This is the 11th issue of Culture Amp's weekly email updating you on all the best #peoplegeek news around.
"In a good company culture, the 'what' defeats the 'who' of any decision the vast majority of the time."
What do “vape” “exposure” and “culture” all have in common? They are all words of the year. The choice is based on significant increases in searches of the word on merriam-webster.com. While culture is a chameleon-like word, with different meanings in different contexts, it’s interesting to note that one spike was attributed to The New Yorker's December issue about the book, "How Google Works.” "It wasn't Google's culture that turned those five engineers into problem-solving ninjas who changed the course of the company over the weekend," wrote the authors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former head of product development Jonathan Rosenberg. "Rather it was the culture that attracted the ninjas to the company in the first place."
When one of Google’s highest ranking executives Patrick Pichette left to spend "more time with his family” he was the first to say “I know you’ve heard that line before.” Indeed, the struggle for work/life balance is hard at an executive level, but it’s not an uncommon struggle for anyone in almost any industry these days. So, for his send off, Pichette wrote a memo, outlining the reasons for his decision: “ In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community. And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful. Carpe Diem.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if work could afford us these epiphanies and opportunities long before retirement?
Diversity, yes, it’s an issue that’s not going to go away any time soon. And despite all the gloom at times, there are the occasional successes that are worth noting. Etsy is one of those. "The company made headlines when they realized diversity of their employees was a major issue — and then their gender diversity decreased by 35 percent even though they had made a point a prioritize it.” So simply saying diversity is a core value, does not make it one. Etsy started investing in Hacker School and encouraged women engineers to apply, hiring many of them as they finished the program. Some other advice on improving culture and including as much diverse talent as possible is: Assess where you are and share it with everyone, nurture feedback loops, talk about current issues, facilitate opportunities for genuine connection and examine the ecosystem of relationships.
"Those experiences shape my view of software engineering and tech culture, to this day,” writes Julia Ferraioli. Except they are not great experiences, and they are also not uncommon, because Ferraioli is a female engineer. She writes about the times she was asked to take notes, had a boss who tickled her, a team who thought it funny to put explicit pictures in their presentations, and numerous other things that many women in tech can relate to. The point Ferraioli makes is that if we want more women in the industry we need to stop focussing on building the pipeline (education) and "ask ourselves what they’re going to face in the workplaces we’ve created."
Jessica Livingston writes about how culture matters to her and what she’s learnt by spending the past decade focusing on the culture at Y Combinator, including the impact she’s had on it. Livingston writes that culture is often ignored by the media and founders because "it doesn't seem exciting, or it's too touchy-feely, or it can't be measured.” She says that the sooner founders think about culture, the better the companies they build. "Culture is not just a mission statement,” says Livingston. "It's which people you have in your organization, how you act within it, and even how you act to the outside world."