As a new addition to the Oursky team, I’m immersing myself in its culture. It’s one thing when HR or your manager tells you about the workplace environment, but it’s totally different when you observe it with your own eyes. Some of my tenured colleagues have never worked in other companies before. I’ve experienced living in and working for different employers in Russia, Myanmar, and Taiwan, so I have multiple perspectives about working with people from different cultures. Whether you’re a developer, project manager, sales executive, business development executive, or a professional pursuing a career in software development (or any industry for that matter), it’s important to see if you will fit in with the company culture. I’m sharing my experience so that, hopefully, when you find yourself in a similar boat, you can bridge the gaps — and take action — between corporate values and your own.
No company should allow or ignore any kind of discrimination
For me, quitting is always a last resort. As a very patient person, I solve problems by communicating, compromising, and trying to understand where others are coming from. If these tactics don’t work (and I’m not on the verge of starvation), then I’ll likely head straight for the door. But then come the moral dilemmas: How do I behave? If there is an open conflict — do I fight fire with fire? Do I warn people to dissuade them from working in that company? Do I escalate the problem to the top? These are extremely difficult questions to answer, and there is no fixed way to go about it.
In my career, I faced this problem three times. Initially, I considered each occurrence as personal failure but when I look back, they really aren’t. Here’s an anecdote of a hard-learned lesson.
I once worked for a big, successful startup. They claim to help people, and their product admittedly does. From the outside, the office life looks amazing: big salary packages, annual events, and activities that promote inclusion, diversity, and women empowerment. I was very excited to join the team.
But things were not what they seemed. The environment wasn’t conducive to creativity. The expectations for foreigners were unrealistically high, while locals were treated like they didn’t know what they’re doing. My roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined. Functional teams had a tense relationship and it felt like we were constantly at war with each other. The conflicts were tiring and pressured everyone to commit mistakes. Gender, racial, and age discrimination were left ignored. Talented and smart people were quitting.
It came to blows when I was unjustly reprimanded for my appearance and ultimately had a conversation with HR about what was going on and what I was feeling. I understand that all companies have problems and emotions can run high in certain situations. When this happens, the most important part is how they are handled. The company responded to the gender discrimination I raised by starting an “investigation”. HR talked to my bosses and asked them to be kinder to me. Instead, they stopped talking to me. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. The whole package of problems was still there, only without the shouting. The professional ‘ghosting’ was bewildering. In the end, it was easier to get rid of the person who called them out.
Mental health and energy are priceless
Things would’ve been different if I knew more about my rights, talked more to the right people, and better utilized channels within the company. I decided to quietly go for the door, let things go, and never looked back. But I learned a great lesson. No company should allow or ignore any kind of discrimination. We shouldn’t forget about it or compromise our own beliefs and philosophy. The same applies when choosing an employer, a partner, or a vendor. People and companies with integrity will stand together and thrive. They paint a clearer picture and better react against the unknown if they are more transparent, honest, and open in communication.
Here are some red flags I experienced that might help you reflect on your current or future company.
- You’re discouraged from asking questions. Management is unhappy when you speak up and prefer that you just do things without asking. Having ideas recognized empowers teams to proactively collaborate in solving problems.
- If you’re given a task they know you have no experience in, the first attempt is expected to be perfect. No one can do a flawless job on their first try. Trial and error is part of success, and iteration and polishing the processes are needed.
- They often take things too personally and respond aggressively. If someone crosses the line, talk about it maturely.
- Shouting is the norm. It’s not okay if your boss is shouting at you and you have a right to tell them that. It’s unprofessional and unacceptable.
- You don’t have clear roles and responsibilities. If your manager can’t tell you what’s expected from your work, there will be misunderstandings and misaligned or unmet expectations.
- They don’t respect your time and don’t value work-life balance. Mental health and energy are priceless, and maintaining their balance helps you be more efficient at work.
- There is neither feedback nor appreciation. Open and reciprocal communication is key to successful teamwork.
- Turnover is high. People leaving the team or a company constantly hiring for the same vacancies might be signs of internal problems.
Shared values in the workplace is important
I’m in a good place now. With Oursky, I am able to embrace my values and know that Ourskyers have my back. If I make a mistake or miss something important, my teammates help and encourage me to do better next time. I know we are all on the same side and work together to solve problems.
I can work on many projects simultaneously, under pressure and with tight deadlines. They don’t scare me. We are all in the same boat dealing with KPIs and objectives, so it’s fantastic that management inspires and guides rather than micromanages and shouts at employees. Looking eye-to-eye with my team helps me to do a better job every day. Power tripping in the workplace doesn’t.
Shared values help a lot. Here in Oursky, we cultivate freedom,creativity and transparency. We respect each other, our clients and all fellows in the community. You may think I’m only saying this because I work here, but it truly is what I experience everyday. For example, I created a new version of a company slide deck and raised a discussion about using it for future presentations. Suggestions were added, and the team agreed on using the new version while further discussing how to make it even better. Initiative is highly supported, and every voice matters. People are not afraid to address issues and recognize there is always room for improvement. If others are not aware of the problem, they can’t help you solve it. We even turned down a project when our developers were uncomfortable with working nine to six at the client’s premises. We embrace flexibility, but we don’t make exceptions even if the offer is tempting. There are some things that can’t be bought, and Oursky reminds me about it every day.
Admittedly, being a foreigner makes it challenging to connect and communicate with teammates, but they are empathetic, kind, open-minded, and attentive. This helped me adjust and get on track with work and life faster than I would’ve on my own. Of course, we still have our challenges. I understand that it’s easier for them to speak in their native language. But what matters is the reciprocal process to improve communication and get to know each other better. For that, we have randomly paired chit-chat sessions and coffee breaks. Once, I had a very stressful situation in both work and personal life and I had to talk to somebody. None of my friends were available, so I jumped on a call with colleagues and the problem was solved within 20 minutes. I’m still recalling that call with warmth, and how they truly showed support and involvement.
As a very passionate feminist, I’m also happy to see that people are treated equally regardless their gender or sex. I’m working together with many talented, strong, and smart women whom I learn from every day.
It can be hard to fit into and wrap your head around tech company culture. While you may immediately think of beer kegs, free food, and nights out, company culture and the workplace environment are more than that. You will thrive in an environment where you can be yourself. It can be tiring (and unhealthy) trying to settle into a place that doesn’t share your values. It will ultimately prevent you from doing your best work. I’ve worked in different companies and I can’t appreciate Oursky enough. I learned to not take things for granted. Everybody is working shoulder-to-shoulder to create a safe environment for building great software.
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