Culture comes from the inside out, not the outside in

Heidi Schriefer, VP of People & Places

Apr 24, 2017

Looker was recently announced as the #3 mid-sized company and #1 mid-sized tech company on the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 2017 Best Places to Work list. When people ask me about what makes Looker so special, they often want to know about our perks.

“Do you provide free food? Do you offer unlimited Paid Time Off? Do people go surfing during the day? Do you provide whiskey on tap?” The answers are “yes; yes; if the swell is just right; and no.” But if you are trying to understand what makes Looker so special, those are the wrong questions to ask. Those are but outward manifestations of much deeper beliefs that permeate Looker and are core to who we are as a company.

Take unlimited paid time off, for example. On the surface that might be interpreted as a somewhat lax approach to performance or at least a lower level of intensity. Some might attribute that to our headquarters being in Santa Cruz or to something you have to offer in order to compete for talent. Dig into that one a bit and you’ll see that it’s really about autonomy. Lookers work hard. We are on a four-week release cycle and that quick pace permeates the company. I’ve never seen people work harder to make sure the customers who are getting that release are ready and supported. Because we know Lookers will do whatever it takes to meet the needs of those customers, we trust them to know what they need to do to meet their own needs -- to de-stress, re-charge, and be at their best. We call it “making time to shred.”

That commitment to the team is born out of commitment to the mission, commitment to the customer, and commitment to the product. I think the various clubs we sponsor facilitate that commitment. The clubs allow us to connect with each other at a deeper level. When we see a fellow Engineer attack a particularly tough trail and not get tossed off their bike, we have newfound respect for them. When we see an Account Executive struggling to get up on a surfboard for the first time, we are inclined to root for them. Those feelings of respect and support translate into the work environment. The trust built during these activities carries over into the office. The next time someone with whom you’ve spent two hours playing board games challenges your ideas, you trust that they are doing just that -- challenging your ideas, not challenging you.

If you look at our perks at a deeper level you will see they are manifestations of the environment Lloyd Tabb and Ben Porterfield, our Founders, have been creating from Day One -- an environment of emotional safety and helpfulness; autonomy and empowerment. And I have never seen a group of employees more protective of their culture and more committed to making sure that culture scales as we grow than I’ve seen at Looker.

My first week at Looker I had bruises on my thighs because I kept literally pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. The commitment our employees have to our customers and to each other is magic, and it’s our collective job to make sure we do everything we can to foster and nourish that -- from weekly Happy Hours to providing a home-cooked, healthy lunch for the company to sit down and enjoy together twice a week. Our spending time with each other and truly getting to know one another is the fertile soil that allows our great product and fanatical commitment to our customers to truly flourish.

The next time you interview for a job, ask someone if they know why their company offers the perks they offer. See if they can articulate a deeper set of beliefs behind those perks. If you are interviewing at Looker, I’m confident in the answers you will hear.

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