By and large, a good place to work is defined by ownership, excellence, and helpfulness.
Ownership means you are trusted by everyone. Excellence means you are working with people who inspire you (and who may give you a bit of imposter syndrome). Helpfulness means those around you want to see you succeed.
Long before I started my programming career, the first time I experienced anything remotely like this was working for a regional grocery store called Publix. As a highschooler with a short attention span, being a bag boy seemed like a decent way to make some money at the time.
But Publix quickly became something more for me. Much more. It became a place where I met lifelong friends and a place that imparted lessons I remembered long after leaving.
“Where shopping is a pleasure.”
That’s the company’s motto, and you see it everywhere. It’s taught, it’s shown, and it’s lived out every day from the top down. It’s the mission that drives the company.
Publix taught me many things in my formative years, but the most important lesson was how great it felt to help people when you’re given the opportunity to make a difference.
When customers plan their shopping day around the days you generally work, that shapes you.
After college, I spent the next eight years working on my craft. During this time, I had employers who were distant and detached, and I worked for people who were hands-on, dedicated, the first ones in, and the last ones out. I’ve had many examples of leadership in my career, both good and bad.
All along, I’ve continued to compare the companies I worked for with my first job, never quite understanding why.
I’ve been at Help Scout for four months, and now I understand.
From Unsider to Insider
When you are surrounded by ownership, excellence, and helpfulness, it’s hard not to be excited for work. You’ll find it’s easy to transition to being an “insider” on the team, rather than an “unsider.”
What’s an unsider? I would define it like this:
- A person who is part of a group, but who has not been around long enough to feel like they are an insider:
I work here so I’m not an outsider, but I haven’t been here long enough to be an insider either.
I think that transition is important, and how it happens in a company says a lot. As a new person at Help Scout, it’s been a great journey so far for this very reason.
During my interview, one of the founding partners spoke with me about the story of Help Scout and explained the values that drive the company. I could barely contain my excitement after the call. I gleefully exclaimed to my wife how much I wanted to work there.
The mission mattered to me, the same way it did at Publix. Having a shared purpose is meaningful; this isn’t a corporate PowerPoint, this is something authentic that drives the decisions being made. At Help Scout our mission is to help customers provide outstanding customer experiences.
My first week spoke to that; it was “trial by fire.” A full week of answering support questions. I wasn’t on-deck to write a single line of code until my week of support was complete. This is what Help Scout calls “Whole Company Support,” which is the practice of letting everyone on the team have the opportunity to talk with customers. It’s part of our DNA.
My second week on the job happened to fall during the semi-annual company retreat. It was here that it hit me.
This was a place where I could make a difference again.
You see it everywhere. That’s how I described Publix’s motto, and the feeling at Help Scout is the same when it comes to ownership, excellence, and helpfulness.
The first thing I read in the job description was, “We trust you.” The founders here genuinely care about people, and they show that with candor and respect. There’s no sense of a “big brother” at Help Scout. They expect you to do your job, and they trust you to do it well
Minimum hours don’t even cross my mind, and that’s by choice. I love my job. I love my customers. Working with a driven team, I can’t help but want to be a factor in our success. That is why I find myself getting lost in my work and losing track of time. It’s a good feeling.
When I worked at Publix, the people who ran the place and whom I looked up to would take the time to ask, “How are you doing?” Now, eight years later, I have that experience again. Despite the busy, exciting times we’re in, not a single IM goes unanswered and not a week goes by without a team lead, partner, or peer asking “How are you doing?”
I’m still adjusting to my new role here, which is why I keep accidentally using “they, them, their” and “we, us, our” interchangeably. That’s why I still consider myself an unsider.
But the people here make it hard to remain one for long.