Culture (n): the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
Developing a concise description of any culture is tricky; cultures are as complex and dynamic as the individuals that comprise them. Cultures evolve over time in conjunction with their people, and that’s why it’s so difficult for groups that are rapidly growing to describe their cultures. During these times, cultures are fluid as the viewpoints, perspectives, and individual characteristics of that culture’s people become more diverse.
Jellyfish is currently at this inflection point; our culture is evolving as we grow rapidly. A small group of extraordinary people came together in 2017 to elevate the practice of engineering leadership. Our company has achieved initial success, but we aim to ambitiously build on the foundation that we’ve established. We’re far from finished, and we can’t achieve our ambitious goals without thinking critically about the people and culture that will take us to the next level.
We recently came together as a group to reflect on our current company culture, and how it might evolve in the future. While our company is still young, we wanted to share with you the results of our efforts to define our culture in its current state. We arrived at the following 5 values shared amongst all Jellies.
The 5 Jellyfish Cultural Values are:
- Swim Against the Current
- Jet Fast, But Don’t Wreck
- Surf to Morph
- Glow Brightly
- Bloom Together
1. Swim Against The Current
The vision for Jellyfish has never been small. We want to be a bold and revolutionary software company. If Jellyfish accomplishes its mission, companies will think differently about the role of engineering leadership, and the outcomes their technical teams can drive. We want to positively change the way that people work for decades to come. We want to elevate and enable more engineering leaders to become key strategic decision-makers on the executive team.
This objective requires us to ”think outside the tank” and embrace the idea that we’ll need to take calculated risks. We’re not going to be contrarian for contrarian sake, but we also won’t agree with the majority if it doesn’t improve the way that engineering organizations operate. Solving for longstanding engineering leadership challenges requires different kinds of thinking. Enabling and elevating the practice of engineering leadership is going to require challenging antiquated notions of what engineering leadership is and isn’t. Real progress requires courage, and we encourage all to be comfortable with nonconformity, even when it’s difficult to do so.
2. Jet Fast, But Don’t Wreck
When people think of startups, what typically comes to mind is a handful of people huddled in a garage somewhere, coding, dialing phones, and getting s*** done. Well, we’re not that small startup anymore, but it’s still important for us that we continue to move quickly. At Jellyfish, we continue to push this product category forward, but not without thinking through the impact of our actions. When we make decisions, we need to consider the implications of our actions on our team members, our customers, our communities, and all other stakeholders.
This requires striking a balance somewhere between “analysis paralysis” and “shooting from hip,” while avoiding either outcome. We try not to frantically panic, but we don’t want problems to linger either. We take a moment to chart a course, embark on our journey, and learn from the mistakes that we make along the way. As long as we chart our course properly, we are confident that we won’t wreck the ship.
3. Surf To Morph
Always be evolving. Jellyfish (the creature) have this innate ability to sense the details of the currents around them. They sense changing temperatures, move accordingly, and act in a way that accounts for the dangers in the environment around them. We’d like to embody this too.
We’re building a company that is going to help leaders bridge the gap between businesses and their engineering teams. Not only do we need to solve the challenges that engineering leaders face today, but we also need to be thinking multiple steps ahead. What are the challenges leaders will face 1, 2, 5 years from now?
To summarize this value, we believe “autopilot” is our enemy, we never just “check the boxes,” and we must always be willing to adapt.
4. Glow Brightly
Jellyfish is a place to learn and teach. We all share a thirst for knowledge, and we are all here to grow. We’re constantly learning from each other. Each person that we’ve hired is different from the last in some unique way. This fosters an environment where everyone is valued, listened to, and appreciated because we all have something unique to teach and offer to one another.
Because we love to teach and learn, when we’re in a group setting, we make time to explain “the why” behind our choices (we still come together as a company to demo new things for each other every Thursday). And during the rare occasion where we forget, you can bet there will be multiple people lined up to ask the question. 😉
Lunch and Learns (every Tuesday), and Thursday demo meetings embody this value. No subject is off-limits in these meetings either. The bottom line, we’re always learning and applying the lessons learned from our peers to our daily lives.
5. Bloom Together
Jellyfish is growing because of our continued investments in each other. We must build our culture and foster positive relationships amongst our team members. We want to be helpful to one another, and encourage collaboration across teams. No job is beneath anyone. And yes, we mean ANYONE.
Andrew (our CEO) still meets with all new hires and orders snacks for the office. Thomas Whitehead, from our design team, organizes trivia nights. Mobolaji Williams, from our data science team, organizes our hackathons. Milan Thakker, from our product team, organizes group runs in the Boston area. They go above and beyond their “core job” because they want to help build the company culture that we’re going to continue to reference fondly twenty years from now. We need to invest in this diverse group of people to create something truly game-changing.
These are our defining cultural values today, but our culture is constantly evolving. It’s a direct product of the great people we work with today. As our teams grow, as our teams evolve, you can bet that our values will evolve too. After all, we’re Jellyfish, and morphing is just what we do.