If we ever start a separate Careers or Culture blog, this will be the first post. But for now, think of this as an open letter from Prismatic's founders to anyone considering joining our team or curious about what it’s like to work at Prismatic and why.
We'll share our thoughts on why we're so intentional about how we build teams and work environments, and then lay out some of the details of our approach.
We’re firmly convinced that anyone who wants to build a successful tech company must take a highly intentional approach to building their team. We believe how you recruit and who you hire is only the start of this, and that it continues from there to how you meet people’s basic needs as an employee, how you manage and communicate day-to-day, how you help them grow and develop over time.
One thing we’re deeply proud of regarding our previous company is that we built an organization that attracted smart, hard-working people and gave them a place to thrive. We loved seeing people find work that mattered to them, rally together to make big things happen, take on new roles and responsibilities, and grow their careers.
Being intentional about all of this “soft stuff” isn’t a novel idea. Managing Humans is a good book about building a useful engineering culture, and there’s a lot of writing out there about how to build a healthy organization.
It turns out that some of this soft stuff isn’t really that soft after all. Gallup, for example, has published a report, based on decades of research with millions of employees, on specific factors that lead to employee engagement and the strong relationship between engagement and company performance metrics. (If you'd rather skip the download, there's a similar but older version of the report here.)
We’ve had a lot of good conversations surrounding questions like how to build a successful team and create a good culture. The short version of our answer to those questions is pretty simple: Hire great people and create an environment where they can do their best work.
Let’s unpack that a bit.
It all starts with a focus on hiring well.
Obviously, a great hire needs to have the hard skills you need in the role. We design our technical interviews to dig into how a person approaches problems, whether they have the technical skills needed to do the job, and if they don’t, whether they’ll be able to learn them quickly. For software engineers, the ability to quickly learn new languages and frameworks is a valuable skill in itself.
They also need to have the values or mindsets that make people successful in your organization. For Prismatic, that means smart and driven. Focused on progress over perfection, and solutions over problems. And of course, no assholes.
Finally, for a candidate to be a truly great person for your organization, you need to be a good fit for them too. Everyone’s far better off if the candidate is excited and motivated by the realistic picture you paint of what the role and your organization are like. For a startup like Prismatic, are they excited about the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, comfortable forging new ground, and realistic about the amount of work that goes into launching a new product? Excellent.
Getting great people in the door does you little good unless you create an environment where they can thrive and do their best work. There are so many factors that make up a work environment. We’ll dig into just a few and how we’re addressing them at Prismatic.
An environment where people can do their best work starts with some basic things like having the tools that will help them be most productive. We supply everyone with good tools like MacBook Pros and big monitors. We provide the best chairs we can find even though they cost a lot more than cheap office chairs. Software engineers are at their desks most of the day. They should have good chairs. It just makes sense. So do things like providing free snacks and drinks and avoiding unnecessary meetings to minimize the number of times a day they have to context switch and lose the five layers of complex logic they had in their heads.
Engineers tend to be happiest and most productive when working with latest technologies and modern best practices, so we’ve been making very intentional decisions around application design, development environment, CI/CD, and so on.
Another basic factor is having clear expectations and an accessible, communicative manager. No one wants to be micro-managed, but on the other hand no one wants to guess at what they should be working on or be stuck waiting on a manager they can’t get five minutes with. We make sure each person has a direct manager who is available to answer questions, remove roadblocks, and generally help them be successful on a day-to-day basis.
We also believe in making sure managers get to know their people beyond just a transactional sense. We’re big believers in weekly one-on-ones as a useful way for managers to get to know their people, help them grow, give feedback, work out problems, and whatever else comes up.
We put a big emphasis on treating people as people, and we believe this helps them be more effective at work. This goes way beyond providing a solid benefits package. (Which, of course, we do.) We believe people should have opportunities to connect with coworkers, so we have Friday afternoon cocktail hour. We believe people should be able to run out for an appointment and be trusted to manage their work and hit their sprint deadline anyway. We have an unlimited PTO policy so people can take real vacations and come back refreshed instead of worrying about whether their two days of remaining PTO will get them through the rest of the year.
We believe it’s important for people to feel informed about and connected to the bigger picture of what’s going on at their company, so we communicate frequently and transparently about both the good and the bad.
Being intentional about these things is clearly a win-win situation: the things that contribute to a work environment people like and appreciate tend to be the same things that enable them to do their best work. Good for employees, critical to the success of a business.
We're really excited about the team we've built at Prismatic. And we'll keep putting together, person by person, a group of smart, driven people and creating an environment where we can all work effectively together toward our mission.
If you know someone who would be a good fit for Prismatic (and if we’d be a good fit for them!), please point them at our current openings.