All Posts in Culture
Everyone deserves an inclusive workplace. To be seen for who you are and made to feel a part of something is a fundamental courtesy every business should extend to each team member. And most want to — even a business entirely motivated by profit can recognize the statistics that show employees perform better when they buy into a shared sense of mission.
So, why are so many companies terrible at creating an inclusive culture?
Recently, our old colleague Greg Baugues chatted with the guys at Ruby Rogues about a subject we think is one of the most important facing our industry today: the prevalence and stigma of mental illness in the developer community. A programmer who struggled for a long time to identify and deal with his own ADHD and Type II Bipolar, Greg has given several talks about his own experiences and how to get help if you or a friend is suffering from depression or another kind of mental illness.
The polar vortex has blasted Chicago. The blizzards have bamboozled Atlanta. Sunshine and highs in the 60s have nearly torn San Diego apart...wait...
Winter is terrorizing most of the country, but luckily we live in the 21st century, and there's an app for that. These 11 tech tricks will help you survive February from morning to night.
As we close out 2013, we wanted to take a look back at the year that was. We think we upped our game this past year, improving our business, growing our office, and participating in many new events and organizations. Take a look at some of the year's highlights below, and once again, thank you to everyone who's been with us for the ride!
It's no surprise that here at Table XI we're full up with tech-heads. If you've got a gadget-lover that needs some love this holiday season, consider these five techie gifts (plus two bonus ideas for the more analog-minded).
Romo the Robot, $149.99
Meet Romo, a robot that “uses your iPhone as his brain.” Fit your phone onto Romo and “teach” him to do different things, like smile when he recognizes your face, or push things from one side of a table to the other.
What makes a good Vine video? I've found it's helpful to think backward. If a friend visited the office, what would I be certain to point out? Is there anything particularly ridiculous or hilarious that I couldn't describe to a stranger? Or finally, is there something I really want to see happen that I can set up under the auspices of, "Hey, can you help me shoot a Vine?"
As a format, Vine is best-suited for capturing small, microcosmic moments (like, say, when it snowed for the first time this year and minutes later an office-wide Nerf battle erupted—Vine gold).
You’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.
Nervously, 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.
Time 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.
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.
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