All Posts in txi culture

July 31, 2013 - 2 comments

Working With Baby: Another Adventure Powered by Table XI

Alicia + ElliottYou’ve seen this on every website for every tech company: “Our company cares about its people.” It’s so ubiquitous that everyone’s eyes skate right across it. The meaning is lost.

However, Table XI’s people-caring efforts are a bit different. If you’ve had a chance to explore the Culture page on our website, you’ll notice the section at the bottom, “Adventures Powered by Table XI.” This section highlights several team members who have traveled abroad and/or worked remotely, continuing to contribute to the company while being away from our main office in Chicago.

Table XI has no formal policy around living abroad and working remotely, but our COO Mark, CTO Matt, and CEO Josh believe strongly that happy employees work better. They apply that idea to this subject in a very real way.

After working as Table XI’s Director of Delivery for a little less than a year, last spring I dropped a few big bombs. First, I let Mark, Matt, and Josh know that I planned to move to Seattle, where I’m originally from. All three immediately suggested that we try to figure out a remote-work situation. Given my short tenure with the company, I was thrilled that they’d even consider this an option. In a stunning surprise to all (including me), a few weeks later I discovered I was pregnant and laid that news down, as well.

As the Director of Delivery, along with serving on the management team and participating in recruitment, resource management, and other operations responsibilities, much of my role falls in the Delivery Assurance bucket: project management, business analysis, and quality assurance. All of this requires a ton of collaboration with other people in the office, and at first, the difficulties in working remotely loomed large. But rather than shy away from the challenges that my working from Seattle might bring, the TXI leadership did what they do best—try to find a solution that works for everyone. We discussed some tools and processes that would help me remain effective despite the time difference and distance, and agreed to give the new situation a solid three-month trial.

TXI continued to be supportive as I moved to Seattle with my husband, set up my home office, and went to the 4,400 doctors’ appointments required of a pregnant lady. As my son’s due date grew closer, I faced the great questions that confront every pregnant, working woman. Will I work or will I stay home once the baby is born? How will I manage the intense focus and energy my job requires and also take care of an infant? How will I take care of an infant at all?! (That question comes to EVERY pregnant woman, working or not!)

In January my son was born and I went on maternity leave. I’d been honest with TXI that I might not be returning, and set a date to discuss my plans with them halfway through my leave. I decided that the best thing for our family would be for me to work part-time, around 30 hours per week. I wasn’t sure if TXI would go for it—after all, most tech companies laugh at the thought of part-time requests—but I put a proposal together and arranged a call to go over it.

photo 2Nervously, I laid out my reasons to Mark, Matt, and Josh and waited for them to respond, saying I understood if they needed to discuss separately before giving me an answer. Instead, they immediately accepted my proposal and stressed how thrilled they were that I was returning. Each of them expressed how much I had been missed, that the work I do is valued, and that they wanted me to find a working situation that would lead to health and happiness. (Insanely awesome, right?!)

I’ve been back at work for about three months now. I work six-hour days Mon–Fri, 10am-4pm Chicago time (8am-2pm Seattle time). Working fewer hours every day of the week versus three longer days is better for my role, since I can check in on various projects and initiatives daily. I pick my son up from daycare after work, and we spend our afternoons together. Once in awhile a meeting pops up that requires me to rearrange my schedule, which is easy to do with advanced warning.

Now, as I approach my two-year anniversary with TXI, I continue to be impressed by the effort our company puts forth in caring about its people. The flexible work environment attracts and retains people like nothing else. People stay at the company longer (our attrition rate is very low), and they tend to be more productive and happier. If TXI had been inflexible, I most likely would have quit and found something else, and been just another part of the mass exodus of new mothers I’ve seen leave other tech companies. Instead, we found a way to make it work, and we all won: I continue to provide value to TXI, TXI continues to employ me, and my baby benefits from a mom who’s professionally fulfilled AND excited to play everyday at 2pm.

Many working moms talk about The Dream: working part-time in a rewarding job while also getting extended time with the kiddos. At Table XI, The Dream is alive and well.

July 16, 2013 - No Comments!

What I Learned In My First Month At Table XI

Mike GibsonTime goes fast when you're enjoying yourself, and I've been nothing but happy since I've joined the team here at Table XI. I can't believe it's already been a month. Quite a bit has changed in a very short amount of time, so I thought I'd take a breather and reflect back on what I've learned over the past 30 days.

 

A Well-Maintained Calendar Is a Beautiful Thing

Organization has always been a weak suit of mine. The only method that reliably worked was a combination of Post-it notes, chalkboards, and regular check-ins. That's manageable when your team is four people. But when you've got 30+ and a threefold increase in project count, that doesn't cut it anymore. After my first week I knew that I'd sink or swim on the accuracy of my calendar. I dove in and learned about all of the nifty tricks that Google Calendar has had for (probably) years: viewing your colleagues' calendars, multiple calendar organization, etc. The one tip that has made the biggest difference in my ability to keep a sane mind is to make sure I schedule myself time to work. It ensures I have nice blocks of time every day to hunker down and get done what needs to be done. Just this past week I've felt like I got things under control. Let's see how it feels a month from now.

Culture Isn't Created, It Develops over Time

"Company Culture" is a big deal in our industry. But it's not something that's forced on the people that work for you. It needs to be fostered over time. For all of your blog posts and meetings about creating the best culture in town, you're wasting your time if you don't have a group of friendly, empathetic, and interesting co-workers. That is where company culture thrives, and it's been wonderful to see that first-hand. I knew that working at Table XI would be a blast. It only took me a month to see to what degree.

The Best Way to Learn Is to Work with People Smarter than You

I've actually known this for a while, but it helps to remind yourself every now and then. If you're the smartest person in your office it may be time to find some new surroundings. We've got some of the smartest developers in the city put together in the same room and it's amazing the impact that it has. Not only do you learn tips, tricks, and techniques from them. That's a given. There's something bigger at work, though. It's only been 30 days, but I see myself working harder than I ever have before not to bring the curve down. That's what happens when you're surrounded by people that do such great work. You don't want to be the one to let them down.

Budgets Don't Matter, Problems Do

It's safe to assume that at Table XI we're working on projects that are larger in scope than those we tackled at Love Has No Logic. I was really interested to see what impact that had on the life cycle of the projects we were jumping into. You know what? Budget doesn't matter. Every client I've worked with, whether they had $500 or $500,000, came to us because they had a problem to solve and they're relying on our expertise to solve it. The budget just becomes another tool with which you can work to solve that problem. It's important to remember that lesson, especially as you start to see those 0's on the budget start to multiply. It's been up to me to get over the line-items and stay focused on the problem at hand.

Eat

I have a terrible habit. I get tunnel vision. If I'm working on something, I don't see anything else until it's complete. The real world impact of this is that for seven years I quite regularly forgot to eat lunch. That often led to me being extremely cranky in the afternoon and evening as my blood sugar dropped, and it probably impacted some of my business dealings over that time. At Table XI we've got a wonderful chef who comes in and cooks great food for us. When people from outside the company swing by for lunch, they talk about how great the food is. But the best part for me is that it breaks me out of my tunnel vision. Everyday when lunch is ready, Chef Aram walks out and lets us know. Someone at the office last week commented that they had forgotten how to feed themselves. We all laughed at the joke, but in my own mind I flipped it around and realized that in my first month here, I've remembered how to feed myself.

It's been a busy first month, and we've already done so much great work that I can't wait to share. I've learned quite a bit being here, and I'm excited to see what I continue to learn as time goes on. I plan to share more of my lessons in the future.

April 16, 2013 - No Comments!

Table XI: “Silicon Valley Work Culture in Chicago”

Fox32GoodDayChicagoWord of our office inner workings is getting around. Earlier this month, Fox 32 Chicago featured Table XI in two segments for their evening and morning news. Tisha Lewis stopped by our office to tour our standing work stations, grab a bite of Chef Aram's low fat (but delicious) lunch, and witness Josh conducting a meeting from a moving treadmill. The next morning, Josh paid a visit to Corey McPherrin of Good Day Chicago and spoke about how our office is "...a comfortable and easy place to come to work. We've got standing desks for people who want to stand; if you want to sit, you can sit. [It's] very open, there are no barriers to collaboration."

When asked about the practicalities of our culture, Josh pointed out that, due to our lighter lunches and ability to work in a flexible environment, we don't fall victim as much to the dreaded "afternoon slump," and stay productive the whole day through.

Of course, our daily trips to Starbucks help, too.

Watch both videos below:

December 18, 2012 - 1 comment.

Culture by Design

Josh Golden at Technori Startup Series: Culture By Design

I recently had the pleasure of speaking on the “Culture by Design” panel at the Technori Starter Series: Beyond the Ping Pong Table, along with fellow entrepreneurs Ethan Austin of GiveForward and Jake Nickell of Threadless. We all run very different organizations, but we share the conviction that creating a strong and vibrant company culture is essential to running a successful business.

Fostering a good company culture has been one of our tenets at Table XI ever since we founded the company a decade ago, but it hasn’t always been easy to explain why we think this is important. For years, outside consultants would beat me up for not articulating our company’s mission in a market-driven way. I’d get criticized for deflecting the heart of the matter, referencing instead modern work/life models that probably sounded touchy-feely and unprofitable to the traditional business school way of thinking.

In the last few years I started saying that our mission at Table XI is to “build a better boat”—I’m trying to prove that there’s a way to collaborate with your employees, your customers, your community, and your environment in a way that’s different than pure profit-maximization. Instead, it’s about creating a structure that’s a good place to be, that makes the lives of the people around you better, and, as a result, leads to a thriving company.

When you define success as creating a better workplace, it totally changes the game. Company culture isn’t just a “nice to have”—it’s an essential cog in the wheel of good business:

Culture of Success: the ROI of company culture at Table XI

Of course, as the title of this Technori series suggests, creating a good company culture isn’t as easy as putting a ping pong table in your office. (Ironically, early on we had a ping pong table at TXI, but the plock...plock... noise of the balls in our open office was so distracting we had to get rid of it.) Bolted-on culture won’t ever stick, and what works for Table XI might not work for other companies. Everything about our culture—from our daily, chef-catered lunches to our Costa Rica retreats to our open office floor plan—has developed from our own experiences and the people who have made their marks over the years.

And this culture keeps evolving, as it should. Heading into 2013 we’re continuing to hire more diverse people, strengthening our mentorship program, and participating more in Chicago’s tech scene. We’re celebrating the ideas in our community through our new monthly series, “Table Talks,” and encouraging our employees to pursue their own professional development.

I’m surprised sometimes by people’s incredulity at the things we do (like taking the whole company to a third-world country). So many executives focus on why they can’t do these things, but I assure you that you can. After all, what’s the point of being an entrepreneur if you can’t do things a little differently for yourself?

November 28, 2012 - No Comments!

Come See Josh at Technori!

If you’ve read this blog, checked out our photo galleries, or visited our office, you know that company culture is pretty important to us at Table XI. Sure, we work in a custom-built loft space, play with Star Wars Legos, and eat daily lunches cooked in-house, but fun perks are only part of building a good culture. When our CEO Josh Golden started TXI ten years ago, he and his team knew that growing a successful business meant investing in employee culture and cultivating it from the beginning, from career development to health and wellness to morale to, yes, the occasional Nerf gun battle.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Josh will be speaking on the “Culture by Design” panel at the upcoming Technori Starter Series: “Beyond the Ping Pong Table: Learn how to create and cultivate an incredible company culture.” Josh’s panel is a session with “leaders of small to large companies about space, perks that work, manifestos, team habits, and more.” Joining Josh on the panel will be Threadless’ Jake Nickell, GiveForward’s Ethan Austin, and Gensler Global’s Carlos Martinez.

Whether you’re currently managing a team or trying to get a startup off the ground, this will be a great chance to listen to people who have paved the way by example in building unique, thriving company cultures.

“Culture by Design”
Thursday, Dec 6
1:50 – 3 pm
Gensler Chicago HQ, 11 E Madison St

Find a full list of speakers, series schedule, and registration info at Technori Starter Series.

We hope to see you there!

March 7, 2012 - No Comments!

Costa Rica Is Pura Vida

Before our trip, I found myself in conversations with clients and friends, trying to articulate why we were bringing all our employees, their significant others, and their children to Costa Rica for a weeklong corporate retreat. Most were congratulatory at being able to provide such an experience; many requested jobs; a handful, I suspect, if even for a moment, thought this might be a junket.

The reality, however, is that the trip is an extension of who we are as a company. It’s a progression of our flexible hours, catered lunches, and ability to work abroad—perks that allow us to compete for talent in our industry and find employees who are more than just employees. We endeavor to provide an environment that elevates an individual from trusted colleague to friend.

Our recent growth—including 11 employees last year—as well as the departure of two long-time staffers necessitated a renewed focus on our team and where we're headed as an organization. In much the same way we encourage clients to meet at our office and step outside the day-to-day of their existence, we wanted to do the same.

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We used this time to review development best practices and testing strategies. We intermingled teams exploring the depths of the Facebook API, cut our teeth on mobile platforms, exposed developers to new languages, and leveraged unfamiliar tools like mailgun and Refinery CMS, which will have immediate utility for our clients.

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