Working for a human-centered company
It’s a sweltering Georgia afternoon. Roniece and I have decided to take a much-needed break from punching code. Based in West Midtown, we’re spoiled when it comes to coffee breaks, local shops grind some of the best beans around and the aroma fills the streets as we get closer to our destination. It takes us about five minutes to walk from our offices to Octane, our ‘unofficial meeting spot’.
As we take a seat at one of the tables, the atmosphere is relaxed, yet energizing. I’m not sure if it's the chatter of people around us talking tech, the quintessential solo coffee drinkers on their laptops, or friends bantering about the happenings of the week, but there is an energy. There’s this sense of wanting more…growing, adapting, reinventing. Roniece and I are here because of this, we’re connecting, and learning how to evolve into a better workplace that thrives on this human connection.
Roniece is our newest team member. She’s joined the team as a Ruby on Rails apprentice and has a wealth of mentoring experience. As our coffee comes, I can see that she has something on her mind that she wants to share.
I’m excited to have another code slinger on the team, and fresh conversation at lunch. I want to understand our “vibe” from other people’s perspective, what makes it so easy to work with us? How do we stand out from the rest? How do we put human connection, like this coffee break, at the core of who we are as a company?
As the caffeine kicks in I hit Roniece with some rapid-fire questions:
Kevin: Facebook, brings us together or tears up apart?
Roniece: I think 5 years ago I might have said either one, but currently, I only use Facebook to look at pictures of dogs.
K: Instagram, a window into people’s world, or a wall of pictures hide behind?
R: Depends on how the person is using Instagram! There’s definitely pressure to have a well-curated Instagram profile, but I think people who are less concerned about their following use it as a modern photo album.
K: We want to be building genuine connections that will help us grow together. What do you think of when you hear the term “human-centered”?R: I’d say human-centered is solutions focused. When people write code they don’t focus enough on solving problems. That is what we’re trying to do. When thinking about problems and solutions, we’re thinking about people. People have problems and we’re trying to solve them. Software is one of those ways that we help people solve their problems.
K: In a world that has invented so many ways to make us feel connected, what do you think Polar Notion could do to help us actually achieve that goal. How do we build a human-centered company that succeeds when our humans are succeeding.
R: The thing that could make us more human-centered is if we have more people working for the company. A bigger team would increase the number of unique ideas we could get on a daily basis. I love the way we connect with each other. I’m used to seeing around 30+ people every day, walking past them and speaking to so many people has taught me a lot. I do think we’re doing pretty great though!
K: How do you enjoy contributing to the company?
R: I like it whenever my educational background is relevant to the project I’m working on. I also enjoy diving deep into a project I’ve not seen before, I find that type of work very exciting.
I’ve worked on two projects, both of which I didn’t start. They were interesting for different reasons. I enjoy digging for a solution to a problem. I enjoyed being part of the middle and end of the development cycle. There are different ways that people write code and approach a problem. Sometimes they write code in ways that I may not think of trying. I enjoy seeing these differences and trying to find ways that I could learn.
K: What is a project you feel proud of?
R: I enjoyed my latest project. The way we approached building it was pretty solid. It’s easy to use, it looks great, and the code is clean. If I took a look at the code in six months, I’d not have any problems working out what everything is.
K: What does ‘working in a safe environment’ mean to you?
R: It means being able to be yourself, bring as much of your “true self” to work without fear of judgment. Feeling comfortable, that’s a safe environment. It’s also great to know that if you do have an issue, you do have a voice. You have a team of people around you that will listen.
As I walked away from our table, I couldn't help but wonder if most tech companies have this type of “vibe”? How many coworkers can you sit with and have a real connection, speak openly about things that matter, work-related or not? Next week I’m working on discovering new ways to connect with the people around me and how this connection is related to our company’s growth. Human connections, over coffee.