customers across more industries and verticals gives more and more people and opportunity to participate in achieving that, while our company values drive decisions now just like they did 100’s or 1000’s of staff members ago and will continue to do so.


Alex Cavoulacos, Founder and President, The Muse

What is a recent culture win at your company worth sharing?

Two of policies that have been the biggest wins at The Muse are Winning Wednesdays and our Baby at Work Policy. Interestingly, both of these are not our largest monetary investments in culture but were the result of listening to employees’ needs and thinking creatively about solutions. Winning Wednesdays are a no-meeting block every week until 1pm — when we have All Hands and other all company meetings — to allow our team heads down time to work. I look forward to it each week as a time to do focused, deeper thinking, and make progress on important projects. The Baby at Work Policy was created to help ease the transition back into work after being on parental leave. The program allows parents to bring their new baby to work three days per week until they reach six months of age. We’ve had many newborns in the office since (including mine), and even created the “Baby at Work Policy in a Box,” a guide for companies to implement the program at their own organizations. A number of other companies have since used it to start their own Baby at Work programs.

Culturati: Magazine

Culture powers performance

Culturati Team

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Culturati is a community of CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and other c-suite leaders who practice & study culture building and share our play books.

Culturati: Magazine

Culture powers performance