For the last twelve years I have slowly ventured into society working jobs at various different companies in various different industries. This experience introduced me to many different cultures. Each job I worked had the same solution in the end; I need a fucking vacation.
I got my first job at the age of sixteen. It was at a major drug store chain down the street from my parents house. Minimum wage at the time was $6 an hour. I remember feeling important when I started at $6.10. That all changed when, after two years, I received a thirty cent raise. The job sucked. I dreaded going into work. My thoughts focused around ways of avoiding having to go in. I had to deal with incredibly rude people, straighten aisles often annihilated by screaming three year olds, and clean bathrooms where someone, somehow, would shit on the ceiling. I often dreamt of stealing pills from the pharmacy with the hopes I would overdose. I hated what I was doing. I didn’t plan on cleaning shit off of a ceiling for the rest of my life. No matter how hard they tried, the company culture fucking sucked. I needed something new in my life. If I’m going to spend most of my life at work it needs to be somewhere I enjoy being. It needed to be my “second” family.
That was twelve years ago. Now, I’m currently the UX + UI designer at feature, which is a software engineering firm operating in Saint Augustine, Florida. I picked the business of technology, mainly web, software, and mobile, because it is in its infancy. Since the industry is so new we are still trying to iron out the details. Everyday we are trying to fine-tune what best works for us. It’s not hard to see that we truly have the best jobs known to man. I never take that shit for granted. Our office is located on the entire third floor in the historic Solla-Carcaba Cigar Factory. We also operate a milestone-driven incubator + tech accelerator where we launch startups in the field of technology. The culture between the two places is extremely rewarding.
My current position just kicks so much ass. Everyday feels like a Saturday. I arrive at the office in the morning on my own time. I brew some of the best (jet fuel) coffee in Northeast Florida. During the day we bust our ass. We eat amazing lunches from a wide variety of eateries downtown. Normally, RJ and I play three sets of ping pong after lunch. Okay I’m lying. We play like six, but we also have a foosball table and an Xbox. This helps us to step away from our work, clear the fog, and come back with a new perspective. Our fridge is packed with home brews and quality beer. If you go diving for a cup you will find we have scotch and liquor in the cabinets. All of this adds up to some AMAZING culture. So, how does this work for us, and why does work feel like Saturday?
Autonomy + Flexibility
Autonomy can be very important if the shoe fits. The perception of autonomy has shown to have very positive effects on workers. No matter how autonomy is defined the results are astounding; stronger employee commitment, greater productivity, improved performance, and a much lower turn over rate. At feature we hire the best and get out of the way.
Everyone in the office has their own SOTA (state of the art). A SOTA is an individual’s unique problem-solving approach based on background and experience, personal brand, skills, and strengths. Autonomy can take many different forms. Organizations may let employees set their own schedules, choose how to do their work or even elect to work from home. If you’re working from home you’re not playing ping pong.
Great leadership is born from successful leaders who challenge their colleagues way of thinking, their capabilities, and bring to light the areas of improvement. My boss always challenges our teams to think and do a lot of research. We have an unlimited amount of tools to help us grow. This keeps us up to date, learn new techniques, and never allows us to stay stagnant. Not thinking harbors familiar results.
Successful leaders are excellent communicators. Mike does a great job of instilling the company’s core values and mission statement to ensure that there is a shared vision being properly executed through the teams.
Learning and education
Interns are given a 16+ book list to read. Even after that list we love to read up on our craft. Twice a month we have lunch and learn presentations on various topics that we use, we know or we search for topics that we are uneducated about.
We are a shop steeped in knowledge and research. We have a 70/30 rule during the week. 70% of our time is spent on billable work, while the last 30% is spent on personal branding, researching a certain topic, or working on a science project. We like breaking things and building better solutions.
The most important aspect of any culture is a strong, collaborative atmosphere. Lucky for me I like every one of my coworkers. We all share a common goal, so it is important we all understand each other. If we aren’t on the same page communication will be inconsistent. Each member of the team has their own special abilities, but overall responsibility of the project is shared amongst the group as a whole.
Every Friday at 11am we have a company stand up. The stand up is a collection of what happened during that week. This keeps all the teams up to date on what other teams have going on. At the end of the meeting we go around the room and everyone is allowed the chance to voice their concerns on an issue. When it’s over most of us gather and go out to lunch. Sometimes we rent scooters and ride around town.
All companies bloom in different ways and at different times. Organizational culture is the personality of a company. It’s a combination of shared values, company vision, expectations, goals, and most importantly the people who nourish a strong foundation for shaping that culture. It’s taken feature a couple of years to build the perfect culture that works best for us. It runs on creativity, trust, and research. Not all companies will work the way we do, and that’s okay. Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close.
If going on vacation doesn’t make you miss your job then you probably need to re-evaluate your company’s culture.