As the lead UX Designer at Clause, it’s my job to ensure our product is easy and enjoyable for our customers to use. Another stakeholder Clause strives to provide a good experience for is our team. We endeavor to have a healthy and welcoming company culture, so that we can do our best work. By giving our employees a good experience, that trickles down to our customers who reap the benefits of using a product made by people who are well cared for and passionate about their work.
Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, explains this far better than I in a fraction of the words:
clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.
In this article I will describe four aspects of Clause’s company culture and how they benefit our team, and in turn our customers.
- Flexible Work
- Quarterly Full Team “huddles”
- Facilitate Education
- Community Engagement
At Clause we recognize that each of our employees have unique life priorities. Some of us prioritize travel, others prioritize family, etc. Likewise people have different environments they’re most comfortable working in. Some people enjoy working in a bustling office while others prefer to work from the comfort of their home once in a while. To that end, Clause encourages our team members to work remotely a couple days a week if they choose.
For example, one team member recently had a baby and often works from home to spend more time with his infant son. Working from home also lets him avoid an hour-long commute to the nearest Clause office in London.
Accommodating a variety of lifestyles allows us the flexibility to hire the best talent regardless of their situation, in addition to helping us attract that talent in the first place. More importantly it keeps everyone happy, allowing us to fit our work at Clause into our life as we wish.
Quarterly Full Team “Huddles”
We hire talent from around the world, and while modern tools like Slack and Zoom Conference make communicating across the Atlantic a breeze, there’s always a benefit to being in the same room. Nothing can replace placing dozens of sticky notes on a wall together!
That’s why every three months Clause hosts a week long get-together for the entire team to work and socialize in person. The days are full of brainstorming and knowledge sharing, while the evenings feature fun team building exercises like sushi making class and rock climbing.
During the last huddle, I led a session where our entire team created a history map of Clause. Using color coded sticky notes, we noted past successes, lessons learned, company milestones, and more. We also gazed into our crystal ball and extended our timeline into the future, predicting challenges and successes we will face as we move forward as a team. This exercise was not only fun but taught new employees a bit about Clause’s history, and helped us form a shared vision for Clause’s future.
One of Clause’s most honored traditions is making the newest members of our team give a presentation about themselves at age 12. This is an opportunity for the new employee to let their guard down and helps our team appreciate our diversity and varied backgrounds.
Our huddles ensure our team members are always connected, personally and professionally, despite the geographic distances that separate us.
In the last two points we’ve covered keeping our team happy and tight knit, but there’s another important quality a good team needs. Mad skillz 👌. Clause does this by facilitating the education of our team.
Clause provides multiple learning resources for employees, like Pluralsight for developers to learn programming skills, and O’Reilly Learning which I use for their extensive product design library. Clause also encourages team members to spend one day a month on learning new programming languages, software, methodologies, etc. Personally I’ve spent these “learning days” on front-end development skills and going to professional development events like Startup Bus.
One of our most important learning resources comes from within the company: our teammates. The developers on our team come from a diverse range of education backgrounds. Some have learned computer science at college and have several degrees, while others pivoted from other fields — such as law — into development by taking intensive front-end bootcamps. Some have a formal education while others are self taught from online resources. There are even some wannabe developers on our team (I’m referring to myself).
Diverse backgrounds create many opportunities for the cross-pollination of ideas. This exchange of ideas happens most often in pair programming. Pair programming is when two developers tackle a problem together. If there is an experience difference between the developers, the less experienced one gets to learn from a more experienced mentor, and the more experienced one gets to see things from a different perspective.
The more experienced members of our team also impart their knowledge in what we call “Patterns and Techniques” sessions. These are one hour sessions where a team member gives a tutorial on a subject — usually programming related — to anyone who is interested. Last week Adriaan Pelzer, Clause’s Chief Architect, taught our developers NodeJS’ Streams API with the Twitter feed by reading live tweets as they come in the developer terminal.
Our Lead Front-End Engineer Diana sums up:
Clause is a great place to grow and develop one’s career. The collaboration within the engineering team as well as across the company opens up many opportunities to learn from others and also share your own knowledge and experiences with the group.
The team is also encouraged to find opportunities for growth outside the bounds of online learning resources and other team members by engaging with communities, such as professional organizations and open-source initiatives.
One community I find very valuable to engage with is the Startup Bus community. Startup Bus is a hackathon that takes place on a bus that drives across the country for three days, ending with a two day pitch competition in New Orleans. I improved my skills in marketing, design, public speaking, entrepreneurship, and more through Startup Bus. Clause helps facilitate my engagement with this community by letting me leave work to participate in their annual competition, when someone at a less progressive company would be tethered to their desk.
Clause also encourages our team to act as thought leaders. Many of us speak at conferences around the world. Just a couple weeks ago one of our Full-Stack Engineers, Jolene Langlinais, went to Germany to give a talk at Women Who Code Front End’s Summit.
We are also encouraged to write a blog post every quarter (I’m writing mine right now!) about a Clause related topic we’re interested in. One of my recent favorites is our Lead Front-End Engineer Diana’s article about React Hooks.
Another way we engage with the community is through open-source projects. Most of us are engaged with open-source by virtue of Clause creating the Accord Project, an open-source suite of tools for building Smart Contracts. Jolene led the Accord Project’s participation in Hacktoberfest, to great success. Hacktoberfest is a month long event where developers are encouraged to contribute to open-source projects. I had the opportunity to work with dozens of developers during the event, broadening my perspective and sharpening my design-to-developer handoff skills.
When I joined Clause, I didn’t like working at one company for long. I couldn’t imagine working somewhere for a year, or even only six months. After a year and a half of working at Clause, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Clause’s excellent company culture sucked me in.
To sum up, Clause keeps a healthy company culture by allowing our team flexibility in how we work. Our decentralized team meets in person four times a year to strengthen our professional bonds. We keep our team constantly improving by facilitating education and community engagement.
I know, you’re probably really jealous of how great we have it at Clause. If so, consider joining our growing team.