A few weeks ago, I turned 1 year working in a startup. It's ironic to think that 12 months ago, I had no idea what a startup was, didn't know what entrepreneurship really meant, and, most importantly, didn't know the meaning of the word "culture" within the workplace.
On my first day at work, I was welcomed into a co-working space where, to my surprise, the first introduction was with a friend from college, someone with whom a few weeks ago we had shared a couple of beers over the weekend. week. When I entered the office premises, I found it curious that there were only 5 people and I (an intern). They assigned me my first job, a desk that I shared with the most eloquent person in the company and in his first words he told me: "here you are going to learn a lot, perhaps not from me, but from them" and pointed to his backs, where there was only a companion, who is now my great friend, and an empty chair. The next day I met the person who occupied that chair, now we were no longer 6, but 7.
The profile for which I was hired was purely technical, that is, I spent most of my time with headphones in front of the computer, starting to write my first lines of code. Curiously, next to me, on the same desk, all the sales management of the company was carried out. Have you ever heard someone in sales "sell"? I never. But this time she heard it, loud enough and clear enough, sometimes she heard it from the elevator door. Involuntarily, we shared and confused agendas, pens and even on one occasion, the cup of coffee, something that would now be a scandal with the emergence of the virus. I know I can never do better, but by repeatedly listening to the speech I think I would not go wrong trying to sell the product (so yeah, the same person who told me I might not learn much from him, indirectly, was the first person I learned anything from). And I began to learn. With each new sale attempt, he always learned something more. And the idea behind the company began to make sense in my head and of course, my impression grew in the same proportion. Three weeks later, two more people joined the team, one got to occupy the only free position left in the office and the other, did so remotely. At the same time, I began to understand why they had told me: "here you are going to learn a lot, perhaps not from me, but from them." I learned to do tasks that I always asked myself "how the hell do they do this?" Sometimes I did them wrong but there was always someone to correct me, but more importantly, to explain how and why it was done that way.
Two months later, I met the person who had hired me after he had been working remotely for a long period of time (something I did not mention, was that my job interview was by video call, something rare before the pandemic). And I kept learning new things with him too, one of the founders of the company. They offered me the opportunity to stay working full time, and of course I accepted. A month after this, with Christmas approaching, I met the other founder, he was also working remotely outside the country. After greeting everyone in the office, he said, "we need a bigger office." There were no longer 7 of us, now there were 10 of us trying to fit into an office suitable for 6. My desk partner opted to go to work on a bean bag that, it should be emphasized, was right on the other side of me. After an extensive search for possible offices, we were presented with three options and we had to choose the one that best suited us for environment, space and location.
Finally, we moved into the building that was one block from where we currently were. Among all the mess that a move implies, we spent a week without an office, performing our tasks in the most famous work modality of today: remote work. We moved offices. The first day, of course there were many things to sort, clean and organize. On the desks there were still papers belonging to the former users. The office was four times bigger than the previous one, now some of us had our own desk with drawers, ergonomic chair, space to stretch our legs and we even had a terrace on the 19th floor where we went up to lunch with an impressive view of the entire city. We were divided by departments, the 3 sales people were on a single large desk, and all the excess space was occupied by us, the technical department.
You can imagine my excitement: a new year, a new job, new colleagues, a new building and a new office with a spectacular view. Little by little, new "nice-to-have" were arriving to decorate the environment: a large company logo on the wall (which made an impact when you entered), microwave (plus a "must-have"), furniture, television and a PS4. Simultaneously with this, the two team members who worked remotely traveled to be present at the first meeting of the year, the famous kickoff.
Finally, I had the opportunity to meet the whole team for the first time. Additionally, one more person joined the company, with him we had a workshop that inspired more than one of us.
Two months passed and the office was increasingly consolidated, both in infrastructure and human capital. I met 3 interns who had passed through the company, I listened to interviews (always by video call) from people who are now part of the team, we celebrated several birthdays, among other things. Every time I was adapting more to working there, I had defined routines that I did before and after my workday. And of course, I got to know my colleagues more and more.
The month of March 2020 has arrived (one of the months that we will all remember for a long time). Three days before they dictate mandatory quarantine in the country, we had already chosen to work remotely. We had brought what was necessary to continue working from home, thinking that at some point we would return. But, as we all already experienced, the world situation worsened. Immediately, we had a meeting to clarify how we were going to face this coup. They explained the whole strategy to us: projects that were postponed, priority clients, etc. But, above all and with great emphasis on this point, they told us that we were strong enough to face and get ahead in the midst of all the current adversity (encouraging words after hearing daily on the news how the situation was getting worse worldwide) .
Working from home, the months went by, the panorama of the new reality became clearer and, once again, we had a path we had to follow. During this time, although we had a hard time getting used to remote work (and the ravages of being in quarantine), the company remained firm, resilient, taking small steps, but always moving forward. Between all of us, we always push to keep it moving forward. There was something that motivated us to continue giving our best and never lower our arms, even when the path that we had to follow had been partially clouded, never completely. And now looking back, I realize that this "something" is called culture.
Eight months later, we are 19 people in the company divided into 5 different countries. In all this time, the members almost doubled. Many of them I do not know in person, but I have shared several hours of remote work. We no longer have a physical space that we can call an office, and most likely we will continue in this mode for several more months.
This is when I do my reflection. Given the hard blow that we had to live with the pandemic, and I say hard considering more a psychological factor than work, I realized that work goes much further than how small, big or luxurious the office you are in can be. working, that it does not matter if it is located in one of the largest buildings in the city, or that the size of the logo that may be placed on the whitest wall of the office is irrelevant. I realized that work goes far beyond work, or what we vaguely know as "good work." What matters is culture. I believe that if we analyze each of the members of the company, we will find something in common that characterizes us all.
It may not be something you see with the naked eye, but it is something you feel when you strike up a conversation with a member of the team. And I repeat, that "something" is called culture. And it is not a culture that has been properly imposed by the founders or by the people who were there from the beginning, it is a culture that we have been forging together. It doesn't matter if you joined the company a couple of weeks ago or are one of the oldest, if you realized that "something", you know you are in the right place.
Now bigger challenges keep coming, with a startup that is making the leap to become a well-established company. However, the culture remains the same, giving us the desire to pursue that dream that we still cannot perceive, but we know that, sooner or later, we will achieve it.
Finally, my answer to the question of why does culture matter ?, I will give it in the language of the famous podcast Why culture matters? by Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix.
“Culture is capable of transforming a regular full-time job into a dream, and you can’t put a price on a dream.”