The Triage Café at 55C. Photo: Donal Murphy

From Team of Ten, to Team of Zen.

Gianni Clifford
Aug 24, 2018 · 6 min read

It’s never easy to switch jobs. It’s even harder to do so when you 1. Actually like your job, and 2. Are the Founder of the company that you work for. I just made that switch, and although tough, I’ve yet to look back; here’s why.

Big company, big changes

Before my days at Zendesk, a two-and-a-half thousand strong team and growing, I only ever worked at companies with a sub-fifty headcount. Out of those, three of them were family businesses. My previous roles were across design studios, agencies and most recently a startup. Although the people and their backgrounds varied, the scale never did, whichmade the opportunity at Zendesk even more appealing, exciting, and possibly a bit nerve-racking.

In my past roles, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with people I now consider my best friends (shout out to the Thinkhouse crew who I will never shake, even if I tried). So, placed against the warmth of best friends and families, two and half thousand strangers can seem daunting — but what new experience isn’t?

Day one

Through the various steps of the Zendesk interview process, you meet and have contact with up to ten Zendeskians. This process is carefully designed to make sure you are both a great fit and of course that you know your stuff. But when I started on day one, I found an additional layer of solace within it:

As I walked to my desk for the first time after a day and a half of on-boarding, a confused suckling adrift from its Mother, I progressed up the stairs and nervously turned to my desk to sit down. My nerves quickly subsided as I was greeted by two familiar and friendly faces — Reiner & Mark — fellow Product Designers that I had met and chatted with through the interview process. Suckling no more.

It was nice to get to my desk, know the team and what their roles were, and know that they were up to speed on who I was, and where I’d come from. No awkward chats ensued. We went for a team lunch and got to know each other a little better.

The same relaxed and familiar conversations occurred when I got a chance to catch up with Product Managers Jenny and Caroline, and the Product Director, Neil. The global team also chimed in via Slack and email; both were pinging all day with delightful welcomes and GIFs from team members of all levels and across eight offices. This set a precedent, and although I would not consider myself a shy person, I was completely at ease from the get go.

Heigh ho…

It was off to work I went, and coming from a demanding role in my past job, I was super eager to get going. As a Founder with cross functional reports, I was used to knowing every single moving part of the business, but at this point I felt a little in the dark, — most of my knowledge of Zendesk was research from before starting — I was on the outside peeping in.

I felt like I had a lot to catch up on. I wanted to read, absorb, and get my hands on anything I could to increase my knowledge of the product I would be working on and the team I would be working with. I quickly found there was no shortage of decks and information, so I dived right in. Both my manager Tim and my fellow designers in Dublin consistently made themselves available and showed such a great sense of patience and direction to aid my thirst for these insights. There was never a question that was brushed off or a minute of time that wasn’t afforded. As soon I had joined it was an ‘us’ mentality, and everyone was open to both learning from my experience and sharing theirs.

To capture this learning experience with the goal of passing it on to the next new hire, I tried to document every step. Between reading lists, photographing key events, and actively filling my ‘Zendiary’, I aimed to make them feel as welcome as I had.

What’s another beer…

Friday beers are a great way to relax with colleagues after a hectic week or chat with someone from another team that you may not as often. But in the case of a newbie (me) it was an opportunity to say ‘hey’ for the first time and get to know all those new faces.

My first Friday, the opportunity arose. It was a Eurovision karaoke themed party (I woulda sang but I couldn’t find the Johnny Logan CD) put on by the Zendesk Culture Club, and a good percentage of the office stuck around. I was only in the door a week, yet between my team, Zendeskians who sat on my floor, and people I’d already worked with or on-boarded with, I felt like I knew more than half the room — in some way or another. Anyone else was just one degree of separation away and keen to say ‘hey, welcome’. Again there was no awkwardness, there was no insincerity, no calculated chats based on people’s job level — just some good laughs and questionable singing. *cough* Reiner *cough*

Nice to 55C you!

Three weeks into my tenure, and just after developing the lay of the land, it was time for more changes, but this time they weren’t just for me — all of Zendesk Dublin was on the move. The new building, 55C, was nestled just two minutes down Dublin’s leafy Grand Canal, but was light years away in terms of its beauty and design. The fruits of Raphael our Creative Director, Paul our Workplace Manager and their tireless teams was finally unveiled.

All morning Zendeskians rambled around in a mixture of awe and delight. An All Hands’ meeting and a glass of Champagne later, it was back to business as usual. But the thing that struck me most about 55C was how quickly people integrated with it. Walking around the building, you could see Zendeskians in every corner and break-out space working away like 55C was built around them. They were home — we were home.

Keepin’ on keepin’ on

A lot has happened, and that’s only nine weeks in. I’ve got a long Zen road ahead and I am genuinely looking forward to getting to know my team better and meeting more of my two thousand plus new pals. If you’re one of them and we’re yet to chat, say hey! :)

If you’re a non-Zendeskian though and trying to envision the culture here, I can put it quite simply: approachable. Everyone is extremely approachable.

From having a beer with a Zendeskian you’ve just met, to VPs and C-level staff reaching out to just plain ol’ newbie guidance, you’ll only be greeted with a smile and genuine willingness to help — for even though there are over two thousand of us, just like my past team of ten, we are all working together.

Started from the top, now you’re here. Check out design.zendesk.com for more thought leadership, design process, and other creative musings.

Zendesk Creative Collection

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

Gianni Clifford

Written by

Building the Best Customer Experiences with Zendesk

Zendesk Creative Collection

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

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